Category Archives: Health Related Pest Problems

Health Related Pest Problems

There’s a “Dirty Rat” in Man’s Family Tree

Say hello to one of your oldest relatives, named Protungulatum donnae.

After a six-yeearliest_placental_mammalar study of the mammal family tree, scientists now believe that many mammalian species (people included) originated with a tiny rat-like creature that crawled the Earth tens of millions of years ago.

Fossils of the Protungulatum donnae look like the best ancestor mammal-ancestor-skeletoncandidate for the mammal family tree extending back 66 million years, and preserved evidence revealed that the creature weighed around eight ounces, had a long fuzzy tail and ate bugs. Maureen A.  O’Leary, anatomist at Stony Brook University, says, “The findings were not a total surprise. But it’s an important discovery because it relies on lots of findings from fossils and molecular data.” [The New York Times]

Researchers reported, the animal had several anatomical charactprehistoric-rateristics for live births that occur in all placental mammals (creatures that
nourish their young in utero through a placenta) and led to some 5,400 living species, from shrews to elephants, bats to whales, cats to dogs and, not least, humans.

So now it all makes sense, why scientists rely on mice and rats, when researching cures for human ailments or studying human behavior.

Rat yellingTheir genetic, biological and behavioral characteristics closely resemble those of humans, and many symptoms of human conditions can be replicated in mice and rats. “Rats and mice are mammals that share many processes with humans and are mouse-yellingappropriate for use to answer many research questions,” said Jenny Haliski, a representative for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

Some examples of human disorders and diseases for which mice and rats are used as models include:

Hypertension, Diabetes, Cataracts, Obesity, Seizures, Respiratory problems, Deafness, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer, Cystic fibrosis, HIV and AIDs, Heart disease, Muscular dystrophy, Spinal cord injuries

Now you know why great-uncle Joe looks the way he does, why aunt Mary is man-looks-like-ratso mousey and why cousin Billy Bob eats so much cheese.eating-cheese

Tales from Natures’ “Dark Side”


Gather round the old campfire or maybe just the family fire pit.  It’s  Halloween and time for tall tales, urban legends and “True Stories”.  Mother Nature provides the best material for horror stories and here are a few tales to get you ready for

                                  “The Scariest Time of The Year”!Halloween Clock

Stop! Don’t Lick that Envelope!

This lady was working in a post office in California, one day she licked the envelopes and postage stamps instead of using a sponge.

That very day the lady cut her tongue on the envelope. A week later, she nlicking-lots-of-envelopesoticed an abnormal swelling of her tongue. She went tothe doctor, and they found nothing wrong. Her tongue was not sore or anything. A couple of days later, her tongue started to swell more, and it began to get really sore, so sore, that she could not eat. She went back to the hospital, and demanded something be done. The doctor, took an x-ray of her tongue, and noticed a lump. He prepared her for minor surgery.

When the doctor cut her tongue open, a live roach crawled out. There were roach eggs on the seal of the envelope. The eggs were able cockroachs-in-mouth-scary-picto hatch inside of her tongue because her saliva kept it warm and moist, just perfect for growing roach babies…

This is a true story … Yuck!  Anyone remember the Alien movie?

The Dangers of Sunbathing

A young woman was sunbathing on the beach and was just about to drop off tosunbathing sleep, when she felt an insect running along her jawbone and then down her neck. She brushed it away, and thought nothing more of it.

After about a week, she noticed what she thought was a pimple growing and growing. The skin was inflamed and it looked like a blister. Then, one day, she was blow-drying her hair and hit the inflamed spot with her hair dryer. The blistered skin broke open and hundreds of tiny white baby spiders and pus came pouring out of the wound!

It seems that while sspiders-coming-out-of-girls-facehe was sunbathing, her pores had enlarged enough that a mama spider could deposit her egg sac in one. They incubated under her skin until she smacked herself in the jaw with the hair dryer!

Entomologists at the University of Illinois explained to National Geographic that spiders aren’t built to inject their eggs under the skin. They may be able to plaster them on top of the skin, but that wouldn’t make much sense.

The Monster In The Elevator

A man was found slumped in an elevator, very much dead with two holes in his neck. The coroner discovers the man died in a state of shock, and he’d lost a lot of blood. However, to everyone’s surprise, there’s no bloelevator-with-dead-insideodstains, no fingerprints, and no signs of forced entry. Things take another bizarre turn when, one month later, a teenage girl is found dead in the same elevator with two identical puncture wounds in her throat, minus a liter or two of blood. People are starting to think there’s a vampire on the loose. What other explanation makes sense?

The police are getting desperate sothey stake out the apartment, posting a detective and a sergeant inside the elevator. The men ride the lift up and down for hours and hours, which turn into days. On the third day, the elevator suddenly shakes and comes to a halt. The power dies, plunging the men into darkness, which isn’t good news since the sergeant suffers frwolf-spider-eyes-and-fangsom a mild case of claustrophobia. The two pull out their flashlights, and it’s then they hear the click, click, click on the elevator roof. As their heart rates jump, they realize something big—something alive—is up there, crawling around, and it’s then that they see the hole in the ceiling where a panel has fallen away. The detective shines his light toward the hole and has to fight back sheer terror as he sees a large, hairy head the size of a soft ball, covered with eight shiny eyes, all staring right at him.

The sergeant isn’t quite as calm. Not only does he have claustrophobia, he’s also deathly afraid of spiders. He panics and drops his flashlight, and suddenly the three-foot-long beast springs into the elevator and lands on the sergeant’s face, mutant-spider-dogwhere it proceeds to sink its jaws into his cheek and suck out blood. The detective is paralyzed for a moment, but then he draws his gun and fires, shooting off one of the spider’s hairy legs. Wounded, the creature rushes past the detective and escapes out the hatch, leaving one more corpse and a traumatized detective. Is the story true? Probably not. But it’s something to think about if you’re ever stuck in an elevator. And heaven forbid that the lights go out!

Along came a spider and more scary stuff:

Mistaken Identity

A family had just purchased a small puppy. They had only had it for a week or so and decided to take it to the beach with them. When they arrived, they found out that they could not take the puppy onto the public beach because of a city ordinance. Instead of traveling back home to learat-on-a-leashve the puppy or leaving it in a hot car, they left it on its leash… tied to the car.

After a few hours, they came back to the car to discover that someone had stolen their puppy. The leash and collar were still there, tied to the car. They searched all around the parking lot for the puppy. No luck. They did, however, find another scruffy looking dog wandering the lot with no collar. Instead of leaving with no pet, they decided to give the mutt a home.

They brought it home and kept it in the house with them for a week. They then decided to take the dog to the vet to get his shots, etc.

Upon examininmexican-dog-ratg the dog, the vet made three discoveries:

  1. Their new pet was not a dog, but a large dock rat.
  2. Their puppy was not missing, but had been eaten by the rat.
  3. The rat has rabies!

                                        Halloween Pumpkin Happy Halloween                     Telling tall tales and scary stories is an art form.  You have to do it right in order to create the desired effect.  Check out these links to perfect your tale telling skills:

What’s Hairy and Scary, and sends you screaming into the night?

Could it be witches, ghosts or goblins?  Monsters, Vampires or Space Aliens?  No, No, No!

It’s Rats, Bats and Spiders that top the list of the most unwanted and fright inspiring creatures ever created.  But with all the disturbing stories and fear provoking encounters, are they really the vile creatures of nightmares or are they being given a bad rap?

Rats are one of those animals that can trigger fears that center around sheer numbers. A group of rats is called a pack, swarm, horde or mischief. Imagine a mischief of rats streaming towards you in a darkened alley; this is the stuff of nightmares. For others, it is the long, snakelike tail that freaks them out, or the seemingly long sharp teeth that line their mouths. Considering their factual and fictional involvement in the painful deaths and disappearances of so many people, it’s understandable that society has a fear of these pests that can carry disease and pestilence. Either way, rodents are seen as harbingers of doom and a carrier of death.Black Death and RatsRat yelling




Rats in hstory: During the period from 1664-1666, London was ravaged by the Great Plague. Wiping out an estimated 100,000 people, which equated to about 20% of the capital’s population at the time, the plague  also known as the “Black Death”,  was all down to the bites of fleas carried in the hair of black rats. Disastrously, the residents of the city mistakenly thought that the disease was being spread by stray dogs and cats and so set about killing them. Obviously, cats are right above rats in the food chain, so taking out the predators of the vermin only worsened the situation. Interestingly, it was only in the 1890s that it was discovered that rats were the reason why the plague spread so quickly.

Rats in literature: Rats were also central to the plot of a well-known story that warned against going back on your word. The Pied Piper of Hamelin was a character brought in by the Mayor of the town of Pied Piper and ratsHamelin to help clear an infestation of rats, promising him a healthy reward for the completion of said task. The Pied Piper then played his pipe and the rats followed, happily lured to their deaths in the nearby river. Having completed the job, the Piper returned for his payment, but the Mayor reneged. So, in revenge, the Piper returned and played his pipe again, this time hypnotizing the children of the town. They followed him and, dependent on the version you read, they either disappeared into a cave, never to be seen again or were returned once the Piper had received his fee. Modern motion pictures, like Willard and Ben have raised the rat to new hights of villainy, whereas,Scary Rat




Disney’s American Tale and Ratatouille have made them into loveable folk heroes.Rat as a chefConsidering rats can be purchased in just about any pet store these days, maybe rats have caught a rap they just don’t deserve.

Check out these links to see what’s really going on with Rats:

Bats have become the stuff of nightmares because of their nocturnal habits and ability to navigate in the dark, and because of their weird appearance as they resemble both animal and bird at the same time. Bats, through history, have been associated with deities, supernatural forces and the occult. In the mythologies of differing cultures, they symbolize both good and evil, life and death.

The most well-known and fear-inspiring is the “Vampire Bat”, belonging to the subfamily, Desmodontinae.

Vampire Bat

It is a parasitic species that drinks the blood of other animals including domesticated animals such as cows, horses, and pigs.  No, it does not drink human blood! But like the vampire of legend, it sits on its’ prey, bites, licks blood from the wound and the prey never feels a thing.

The common vampire bat is found in the tropics of Mexico, Central and South America and are the only mammals that feed entirely on blood.

Over the centuries their fear inspiring, blood sucking reputation has spilled over onto other bat species that might look as scary but have more benign insect based diets.

Fruit Bat

Bats in History: But which came first, the Vampire or the Bat?  It’s the Vampire, whose first appearance was made in the 11th century and gave rise to the medieval, bloodsucking monster. Whereas, bats originally come from the Americas and were discovered some 400 years after the appearance of the “Vampire”. One theory suggests that the Slavic word for vampire comes from the Turikic word for an evil, supernatural being, Ubyr or witch. The word Upir as a term for vampire is found, for the first time in written form, in 1047 in a letter to a Novtorodian prince referring to him as “Upir Lichyi” or Wicked Vampire.

Bats in Literature: The list of folklore concerning bats is endless, and even Shakespeare got in on the act. In his famous play Macbeth, he macbeth and witcheshad his three witches adding “wool of bat” to their steaming cauldron, and in The Tempest (Act I, Scene 2) he had Caliban place a curse on his master Prospero, which included the line:

“All the charms of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!”


Perhaps tDracula with fangshe most influential source for popularizing contemporary fear of  bats was the fictional bestselling book, “Dracula” (written by the Irish author Bram (Abraham) Stoker (1847-1912) and first published in 1897). In it, he personalized the characteristics of the Vampire bat into what are now the traditional scary, and oddly romantic, blood sucking Vampire legends. Greatly inspiring the imaginations of other writers; his book led to a whole genre of stories and films.

Thursting for more? Check this out.

Spiders were one of early man’s top, fear provoking creatures, way before humans crawled out of caves to hunt wooly mammoths.  In fact, the fear of spiders, Arachnophobia, could be a product of human evolution, according to new research out of Columbia University. Spiders presented such a great danger to humans during our early evolutionary stages that a fear of the species became part of our DNAfraid of spidersA.

However, there are other theories that have been put forth to explain human fear of spiders. Plymouth University Psychology professor, Jon May, suggests that it is their angular legs, dark colors and unpredictable movements that make arachnids so abhorrent to humans.  It’s also possible that this fear is learned, as children are much more likely to become arachnophobic if they see parents or siblings reacting to the creatures fearfully. But regardless of which reason offers the correct explanation, we can all probably agree: spiders can be pretty creepy.

Spiders in History: As an ancient and powerful symbol found around the world, spiders have always provoked a wide variety of emotions in people: fear, disgust, panic, and sometimes curiosity and appreciation. This broad range of reactions has influenced origin myths, legends, art, literature, music, architecture, and technology throughout history.

In an ancient Greek legend, the world’s first spider was born from the pride of a woman, named Arachne and Athena, Arachne, which is where the name Arachnid comes from. North American indigenous cultures have often portrayed spiders as creators, helpers, and wisdom keepers. Egyptian mythology tells of the goddess Neith – a spinner and weaverjorougumo of destiny – and associates her with the spider. Ancient Chinese folk culture celebrates spiders. They are thought to bring happiness in the morning, and wealth in the evening. They see spiders as lucky creatures, and “happy insects”. In Japan the Spider Princess, a mythological spider figure called Jorogumo, is able to transform into a seductive woman who entraps traveling samurai.

Spiders in Literature: Many folktales warn of the dangerous traits associated with spiders, such as ensnaring webs, lies and deceits, lethal venoms, silent attacks, and creeping terror.  The spider gained an evil reputation in the 1842 Biedermeier novella by Jeremias Gotthelf, The Black Spider. In this tale, the spider symbolizes evil works and shows the moral consequences of making a pact with the devil.

The 1952 children’s novel Charlotte’s Web written by E. B. White, is notable for its portrayal of the spider in a positive light, as a heroine rather than an object of fear. More recently, giant spiders have been Aragog Harry Potter Spiderfeatured in books such as the 1998 fantasy novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by  J.K. Rowling, where the giant spider Aragog is a supporting character and pet of grounds keeper, Hagrid.

In graphic novels, spiders are often adopted by superheroes or villains as their symbols or alter egos due to the arachnid’s strengths Spider manand weaknesses. One of the most notable characters in comic book history is the Marvel comic book hero, Spider-Man.

Spiders have been present for many decades both in film and on television. The spider web is used as a prop to adorn dark passageways, into the the unknown.  Horror films, featuring the spider, include, the  1955 movie, Tarantula, which exploits America’s fear of not only spiders but atomic radiation dtarantula-posteruring the nuclear arms race. Then came the 1975 low-budget cult films,  The Giant Spider Invasion, and Kingdom of the Spiders, a 1977 film starring William Shatner, depicting the consequence of hungry spiders deprived of their natural food supply due to pesticides. The fear of spiders escalates in Arachnophobia, a 1990 movie in which spiders multiply in large numbers and reign terror over man.

Have a craving for more info on why spiders creep us out?  Paruse these at your leasuire.


Parasitic Mind Control: Not Science fiction. Science Fact!

Controlling the minds of other living creatures is science fiction or at best the stuff of horror stories, right? Well for some, becoming a real live zombie is a deadly reality. In the race for survival, mind control, has become something of a specialty for some creatures in the wild and even yourDracula own backyard.





Ants: Feasting on the slime of a snail turns ants into mindless zombies.

The Lancet liver fluke (Dicrocoelium dendriticum), forces its’ ant host to attach itself to the tips of grass blades, the easier to be eaten by grazing animals. The fluke needs to get into the gut of a grazing

animal to complete its life cycle. As an adult, the lancet liver fluke—a type of flatworm—rlife-cycle- zombie ant flukeesides in the livers of grazing mammals such as cows. Its eggs are excreted in the host’s feces, which are then eaten by snails. After the eggs hatch inside the snail, the snail creates protective cysts around the parasites and coughs them up in balls of mucus. Real Slime Balls.

These fluke-filled slime balls are consumed by ants. When the flukes wiggle their way into an ant’s brain, they cause the insect to climb to Ants on stalks of grassthe tip of a blade of grass and sit motionless, where it’s most likely to be eaten by a grazing mammal. That way, the liver fluke can complete its life cycle. Due to the highly specific nature of this parasite’s life cycle, human infections are generally rare.

Rats and Mice: Parasite blocks fear of cats in rats and mice!

Oxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite whose life cycle can only be completed in the body of a cat. Rats can carry it, but it needs a cat to survive. And the way it finds a host is ingenious – rats who become infected suffer a change in their brain chemistry which causes them to become attracted to, rather than fearful of the scent of cats.Mouse and CatIt also makes them attracted to the scent of cat urine and fur and there is evidence that infected male rats are more sexually attractive to females, transmitting the parasite sexually. Obviously, these rats don’t live long lives. Humans can also contract toxoplasmosis – some estimates indicate 1/3 of the world’s population has it. Occasionally fatal, it is particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women (which is why women are told to avoid cat litter boxes when they are expecting). Toxoplasmosis has also been linked to many other ailments, including schizophrenia.

Crickets and Grasshoppers: Non-swimmers dive to their deaths.

 Horsehair worms (Paragordius tricuspidatus) live inside grasshoppers and crickets, sabotage their central nervous system and force them to jump into pools of water, drowning themselves. Hairworms then swim away from their hapless hosts to continue their life cycle. First, a tiny horsehair worm larva is eaten by the larva of another insect, such as a mosquito or mayfly. Once this emerges from the water, a cricket or grasshopper will snatch it up. Then the horsehair worm begins to rapidly develop inside its’ host.

By altering the functions of the cricket’s or grasshoppers’s central nervous system, the worm makes it jump right into the nearest

^BHairworm and wood cricket.^b Hairworm (^IParagordius^i ^Itricuspidatus^i) exiting its host wood cricket (^INemobius sylvestris^i). Hairworms are nematode worms that are intestinal parasites of a number of animals. This hairworm manipulates its host's behaviour, so that it jumps into water, allowing the worm to continue its life cycle. The cricket drowns in the water.
Hairworm and wood cricket.

body of water. The unfortunate cricket then drowns itself, allowing the horsehair worm to emerge and reproduce. Researchers have noticed as many as 32 worms emerging from one host cricket. From the outside, you can’t tell if a cricket or grasshopper has been infected, but neurologically, the worm is in control.

Fish: Dance to their Death.

The fluke (Euhaplorchis californiensis) is common in Southern California and Baja California estuaries. Its’ life begins in an ocean-dwelling horn snail, where it produces larvae

Horn Snail filled with parasites.
Horn Snail filled with parasites.

that then seek their next host, a killifish. (See The Puppet Master’s Medicine Chest.”) Once it finds a fish, the parasite latches on to its gills and makes its way into the brain. But it doesn’t stop there. The fluke needs to get inside the gut of a water bird in order to reproduce. So inside the killifish’s brain, the fluke releases chemicals that cause the fish to shimmy, jerk, and jump, attracting the attention of hungry water fowl.  Researchers, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that the parasite decreases serotonin and increases dopamine levels in the fish’s brain. The change in brain chemistry causes fish to swim and behave Fish and Bird more erratically. These frantic movements are intended to attract the attention of birds, which eat the fluke infested fish. The flukes mate inside the bird, and their eggs are released back into the water in the bird’s droppings to be eaten by horn snails starting the cycle all over again.

Facts we wish were fiction.  More Mind Control Stories.

Summer’s Outdoor Pests become Fall’s Home Invaders

September 22nd, marked the fall equinox this year; Where Summer blasts our days with her last hot breaths, and Fall creeps in with his first cool evening breezes.

It’s the time when, days and nights begin as equals and where days slowly shorten and nights lengthen.autumnal Equinox

It is the summer’s great last heat, It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.
–Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt

It all has to do with our swiftly tilting planet. The marking of Fall traditionally comes with the equinox, when the Sun’s path through the sky takes it from rising due East to setting due West. Since our seasons are caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis relative to its orbital plane, the equinox roughly marks the transition from longer periods of daylight to shorter ones or vice versa.

So what does this have to do with the world of insects? The two biggest environmental changes insects are genetically wired to perceive are the length of days (daylight) and change in temperature. The shortening of daylight hours and the beginning of cooler evenings, in the fall, signals the time for winter preparation. Unfortunately, your warm home may be irresistible to insects and other pests seeking shelter from the cold.

Even soil-dwelling insects, receive the “signal” to migrate deeper into soil. Their cue is soil temperature – as soil gets cooler, the insects dig down deeper.

In warmer climates, cool evening tempeHouse surrounded with pestsratures and the advent of the rainy season often sounds the starting bell for the annual insect race indoors and unfortunately, your warm home may be irresistible to insects seeking shelter from the cold.

The Top 5 Fall Pests Looking to Make Your House, Their Home.

Rodents. Rodent control and exclusion should be your number one fall priority, as mice and rats scurry to find warm, dry places to over-winter.   Walls, closets, pantries, sub-areas, basements and attics are inviting spaces for these pests. Species to watch for: deer mice, house mice, roof or tree rats.

Flies. Fly populations are at their height in early fall because they have had all year to increase their numbers. As temperatures drop, some flies look for a retreat inside homes from the cool weather outside. The south- and west-facing walls of your home may attract flies in search of heat. If those flies are already overwintering, a warm day may bring them out of hiding. It’s important to remember that some flies can cause bigger problems than just irritating buzzing; they have the potential to carry diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, dysentery, and diarrhea. Species to watch for: cluster fliesfruit flieshouse flies.

Stinging Insects. As fall approaches, stinging insects such as yellow jackets and other wasps can be quite active. After working all summer to create the largest nest possible, it becomes a struggle to feed so many with temperatures dropping and food supplies dwindling. Under such stress, the colony can become hostile and individuals can split off and start looking for nesting sites that will provide better shelter and more access to food sources. Species to watch for: yellow jackets, honey bees.

Ants. Cool autumn weather may bring ant trails indoors. Ants sometimes move their colonies into the walls of the home or beneath a slab of foundation to escape the chill. Effective ant control is about locating the nest and preventing ants from getting inside. Species to watch for: carpenter antspavement antsodorous house ants.

Occasional Invaders. This time of year can include a shopping list of unique fall insects, commonly referred to as occasional invaders. This includes stink bugs, boxelders and ladybugs. These pests enter homes in search of overwintering sites where they can wait out the winter. While these insects typically do not cause structural damage, they are generally considered a nuisance.
Species to watch for: stink bugs, lady bugsboxelders, spiders.

 We humans need to “take a lesson” from induant-and-grasshopperstrious insects, whose genetic imperative it is to continually prepare for life’s challenges, in order to assure its’ species successful survival. Remember Asoeps Fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper?  See Disney’s 1934 version here:

Now is the time to prepare our homes for the Fall and Winter insect invasions.

  1. Screen attic vents and openings to chimneys, and any other areas where homes may be open to the outdoors, like mail slots and animal doors.
  2. Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry. Pests are attracted to areas of moisture, something they need to survive.
  3. Seal cracks and crevices on the outside of the home using caulk and steel wool. Pay close attention to where utility pipes enter the structure. Some rodents can fit through a hole the size of a dime.
  4. Keep kitchen counters clean, store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles.
  5. Replace weather-stripping and repair lose mortar around the foundation and windows. These are easy ways to keep not only pests, but also cold air out of the house.
  6. Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and keep shrubbery trimmed. Removing areas where pests can hide near your home can reduce the chance of them finding a way inside.
  7. Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens. Torn window screens and cracks under doors are an ideal entry point for household pests.
  8. Inspect items such as boxes of decorations, package deliveries, and grocery bags before bringing them indoors. Pests can find creative ways to get inside a home. Shake out or inspect anything that has been left or stored outside.
  9. Avoid leaving pets’ food dishes out for long periods of time. Pests don’t discriminate between people food and cat food.
  10. Have a proper outdoor drainage system. Installing gutters or repairing an existing system will help draw water and moisture away from your home, preventing any leaks or build up that might attract pests.
  11. Fall Preparation to prevent insects from entering home

The Year is 1900 and Fear of the Mosquito “Plague” hits America!

Mosquitoes became the preeminent pest in America after the 1900 discovery, by Ronald Ross discovers malaria mosquito assocSir Ronald Ross, that linked them to the dreaded disease, Malaria.

This was the Progressive Era, and American entomologist, Leland O. Howard, a staunch progressive, believed that problems should be identified, experts consulted, and the most effective and expedient solutions applied. And in his opinion, that meant the use of “chemicals”.

To further his cause and bolster his position, as chief of the Division of Entomology (a part of the Department of Agriculture), he wrote, Mosquitoes: How They Live; How They Carry Disease; How They Are Classified; How They May Be Destroyed. In his writings, he made his case for the use of chemicals and according to those writings, the only way to kill the Anopheles mosquito, and thereby to protect and serve the citizenry, was to blanket the nation with a combustible hydrocarbon mist of kerosene.

The use of kerosene worked and after the Insecticide Act of 1910 was initiated, mosquito spraying became standard practice.

Howard didn’t stop there in his crusade to protect and serve. With the advent of WWI, he contacted the war department and let them know that their problems with mites, mosquitoes and lice, which were epidemic in war zones, could be eliminated by enlisting entomologists, armed with chemical sprays, to “wage war against insect life”,

Men of 'D' Company, 1st Battalion The Green Howards, 5th Infantry Division, occupy a captured German communications trench during the offensive at Anzio, 22 May 1944. Label Men of 'D' Company, 1st Battalion, The Green Howards occupy a captured German communications trench during the offensive at Anzio, Italy, 22 May 1944. NA 15297 Part of WAR OFFICE SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION No 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit Radford (Sgt)
Anzio, 22 May 1944.

thus solidifying his importance to the war effort.  The Division of Entomology was given the go ahead to expand their use of chemicals to include; benzene, carbolic acid, creosote, alkaline soaks and sulfur baths. This expansion in chemical usage, gave birth to “Medical Entomology”.

Leland Howard retired from public service, in 1927 and lived to see the United States become the “insecticide nationhe so diligently championed. When he died in 1950, DDT had replaced kerosene as the worlds mosquito killer of choice.

A brief history of insecticide development:

Before 1900, the chemical known as Paris Green, an inorganic compound (copper(II) acetate triarsenite or copper(II) acetoarsenite) was the poison of choice for the control of many agricultural pests, rodents and for mosquito control.  It is a highly toxicParis Green emerald-green crystalline powder developed around 1775 by Carl Scheele.   Paris green was heavily sprayed by airplane in Italy, Sardinia, and Corsica during 1944 and 1945 to control malaria.  Arsenic pesticides, of which Paris Green is one,  didn’t arrive in the United States until the 1860s and ended it’s reign in the 1980s, when it was banned from use because of high residual toxicity levels and health related conditions, including cancer.  Spraying ddt

The organic age of insecticides began in 1943 with the advent of DDT usage. DDT is a member of the organochlorine group of insecticides, a group which primarily acts against the insects’ central nervous system. Many chemicals in this group are now banned. After WorlDDT Sign 1940d War II, the use of DDT flourished. It produced spectacular results, not only in mosquito control but against a wide variety of insects.

Shortly after World War II, organophosphorous insecticides came into being. Early compounds in this group included malathion, TEPP, and parathion, which were used in 1948. In 1952, carbamate insecticides began to be used. Among the first compounds were Sevin® and Propoxur. Propoxur is an example of a carbamate used against mosquito adults.

By the late 1960’s, The 1st generation pyrethroids (synthetically made by industrial methods, using pyrethrums (oils) from chrysanthemum flowers) were Yellow_Chrysanthemumswidely used, primarily because of their quick-knockdown properties and low mammalian toxicity. Late in the 1970’s, 2nd generation pyrethroids (more resistant to degradation by light and air), were on the market.

Insect growth regulators” (IGRs) mimic hormones that affect insect growth, but they have little effect on non-target animals.  Their use against mosquitoes began with the use of methoprene in the early 1970s.  These products and similar ones using bacteria, viruses, or other natural pest control agents are called “biorational” pesticides.

Today, there are a variety of products available on the market for the public and for professionals when it comes to mosquito control. Larvicides are chemicals designed to be applied directly to water to control mosquito larvae. Adulticides are used in fogging and spraying to control adult mosquitoes. Synergists are not toxic to the mosquitoes themselves, but they make adulticides more effective.

The United States has developed a Love/Hate relationship with insecticides and in the face of a growing human population, increased urbanization and worldwide travel, the demand for insecticides and other pesticides will only become greater.

Here are facts about pesticide usage in the United States:

  1. Pesticides are used on 900,000 farms and in 70 million households.
  2. Herbicides are the most widely used type of pesticide.
  3. Agriculture uses 75% of all pesticides.
  4. 85% of all U.S. households have at least one pesticide in storage, and 63% have one to five stored.


Why, Oh Why, does the Cockroach Fly?

Cockroaches are some of the nastiest bugs found in the United States. Every state has some area that is infested with these disease carrying bugs, including California.

Within the cockroach world, American Cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) arcockroach-close-upe on the big side. However, individuals within the species don’t have to be especially huge to fly. Fully matureCockroach american family

American cockroaches, with their body length wings, do have flying capabilities, whereas adults, (primarily males), of other species rearly fly since their wings are small and stunted.  All cockroach nymphs (regardless of species) are wingless.  A relative newcomer to the roach scene, in So. California, is the Turkistan Roach (Blatta lateralis).

Cockroach turkestan

The males of this species are reddish brown in color and have long yellowish wings which give them the capability of flight. Females are dark brown in color and do not have wings.

Cockroaches tend to fly cockroachs turkestan infestationmainly when disturbed. They’re flight is awkward, a bit graceless and more like falling with style. Even then, they fly better than do some kinds of birds (such as ostriches, emus, rheas and penguins).

American and Turkistan (male) cockroaches are capable of powered and directed flight, but they are weak fliers and really prefer to run. It has been noted that these cockroaches tend to fly only when— they have a need to get away from something quickly, they need a more satisfactory climate, or in rarer cases, when they need to search for a mate.

Entomologists and bug experts say conditions (hot and humid) are ripe for the domesticated versions of these brownish, red-colored bugs to get active, including taking to the air.

All insects arcockroach flyinge cold blooded, which means they are incapable of producing their own body heat and therefore require external forms of heat (i.e. the sun, or heat generated from the motor of a refrigerator) in order to sustain themselves.  The American Museum of Natural History‘s resident bug expert, Louis Sorkin, added that “with more heat they have more use of their muscles. The more activity, the more flight.”  High temperatures cause insects to use up a lot of energy. Therefore, they become more actively concerned with finding food, mating and survival techniques.

Speaking of survival techniques, roaches use offense as a means of defense.  They will face you down and run straight at you.  If you are already squeamish over roaches, your reaction might be to turn


around and run, which is exactly what the roach intended.  Roaches will also fly towards you. Usually if the roach flies it has more to do with the temperature of its’ environment, than you as a threat.

Currently, the idea of cockroaches flying through the air has a lot of people running for cover. Check out these current stories of flying cockroaches.

As a last comment on their ability to fly, quite a few cockroaches fly remarkably well in ‘economy’, ‘business’ and even ‘first’ class aboard   commespraying plane for pestsrcial aircPlane taking offraft.

Bon Voyage! See you soon!
Bon Voyage! See you soon!


Eye Spy with My Little Eye, says the Fly!

Ever played the “I spy with my little eye”, game as you traveled upon endless tracks of roadway with parents or friends?  This was the only way, besides calling out state license plates (how boring is that!), that my parentRiding in a car on trips could keep myself and my sibling from killing each other out of boredom and ensuring their parental sanity at the end of a long road trip. Nowadays, parents just hand their kids cell phones with lots of games, ipads, ipods and various other electronics. Full length movies provide hours of entertainment with little parental and child interaction.  In fact, every child has their own entertainment module.

Ok, enough about how parents today have it easy, traveling with their kids.

One of the other staples of a long road trip, was the occasional fly or swarm of flies, that would invaded the vehicle.  This caused minutes of franHouse flytic action as hands waved, papers swatted, the car swerved and windows were rolled up and down in hopes of convincing the fly or flies, that now was the time to exit the vehicle.  Ever wonder, just how that fly managed to evade forced evacuation?  Just what did the fly spy with its’ little eye?

The Fly’s Eye:

The eyes of flies are among the most complex in the insect world. They are compound eyes with many individual facets, each representing a separate light-detecting unit. The fly is a masterpiece of Creation; its wings beat 500 times per second and, as a result, it has a fantastic flying ability. Even more amazing are its eyes, each one of whiCompound eyes Female_Striped_Horse_Fly_(Tabanus_lineola)ch has thousands of extraordinarily complex lenses. A fly has compound eyes on both sides of its head, each of which is divided into 4,000 sections, each section, in turn, has a lens that perceives an image from a slightly different angle. When a fly looks at a flowerfly eyes diagram, the full image appears separately in each of its 8,000 lenses. When these images reach the brain, they combine together like the components of a jigsaw puzzle. As a result, an image that is highly significant for the fly emerges.

It is extraordinary that such a small creature should have thousands of lenses in its eyes and a brain capable of interpreting what it sees.

Motion Detection:

 There’s a reason why flies are especially jumpy and take off at the slightest flinch. A fly’s vision is nowhere near as clear or effective as a human’s, but it’s especially good at picking up form and movement. As an object moves across the fly’s field of vision the ommatidia continually fire and stop firing. This is called a flicker effect. It’s similar to how a scrolling marquis works — with lights turning on and off to give the illusion of motion. Because a fly can easily see motion and form, but not necessarily what the large moving object is, they are quick to flee.  This same flicker effect, slows down the fly’s perception of time. The ability to perceive time on very small scales (slow motion) may be the difference between life and death for fast-moving organisms such as the fly”.

Flies avoid being swatted in the same way Keanu Reeves dodges flying bullets in The Matrix, by watching time pass slowly.

slow motion dodging bullets




Nearly all creatures have eyes, but not all eyes work like the human eye. Dogs can only see in black and white. Owls see better at night than during the day. But do you know how an insect like a fly sees the world? The best way to learn how a fly’s eyes work is to see things from its point of view.

How a fly sees in slow motion:

 How a fly flies :

Fly Facts:

  1. Flies can perceive light flickering up to four times faster than we can. “You can imagine a fly literally seeing everything in slow motion.” Read more at
  2. They have the ability to see a nearly 360 degree panorama.
  3. They can see in color but not the colors we see. They may not see red but can respond to UV light (color ranges) that is invisible to us.
  4. Flies are three times more attracted to the color blue than to yellow, and yellow actuallyseems to repel flies rather than lure them in.  Want to read more?
  5. There are more than 120,000 species of flies worldwide with about 18,000 found in North America.
  6. A female housefly can lay up to 600 eggs in her short lifetime.
  7. Most flies live an average of 21 days and take on various shapes throughout their short lives.
  8. Flies have a smelling distance of over 750 yards.
  9. A fly’s feeding range is usually limited to about 2 miles.
  10. A single garbage can, if not emptied, can be the breeding ground for about 30,000 flies.
  11. Flies are among the most descusting creatures on Earth. To feed itself, it releases saliva and digestive juices over food and then sucks up thefly eating resulting solution. Because of what they eat and the way they eat, flies contaminate large amounts of food.
  12.  Disease-causing agents are spread on its body, in its mouth parts or through its vomitus and feces . They carry germs of several deadly diseases and cause millions of deaths every year.  Some of the diseases spread by house flies include: Anthrax, Cholera, Conjunctivitis (epidemic), Diptheria (cutaneous), Dysentery, Food poisoning/gastroenteritis, Leprosy, Poliomyelitis, Trachoma, Tuberculosis, Typhoid fever, and Yaws, to name a few.

To get rid of flies, practice your hand, eye coordination and keep your fly swatter handy.


girl with fly swatter

For more info on getting rid of flies check out this link:

When Crows Gather, There’s “Murder” Afoot!

Put the movie “The Birds” together with the 1999 film, “Murder of Crows” and you have a great horror show and it’s playing out right here is Southern California.

Look, up in the sky, great flocks of crows are winging their way from communal rookeries and then dispersing throughout the counties, on the hunt for needed resources, food mainly.  These great flocks are known as “Murders”, and the number of members can range into the thousands.

In San Diego County, the largest roost (place of gathering) is situated along the Sweetwater River, adjacent to the Plaza Bonita Center and east of the 805 freeway.  It is estimated that 6000 of them sleep there and this population fluctuates somewhat, during breeding season.Crows in TreesCrows are cooperative breeders, which means they often stay close to the place where they were born and help raise and defend the area’s young chicks. When it’s time to produce young, the female will lay four to five eggs and incubates them for 18 days. At 4 weeks, the chicks are able to leave the nest, though their parents still feed them until they are around 60 days old. Crows can live up to 14 years.

Crows are very social, have tight-knit families and they mate for life. They roost in huge numbers in order to protect themselves from enemies like red-tailed hawks, horned-owls, and raccoons. Crows are extremely intelligent birds. They are known for their problem-solving skills and amazing communication skills. For example, when a crow encounters a mean human, it will teach other crows how to identify that human. In fact, research shows that crows don’t forget a face.

Crows are predCrows Scavengingators and scavengers, which means that they will eat practically anything. Their diet consists of various road-kill, insects, frogs, snakes, mice, corn, human fast food and garbage, even eggs and nestlings of other birds.

Why has this denizen of the skies become so much in the eye of the public?  It’s not just its’ habit of ominously, sitting in trees, in the thousands and being annoyingly vocal.  Its’ the fact that they are carriers of West Nile Virus, which is transmitted to the bird through the biculex mosquitote of a Culex mosquito.  This virus, once introduced into the system of the bird, incubates and multiplies, making the bird a vessel of virus, waiting for other mosquitoes to take a sip of its blood and fly off spreading the virus to other crows, birds, animals and even humans.

Health officials conduct surveillance for West Nile virus by testing local birds. Finding dead birds may be a sign that West Nile virus is circulating between birds and the mosquitoes in an area.

Currently, no vaccine against WNV infection is available. The best method to reduce the rates of WNV infection is mosquito control on the part of municipalities, businesses and individual citizens to reduce breeding populations of mosquitoes in public, commercial and private areas via various means including eliminating standing pools of water where mosquitoes breed, such as in old tires, buckets, sagging gutters, and unused swimming pools. On an individual basis, the use of personal protective measures to avoid being bitten by an infected mosquito, via the use of mosquito repellentwindow screens, avoiding areas where mosquitoes are more prone to congregate, such as near marshes, and areas with heavy vegetation, and being more vigilant from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active offers the best defense.

West Nile Virus killed 45% of American crows at its start across the U.S., in 1999.

Since then, affected bird populations are leveling off or recovering.  As foCrow Corvus-brachyrhynchos-001r crows, the steepest part of their decline seems to be over evidenced by the huge numbers of birds gathering in area roosts all over Southern California and elsewhere.crows california range map_800x936

Zika Update: To Travel or Not to Travel that is the QUESTION!

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is providing us with this information, in the hope that it will cultivate awareness and promote public health and safety.

Zika virus spNo Vaccinereads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus), but can also be spread during sex by a man infected with Zika to his partners.  Many people infected with Zika won’t have symptoms, but for those who do, the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. However, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects .Until more is known, CDC recommends that pregnant women avoid traveling to areas with Zika.Global_Aedes_aegypti_distribution_(e08347)-lgOutbreaks of Zika areoccurring in many countries and territories, and because the mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries. On Feb. 1, 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern because of clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders in some areas affected by Zika. To date, Zika has not been spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. However, lab tests have confirmed Zika virus in travelers returning to the United States and in some non-travelers who got Zika through sex with a traveler. Additionally, local transmission of Zika has been reported in US territories, including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. zika_maps_statenames_graphic

There are 820 confirmed Zika cases in the continental U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of this number currently there are 54 known cases in California and they have all been travel related. (These figures are constantly update by the CDC.)

With summer’s warmer weather, the virus-carrying mosquitos will start to migrate north.

Researchers who have studied Zika and the mosquitoes that transmit it say that the United States is currently in the calm before the calm. Damaging as Zika is to fetuses, they predict that domestic transmission will only affect a small swath of the country that stretches from Florida along the Gulf Coast to Texas. And the dynamics of mosquito-borne disease in the United States are so different from those in Latin America that the number of confirmed cases probably will be in the hundreds, if that, before domestic or locally indigenous spread sputters out.


Hot off the Wire:  U.S. Olympic Athletes turning into Lab Rats.

In an upcoming study announced on Tuesday, the U.S. Olympic Committee, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, is hoping to volunteer its own staffers and U.S. Olympic athletes for a study that will help researchers answer some basic questions about the Zika virus.

The USOC zika studiesis hoping to enroll at least 1,000 men and women among the athletes, coaches, and USOC staffers attending the summer games in Rio de Janeiro, as well as their partners.

The researchers will track volunteers’ health by testing for the presence of antibodies to the virus in their bodily fluids—blood, saliva, semen, and vaginal secretions—both before they leave for Brazil and two weeks after they have returned. Anyone who is ill during the Olympics will also have the opportunity to submit specimens while in Rio; those who test positive, whether or not they have symptoms, will be asked to participate in monthly testing for at least six months afterward.

“This is an important study because it’s going to provide us some very timely and interesting information on the incidence of Zika for travelers to an area where there’s active Zika transmission,” said Dr. Catherine Y. Spong, acting director of the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Travel Information from the CDC: