Newsletter

May/June 2017

Posted by Mark A. Puglisi, ACE on Mon, May 01, 2017 @ 11:44 AM

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Summer-Time Pests Are Coming

Summer-time and hordes of pests go hand in hand.  One reason is the warm weather causes pest to multiply much faster.  For instance, the common house fly can take up to 6 weeks to grow from egg to adult fly in cool weather, but in warm weather this takes 6 days!  Many of these pests find their way into homes.

     While these pests aren't big and impressive like bears and alligators, they nevertheless cause serious damage and health problems.  They also can be a nuisance and an embarrassment. Among the summer pests we encounter are cockroaches (a health hazard because of the any disease organisms they carry, and the allergies they cause) and silverfish, which eat into books, magazines, and documents.  Ants are the most common summer pest, and they cause all sorts of problems.  Stored food pests like flour beetles, moths, and mites spoil stored human and pet food, and rats and mice are health hazards that spoil food and leave behind their droppings, urine, and hairs. 

     Other pests can inflict painful or irritating stings or bites or transmit diseases, including fleas, ticks, spiders, mites, bees, wasp, bedbugs, mosquitoes and others.  Some pests, like carpet beetles and clothes moths, damage clothing, rugs, and other fabrics.  Carpenter ants, termites, and other pests destroy wood in our homes.

     Don't let any of these pests get the upper hand in your home!  We are the area pest management experts.  If you know anyone whose home is unprotected from constantly-invading pests, let them know we can help them!

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Spiders and Their Venoms

Few creatures are feared as much as spiders.  There are over 3,000 species of spiders in this country.  Fortunately most of them can't penetrate our skin with their fangs.  When they do bite people they either don't inject any venom, or not enough to affect us.  Keep in mind, spiders do not actively seek out people to bite.

     Nevertheless, there are two types of spider venom that can cause a serious reaction.  The black widow and its cousins have a neurotoxic venom.  This kind of venom can cause pain as well as muscle cramping, sweating, weekness, and breathing difficulties.  Fatalities from their bites occur but are rare.

     Brown recluse spiders (not found in California) have a cytotoxic venom that can result in a necrotic (ulcerating) wound that is slow to heal.  Bites from these spiders are less common that it might seem.  Research shows that many people who think they have been bitten by this kind of of spider have not been.  There are other things that can cause a necrotic wound.  They include bites from other pests, as well as conditions completely unrelated to pests, such as certain kinds of bacterial and fungal infections, and ulcers from diabetes or bed sores.

     Recent evidence shows that the common sac spiders, which many people believed caused necrotic wounds, don't cause those wounds at all.  Their bites cause a sharp pain like a bee sting, so it is a neurotoxin.

     We are the area experts at spider control.  Keep in mind that re infestations occur when young spiders catch a breeze and use it to "parachute" to your home on a silk strand.  Also, some spiders are "hunting spiders" that frequently wander indoors.

Pest Prevention Tip of the Month

Remove bird nests from eves and branches touching your home immediately after young birds stop using the nests.  Various blood-sucking and scavenging bugs live in these nests, and leave the nests when the birds leave.  These pests sometimes crawl into homes from the abandoned nests.

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What's That Bug in My Ear?

Another study has confirmed that cockroaches, not earwigs, are by far the most common insects that enter people's ears, according to the records of physicians who have extracted insects form people's ear.

     The report, in the South African Medical Journal, studied insects removed from ears by South African hospital physicians over a two year period.  Almost half of all insects removed from ears were cockroaches, followed by flies, beetles, moths, and a tick.  Cockroaches usually enter people's at night as they sleep.  More cockroaches were removed from the ears of children that adults.

     These findings are similar to a 1998 study in a Los Angeles hospital, which found that over 3/4 of all insects removed from ears at the hospital were cockroaches.

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Termites: Arch Enemies of Wood

With proper care, the wood in your home can last centuries.  But termites, and their accomplice, decay fungle, can consume and destroy wood in a relatively short time.

     Wood may seem like an unappealing food, and it is for the vast majority of insects that are unable to digest wood cellulose and extract any nutrients from it.  But termites have overcome this problem and eat wood voraciously.  Living in their guts are certain tiny protozoa microorganisms that digest the tough wood cellulose for them.  This gives termites the unusual-and devastating for wood structures-ability to consume wood as food.  

     Once a termite colony finds a good supply of wood, it multiplies and grows until it destroys the structure strength of the wood-unless the termites are stopped.

     Only part of the damage done by termites is from what they eat.  Termites carry with them the spores of wood-decaying fungi, and these start growing in the termite tunnels.  The fungi get their nutrition from the wood, and as they grow and spread they often soften and weaken the wood even further.

     Our homes and other buildings, as well as fences, porches, and outdoor structures, are ideal for termites because they concentrate so much wood in a small area.  If these structures are not protected from termites, it's like offering them a free meal.

     That's why it's so important to have us professionally inspect your home and protect it from these wood-eating pests with voracious appetites.

     

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The Smell of Odorous House Ants

Odorous house ants are a common household ant throughout most of the U.S.  They can easily be mistaken for other ants, except for their distinctive odor when crushed.  The odor is often described on the internet as rotten coconuts or just coconuts, but various websites describe the ants as smelling like blue cheese, rancid butter, cleaner spray, and other scents.

     So what do the ants really smell like?Recent tests were conducted that asked people to sniff and describe the ant's smell.  blue cheese was the most common scent chosen, with rotten coconuts the next most common choice. 

     Chemical analysis confirms that the odor is closest to the smell of blue cheese.  The distinctive scent of blue cheese is from Penicillium mold on it.  As coconuts start to rot, they too are colonized by Penicillium mold-which is why some people who are familiar with the scent of rotting coconuts identify that odor as how ants smell.

     Now you know what these ants really smell like, despite the variety of descriptions found on the internet!

Your Questions Answered

Q.  Why do mosquito bites itch?

A. When a mosquito punctures your skin in search of a blood meal, she (only female mosquitoes bite-they need blood before they can produce a batch of eggs) also inject some saliva.  The saliva contains several substances, including a very effective anticoagulant that prevents your blood from clotting while she sucks it up through a thin tube.

     The first time we are bitten, nothing happens.  But gradually our body becomes sensitized to the foreign proteins in the saliva and a small itchy red bump appears about 24 hours later.  After many more bites a pale, swollen hive or wheal appears minutes after the bite, in addition to the red bump 24 hours later.  With repeated bites, some people stop reacting, and others become increasingly allergic and develop even larger bumps.

     The bumps and itching are the result of our own immune system recognizing the saliva as a foreign substance and releasing histamine at the wound.  It's actually our own histamine that makes us itch, not the mosquitoe's saliva.