All posts by Nancy Schaible

Ants Show Us How To Keep Healthy and Stop Epidemics.

Whether it’s people, living in jam-packed cities or groups of social insects, ants to be crowd-of-people-1488213_640-1exact, living in teaming colonies, ants-in-a-colony-2019-3961_640disease can spread quickly among these severly dense populations.

Fighting disease seems to require the same efforts no matter what organism is being challenged.

Ant colonies are rarely stricken by epidemics and new research is explaining why. Researchers have found the secrets behind the ants’ effective disease control.

Secret number one, is keeping it clean.  Cleaning themselves, each other and their nest means that ants have a greater chance of survival. ants-on-a-branch-1230467_960_720-2 This frequent communal cleansing removes disease organisms therefore reducing exposure to deadly pathogens.

Secret number two, is some ant species use home-crafted “antibiotics” called Antimicrobials— chemical compounds that kill pathogens and boost their immunity. Ants apply these compounds to their own bodies, to their nest mates and to their nests.   Sharing these antimicrobials among the colony is an important part of the insects’ communal life.

Why don't Ants get sick? Because thay have Anti-bodies! Ha! Ha!
Why don’t Ants get sick? Because thay have Anti-bodies! Ha! Ha!

An individual’s health is dependent upon the health of the colony and vice versa.

The ants’ strategy when it comes to fighting disease is reminiscent of how we humans prevent outbreaks: early action is often decisive when it comes to successfully containing epidemics.

If, however, the ants fail to cure a nestmate, more drastic (inhumane in our view) measures are used to protect the colony. They throw the sick individuals out of the nest, preventing the spread of disease. It has been observed that in most cases only the young are forcibly exiled. Adult workers seem to accept their fate and leave on their own.

Research indicates that the most potent antimicrobials are produced by one of the smallest ants— Solenopsis molesta,

thief-ant also known as the thief ant (which lives in some of the smallest colonies)southern-fire-ant-2 and also by the desert fire ant,, Solenopsis xyloni , whose colonies can contain hundreds of thousands of individuals.

It is crucial for any successful society to develop a means, beyond individual resistance, of controlling the spread of disease. Some of our largest cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco need to take advice from the insect world (excluding forced exile of course) and clean up the mess, take care of the masses of humanity living on the streets and reduce sickness and the spread of disease.  If ants can do it so can we!

ants-in-their-pants

If ants in their pants are in your plants, or house, or anywhere else, here is a link to get help fast. https://www.corkyspest.com/ultimate-pest-control.html

 

 

Spring Hordes of Earwigs Have Many “Wigging Out”!

There are more than 20 different earwig species making the United States their home.  earwigs-san-diego-3These fear inducing creatures get their name from the old European myth that they crawl into people’s ears and tunnel into their brains, laying eggs, while the sleeper blissfully dreams on.  The nightmare begins the next morning! This superstition has no real scientific basis, but the fear is very real to many people. If you are into horror movies check out the man-yelling-in-horror-2extremely scary, Night Gallery, TV series episode named “The Caterpillar”. You might want to start wearing earplugs to bed.

Earwigs are outdoor creatures and can be found living, in largeearwigs-san-diego-garden-damage numbers, under lawn debris, mulch or in tree holes.  They pose more of a threat to garden plantings than to humans. They spend their days hiding and feeding on leaves, flowers, mold, fungi and plant insects such as aphids. At might they tend to congregate in wet undisturbed areas feeding on decaying plant material.  They gain entrance to homes through cracks and crevices and occasionally by wandering in through open doorways as they forage for food.  Indoors they can be found near water areas (kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc.) and because they are attracted tearwigs-san-diego-6-red-jpego light, they can be a real problem on porches and patios.

These visually creepy creatures do not spread disease, but they do emit a foul-smelling liquid as a means of self-defense.  Their pincers are mainly used to aid in reproduction, hunt prey and for defense. When humans become annoying, they can also use the pincers to pinch.  The pinch may be slightly painful but doesn’t transmit venom (since they don’t have any) and rarely breaks the skin.

To get rid of earwigs, you need to get rid of the areas around the home that attract them, such as leaf piles, wood piles, dense vegetation and areas that accumulate moisture.  In essence, create a defensive perimeter around your home; move firewood away from the home, cut back dense foliage, and ensure proper drainage away from structures.  Its also important to clean downspouts and gutters and make sure they drain away from the home.  The key to earwig control is to prevent moisture buildup that attBugboy52.40 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]racts them.

Earwigs are easily identified. They have elongated, flattened bodies, usually black to reddish brown in color. They are about ½ inch in length and some species have wings, but rarely fly. Their most distinguishing feature is a pair of large pincers, cerci, at the back end of their body.  These forceps-like appendages are what have most people “wigging out”.

The more common earwigs found in California are the European Earwig, Maritime Earwig, and the Ring-legged Earwig.

Fun Facts about Earwigs:

  1. Lot of earwig species have maternal instincts.  They take care of their eggs and tend their young until the young are able to fend for themselves. nesting_earwig_chester_uk_1
  2. The term earwig is from the old English “eare” meaning ear and “wicga” meaning insect.
  3. The largest species is found in Australia.  It is aptly named the Giant Earwig and is 2 inches long.

Those of you that are known to eavesdrop, you are an “Earwigger”!

**Earwig Nest pictures by:  Photo by Tom Oates, 2010(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

** Earwig diagram: WikiCommons(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Plant Attacking Insects. Bad Bugs in the Garden.

All bugs hatch from eggs, which usually live on the undersides of leaves or in hidden spots on plants. The eggs hatch into larvae (also called caterpillars, grubs, or maggots), which will later become adults. Adult bugs lay eggs and usually have wings.

Bad bugs can eat plants or cause damage at different stages in their lives, so it is important that you get rid of the trouble makers when they are causing the most damage. Most of the time, this will be when they are in their larval stage; hungry and growing fast! Many bad bugs in your garden will come in cycles, seasonally.

Common Bad Boys (and girls) in the Garden:

Aphids ants-aphids

They suck the juices from the leaves of many different plants. When done sucking the juices from the leaves, the leaves curl up or fall off the plant. Sometimes they also spread plant diseases. aphid producing honeydew Aphids are a primary producer of honeydew, an important food source for ants and other insects.  These hungry plant suckers, come in all colors, even one that is covered with white furry filamentswoolly-aphid-phyllaphis_fagi_on_jeans_in_mecklenburg-4 (Woolly aphid). It’s said that almost every plant has an aphid to call its own. Aphid infestations can, at their worst kill plantings (suck the life out of them) and spread diseases that can also kill them.

Here are a few things you can do to get rid aphids-and-dangerous-love-cartoonof aphids.

Whitefly and The Giant Whitefly

Tiny sap sucking insects that are abundant on vegetable and ornamental plantings, especially in warm weather. They are not true flies but are related to aphids, scales and mealybugs. whitefly-garden-bugs-garden-pests-2They derive their name from the white waxy covering on the adult’s wings and body. Adults have yellowish bodies and four whitish wings. Many species are most readily distinguished in the last nymphal (immature) stage, which is wingless and lacks visible legs. Depending on species, whitefly nymphs vary in color from almost transparent yellow or whitish to black with a white fringe. white-fly-singleThe Giant Whitefly arrived in San Diego in 1992 and is now wide spread in Southern California and sporadically in other areas. This species, Aleurodicus dugesii, infests many hosts especially tropical plants such as hibiscus and bird of paradise but will also infest citrus, mulberry and a host of other ornamental plants.  They can also be instrumental in the spreading of plant diseases.

Getting rid of whitefly infestations is a difficult task.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Prune infested branches and leaves.
  • Give your plants a bath. Spray them with water, this knocks off a lot of the whitefly (which, by     the way, cannot climb back up onto the plants) and removes honeydew that attracts other insects.
  • Cut areas of tall grass and remove leaf litter from under trees and plants.
  • Keep your plants healthy. Healthy plants naturally repel insects whereas sickly or stressed ones will attract them.

Scale Insects 

Primarily pests of woody plants. They appear as tiny blistesr or shell-like bumps on leaf backs and stems. Their feeding activity results in poor plant growth. Other symptoms are sticky excretions and sooty mold on evergreens.

Thrips

Suck the life out of plants. They leave brown or white marks on leaves or fruit. Some people think these marks look like scars. Adults are thin and tiny bugs, that are usually so small and dark that many people never see them. They only see the damage they cause, which includes black fecal spots and scaring on leaves. Leaves will appear silvery and distorted (curled). Heavy infestations can retard growth, and lead to defoliation and plant death.

Leafhoppersleafhopper-002

Suck juices from the stems and undersides of leaves. Their spit is poisonous and makes the tips of leaves turn brown or yellow and curl up. As they suck juices, they also spread plant diseases.

Leafminers

Eat tunnels in leaves. The damage does not kill the plants, but the leaves and fruit look less appealing to eat, especially if you are selling them or giving them away to friends! The larvae do most of the damage. Leafminers are light green maggots that live in (and eat!) leaves. We make curvy, winding tunnels in leaves henceforth their name.

Cutworms

At night they chew through the stems of plants close to the soil, which makes the plants fall over. Usually the stems look like someone cut them with a knife.

Garden Webworms

These bad boys eat leaves of plants and make webs that look like spider webs! After they weave the web, the web is attached to leaves or stems, then they live inside of it.

Slugscorkyssnail1-15-18a-jpeg-2

Eat large holes in the leaves of big plants, and both the leaves and stems of seedlings. Eggs look like little piles of white jelly balls, and usually are found under rocks or logs where the adults live. Adults look like snails without the shell, and are gray, black, brown, or green. Slugs leave slimy silver trails wherever they go! Yuck!

aphids-and-the-jolly-green-giant-2These are just of few of the garden bugs that made the “Bad Bug” list.  If you are dealing with any of these bad bugs and have come to the conclusion that they have taken over your yard and are ruining your landscape, there is help to be had.  Follow this link to get the help you need: https://www.corkyspest.com/

BEES WASPS or HORNETS. WHAT’S BUZZING YOU?

There are lots of flying insects out and about in our gardens, fields and other open areas and they are all busy at work fulfilling nature’s directives.  So, since we humans are also frequenting these same places it’s important for us to steer clear of these busy creatures because some of them will sting if you invade their space. wasps-and-man-304250_640-jpeg Beware! Being stung is no picnic and can ruin your day!

Here is a short lesson in identification and some important facts.

 Bees are fuzzy pollen collectors that almost always die shortly after stinging people (the stinger becomes embedded in the skin, which prevents multiple stings).honey-bees-401097_640 Bees don’t always die each time they sting, though; the primary purpose of the stinger is to sting other bees, which doesn’t result in the loss of the stinger. A bee can generally only sting you once and her death is assured.

The problem with explaining the difference between wasps and hornets is complicated in that, according to most definitions of wasps, all hornets are wasps.

wasp-nest-swarm-1903243_640Wasps are members of the family Vespidae, which includes yellow jackets and hornets. Wasps generally have two pairs of wings and are definitely not fuzzy. Only the females have stingers, but they can sting people repeatedly.

Yellow jackets are sometimes confused with bees because they look very similar. With a black and yellow body, it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two at first glance. Yellow jackets are a type of predatory wasp that are part of the yellow-jacket-wasp-in-nest-3430995_640genera Dolichovespula and Vespula. Most are black and yellow, but some, like the bald-faced hornet, are black and white and all the females have stingers.

Hornets are a small subset of wasps not native to North America (the yellow jacket is not truly a hornet). Somewhat fatter around the middle than your average wasp, the European hornet (considered the only true hornet in North America)

By Niek Willems - Made it myself, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=484164
By Niek Willems – Made it myself, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=484164

is now widespread on the East Coast of the U.S. Like other wasps, hornets can be extremely aggressive and can sting multiple times.

Stingers

Bees and wasps have different types of stingers, which affects the amount of venom that they can inject in a single sting. Wasps have smooth stingers, which allow them to sting a perceived threat, multiple times.  Wasps in general are more aggressive than bees (excluding “Killer Bees”) and will sting more than once. Honeybees have barbed stingers that dig into the skin, remaining embedded as the bee flies away.  Not all bees have barbed stingers. For example, the bumblebee’s stinger is smooth, allowing them to sting multiple times, just like wasps.

honey-bee-stinger-barbed
honey-bee-stinger-barbed
wasp-stinger-smooth
wasp-stinger-smooth

Venom

Bees and wasps inject different amounts of venom per sting. A honeybee, who can only sting one time, injects as much as 50 micrograms of venom in a single sting. As the stinger is embedded in the skin, it continually pumps this venom into the body, so the sooner you remove the stinger, the less venom it injects. It typically takes about 45-60 seconds for the full amount of venom to be released. A wasp injects a significantly smaller amount per sting — only 2 to 15 micrograms — but can do so more than once in a short period of time.

Sting Reactions

The chemical composition of bee and wasp venom are different but, they produce similar side effects. Both types of venom make your body release histamine, which causes symptoms like those of a mild allergic reaction: itching, swelling, redness and pain at the sting site. Because the venom typically makes the site of the sting sore and achy, applying an ice pack can help dull the pain. The site may remain sore for several days as it heals.

Medical Alertemergency-910093_640-jpeg

Different people have different reactions to bee and wasp venom. A person with a severe allergy may need immediate medical attention after a single honeybee sting, while a healthy person without a significant allergy can withstand 1,000 or more stings before reaching a lethal dose. If you don’t know whether you are allergic and you’ve been stung, watch out for the symptoms of an allergic reaction, which can develop immediately or within 30 minutes. They include difficulty breathing, hives that spread, facial swelling, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. These symptoms also can lead to loss of consciousness, so if you believe you may be experiencing this type of allergic reaction, contact emergency medical services immediately.

Fun Fact: Bees stopped buzzing during the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.

on August 21, 2017, while millions of Americans took a break from their daily routines, to witness a total solar eclipse, a similar phenomenon was happening unnoticed nearby: Bees took a break from their daily work schedules, too.

 Luc Viatour / https://Lucnix.be
Luc Viatour / https://Lucnix.be

In a first time study of a solar eclipse’s influence on bee behavior, researchers at the University of Missouri organized a group of citizen scientists and elementary school classes in setting up sound monitoring stations to listen in on bees’ buzzing—or lack thereof—as the 2017 eclipse passed over. The results, published today in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, were clear and consistent at locations across the country: Bees stopped flying (therefore buzzing) during the period of the total solar eclipse.

Eros and the Bees

A bee stung Eros on the nose
While he was smelling on a rose
“Mother Venus, ay,ay,ay
Please help me or I’ll die
What a terrible disgrace
A dragon bit me on my face”!
Venus comforts first her son
then speaks to him with mocking fun:
The little bee’s tiny sting
Is for you an earnest thing
But more painful and real hard
are your stings in human’s heart

image: A. Dürer, 1514: Eros, Venus and the bees; the poem is from the Anacreonteia

Spring Brings the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Spring is the time of renewal and is associated with the beauty of the “reborn”.  Birds are on the wing and so are beautiful butterflies, but there is something bad and ugly winging it’s way into our neighborhoods and right into our homes.  It’s the mosquito!  mosquito-with-red-bottom-sucking-blood1016254_960_720

What causes mosquito populations to diminish and explode? According to entomologists, it’s a combination of weather and climate. Mosquitoes are very sensitive to their environment. Temperature and rainfall are the two major factors determining mosquito populations. These two factors have an extreme effect on their survival and ability to reproduce. How much it ramosquitoes-on-frog-2452343_1280ins at one time, when it rains, how long a cold or warm spell lasts and when it happens are all important when it comes to predicting what kind of mosquito season will be in our future.

mosquiyo-life-cycleMosquitoes can complete their life cycles from egg to adult in about a week, therefore it is extremely important to elimrain-barrel-1inate breeding sites by; emptying collected water or use it within the week. Rain barrels and containers must be tightly sealed to prevent mosquito entry, and pool-dirtygreen, unmaintained pools should be emptied and cleaned.  And don’t forget to get rid of the water collected in the pans under potted plants. Mosquitoes can breed in less than aclay-pot-with-dish ½ inch of waterMosquito larvae are completely aquatic, and they need a source of standing water that will support them until they are ready to emerge as adults.

Ranking third on the list of the most dreaded pests of 2018, these insects are not just annoying (leaving itchy red bites) but can transmit life threatening diseases such as West Nile virus, chikungunya, dengue fever, and the infamous Zika virus.

So gear up and start your mosquito abatement program now, by:

  • Mowing or trimming tall grasses.
  • Maintaining your property so that there are no standing water. sources.
  • Cutting back dense foliage to open areas to the sun.
  • Installing or repairing screens, don’t leave unscreened windows or doors standing open.
  • Moving outdoor lights away from doorways.
  • Burning citronella candles or torches on or around the patio or other outdoor areas where activities are being performed.

For more detailed information click on this link: https://www.corkyspest.com/diy-mosquito.html

Spiders Are Flying High This Spring.

Spiders crawl around your house, some jump across your lawn — and others take transoceanic flights. With airships made from strands of silk, some species of tiny spiders take to the air in a process called “ballooning”.balloons-hot-air-balloons-balloon-fiesta-nature-landscapes-b085e9-1024-2

Ballooning spiders were first documented in the 17th century but until the 21st century, scientists had no idea exactly how these spiders take to the air. So modern day researchers, in Berlin, used a wind tunnel to approximate conditions that would cause spiderlings to balloon.  What they observed was fascinating.

crab-spider-legs-up-54598_960_720-2The spiders (crab spiders) first sensed the wind through hairs on their legs. Then, they further tested the wind conditions by lifting one or both, of their front legs into the air for 5 to 8 seconds. They’d repeated the process, until they were satisfied with the wind conditions, each time rotating their bodies in the direction of the wind.

When the spiders were finally ready to take flight, they raised their abdomens and spun their silk — each strand around 2 to 4 meters long (6.6 to 13 feet) — eventually forming a triangular kite of sorts. With enough drag from the silk against the wind, the spiders used these thin, silky sails to take off. During takeoff and throughout the flight, the spiders kept their legs stretched out, just like human parachutists.raining-spiders

This is all well and good but how do researchers explain ballooning in the absence of wind?

According to a different set of researchers out of Berlin, drag forces from wind or thermals are not the only things responsible for this airborne scattering of spiders. Electric fields or electromagnetic fields, at strengths found in the atmosphere, can also trigger ballooning behavior and provide lift in the absence of any air movethe-frog-1584300_960_720ment.

So, why do these amazing creatures take to the air? Ground travel is just too hazardous.baby-birds-in-nest-384896_960_720

Ballooning as a  mode of travel is primarily used by newly hatched baby spiders to escape being cannibalized by their siblings and fed upon by predators. Adult spiders sometimes resort to it when resources are scarce, or to escape hazards (fires, floods and predators).

In casting their fate to the wind, spiders may drop just a few feet from their takeoff site, or they might get caught in a jet stream that takes them across oceans. But, in all cases, they go where the wind takes them.  Fair winds little spiders!

Wiki commons, Little Grove Farms, Spiderlings ballooning in Santa Cruz Mountains.
Wiki commons, Little Grove Farms, Spiderlings ballooning in Santa Cruz Mountains.

The spiders are falling! The spiders are falling!

Here are some tips to prevent these flying, floatispider-web-wrapped-people-53b8ac2c3810a68c25b00366961187d7ng and falling  invaders from getting into your home. Just follow the link: https://www.corkyspest.com/diy-spider.html

Living Rafts Carry Fire Ants to Safety

Huckleberry Finn was an amature raft builder and river rafter, when compared to Red Imported Fire ants.

As fire ants are flooded out of their underground nests, they hold onto each other for dear life, forming a fire ant flotilla that allows them to survive. Actually, they hold themselves together by linking mandibles (mouth parts) to the legs of other ants and locking leg to leg to mouth to leg.

Instead of scattering, with every ant for him or herself, red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) have the unique ability to gather together as a colony and form living rafts on the surface of rising flood waters.

TheCoz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
TheCoz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Their rafts are so tightly woven together, that water cannot penetrate the raft. This structure also holds a layer of air, called a plastron layer, tightly around the raft. The plastron layer (air bubble) facilitates buoyancy and keeps ants on the bottom of the raft (those underwater) alive. This unique “air bubble” and a waxy coating on their bodies allows these ants to stay afloat for weeks if necessary, so that they have a fighting chance to reach dry land and save their colony.

To make sure the colony survives, the queens and their eggs (there can be one or more queens in a colony), are given the driest accommodations on the raft, near the center.  The raft itself is in constant motion, with ants moving across the top and joining the stationary layer on the bottom.  In this way the raft is kept in tip top condition.

Scientists don’t really know why some ants get to be the bottom raft crew, but it seems that there is some indication that this is not a voluntary position.

The colony must survive. So while floating down the river on natures currents, these ants are constantly searching for new and safe places to set up housekeeping.

So, what do these ants do when they finally hit dry land?  Abandon ship of course!

USA, TX, Travis Co.: Austin.Tom Hughes Park.12-xi-2016
USA, Travis Co..Tom Hughes -2016

 

All ashore that going ashore! ant-warning-danger-44575_960_720

Ant Facts:

The South American or Red Imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) was initially introduced into Southern California in 1998 (Orange imported-red-fire-antCounty) and is a major concern as an invasive species. It is similar in general appearance to our native southern fire ant (S. xyloni), except the head and thorax of the red imported fire antsouthern-fire-ant-jpeg is a little darker and their dirt excavations for colony sites are much larger, almost the size of gopher mounds!fireant-nest

The sting of both species of fire ant is about the same pain level, and leaves a raised reddish welt, especially in tender areas.  A single bite or sting is not pleasant but watch out for a whole colony may decide to attack at once if a threat to the colony is perceived and this can be a definite health concern as they can inflict significant damage and a whole lot of fiery pain.

With the amount of rain and snow, in California this year, and the extensive number of areas destroyed by fire, flooding is a major problem for we humans and animals alike.  You can be sure, as we deal with disastrous flooding, Fire Ants will be industriously building rafts, and river rafting their way to safety and, like Christopher Colombus,  new lands to colonize.

Here’s a cartoons about fire ants.  Want more? Click Here!

fire-ant-cartoon-with-ant-eaters

Dirty Rats and Marauding Mice, Harbingers of Sickness and Death!

Every time I sit with my grandkids and watch their favorite movie, Disney’s, Ratatouille, I can only picture in my mind the “cute”, humanized rats running around a kitchen, peeing and pooping uncontrollably even shedding hair and their fleas and mites as they create fantastic meals for their human patrons.  I am so grossed out!  Rat-infested-kitchenYou see, being in the pest control industry for over 20 years has taught me a lot about animal habits and physiology, and although it is a myth that they have no bladders and no sphincter muscles, it’s a fact that rats and mice  constantly eleminate their waste wherever they happen to be and quite frequently.  So, wherever they roam, they leave a trail of feces and urine behind.  “ICKY”!Rat yelling

These pests are more than just a nuisance.  Rodents, such as rats, mice and even rabbits, are associated with a number of health risks.  Rats and mice alone are known to spread more than 35 diseases and these diseases can be spread directly to humans, by the handling of live and dead rodents, through rodent bites and through contact with rodent feces, urine and saliva.  Indirectly, diseases can be transmitted through fleas, ticks and mites that have fed on the infected rodents.  Rats and mice carry parasites, like tapeworms and are also responsible for eliciting allergic reactions, as their hair, dander and particles of feces become airborne.

Scary fact; a single mouse is capable of depositing up to 25,000 fecal pellets in a year.  That’s approximately 70 pellets each day (not to mention free flowing urine).rat-poop-in-house  So, there is no question that prevention and prompt removal of these dirty guys, is of paramount importance.

 

 

Guard your home. Guard your health.

Take precautions before cleaning up rodent infested areas.  Get rid of the rodents first, then seal up any entryways to ensure that rodents can’t get in in the future.  Then it’s time to clean. Here is a link to the CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention so you have the latest info on how to safely and efficiently clean up after rodents.  If cleaning up after rodents is just too much for you or too ICKY! Check out Corky’s Pest Control’s, Rodent Service program.  

Vector control (a county program) has several suggestions for minimizing rodent infestations like trimming back trees and shrubs, cleaning up pet food and fallen fruits outside, closing entrances to your home larger than a quarter inch and cleaning up rodent feces and urine with a disinfectant that is rated for killing viruses.   They warn to not use a vacuum.  It could push pathogens into the air and increase the chance of someone breathing them in.  cleaning-3309061_960_720It is suggested that if you must use a vacuum, thoroughly spray entire infected area with a disinfectant that kills viruses, then let it stand until it’s dry.  Then vacuum carefully with a hepa-filter equipped vacuum. Don’t forget your face mask!

The following diseases are transmitted via rats:

  • Plague …more
  • Salmonellosis …more
  • Murine Typhus …more
  • Rat-Bite Fever (RBF) …more
  • Leptospirosis …more
  • Eosinophilic Meningitis …more

The following are transmitted by Mice:

  • Salmonellosis …more
  • Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) …more
  • Lymphocytic Choriomenginitis (LCMV) …more

Want to identify the “dirty rats” or “marauding mice” that are invading your space, check out these links:

 www.corkyspest.com/rat-id.html  or www.corkyspest.com/mouse-id.html

California Has Fireflies! Who knew?

What better time to start planning a summer vacation than in the middle of a cold (sort of), wet California winter.  If you are doing a little California dreaming right now, why not plan a summer adventure in the beautiful southern mountains.  You might be surprised at what you find.  Like Joshua Oliva, who recently completed his undergraduate studies at UC Riverside, who discovered a brand-new species of firefly while exploring in the Santa Monica mountains, in Topanga. firefly-2466543_640

This tiny creature with its glowing personality, was only about half a centimeter long and it did faintly glow. He (she) has a long way to go to measure up to its East Coast relatives, who, by the way, are larger, more numerous and really, light it up, on warm summer evenings.

USA, TX, Jeff Davis Co.: Fort Davis.Davis Mountains State Park.04-ix-2016
Public Domain Image by Alejandro Santillana for Insects Unlocked Project, University of Texas,  Austin

Contrary to popular belief, California is home to 18 species (soon to be 19). In contrast, Florida has about 56 species of fireflies. Fireflies are nocturnal members of Lampyridae, a family of insects within the beetle order Coleoptera, or winged beetles

Heinz Albers, www.heinzalbers.org(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons
Firefly larvae eating a snail, Heinz Albers, www.heinzalbers.org(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

Firefly larva, also known as, glow worms live for about one year, before it turns into an adult and mates.  The average lifespan of adult fireflies is around 2 months. The firefly’s sole purpose in life is to mate and procreate. Flashing each other, the males and females, find the loves of their lives.

In the United States, it’s extremely rare to see glowing fireflies, west of western Kansas, and even the ones that do glow can be very small and their light so faint that it can hardly be seen. But here’s the scoop.

Courtesy of Art Farmer from Evansville Indiana, USA. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Courtesy of Art Farmer from Evansville Indiana, USA. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

Luminescent fireflies also known as lightening bugs, have been seen in the Santa Monica mountains and the Laguna mountains in San Diego.  They’ve also been spotted on the southeast slope of Mt. San Jacinto and upper Lytle Creek in San Bernardino County.

In general, fireflies prefer wet, humid habitats that  support their favorite food, snails. Those few species that have been discovered in Southern California have been found mostly by ponds, springs, seeps and streams.

Firefly Fun Facts: 

See more fun Pest Toons athttps://www.corkyspest.com/toons.html
See more fun Pest Toons at https://www.corkyspest.com/toons.html
  1. They have strange eating habits. Contrary to the cute image of baby fireflies flitting from flower to flower, the underground-dwelling larvae of the lightning bug are carnivorous and feast on oozy slugs, worms and slimy snails. Once they grow up, some turn to cannibalism and eat other fireflies, but most live on pollen and nectar (while some don’t eat anything during their short lifetimes).
  2. Predators that might crave a “light” meal, beware the lightning bug. They taste disgusting. Firefly blood contains lucibufagins, which is a defensive steroid that tastes really yucky. Predators associate the awful taste with a firefly’s light and learn not to eat bugs that shine.mason-jar-2-3864319_640-1

If your summer, mountain adventure includes firefly hunting, your best bet is to grab a mason jar (don’t forget to poke holes in the lid) and head for an area with a natural water source on a warm summer night. Turn off your flashlight, so you can see their glow.  Be thoughtful.  When you are done admiring these little guys, let them go.  They will thank you for it.

Termites: From Wrecking Homes to Saving the Environment.

 

According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year. They can eat wood and extract energy from it, thanks to a few thousand microbes living inside their gut.termite mound

This huge community of microscopic organisms works together to digest the cellulose and lignin that give plant cell walls their strength. As a biproduct of this process, Methane (a natural gas) is expelled by the termites.

So what does termite “gas”, have to do with producing clean energy for the world? A lot!

Each termite produces, on average, about half a microgram of methane per day, an insignificant amount you say. Not really. When multiplied up by the world population of termites, their global methane emission is estimated to be about 20 million tons each year.

Most methane is produced by decaying debris from natural sources such as wetlands, rivers and streams, gas hydramethane_sourcestes on the ocean floor, and melting permafrost. Termites are the second largest source of global methane emissions. Next comes the extraction and burning of fossil fuels for electricity and transportation. Then way down the list comes the cows.

All of the above sources use variations of the same process, the decay of organic material in anaerobic conditions (in the absence of oxygen). Symbioticgel micro-organisms in the digestive tracts of termites (flaU.S. Department of Energy Office of Sciencelate protozoa in lower termites and bacteria in higher termites) produce methane gas (CH4).

 U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science

How can coal be a food source for termites?  It’s not really.  Scientists have figured out a way to use the termites gut microbes to break down cellulose which is a big part of what makes up coal, converting the coal into methane gas, giving us a cleaner fuel source.

According to University of Delaware researchers, Termites may hold the key to processing coal — a big polluting member of our Earthly energy supply — into cleaner energy for the world, products for agriculture, water cleanup and waste recycling.

Mining coal and processing it, by traditional means, is a pollution nightmare.

Coal is a fossil fuel created from the remains of plants that lived and died about 100 to 400 million years ago. Basically, it’s wood that’s been coal-mining-jpegliterally baked for millions of years.

 

 

 

According to Pradad Dhurjati, a professor at the University of Delaware, in the Chemical and Bio-molecular department; “This groundbreaking biotechnology has the potential to change ‘dirty coal’ into ‘clean coal’. That would be a big win-win for the environment and for the economy.”  Right now, the process is taking place in large vats of termite gut microbes, but scientists are looking forward to introducing these microbes directly into coal seams deep beneath the Earth’s surface, letting these hungry organisms, mine and process the coal, in place, and then sending the natural gas, in a steady flow to the surface for consumption.

This is not the end all solution to the clean energy problem. It is the goal of scientists to perfect this process until new and more efficient renewable energy sources can be found and made economically feasible.

Check out this link to find out why methane (natural gas) is a cleaner burning fuel than coal.   https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/environmental-impacts-of-natural-gas#.XDeTLVxKiUk