Category Archives: General

General Discussion

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.

While tick bites can cause annoying inflammation or irritation, being tick-biteinfected with a tick-borne disease can be a major problem. Through tick bites, humans and pets can be infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, babesiosis and more. In fact, a recent study found a 44.7 percent increase in the number of U.S. counties that have recorded ticks carrying Lyme disease.

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.

Giant Rats: From Nasty Vermin to Super Heros

 

Giant RatScary Rats:  Giant rats are no longer just figments of the imagination.  Now, it seems, these once mythical rodents are in fact real, and they’re absolutely, ginormous. That’s really, really big!

A rat, which was called “Vika” by locals on Vangunu (one of the many islands making up the group known as the Solomon Islands) solomon-islandswas for decades the stuff of legend. It wasn’t until a logging company (in 2015) accidentally flushed one from hiding, while clearing trees, that the Vika stories changed from fiction to fact. Then in 2017, researchers were able to hunt one of the rats down and through DNA testing found that this huge rodent, was a brand new species.

Now known as Uromys vika  , this rat has orangish brown fur, measures a foot anvika-ratd a half long and weighs more than 2 pounds. To put that in perspective, the average rat in the US., tops out at about 8 ounces with a body 7-11 inches long and tail another 7-9 inches. This new rodent, thought to be strictly herbivorous (plant eating), feasts mainly on nuts whose shells are thicker than that of a coconut. The animal’s massive teeth easily gnaw through the outer layer of the nut to make a meal of its tasty insides.

Another Giant Rat species, the Bosavi woolly rat is one of

From Wikipedia

the largest rats, according to the Smithsonian Institution. A Smithsonian biologist discovered this new species of giant rat in 2009 in the crater of Mount Bosavi, an extinct volcano in Papua New Guinea. It weighed close to 3.5 lbs. and measured 32 inches long, including the tail. This gigantic rat has a thick silver-gray coat and was not unafraid of humans. According to researchers, this species may only live inside this volcano.

The African or Gambian pouched rat,  Cricetomys gambianus, (is also on the exremely large side. It weighs between 2 to 3 pounds and grows to around 3 feet long (including its’ tail).  In its native Africa, the pouchedgambian-rat-standing rat lives in colonies of up to twenty, usually in forests and scrub areas, but also very often around termite mounds. It is omnivorous, preferring palm fruits and palm kernels while also feeding on vegetables, insects, crabs, and snails.  It is not a true rat but is part of an African branch omuroid rodents. It derives its name from the pouches inside its mouth (in the cheeks) that are used to store extra food.

For all it’s scary and perceived nastiness this rat rates right up there master-splinter-action-figurewith the famous “Master Splinter” of Ninja Turtle fame for his save the world attitude.  Known universally as the Hero Rat” for its work as a trained landmine detector and in the medical field for its ablity to detect, sniff out tuberculeosis ,. A single Hero rat can clear 200 square feet of landmine infested g round in an hour (done manually, the same area would take 50 hours to clear). A TB-detection rat can evaluate 50 samples in eight minutes (almost a day’s work for a lab technician).

Since 2000, these rats have cleared mine fields in Tanzania, and detected 6,693 land mines, 26,934 small arms and ammunitions, and 1,087 bombs across hundreds of miles in Mozambique. They’re also hard at work in Thailand, Angola, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Since 2002, trained tuberculosis-detecting rats have bFrom Wikimedia Commonseen used in 19 TB clinics in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam. They’ve successfully screened 226,931 samples and identified 5,594 TB patients. Get more info on these amazing Heros and the innovative research company (Ngo Apopo) that trains and provides their services at https://www.apopo.org/en/ You can even adopt a rat!

Being intelligent, playful and  very affectionate, they are sometimes kept as exotic pets.  Unfortunately, when a group of Gambian pouched rats escaped frorat-as-pet-1914404_960_720m a breeder in Florida and colonized an island called Grassy Key, they  become an invasive species. In addition, in 2003 they played a role in an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States. They are now a restricted animal and can only be imported for scientific research, exhibition, or educational purposes with a valid permit issued by the CDC.

Featured Picture: Giant Gambian Pouched Rat finds a landmine (photo by Xavier Rossi).

Other pictures: From Wikimedia Commons

 

Assassin Bugs: The “Kiss” of Death.

It’s getting close to Halloween and it’s time to think about scary, creepy and ghoulish things .  The “Assassin Bug” fits the bill .  It’s name stirs up  scary thoughts and its persona is ghoulish.  Here’s why it’s the perfect Halloween bad bug:

assassin-bug-carrying-corpsesThis insect stabs its prey and sucks it dry, then attaches the corpse to its back. Not just one or two at a time, these bugs can carry around huge piles of their enemies (or fast food containers). Although, weighty and really very ghoulish, this behavior acts as a visual and olfactory camouflage as well as providing highly effective body armor.

 

Brings to mind the Brain Bug from Starship Troopers drinking a guy’s brains.  Yuck!!

There are about 7,000 species of assassin bugs in the kissing-bug-rhodnius_prolixus70-300world and while they can deliver a painful bite, assassin bugs are usually no threat to mankind. Then there’s the exception: the blood-sucking kissing bugs, aptly named because they bite humans painlessly on the face and around the mouth while they sleep.  (They are attracted to the carbon dioxide exhaled while breathing.) Problems occur when they defecate in the process, leaving protozoans from their feces in the wound, leading to chronic heart, digestive and neurological problems. Chagas disease, is a serious problem in South America, and infections may be on the upswing in the United States. 

freeze-frame-of-pest-news-minuteFor  more information on Chagas disease and other important pest topics watch the Corky’s Pest Control’s  “Pest News Minute”.

 

Just a couple of examples of these creepy creatures.

Wheel Bug   assassin-bug-wheel-bug-eating

 

assassin-bug-spiney-red

 

Spiney Assassin Bug

 

 

 

war-bug-star-ship-troopers

 

War Bug from Starship Troopers

Scarey but not as scary as the real ASSASSINS.

 

Kissing Bug picture: By Dr. Erwin Huebner, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.

Natural Diasters: Hurricanes, Fires, Earthquakes and Rats!

roof-rat-on-lightMembers of the Muridae family are the dominant species in every region of the world, due to their ability to adapt to and exploit new situations. Commensal rats and mice, those that live at the expense of humans, invade their dwellings, eat their food, upset their comfort, and frequently transmit diseases to them, belong to this family. Three species of commensal rodents are the most widely distributed: the Norway Rat, Rattus norvegicus; the Roof rat, Rattus rattus; and the Common (House)  mouse, Mus musculus.

When natural disasters strike, rats and mice experience the same suffering as humans. Many of them are crushed to death or drowned, die of starvation, or fall prey to infections. Their populations are frequently decimated. Survivors, fearful and disorganized, wander into new areas in search of protection, shelter, and food. It taRat yellingkes time for them to regroup and reorganize their social behavior, become familiar with their new environment, find safe havens, locate food and water, and memorize their movements. All this occurs before they can again begin reproducing.

Colony building and reproduction will only begin when their new ecosystem has stabilized. This typically takes 6 to 10 months under favorable conditions. As the rodent population grows and resettles, people have a greater chance of being exposed to the diseases carried by rodents. Rodent urine and dander also contain allergens that can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive persons and more than 9,000 persons are treated in emergency departments annually for rat or mouse bites

rat-biting-girl-clipartFACT: Some rats, if provoked and cornered, will fight their way out of a confrontation, as will many wild animals. But most rats and mice do not directly attack humans. Young babies, bed-confined elders, and the homeless sleeping in doorways and alleys, however, are occasionally bitten by unprovoked rats.  In some cases, those cleaning up debris after natural disasters will come in contact with frightened rats (mice) and may experience bites. 

So even with immediately decreasing populations, rats are perceived to be increasing because they gravitate to the same areas as humans and become more prevalent and  evident in those environs.

Why are rodent populations, and their movements, so important after disastediaster-damagers? Because events like Hurricane Irma and Jose, the fires in our great northwest, tornados in the midwest and the earthquakes in the U.S. and Mexico, can change the ecology of affected areas, making it more favorable to rats and other vermin. At the same time, they can curtail community services that can keep these  pests in check.

For more information on Rats and Mice and the illnesses they cause and the diseases they carry, check out this link:  https://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/index.html

Need to know how to get rid of Rats and Mice? Check out this website: https://www.corkyspest.com/rats.html

Ants, Nature’s Engineers: Creativity by Necessity.

Ants are one of the few groups of animals which change their environment to meet their needs.  In their case, necessity is truely the mother of invention.

A single ant is  capable of carrying up to 50 times its own weight, so working together as a colony means they’re able to accomplish impressive and seemingly impossible feats. In fact,  a large army of garden ants can construct an underground city big enough to house thousands of insects, within one week.

Ant nant-nest-flatests come in all shapes and sizes. Many species build their colonies underground, but not all. Some build above-ground mounds, while others build colonies in trees.  Some ants will even build a colony within the walls of a building. The exact structure and whereabouts of the nest varies with the species, soil type and situation.

Ants are industrious creatures and excellent builders. Here are a few of their amazing constructs.

Anthills: These nests are created as a by-product of worker ants digging underground tunnels. In fact, ants in general move more ant-hill-in-forrestearth (soil) than any other organism, including earthworms. As the worker ants excavate the colony’s tunnels, they dispose of the displaced earth by carrying it back out of the colony and depositing it near the entrance. They also get rid of any garbage found in the colony in this way. They carry these tiny bits of dirt and garbage in their mandibles. Usually, this combination of materials is dropped off at the top of the anthill, so it does not slide back down the hole into the colony.  Some species of ants work hard to create a specific shape to their anthills.

Tree Nests:  Some ants, such as the Carpenter Ant, build their nests carpenter-antby hollowing out rotting wood; they do not eat the wood. Workers take mouthful-sized chips of wood to the nest entrance, where they deposit the chips. This results in a pile of sawdust at the base of a tree. The nest itself consists of meandering tunnels that are free of sawdust. Nests may be present in rotting wood in trunks, limbs, or roots and even wooden fence posts.

There are a few ant species whose nests are constructed using leaves. The green tree ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) sews together weaverantsnestleaves with the silk produced by their larvae. The colony expands by enlarging existing leaf nests or by adding new satellite nests. Other species use plant fibers to construct coverings which are attached to the surfaces of leaves. These ants live within the chamber formed by the covering and leaves.

Rafts:  During floods and heavy rainstorms, passageways and chambers within underground ant nests fill with water and force the evacuation of the colony.  Fire ants have the unique ability to come together as a colony and build an “ant raft” using their own bodies. ant-raft-of-fire-antsWhen waters start to flood the colony, worker ants link legs and mouths together, weaving a raft in a process that can take less than two minutes.  The fine hairs on the ants trap enough air that those on the bottom layer of the raft avoid being completely submerged. Fire ants can survive in a raft up to several weeks, although they eventually to need reach dry land if they are to restart their colony.

Towers: Fire ants build complex towers as a means of avoiding

Candler Hobbs, Georgia Tech.
Candler Hobbs, Georgia Tech.

trouble.  Without any planning, using trial-and-error and only their own bodies, they create a bell-shaped tower structure that helps them survive. According to one study, an individual ant, can support as many as three other ants, which it connects to using sticky pads on its feet. Scientists think that their towers act like makeshift shelters until the ants can build more safe and durable accommodations.

Rules for building ant towers:

  1. Don’t move if there are other ants on top of you.
  2. If you are on top of other ants, keep moving you’ll find your spot.
  3. If you find an open parking spot next to other immobile ants, pull in and link up with your neighbors.

Bridges: Army ants build living bridges, moving ant-bridgehundreds of thousands of ants daily. They are creating shortcuts through their environment saving time and energy, and optimizing traffic flow. Other ant species form structures out of their bodies, but their constructs are not such a huge part of their lives and daily behavior as is the bridge building of the army ants.  Building “living” bridges across breaks and gaps in the forest floor allow their notoriously large and vicious raiding swarms to travel efficiently.

Fun Facts about Ants: On the order of 10 quadrillion ants live on the planet at any given moment. That’s about 1.4 million ants per human, based on a world population of 7.3 billion people.

Beach Bugs, They’re a Real Summer Bummer!

It’s Summer and the California beaches are the vacation destinations of millions of people.  It’s where we have fun in the sun, cool off in the water and relax on the sand under colorful umbrellas with cool drinks ansecluded-beachd our favorite books.

 

 

Reality check: what we often find are crowds, screaming kids, sand in awkward places, sunburn,  packed parking lots, traffic jams, and “Bugs”!

crowded-beachBe prepared to share your summer beach experience with these annoying, “Beach Bugs”.

Sand Fleas:  

sand-fleaThe common sand flea (Orchestia agilis), that is found on California beaches, is really an amphipod, or a small, shrimp-like crustacean. They burrow into the sand and they feed on decaying plant and animal matter that washes up on the shore, especially seaweed. They do not want anything to do with people. They obviously are not fleas, not even insects. However, they jump, similar to the way fleas do and they live in the sand, so hence the name sand flea.  On other beaches, around the world, different species of sand fleas present problems for humans, and other mamals, as they bite to gather blood in order to reproduce and carry diseases, not unlike mosquitoes.

Sand Flies:

sand-flies-on-legsThis is a general term that can be applied  to any biting fly you might encounter at the beach, besides a mosquito. This could even be a type of horsefly that is associated with that type of beachy habitat. Most commonly, the name sand fly refers to flies in the family Ceratopogonidae. These are small biting midges, sometines refered to as no-see-ums, only 1-4 millimeters in length that live in aquatic habitats all over the world. Like mosquitoes, it is only the female that sucks blood to get protein in preparation for laying her eggs. The bite itself is too small to feel. It’s not until later when your skin starts to react with the proteins in their saliva that you start to feel the itch, and oh brother, what an itch!

Salt Marsh Mosquitos: 

black-saltmarsh-mosquitoThe Aedes taeniorhynchus, commonly known as the black salt marsh mosquito, and the   Aedes sollicitans are frequent biters at Southern California Beaches.  They lay their eggs in brackish and saltwater pools left over from rising then receding tides. There is no mystery about these agressive ladies. They’re big, they’re hungry and they will come after you any time of the day whether you’re swatting at them or not. They are larger than many freshwater mosquitoes, so their bites are bigger too. In other parts of the world, they are vectors of Venezuelan and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Luckily, in our area, this is not a problem, but they are a prime vector of dog heartworm, so if you live near the beach, keep your dogs on a heartworm preventative.

Sea Lice or Baby Jelly Fish (not bugs but they will bug you!)

What we callsea-lice-baby-jellyfish sea lice are actually larvae of jellyfish that float around in clouds in the ocean. Although they are tiny, they still possess those nasty stinging cells or nematocysts. If you’re swimming in the ocean, they can become trapped between your bathing suit and skin. This is when you can be stung. The stings cause intense itching and burning which result in a rash with small raised blisters.  The rash can last anywhere from two days to two weeks, but most of the time they go away with no medical attention necessary, just lots of cortisone cream and Benadryl! Prime time for ‘Sea Lice” is May through August.

So, grab your sunblock,  your bug repellent (with deet) and head out to the beach. Have fun, play safe and don’t let the “beach bugs” bite!  going-to-the-beach