GreenleafOrganicPest.com Blog

Opossum My Possum: 5 Signs of Opossum Infestation in Your Home

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Mar 03, 2017 @ 12:20 PM

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Rodent infestations can take many forms, from large rat nests to one or two opossums that qualify as nuisance animals. The first step in eliminating any rodent problem is to identify the species you're dealing with.

Unfortunately, many rodents are nocturnal and wary of the noise and smells of humans, so you're unlikely to get a good look at these unwanted visitors. To identify your pest, you'll need to pay attention to other signs of an infestation.

In this blog, we discuss where opossums are likely to be found, explain some of the extensive damage these rodents can do, and list five common signs of opossum infestations.

Places You May Find Opossums

Opossums prefer outdoor areas that feel more rural than urban and have lots of plant life for shelter. However, opossums can easily find their way into most homes, even in the city. Opossums are natural climbers and may use trees on your property to access the roof and attic of your home.

Like other rodents, opossums may also take up residence in open wall voids between insulation batts, unused and dark basement space, or garages and sheds.  

Why Opossums Infestations Are a Big Problem

Because opossums are one of the largest nuisance rodent species, they tend to cause more widespread damage than rats or mice, even though they live in significantly smaller groups. Most infestations consist of one to two opossums or an opossum mother and her young.

Opossums may rip shingles, siding, or insulation with their teeth and claws. Opossum feces can also leave large stains and may carry diseases like coccidiosis and tuberculosis.

Contrary to popular belief, opossums almost never carry rabies because the animals have an unusually low temperature for mammals that kills the disease. Any hissing and drooling are generally a defense mechanism rather than a symptom of a contagious disease.

Opossums can also be difficult to get rid of on your own because they are not easily scared or intimidated. If their hissing display does not work on a predator, the opossum may either play dead or become aggressive. Mother opossums in particular may pick a fight to protect what they perceive as their territory.

Signs of an Opossum Infestation in Your Home

If you have opossums in your home or inside another building on your property, the infestation should be immediately apparent. These animals are loud and less confined to nocturnal schedules than some rodents.

If your infestation is a group of opossums, you may notice any combination of the following five signs.

  1. Damage to the Building Exterior

Because opossums usually enter a building by climbing, you may notice exterior damage first. Often, opossum damage takes the form of torn up shingles and ripped soffit on your rooftop. An opossum infestation may also impact your siding, eaves, and gutter system.

  1. Disappearing Pet Food

Opossums are particularly drawn to cat food. If you have cats, especially any outdoor cats, you may notice that their food disappears more quickly when you have an opossum infestation. If you suspect an opossum infestation, take measures to protect your cats who could become injured in a fight with an opossum.

  1. Frequent Animal Vocalizations

Opossums have a wide range of vocalizations, including hissing and shrieking. Mother opossums also make clicking or lip smacking sounds to call their babies. If you notice these noises when inside a building, chances are you have an infestation or a single opossum trapped inside.

  1. Loud Scratching Noises

As opossums nest, they make lots of ripping, scuttling, and scratching noises. These noises can sound similar to rats or mice, but you will likely notice that the noises seem louder because they're created by a bigger animal.

Additionally, you may notice scratching across a wider area with an opossum infestation than with any other rodent problem because opossums do not stick solely to the edges of the attic space.

  1. Pervasive Unpleasant Smells

One of the most distinct signs of an opossum infestation is the smell. Opossums defecate more frequently than most mammals and their droppings can be as large as a house cats. These wet droppings can soak into insulation and building materials, causing a distinctly unpleasant odor.

Opossums can also become trapped by wiring or other architectural elements and may die there. If you have a dead opossum in your attic, you'll know by the strong smell of decay.

 

If you notice a sudden influx of opossums in the area around your home, an interior infestation is more likely to develop. Cover all openings to your attic or basement and pest-proof any outbuildings to decrease the risk of infestation.

If you have an opossum infestation, call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management. We are fully licensed in nuisance animal trapping and can help you install measures to keep future pests away.

Get the Scoop on Gophers and Moles

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Feb 03, 2017 @ 07:48 AM

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Your yard is your pride and joy. You take great care in mowing and watering your lawn. You strike the right balance of trees, shrubs, and flowers when designing your garden. And you've mastered when to prune, fertilize, and mulch the plants on your property.

So when you spot suspicious mounds near your hydrangeas or unsightly ridges near your driveway, you can't help but feel frustrated at the damage. Naturally, you want to remove the source as quickly as possible.

But before you take matters into your own hands, take a few minutes to identify whether you have a gopher or a mole tearing into your yard. These commonly confused pests require different removal and trapping methods. If you use the wrong technique or product, you may cause even more damage to your yard and leave it vulnerable to future infestations.

Here are the easiest ways to spot the difference between a gopher and a mole.

Appearance

Both gophers and moles spend a great deal of time underground, so you might not catch a good look at either of your furry invaders. However, if you do happen to glance their way, you'll quickly notice the following features.

Moles

Moles have pointed, hairless muzzles and potato-shaped bodies. Their eyes are tiny, and at a distance, moles look like they don't have any eyes at all. They do not have any external ears, and their fur completely covers their ear canals. Moles also have large, broad forefeet, and they use their webbed toes like flippers as they swim through the soil.

Gophers

Gophers have bulging cheeks and rounded snouts that end in prominent teeth. They have flat heads and stocky bodies. Though they have small eyes and ears, you can usually distinguish these facial features from the rest of their fur. Gophers have long claws on their forefeet that help them dig and push through the soil.

Digging Patterns

Even if you never see the moles or gophers in your yard, you can still identify the pest based on the damage they cause in your yard. Although gophers and moles dig tunnels, each one uses a different technique to build their home and search for food.   

Moles

When moles aren't foraging for food, they excavate their tunnels by pushing dirt straight above them. If their tunnels are close to the surface, they'll create conical, volcano-shaped mounds. Although molehills vary in size, most of them will have a uniform appearance.

Oftentimes, mole tunnels stay close to a solid object, so look for ridges and trails near your driveway, lawn border, or house foundation. These surface tunnels have little or no support from the surrounding soil, so they'll collapse if you step on them.

Gophers

Gophers dig deeper than moles, creating tunnels and homes nearly six feet under the soil. As a result, you likely won't see any surface ridges or trails in your yard. When gophers exit to seek a mate or find food, they come to the surface at an angle, creating an irregular fan- or crescent-shaped mound. To prevent predators from invading their tunnels, gophers plug the hole at the top.

As gopher tunnels tend to be quite deep, the surrounding soil will lend structure and support to the holes. If you step on the mounds, they likely won't collapse as readily as molehills. 

Additional Identifiers

If you're still not sure whether you have a gopher or a mole digging through your yard, you can use the following details to identify your pest.

Moles

Moles are insectivores, and they'll eat over half of their body weight in bugs and grubs daily. Consequently, many moles will focus on eating the most insects possible and leave your plants alone. But due to the nature of their digging, moles can damage plant roots by creating air pockets around the plants, and more delicate flowers and plants will often die as a result.

If you see holes in the shadier, moist areas of your lawn (where insects often thrive), you may have a mole on your property.

Gophers

Gophers, in contrast, are strict vegetarians. They'll mostly feed on underground plant roots, though they will also nibble on new buds, leaves, and surface vegetation during the spring and summer months. Sometimes gophers will drag entire plants underground, and they'll quickly trim down any vegetation near their holes and mounds.

If you see wilting or dead plants in your garden, you likely have a gopher.

Do You Spot Either in Your Garden?

Once you know the difference between moles and gophers, you can take steps to remove either pest from your yard. Reach out to a pest control expert to discuss possible trapping and removal methods.

If you find that gophers and moles frequent your yard each year, don't hesitate to ask about landscaping techniques and prevention as well. You may need to reduce the insect population in your yard to avoid attracting moles, or you might need to use chicken wire baskets to protect your plants from gophers.  

 

Tags: pests, Moles, Gophers, garden

Mouse Traps: Is Basic Prevention Enough to Safeguard Against an Infestation?

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Jan 04, 2017 @ 02:19 PM

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The fall season brings with it cooler temperatures and a chance to warm your home from the inside. Whether you choose to turn on your furnace or start an indoor fire, you plan to take advantage of your home's warm interior.

But you're not the only one who looks forward to the warmth your home's heating systems provide.

Mice, too, want to find a way to stay warm and cozy as it gets cooler outside. As the autumn season fades into winter, more and more mice may find their way into your home.

To prevent an infestation, you may take a few steps, such as:

  • Adding weather stripping to your entryways
  • Covering your vents with screens
  • Plugging up small holes, including dime-sized gaps
  • Sealing up entry points in your windows and doors with caulk

Additionally, you may think to buy mouse traps or mouse poison from your local grocery or hardware store and place these items around your property. However, not only are these prevention methods dangerous for you, your family members, your pets, and the environment, but they also might not be enough to safeguard against a mouse infestation.

Below, we'll discuss these kinds of basic prevention, tell you why you shouldn't consider them for your home, and give you an alternative to keeping your home secure from mice this season.

Traps

If you want to nip a mouse infestation in the bud, you may think that cheap mouse traps from the grocery store are a convenient option. You can likely conjure a mental image of these traps right away. They're made of a wood base with a metal spring system. Similarly, you may want to lay down glue boards. These traps are plastic trays that are coated with a thick, sticky glue.

However, these two kinds of traps can be incredibly ineffective at preventing an infestation. These traps only catch mice that have already entered your home, and once a mouse enters your home, you are already at risk for an infestation. After one mouse gets into your home, more will likely follow and perhaps even breed inside your house.

In addition to being ineffective at preventing an infestation, these traps require a fair degree of knowledge of rodent behavior to properly set traps. 

The glue traps, likewise, may not be strong enough to trap large mice for long. If the mouse is large and heavy enough, it may break free of the glue. However, fur and skin can be pulled off of the mouse, causing it serious injury.

Additionally, while glue trap manufacturers claim that these devices are non-toxic to humans and pets, the Humane Society has found that glue traps do present a few risks. For example, small pets can get stuck in the glue and lose hair, fur, or skin in an attempt to get free, causing serious pain for your beloved pet.

If a live mouse is still on the trap when you attempt to remove it, you could get bitten. The bite could become infected, or you could be exposed to other germs and bacteria that could make you sick. Likewise, any feces or urine stuck to the glue in the board may also expose you to other kinds of bacteria that present health risks to you and your family members.

Poisons

If you don't like the idea of traps, you may consider buying hardware-store mouse poisons to prevent mice from entering or breeding in your home. Ready-to-use poisons come in little plastic boxes or containers, and the poison is typically pellet shaped to resemble food. Other poisons come in open trays that you can lay around your property or inside your home.

While poisons are fast-acting, they still pose a huge threat to you, your family, your pets, and any other animals you have on your property. They also do little to protect you from an infestation.

Anticoagulants are the most commonly used poisons. The chemicals in these poisons prevent blood from clotting, causing the animal to bleed out over a period of days.

Vitamin-based poisons overload a rodent's system with vitamin D and increase calcium levels. These high levels of calcium and vitamins cause hypercalcemia, a condition that leads to blood vessel mineralization and kidney and heart failure.

Bromethalin, a neurotoxin, affects the liver and brain. It allows fluid to form around the brain and sodium to build up in the liver. It takes effect within a few hours of ingestion, and there is no antidote.

Unfortunately, the packaging does little to protect animals and small children from pellets that fall out of the casing. If a person or animal were to ingest any of these poisons, they would need medical attention immediately. Depending on the concentration of poison they ingested, they may face serious health risks, such as severe dehydration, internal bleeding, or even death.

A Better, Safer Solution

Instead of settling for dangerous and ineffective prevention methods to keep your home clear of mice this fall and winter, turn to the pest control experts at Greenleaf Organic Pest Management. We offer multiple prevention methods so you can choose one that fits your budget and needs.

We'll also help you adjust your property so you can keep mice as far away from your home as possible. With our services, you can stay cozy in your home all fall and winter without worrying about mice moving in for the season.

How to Protect Your Pantry From Weevils

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, Dec 05, 2016 @ 10:25 AM

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You scoop out a cup of brown rice and pour it into your rice cooker. Just before you add water and turn the rice cooker on, you look a little closer-some of the grains of rice seem to be moving. On even closer inspection, you find that some of the rice isn't rice at all: your rice is actually infested with small, wriggling creatures. You have weevils.

Has this experience ever happened to you? If not, you might have had this same problem with other foods. Maybe you pulled out a half-eaten box of graham crackers only to find the surface of the cracker you wanted to eat was swarming with oblong brown bugs. Maybe you scraped the bottom of your sack of flour and came up with a half-cup of reddish-brown specks instead.

No matter the situation, the experience was alarming, disgusting, and expensive, since you had to throw out whole bags and boxes of food that the bugs claimed for their own.

Below, we'll talk about bugs that threaten pantries everywhere: granary and rice weevils. These small little bugs can wreak havoc on your kitchen, but it's possible to prevent them or exterminate them completely if they invade your pantry.

What Are Granary and Rice Weevils?

Different species of weevils infest everything from cotton to hemlock to whole-wheat flour to dry lentils. Even if you've never had weevils before, you've probably heard of pests like the boll weevil, which can destroy entire cotton fields. Wheat and grain weevils have a similarly devastating effect on your pantry.

Weevils are small beetles that usually don't grow longer than an eighth of an inch. Their size allows them to infiltrate any type of food that isn't sealed in an airtight container. Rice weevils and granary weevils are red-brown and similarly sized.

The main difference between the two is that rice weevils can fly while wheat weevils can't, and granary weevils look glossy while rice weevils look dull. Also, if you live in southern California, you're more likely to encounter rice weevils than wheat weevils because they prefer warmer climates.

The good news is that consuming rice weevils might be disgusting, but it won't actually harm you. In fact, it's more than likely that you've consumed rice weevils before. Most food manufacturing plants do everything in their power to keep rice weevils away, but one slips through every once in a while.

Of course, no one would willingly choose to consume weevil-infested rice or grains. Weevil infestations can spread quickly, so once you find weevils in one bag of rice or flour, you usually have to throw out any open box or bag of dry goods, including cereal, crackers, and pasta.

How Can You Keep Weevils Away From Your Rice and Flour?

Take these steps to ensure weevils leave your pantry alone.

1. Deep-Clean Frequently

You probably sweep and mop your kitchen floor at least once a week, but how often do you take everything out of your pantry and scrub down the shelves? Probably not often enough.

At least every few weeks, remove everything from your pantry. Use hot water, soap, and a dishrag to rinse off all the shelves. Make sure you get into the back corners-weevils love to lurk just out of sight, and they're so small that they're easy to miss.

Cleaning out the pantry also gives you an opportunity to get rid of old, partially eaten boxes of crackers and other dry goods. If you don't clean out the pantry that often, you might find open boxes of pasta or Saltines that make the perfect undisturbed habitat for a weevil infestation to grow. If you aren't going to eat the food soon, put it in an airtight container or throw it out.

2. Seal All Containers Completely

The best way to keep weevils away is to store your flour and rice in airtight containers rather than the paper sacks or plastic bags they come in. Invest in large Ziploc bags or storage bins that keep bugs out.

You should also make sure everyone in your family reseals boxes of cereal and crackers. Roll the inner plastic bag up tightly, and then close the cardboard lid.

3. Use Herbs That Keep Bugs Out

Some herbs and spices, especially cloves and bay leaves, naturally repel weevils. Hang small bags of whole cloves or dried bay leaves around your pantry and switch them out when they start to lose their scent.

What If You Already Have an Infestation?

If you already have an infestation, throw out all the infested food immediately. Rinse the sides of your pantry down with vinegar, soap, and water, and vacuum out crevices and hard-to-reach corners.

If you pantry's shelves are removable, there might be small holes or notches up and down the pantry's sides that let you adjust the shelves' height. Your bug infestation can recur if bugs hide in small spaces like these, so cover the holes or notches with masking tape to cut off the bugs' air supply.

Following these steps should help you keep weevils out of your home and destroy an infestation if one happens. If you want additional advice or assistance as you protect your pantry from rice and granary weevils, call our professionals. We're happy to help! 

Tags: weevils

Snakes in the Garden: Why You Don't Need to Panic

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Thu, Nov 03, 2016 @ 10:57 AM

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Snakes and humans have had a complicated relationship throughout history. They've been a symbol of both evil, as in the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, and of life, as in the Australian Aboriginal stories about the Rainbow Serpent, which created the world and humans. Many early civilizations even told stories about human-snake hybrids, like the Gorgons of Ancient Greece.

In modern times, popular culture often takes a negative view of snakes. The great adventurer Indiana Jones is terrified of snakes, his major weakness. In the animated Disney version of The Jungle Book, the giant python Kaa attempts to hypnotize and eat the main character. In the Harry Potter  series, the antagonist can speak to snakes, and snakes and snake symbolism are used frequently for evil purposes.

With all of the negative attention placed on snakes, it makes sense why many people tend to get nervous or afraid when snakes are in the area. Unfortunately, this means many people misunderstand snakes and kill them unnecessarily. Very few snakes harm humans, and many kill more problematic pests like rats and mice.

The next time you see a snake in your yard, take a minute to identify it before panicking. Once you know what it is, you'll better know how to handle it. 

Common Snakes in Los Angeles

Southern California is home to many different types of snakes, most of which are non-venomous. When you see a snake in your yard, it's probably one of these generally harmless varieties:

  • Gopher snake. These snakes are usually light brown and covered in a pattern of both large and small dark brown spots. They are often mistaken for rattlesnakes, although they are nonvenomous and rarely even bite. Their main defense mechanism is to coil up like a pit viper and strike with a closed mouth, smacking the threat with their nose.
  • Red, western, and striped racer. Each of these snakes is long, extremely thin, and faster than most snakes. Red racers are usually light red or pink, with a darker head and a mottled pattern. Western racers are solid colored and gray, brown or green. Striped racers have black scales with two thin, yellow stripes along each side.
  • California kingsnake. When domesticated, California's state snake actually makes a relatively easy-to-care for and friendly pet. The snake, which prefers constriction to biting when hunting, is larger than most California snakes and comes in many color varieties. Some may be red with yellow bands, others black with white bands, and others brown with yellow stripes.
  • Ring-necked snakes. These small, shy snakes are easily identified by their muted green coloring on top and vibrant red, yellow, or red coloring on their bellies. As the name suggests, they have a matching brightly-colored ring of scales around their neck. They prefer to hunt at night. Their submissive nature and small fangs mean they rarely bite even when handled.
  • Garter snake. These multicolored, patterned snakes are common throughout the country, especially in areas with a good water source. Amphibians make up a significant portion of their diet. Although garter snakes actually do possess a mild venom, it isn't strong enough to hurt humans even if they had a means of injecting it. Garter snakes lack strong front teeth.

When you find a snake in yard, it's more than likely one of these harmless types. However, there is one snake in California that poses a threat to humans.

  • Rattlesnakes. Because of their large, thick bodies and spotted brown coloring, rattle snakes are sometimes hard to distinguish from gopher snakes. However, rattlesnakes have a sharply triangular head and a banded tail ending in a rattle, which they use to warn away predators. These snakes strike quickly and the venom can kill if antivenin isn't administered within a few hours.

While rattlesnakes can be deadly, very few people who are bitten actually die. And rattlesnakes aren't extremely aggressive, preferring to warn people away instead of engaging. They will generally only attack if they feel threatened and the threat won't leave.

Deciding on Pest Control

It's one thing to know that a snake in your yard won't hurt you; it's another thing entirely to want to keep them around. While many snakes can keep rodent populations down, protecting you from an even more annoying pest, you probably don't want the snakes themselves near your pets or children, even if they aren't venomous. They may not know to leave the snake alone, and they may get bitten.

One or two gopher snakes in the garden probably isn't anything to be worried about, but if you notice a large population of snakes of any species near your home, look into pest control. Many companies, including Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, prefer to move the snakes to a safe location rather than kill them.

To discourage snakes from coming back, keep your grass short and keep woodpiles and lawn debris away from your home. If snakes don't have anywhere to hide, they likely won't stay in the area long.

If you're tired of snakes slithering through your yard, don't reach for the shovel. Call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management for safe, humane, and thorough removal. 

How Did These Ants Get in Your Kitchen?

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, Oct 03, 2016 @ 02:19 PM

file000222625891.jpgIn Southern California, ants are fairly common and can easily invade your kitchen when food is left out. If you leave a bit of cake out overnight, you may wake up to lines of marching ants on your counters, floors, or walls. But how did they get there so fast? And what kinds of foods attract these ants?

In this blog, we'll discuss how ants are able to locate food and lead their colony to it, and we'll also address which foods ants prefer and don't prefer.

How Do Ants Find Food?

Ants are able to sense unique chemical combinations from great distances, and this ability helps them find their favorite foods and bring them back to the colony. But they may have to wander for a while before they sniff out the right foods.

To find food, ants essentially fan out from the nest, walking randomly until they find what they're looking for. They don't necessarily walk in straight lines, instead walking meandering paths as they push on. As they search, they lay down pheromones so they can find their way back home or so other ants can follow their trail. Every ant has a unique scent, so ants can identify if a route was left by a friend or foe.

When ants find food, they take a piece back with them to the colony, following their own trail back as they lay down more pheromones, thus doubling the strength of the scent. Once they've dropped off their findings, they'll go back on the path to further strengthen the scent of pheromones for their nest-mates to follow.

If the other wandering ants happen upon another ant's trail, they'll abandon their own and follow the scent. If they end up back at the nest without any food, they'll turn back around to keep following the trail and see where it leads. And all the while, they're laying down their own pheromones to strengthen the trail.

So, if an ant happens upon a strong trail that leads to food, they'll further fortify the trail with their own scent, and other ants will eventually happen upon the path.

After a while, enough ants will gather to collect food, resulting in a small group swarming a large muffin crumb or drop of syrup. This tactic allows ants to quickly find food and communicate with their nest-mates. But it can be inconvenient for a homeowner, especially when he or she finds the kitchen crawling with ants the morning after a dinner party.

What Foods Attract Ants?

Southern California is home to a number of different ant species, including:

  • Thief ants
  • Odorous house ants
  • Argentine ants
  • Pharaoh ants
  • Carpenter ants
  • Imported fire ants
  • Pavement ants

But not all ants share the same food preferences. For the most part, the diets of ants can be divided into three main groups: greasy foods, sugary foods, and everything else.

Greasy Foods

Some species of ants, such as thief ants, love greasy foods. They're attracted to foods like cheese, peanut butter, and nuts, and they'll often go for cooked foods as well. You can find them on counters or stoves, and you can sometimes find them in cabinets or sinks.

Sugary Foods

Many ants favor the sweeter foods, surrounding a lone cookie crumb or a spot of honey on the counter. These ants are often more persistent than some of their cousins, and you can find them just about anywhere in your home. They'll even target fruits and nectar, and sometimes, they'll seek out the sweet honeydew excretions aphids leave behind.

Everything Else

Other ant species are happy to eat just about anything. They'll take sugary and greasy foods, and they'll even add a few other items to their diet, including insects, meat, oil, and eggs.

Some ant species eat things that are easily found in nature, such as seeds and plants. While they may scurry through your garden, they probably won't be a prevalent presence in your home.

What Foods Do Ants Dislike?

While a variety of ants can love a variety of foods, there are some foods and spices that can drive ants away. Ants dislike foods with strong scents, such as cinnamon, peppermint, and chili powder. They also avoid cloves and bay leaves, and throwing some of these in your picnic basket can help you have an ant-free meal in the outdoors.

 

Even if you keep your kitchen and home as clean as possible, ants can still infiltrate your home in search of food. When you notice them crawling along walls and floors and overtaking your property, call in the professionals at Greenleaf Organic Pest Management. We can provide you with effective pest control for ants of all varieties.

We use natural, non-toxic solutions to keep you and your family safe, and our friendly staff members can provide tips for keeping pests at bay.

Tags: ants, food pest, Food Safety

Bees With Jobs: Learn the Roles Bees Can Play

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Sep 02, 2016 @ 10:55 AM

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Bees play a very important role in our ecosystem: not only do they produce honey, but they pollinate our crops. Without bees, we would not be able to grow our food.

But how do bees get things done? They live in a complex social system where each bee has a role to play to ensure the colony's continued survival. There are three types of jobs within a beehive, each necessary and important.

The Queen

The queen bee doesn't really rule the hive, unlike what her name implies. However, she is the most important figure in the hive because she ensures the hive's continued survival. Her role is to produce more bees, which she does constantly: some queen bees lay about 1,500 eggs per day, and the queens can live two to seven years, meaning she will lay millions of eggs in her lifetime.

Queen bees are marked as special at the moment the egg is laid. Most eggs are laid in a regular cell, but when it's time for a new queen to be born, the worker bees will construct a special queen cell that is bigger than the others. The larva in this cell will be fed a diet of "royal jelly," which is high in protein. Because of this special treatment, the insect will become sexually mature, unlike the other bees.

What happens when a queen hatches depends on the circumstances. If it's time for the bees to swarm and find a new home, the new queen may leave with them. However, if the current queen is getting old and this new queen is meant to replace her, she will immediately seek out any rival new queens in the hive and fight them to the death. The old queen is usually allowed to stay until she dies a natural death.

When the weather conditions are right, the new queen will seek out a drone congregation area, or a place where the male bees gather. There, she will mate with many bees and store the sperm in her body. When she comes back to the hive, she will stay there and use the stored sperm to produce eggs for the rest of her life, usually 2 to 7 years.

The Drones

Drones are male bees. They are unusual in that they only have one parent: to produce a drone, the queen will lay an unfertilized egg, meaning the drone has no father. Drones are larger than worker bees, have no stingers, and do not perform much work around the hive. Their primary purpose is to mate with queen bees.

Drones are born in the spring. During the late spring or early summer, they leave the hive to visit drone congregation grounds, where they wait for a new queen to visit. No one really knows how drones and queens manage to find these areas-the bees use the same places every year, even though the bees that visit every year have never come before.

When a queen bee visits the congregation area, the drones swarm her in an attempt to mate. Usually there are far too many drones to each mate with the new queen-only about one in 1,000 get the chance. However, the drones that do mate die shortly afterwards.

The other drones return to their colonies. Drones can only be away for maybe an hour at a time before they have to come back for more food. If drones do not mate, most hives will kill or drive them out in the autumn so they don't consume precious food during the winter.

The Workers

The vast majority of bees are worker bees, all of which are female. These bees take care of all the essential tasks that keep the hive running, leaving drones and the queen bee to worry about reproduction. Workers will:

  • Look after the queen bee (including feeding, grooming, and carrying away her waste).

  • Clean the cells the queen lays eggs into.

  • Feed the larvae that hatch from the eggs.

  • Produce wax to fix up the hive.

  • Make cells for storing food.

  • Collect and store nectar and pollen.

  • Carry away the corpses of dead bees.

  • Keep the hive warm enough or cool enough.

  • Guard the hive from intruders like wasps.

Sometimes a worker bee can lay eggs. However, if she does so, they will be unfertilized, and the resulting bees will be drones instead of more worker bees. 

Bees are both fascinating and very necessary to humans. We need them if we want to keep growing food, and many scientists are still puzzled by their complex society.

However, we may not want them in our yards. Sometimes hives can be removed from our properties without harm, when this is possible we will recommend live bee removal by a bee removal company.  Other times they may be in a wall or in an area that can’t be safely removed and we can help with that issue.

Tags: Bees

Bee or Wasp? Why Identification Matters

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Aug 05, 2016 @ 12:44 PM

10352891_608384162590811_1027720230802397244_n.jpgBee_Swarm.jpeg

You're outside, enjoying another beautiful Los Angeles summer day, when you see a black-and-yellow flying insect drift through your garden. Then you see another. Suddenly, it's much harder to appreciate your backyard because, for all you know, you could get stung any minute. You think your only option is to immediately start exterminating the dangerous insects.

However, before you rush to take care of the problem, take a moment to try to identify the insect. The distinctive black-and-yellow striped pattern usually means the insect is either a bee or a wasp. Many people lump the two together, considering them to be essentially the same insect. The problem with this classification is that you might accidentally exterminate an insect that's helping your garden.

Bees and wasps belong to the suborder Apocrita, which explains their biological similarities. Both insects work as pollinators, and many live in large social groups. However, the two types of insect vary greatly in behavior and threat level.

Bees

Southern California is home to many types of bees, including bumblebees, honey bees, and sweat bees. Most bee species live in waxy hives with a social class system divided into a queen, workers, and drones. The life cycle of the hive, as well as the responsibilities of each bee, differ according to species.

Bumblebee colonies, for instance, last less than a year, dying off in the winter. The colonies are created around February by a single queen, who belonged to another colony the year before. She finds a location for her hive and begins laying eggs, the first members of her new colony. Fertilized eggs become female workers while unfertilized eggs become male drones.

Honey bee colonies, on the other hand, store honey to help them survive throughout the winter. This extended life cycle allows colonies to grow to have up 50,000 members, instead of the 400 members that bumblebee colonies may have. When a new queen leaves to form a new colony, she takes a group of workers with her, who get to work on building the hexagonal hive right away.

Honey bees, as their name suggests, produce the honey that humans consume. While all bee species feed on nectar and pollen, bees that don't survive the winter don't need to create honey stores. And some bees, known as cuckoo bees, can't collect pollen at all. Since they can't support their own hive, they must infiltrate another hive and lay eggs there, so their larvae can feed on stolen nectar. 

If you see a bee in your garden, think twice before killing it. Bees are essential pollinators, making it possible for many plant species to make fruit and reproduce. Plants pollinated by bees also produce more and larger fruits.

Unfortunately, wild bee populations are dwindling. To make up for the loss, commercial bee colonies are becoming more and more popular, especially in Los Angeles. City residents can even have domestic beehives in their front yards, so if you start spraying when you see a honeybee, you might not only be eliminating an important pollinator and source of honey, but your neighbor's livelihood or hobby.

Wasps

Much like bees, many wasp species live socially in nests, although the nests are made of a papery substance rather than wax. Others are solitary and usually act as parasites-they lay their eggs in other insects so the eggs have an incubator and a food source when they hatch. Also, many species of wasps are predators, either feeding other insects to their young or eating the insects themselves.

While most social wasps feed on pollen and nectar like bees, they don't produce honey and few act as pollinators. However, some plants rely on certain wasp species for survival, and some predatory wasps benefit humans by killing potentially harmful insects.

When you're trying to differentiate between bees and wasps, look at the texture of the body and the shape of the abdomen. Bees tend to be fuzzy (especially bumblebees) and have a short, rounded abdomen. Wasps tend to be longer and more angular, with a sharply pointed rear.

Nearly every wasp or bee you will run into in Los Angeles will have a stinger and will use it if necessary. The difference between the stings of bees and the stings of wasps is that many wasps, especially yellow jackets and hornets, are aggressive and will sting over and over again if they feel threatened.

Honey bees, on the other hand, can only sting once, as the stinger is pulled out and left in the wound, killing the bee. Bumblebees and other species can sting multiple times, but unlike wasps, they are typically nonaggressive and will leave most animals alone.

When to Call an Exterminator

Seeing a bee or wasp in your yard does not always indicate you have an infestation. They may not pose any threat to you or your property, and they may even be helping your plants grow. However, if you notice a nest or hive, you probably want to get rid of it, especially if you or someone in your family is allergic to bee stings.

To protect yourself from vicious wasp stings and possible property damage, call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management to remove or destroy the nest. If you have a beehive, have it moved to a different, safer location so the bees can still serve the community.

Tags: Wasp, Bees

Mosquitoes, Dogs, and Heartworm: Keep Your Dog Safe

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Jul 06, 2016 @ 08:15 AM

Mosquitoes are annoying at best and dangerous at worst. Nobody likes the itchy bites they give, but you may also be worried about mosquitoes spreading diseases. Thankfully, most mosquito bites are harmless in the United States because of organizations like the Centers for Disease Control. This organization works to stop the spread of diseases, including those carried by mosquitoes.

However, some mosquitoes may still transmit harmful infections-and not just to you. Mosquitoes can also infect your pets. In a previous post, we discussed how pets and pests interact. In this blog, we'll focus specifically on one of the most common mosquito-borne infections in dogs: heartworm. Read on to learn what it is and how to protect your pet.

What Is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworms are small parasites that take up residence inside the hearts and blood vessels of some mammals. Mostly they infect dogs, though animals like foxes, cats, and raccoons can also get them. An adult worm may be from a few inches to over a foot long, and the worms can live for five years.

The worms spread via mosquitoes. The offspring of the worms, called microfilaria, are tiny and live in the bloodstream of an infected animal. If a mosquito bites that animal, it may pick up microfilaria with the blood. The microfilaria grow within the mosquito for several days, and when the mosquito bites again, the microfilaria leave the mosquito and go into their new host.

Once inside the animal's bloodstream, they migrate into the heart or the biggest blood vessels to find a place to live. There, they grow into their adult form, mate with the other mature worms they came in with, and start producing their own microfilaria. After entering the dog, the worms will be fully grown in about six months.

Because the worms live in the dog's heart, they make it hard for the heart to function as it should. The worms clog parts of the heart, and blood cannot circulate throughout the dog's body properly. As a result, the other vital organs, like the kidneys or the lungs, may not get enough blood supply. If untreated, heartworms can have serious side effects, including death.

What Are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?

The symptoms of heartworm look very similar to the symptoms of other diseases. You may see:

  • Fainting
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Coughing

The good news is there are blood tests that identify heartworm, so if you take your dog to the vet regularly, you can usually diagnose the issue and get treatment. Some vets even will do tests like X-rays or ultrasounds of the dog to look for heartworms.

How Do You Treat Heartworm Disease?

Unfortunately, if your dog shows symptoms, the disease is likely far along already. If a dog does not get treatment in time, the most you may be able to do is keep your pet comfortable for a few months until he or she passes away. Fortunately, most dogs can be treated successfully.

If your dog has heartworm disease, your vet will give the dog shots that will kill the adult worms. After the shots, while the worms die and decompose, you'll have to make your dog rest as much as possible. If the dog exercises, his or her fast heart rate may push the dead worms into the lungs' tiny blood vessels, blocking them. This can be deadly. You will have to restrict your dog's activity for a few weeks.

About one month after the treatment to kill the adult worms, the vet will give your dog medication to kill the microfilaria. Once they are gone, your dog should be much healthier, and your vet can start your dog on a heartworm prevention medicine to ensure the worms do not return. Most dogs are energetic and have a good appetite again after treatment.

How Can You Prevent Heartworm Disease?

Because heartworm is so serious, it's best to try to prevent it. Many of the techniques you already know for preventing mosquito bites still apply. For example, get rid of standing water in your yard (mosquitoes breed in standing water), and put screens on your windows. You can also avoid walking your pet during dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

However, don't try putting mosquito repellent made for humans on your dog. The chemicals in the repellent can hurt dogs. If you want to give your dog the same pest protection you enjoy, be aware that most bug repellents for dogs work on more than just fleas and ticks-many also repel mosquitoes.

If you live in an area where mosquitoes are prevalent, contact your vet about medications that will prevent heartworm from infesting your dog. However, one of your best options is to get rid of mosquitoes around your home. Call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management for help. We have been in business since 1998, and we can get rid of the mosquitoes in your yard and protect you and your dog.

Tags: Mosquitoes

How Bugs and Insects Influenced the English Language

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Wed, Jun 15, 2016 @ 10:16 AM

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When you hear a fly buzzing in your window, or you see a snail in your garden, your first thought is not likely to be about how these pests influenced the English language. You want the pests gone, and you don't care about their impact on the way you speak.

However, learning the origins of bug-related expressions can reveal interesting information about the interaction between bugs and humans throughout history. This way, the next time you tell your critical neighbor she's too nit-picky, you can be grateful that she's not actually picking lice eggs out of your hair.

Nit-Picking

First known use, according to the Oxford English Dictionary: 1951

As mentioned above, this phrase originally referred to the act of combing through a person's hair to remove lice eggs, also known as "nits." They affected humans all across Europe during the Middle Ages. Due to poor hygiene, lice were nearly impossible to prevent, and the only sure way to get rid of them was to manually pick the eggs out one by one.

In modern times, lice infestations are relatively rare, and specially medicated shampoos can kill the parasites easily. The act of nit-picking survives as an expression used to mean criticism of small and generally unimportant issues, likely because medieval nit-picking was a tedious task focused on removing nearly invisible pests.

Beeline

First known use: 1830

Ancient and medieval civilizations saw bees as highly organized animals with their own laws and customs. They seemed in awe of the bee's industry and absolute loyalty to the elected "king bee".

However, some of the medieval beliefs about bees have been disproved by modern science. For instance, people used to believe that bees did not reproduce, but were born from the flesh of dead cows. They also believed that bees instinctively flew in a straight line back to their hive once they collected nectar.

While bees do possess impressive communication and navigational skills, they don't hone in on the hive as the ancients believed. Modern knowledge of bee behavior cleared up many misconceptions, but these ancients beliefs remain a part of our language in the term "beeline," a noun referring to the straight, fast course one takes when fixated on a destination.

Social Butterfly

First known use: 1837

In the 1800s, society and fashion were an important part of life for middle- and upper-class men and women. Women, especially, favored elaborate and colorful gowns, making the comparison to the brightly colored butterfly only natural.

The term originally had a derogatory connotation, as these brilliantly dressed young ladies were often seen as flitting from one social engagement to the next, seeking momentary entertainment. Over time, the phrase has softened to mean anyone who thrives in social settings and enjoys being in the company of others.

This phrase isn't unique to English. In China, they refer to a very social person as "a butterfly dancing among the flowers."

Flea Market

First known use: 1891

The term is a literal translation of the French expression marché aux puces, which referred to an open-air market that opened in Paris in 1860. Many such markets exist around the world under a variety of names, but the French was called the "market of fleas" because so many older, second-hand items had to be infested with fleas.

Bug

This word has come to have a large variety of meanings since it entered the English language in the 14th century as a synonym for monster or bogeyman, or anything that causes fear. It can mean a "true bug," a category of insects that includes species like aphids and cicadas. It's often used as a general term to describe any type of small invertebrate.

In modern times, it's also used to mean a small listening device or computer error. As a verb, it means to irritate or annoy someone or to leave an area quickly (bug out). Due to its long history and varied meanings, it's hard to trace how each definition of bug came to be. Etymologists aren't even sure how the term for a monster of terror came to be applied to beetles.

The first recorded use of "bug" as slang for annoying came in 1949, described as a popular term used by jazz musicians. "Bug" as a listening device or spying technique was first recorded in 1919, and may refer to the ability of insects to infiltrate any location and remain hidden.

Of all the meanings, the one with the clearest meaning is as an issue with technology. In 1889, Thomas Edison claimed that he had spent several days trying to fix a bug in his phonograph machine. The Pall Mall Gazette, the London evening newspaper that published the expression, explained that the term draws upon the image of a small insect hiding inside the machine and causing it to break.

 

It's clear that bugs had a major impact on the development on the English language, but that doesn't mean you need to let them stay in your house. If you have a pest problem and want an eco-friendly solution, call Greenleaf Organic Pest Management.