All posts by Nancy Schaible

Argentine Ants and Chemical Warfare

In their quest for world domination, Argentine ants have successfully conquered 6 continents and many islands.  How did they do this?  Easily, their multi-queen colonies, adaptive abilities (conquering changes in their environment) and their nomadic lifestyles), have made them “hard to kill”.

1st-american-ant-colony

The first Argentine ants disembarked, in New Orleans, from ships carrying coffee from Brazil. Originating along the banks of the South American, Parana River, in a tropical ecosystem, Argentine ants have become a major nuisance in the southwestern United States including California.  They are now thriving in urban areas where non-native landscape and plenty of irrigation fosters beautiful tropical environments.  As an invading species they are a natural and economic threat to native ants by aggressively competing for life sustaining resources and pollinators by protecting plant pests such as aphids and scales that provide them with a food source, honeydew, while the makers of their food source destroy landscape plantings and crops.

By Penarc {http://en.wikipedia.org)
By Penarc {http://en.wikipedia.org)

Being extremely aggressive, these ants out compete native species for food and other resources by employing “Chemical Warfare”.  During battle, Argentine ants produce secretions that serve them in two ways, first they irritate and incapacitate their foe and second, this same secretion attracts other Argentine ants to the war zone where they aggressively join the battle.

Photo: Choe Laboratory, UC Riverside
Photo: Choe Laboratory, UC Riverside

A single colony may contain 10,000 female workers, and there may be hundreds of colonies around your home; the total number of ants could easily reach a million. Although they cannot sting, they can and do bite.

Native ant colonies, for the most part, are extremely territorial and will fight other colonies of the same species. Argentine ants in the United States are all closely related with very similar DNA, since originating from the first colonizers in Louisiana. They seem to accept ants from different colonies as members of their global family. It has even been observed that, Argentine ants from different colonies will “join forces” and attack together in huge swarms. To Argentine ants, victory is simply a numbers game and they don’t care if the enemy is Goliath and they’re David.

In their case, size doesn’t matter. It’s not the size of the ant in the fight it’s the size of the fight in the ant and maybe who has the best weapons.

fighting-ants

If you suspect you have an argentine ant invasion or any ant invasion, here is a link to our ant control experts.

Dog Lovers Beware! Mans Best Friend is Under Attack!

It has been estimated that there are 899 species of ticks in the world, of which over 90 make their home in the continental United States.  According to the California Department of Health, around 47 species have been identified here but only 15 of these are likely to be encountered by your dog. The most notable of these include the Western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus), the American dog tick also known as the wood tick, (Dermacentor variabilis), and Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus).

THE WESTERN BLACK LEGGED TICK (Ixodes Pacificus)

westerns-black-legged-tickThe Western black legged tick is a three-host tick that primarily feeds on lizards and small rodents during its early life stages, and large mammals, commonly deer, dogs (canids), horses, and humans, as adults. It is the prime vector of the Lyme disease and the equine granulocytic ehrlichiosis rickettsia in California. In California, it seems to be limited to the coastal and Sierra foothill ranges. Humans bitten by these ticks may notice intense inflammation at the site of the bite. These slow healing sores do not necessarily indicate disease transmission by the tick (the Lyme disease “bulls eye” rash), but are mostly a result of irritation caused by tick saliva injected into the bite site that facilitates blood flow.

the AMERICAN DOG TICK (Dermacentor variabilis),

 The American dog tick or wood tick is a three-host tick that feeds on rodents and lagomorphs (hares, rabbits and pikas) during its immature life stages, and large mammals, american-dog-tickmostly canids (dogs, wolfs, coyotes, foxes) and humans, as adults. It is the most important vector of the Rocky Mountain spotted fever rickettsia and is also able to transmit the bacteria which causes tularemia (hunter’s disease). It has also been found responsible for tick paralysis. This tick is widespread throughout the U.S. as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. In California, it is mostly found along the coastal areas along the length of the state.

THE BROWN DOG TICK (Rhipicephalus sanguineus).

brown-dog-tickThe brown dog tick also known as the kennel tick, is unique in that it can complete its entire life cycle indoors.  As a result, it is more of a domestic pest (occurring in and around structures) than other tick species.  Other ticks can be brought indoors, but they are not able to build populations and infest structures like the brown dog tick.  Because it is primarily an indoor parasite of the ever-present domestic dog, it is the most widespread tick in the world.  It is usually introduced into a structure ondog-on-dog-house an untreated dog that originated from or visited an infested location. All life stages of the brown dog tick prefer to feed on dogs.  Each stage drops off the host after feeding to molt into the next stage or to lay eggs.  Because of this behavior, most of a brown dog tick’s life is spent in the environment, not on a dog.  Engorged larvae, nymphs and adult females drop and search for protected cracks and crevices in which to molt or lay eggs.  Where dogs stay during the night is where the most brown dog ticks are likely to be., whether indoors or outdoors.  Under the right conditions, brown dog ticks will infest outdoor dog houses, kennels and runs.

Conditions Associated with Ticks in Dogs include:

  • Blood loss
  • Anemia
  • Tick paralysis
  • Skin irritation or infection
  • Disease

 

Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tickborne diseases. Vaccines are not available for most of the tickborne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it’s important to use a tick preventive product on your dog.

What you need to know:

For pets: •   Consult your veterinarian about over-the-counter, anti-tick products for pets •   Consider a Lyme disease vaccination for how-to-safely-remove-a-tickdogs at risk of blacklegged tick bites •   Keep dogs confined to yards or homes and don’t allow them to roam freely •   Keep dogs on leashes during walks, and inspect them for ticks afterwards.

Habitat moweed-gardendification: Keep yards mowed and do not allow brush or leaf litter to accumulate. Remove brush, tall weeds and grass to eliminate rodent and other small mammal habitats, which serve as hosts for ticks. Larger mammals (e.g. deer) can be excluded from an area with fencing.

For humans: •   Apply a tick repellent according to manufacturer spraying-kids-for-ticksinstructions    •   Repellents with DEET formulations of at least 25 percent are needed to repel ticks •   Wear long-sleeved shirts (tucked into pants) and long pants (tucked into socks) •   Avoid tall grass and weedy areas •   Bathe immediately after coming indoors to find and remove any ticks •   Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror  •   Remove ticks right away. For tips, visit the CDC website. •   After coming indoors, put dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks

Knowing how to remove a tick is very important.  remove-tick-from-dogs-earYes, there is a right way and if you follow this link you will see just how it’s done. https://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/how-to-remove-a-tick-from-dog-cat

 

They’re Out for Blood!

mosquito-swarm-red-dawnA new “Red Dawn” is here. Invaders from all over the globe are taking over our neighborhoods and these guys and gals “Bite” and “Suck Your Blood”.  The newest of the bunch is the aedes-noto-2Aedes notoscriptus, the Australian Backyard Mosquito.  Joining the other two invasive, non-native, Aedes Mosquito species (aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus) this hungry mosquito is plaguing Southern California and together with its’ companions is bringing the risk of disease (Zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, chikungunya and in dogs, heartworm).

The Aeaedes-albopictus-1des albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito) arrived in California in 2011 and the Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito), in 2014. The newest arrival, Aedes notoscriptus has been aedes-egyeptiidentified here since early 2017 and its’ populations are increasing exponentially, (that means really fast) due to the hot humid weather we have been experiencing.

Back yard breeders and daytime feeders.

Females of this dark colored mosquito, with outstanding lighter markings, banded legs, and a white band across the proboscis, bite humans chiefly by day in shaded areas. These mosquitoes don’t fly very far, so much of their spread has been helped by the transport of their eggs in everything from flower pots and old tires to trains, planes and automobiles. They are known to prefer breeding in container environments.

Being extremely tiny and aggressive, people never see what’s biting them, leading to misidentification of the attacks as coming from spiders, bed bugs, sand flies or fleas.

Their bites, often concentrated on ankles and legs below the knees, look like clustered pinpricks. They quickly become red and inflamed and grow into big red welts and rashes with scratching.  These bites seem to be extra itchy and that can be because our immune systems haven’t gotten used to them yet.

According to vector control officials, these three species, lay eggs on the sides of barrels (and other containers), not just in standing water, so even though you dump out the water, they can remain alive (and in wait) in people’s yards for years.

Keep safe from mosquitoes by following a few rules.

 In your yard and around your house:

  • Decrease watering schedules                        yard work
  • Remove standing water
  • Limit outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Cut back (prune) dense foliage
  • Mow tall grasses
  • Fix broken screens
  • Move outdoor lighting away from windows and doorways
  • Burn citronella candles or torches on or around the patio or other outdoor areas where activities are being performed.

When you don’t have the time or the inclination to implement the needed procedures to safeguard your landscape plants and gardens from mosquitoes, considegetting help from a professional pest control company and have them, do the work for you.

When you are outdoors: mosquito repellant spray

  • Limit outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear protective clothing (long-sleeved shirt and pants).
  • Use a proven effective mosquito repellent (products containing Deet or oil of lemon and eucalyptus)

For more information on these Southern California Invaders check out the link below.

Meet the new daytime mosquito spreading misery in California

Termites are Cockroaches with a Fabulous Social Life.

termite-king-queen-and-workerAs of February 15, 2018, it was official, termites are socially advanced wood eating roaches, but not all cockroaches are termites.

Once biologists were able to use DNA to identify genealogical relationships, evidence quickly began to show that termites had evolved as a branch on the cockroach’s family tree.

It is true that various roaches have some form of minimal social life, but termites take socialization to an extreme. They’re eusocial, showing an advanced level of societal organization in which a single female (or caste) produces offspring and non-reproductive individuals care for the multitudes of young. An extreme example; The African mound-building termite (Macrotermes) colonies can grow to 3 million individuals with only one queen and one king.

To show how closely related roaches are to termites, the Cryptocercus (brown hooded) roaches live in termite-like colonies in the wood_cockroach_Kern_2016-06-01Appalachian Mountains. Monogamous pairs of these roaches eat tunnels in wood and raise young within the tunnels. The young feed on anal secretions from their parents, which provide both nutrition and starter doses of the wood-digesting gut microbes that will eventually enable the youngsters to eat their way into homes of their own.

Researchers have concluded that, technically, all termites are ‘wood feeding eusocial roaches,’ but not all cockroaches are termites.  This new truth has caused an upheaval within the scientific community and now the Entomological Society of America has been forced to update its master list of insect names to reflect the astounding evidence that termites, once of the order Isoptera, now belong in the cockroach order, called Blattodea.

For those not of the scientific community, termites will continue to be called termites and cockroaches will still be called by names that I can’t repeat here!

Bon Voyage! See you soon!

Think about this; 

If you call a pest control company to check out your house for termites, will your inspector write up a “Termite Report” or a “Cockroach Report.  Confusing?

Why Do Mosquitoes Love You? They think you’re HOT!

The two most dominant factors of mosquito attraction have to do with sight and smell, so there’s no brushing these guys (oops! Girls) off when they’re out looking for a quickie in the moonlight.

Here are four reasons a  Mosquito may pick you for the love of their life.

Your Fresh Breath

Woman Summer Dandelions Freedom Blowing Wind

Mosquitoes don’t bite randomly. Instead, they find a victim by following their steady output of carbon dioxide.  Researchers say that mosquitoes are adept at figuring out where their target is by following trails of exhaled carbon dioxide.

Unfortunately, there is no way to cut down on your carbon dioxide emissions besides holding your breath. So, if you are being bitten you might want to head indoors.

Your Hot Body

While carbon dioxide is how mosquitoes lock onto you as a target, heat may be how they figure out the best place to bite you.

Dr. Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida, tells us that before mosquitoes can take a bite they have to find an area of the body where the blood is closest to the surface. Common areas include the forehead, wrists, elbows, neck and ankles.woman-sweating

With the ever-increasing number of people keeping fit by exercising out of doors, mosquitoes are having an easier time finding what they love most, blood. Those who are over heated or who have just finished working out will have blood closer to the surface of the skin throughout their body. Faster respirations and an increase in carbon dioxide output identifies “Prime Targets” for love starved mosquitoes.

Exercising outdoors at dawn or dusk (prime time for mosquitoes) also ups the risk for more love bites.

Although a few small studies have speculated that mosquitoes were after specific blood types, the CDC says that’s false. By the time the mosquito bites you, they’ve picked you as their target.

Your Cool Outfit

Black may be the best color for a fashion statement and it’s great for hiding body flaws but it’s the worst for hiding from mosquitoes.

If you’re heading to an outdoor event and looking to avoid becoming a mosquito’s meal, avoid anything in dark denim or all-black outfits because some mosquitoes are visual hunters that search you out by looking for signs of life against the horizon. If you dress in dark colors, you stand out against the horizon and mosquitoes can see you.

Your Party Spirit

Human Festival Celebrate PartyWhen you drink alcohol, your blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to the surface of your body. You may feel a flushed, warm feeling.  This increased blood flow makes it easier for a lovesick mosquito, to target you.

 Picture by Dan Prado
Picture by Dan Prado

Movement can also draw these biting insects in, so gyrating party dancers and avid hikers on the move should wear plenty of bug-repellent.

Fact:

mosquito-no-more-deetEven though DEET has been the recommended repellent of choice, there are still those who look for a more natural solution to stop mosquitos from biting.  According to the CDC, lemon eucalyptus oil could be a much safer and more natural solution.  The CDC confirmed that lemon eucalyptus oil can be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

 

Need more information on mosquitoes and how to keep them from ruining your day?

Follow this link to Corky’s Pest Control. https://www.corkyspest.com/mosquitoes.html

TARANTULAS ARE LOOKING FOR LOVE EARLY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Male tarantulas have been spotted, early this season, marching in mass for mates.  This annual march to find love, usually starts around September or October, but rangers in our state parks believe that the weather has male tarantulas starting their searches earlier this year. follow-the-spiders-2

Despite their fierce reputation and scary demeanor, the 29 species of tarantula that are native to the United States are mostly harmless. These spiders have large fangs and a bite will probably hurt, but their venom, which is relatively mild, rarely causes a reaction in humans.  It would be more likely that an allergic reaction occurs from coming into contact with the “urticating” hairs” that these spiders kick at predators and prey. These hairs can get into the nose and eyes and cause a lot of discomfort.

Tarantulas are slow and deliberate movers but accomplished nighttime predators. Insects are their main prey, but they also go after larger game, including frogs, toads, and mice. They are mostly burrow dwellers and do not use webs to capture prey, but they do spin a trip wire to alert them when something nears their burrow.

These spiders grab with their long, strong legs, inject paralyzing venom, then kill their unlucky prey with their fangs. They then secrete digestive enzymes to liquefy their victims’ bodies so that they can suck them up, like a milk shake, through their straw-like mouth openings. After a large meal, the tarantula may not need to eat for a month.

tarantulas_meetA male, encountering the silk surrounding the entrance to a female’s burrow, calls and dances suggestively. He may be rejected or selected, and after mating he may  even be eaten, becoming a ready-made source of protein to jump start the development of the next generation.

wasp dragging envenomed tarantula
wasp dragging envenomed tarantula

Although spiders are world class predators, they are often themselves eaten. Tarantulas have lots of natural enemies, including lizards, snakes, birds, and even wasps. A female tarantula hawk (a large wasp) can locate a tarantula, sting it, and then drag its paralyzed body into a previously prepared burrow. Inside the burrow, she lays a single egg on the body of the living spider. When the larva hatches, it eats the tarantula!
tarantula-bobSan Diego County has two species that call it home – The California Black or Ebony (Aphonopelma eutylenum) and the San Diego Bronze (Aphonopelma reversum or steindachneri).  Both have bodies about 2 inches in length and neither are aggressive.

If you look up the meaning of Tarantula, you’ll find that it doesn’t mean, monster with eight legs or giant killing machine.  It means, “Big Hairy Spider”.  That is exactly what they are.

Fun Fact:

The name Tarantula apparently originated in the 14th century, in the Italian city of Ttarantella_napoletana_1870aranto, where people felt compelled to dance the sweaty, wildly gyrting  “Tarantella, when bitten by a spider. They believed to do this dance was the only way to cure themselves of the deadly effects of the bite.