Nov/Dec 2010 Newsletter

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Fri, Oct 29, 2010 @ 02:44 PM

Termite Colonies Larger than Expected

For a long time it was thought that the average subterranean termite colony contained about 250,00 termites. In phenomenal situations these colonies might have as many as one million individuals, it was thought.

But in the last dozen years or more, new research has shown that we we drastically underestimating termite colony sizes. Dr. Grace has evidence that colonies can consist of up to 3.2 million termites. These were estimates done in Canada, where you would expect termites colonies to be smaller than in warmer areas. Working in Florida, Dr. Su has shown that some native subterranean termite colonies actually reach 5 million termites!

Why is termite colony size important? Larger colonies can cause greater damage in a shorter period of time than smaller colonies, and they can be eating wood in a larger area-perhaps in several neighboring homes all at once.

A large colony of 3.2 million termites can consume about a pound of wood each day. Colonies of 5 million termites can consume over 1 1/2 pounds of wood every day, and they are able to find and infest unprotected wood in an area covering 2 1/2 acres!

Formosan termites, which are spreading every year, have even larger and more destructive mature colonies, ranging from 2 to 10 million individuals. They can tunnel an amazing 110 yards-the length of a football field! Formosan termites can cause significant damage to a home in just six months, and have been known to actually bring down a home in as little as two years.

Winter Animal Invaders

Now is the time of the year when wild animals are trying to find drier and warmer places to spend the winter. Many people are tempted to leave these critters alone-until they find out they have caused all sorts of damage! They also bring with them pests that suck blood and transmit diseases.

Wild animals such as squirrels, raccoons, skunks, opossums, rats, mice and others cause various kinds of damage. Some of them dig up lawns, dig dens or burrow, push through screened areas, gnaw on wood or pipes, and do many other kinds of damage. Squirrels, for instance, wreck all kinds of havoc including chewing and enlarging entry holes, chewing insulation on electrical wiring, and tearing up attic insulation, and if they have babies the problem multiply.

In addition, over 175 communicable diseases are shared by animals and humans, and because wildlife populations go untreated, some of the diseases that are rare in humans or pets occur in high percentages in wildlife populations. Most rabies cases, for instance, now come from contact with wild animals. Before 1960 most rabies came from contact with domestic animals, especially dogs.

These diseases can be transmitted directly from the wild animals by bites or scratches, or in their urine or feces, or by the blood-sucking fleas, ticks, and mites these animals bring with them.

If you have wild animals seeking refuge in or around your home, let our nuisance animal division expertly, safely and as humanely as possible remove these animals before they cause serious problems.

New Bed Bug Findings

It is well known that some people may be bitten by bed bugs and not even realize it because the characteristic red welts don't show up. A recent study found a person's age is a big factor in his or her sensitivity to bed bug bites. This comprehensive study was conducted in seven large cities around the U.S.

Residents in dwellings known to be infested with bed bugs were asked if they had experienced bites from these pests. There were no differences by ethnicity or gender, but only age-a whopping 42% of people over 65 years old said they had not been bitten, compared to only 26% of people aged 11 to 65 said they had not been bitten. The assumption is that all of these people had actually been bitten, (About 20% of the general population does not show any reaction to bed bug bites.)

Other studies, using allergy skin prick tests, have confirmed these types of differences-a greater percentage of older people have no reaction to bed bug bites than younger people.

The majority of people who react to bed bug bites have itchy red welts. About half experience redness and discoloration at the bite site, andsome may have itching but no welts.

The study also showed that people who have bigger reactions to mosquito bites also tend to have bigger reactions to bed bug bites.

New Illness-Causing Bacteria Found on Flies

Common house flies can carry literally hundreds of different disease-causing organisms. One would think that this had been studied so well that we wouldn't find any additional serious pathogens on flies. That's why a study that just came out in the June issue of the Florida Entomologistis so unsettling, because once again, it shows we know far less than we think we know--especially about serious diseases that flies can transmit.

When ordinary house flies (Musca Domestica) were collected near the rear entrances and around dumpsters of just four restaurants in north central Florida, eleven different bacteria were found on them--including five species of bacteria that had never been recorded on house flies before. Even more alarming is the finding that most of the eleven kinds of bacteria collected, including E. coli, Shigella, three kinds of Staphyococcus, andCronobacter, are very serious pathogens of humans. They are known to cause such diseases like meningitis, food poisoning, diarrhea, abscesses, bloodstream infections, and hemorrhagic colitis--nothing any of us wants!

There are several factors which makes flies serious transmitters of disease-causing organisms. Flies can easily pick up all kinds of pathogens because they are attracted to decaying animal matter and feces where pathogens are common. Some of these germs may be on the "feet" of flies, but even more germs multiply inside their bodies. These germs are spread when flies land on a surface, regurgitate food, secrete saliva, or defecate. When flies land on our food or food-preparation surfaces, they place these pathogens directly where we come into contact with them.