Don’t breed mosquitoes in the landscape!
7/11/2009: Mosquitoes can breed quickly in our landscapes with all our warm weather. With the increase of diseases like the West Nile Virus mosquito control is of paramount importance. Mosquitoes are delighted to use pots and other containers around the garden that fill with water from hoses and sprinklers as breeding grounds. Unwatched fountains and birdbaths become deluxe hotels to these creatures. Fish in ponds will eat the eggs and nymphs, but any area of water without fish is likely to offer the mosquito a chance to breed. Learn to recognize all forms of the mosquito so you won’t breed them in your landscape.
Mostly everyone can recognize the nasty but delicate floating predator that adores dive-bombing us in the middle of the night with that insidious high whining sound. But many people do not recognize the larvae of these obnoxious insects. All too often I have been asked what these fascinating little creatures are wriggling in the pond, birdbath, fountain or bucket of standing water. “Fascinating” yuck!
Don’t breed mosquitoes in your landscape! Mosquitoes deposit oval “rafts” of blackish eggs on the surface of calm water. You can recognize them by their pointed ended oval shapes, usually less than 1/2″ long. These hatch out into tiny swimming nymphs that enlarge as they grow older. The dead giveaway is the way these critters swim. They may hang out in the bottom or the top of the water, but when disturbed, or when they need to surface for air, they have a peculiar wriggling motion which looks like they are inverting themselves back to front, over and over.
Mosquito nymphs are very active when disturbed and if you find them in standing water, you will save yourself and your neighbors the misery of the adult insects by simply dumping the water. In this stage, mosquitoes cannot live out of water. So, the simplest way to be rid of these pests is to regularly check places where water is captured after any rain or watering. No chemicals needed. If you spy the egg masses floating, just remove these as well. Either way, you will be diminishing the unwelcome population of these bloodsucking (and occasionally disease carrying) insects. No loss there!
Blood-Sucking Bed Bugs in Hotel
5/02/2009: Arlington Heights, IL. – They are tiny, flat, blood sucking bugs that can easily hide in the crevices of a bed mattress, carpeting, even furniture.
For years bed bugs have been the pests you only hear about..but lately experts say they are seeing a resurgence of these insects….and the latest case is at this Arlington Heights hotel.
Last Saturday, a Cincinnatti woman in town for a funeral woke to find bed bugs in her sheets…..40 welts and 108-dollars later the woman wants the Sheraton hotel to pay her medical bills and compensate her for her pain and suffering.
The hotel and the Arlington Heights health department confirm the problem and reportedly it’s the second complaint this year. In fact 10 rooms at the Sheraton are now undergoing a fumigation process that can take up to 6-weeks to complete. The hatchlings are the size of a poppy seed .The adults are wingless and when they feed you’ll never know it because they strike at night while you sleep, and they use a numbing agent so you don’t feel the bite.
Bedbugs Causing Unrest
4/20/2009: TAMPA – Twenty-one years snuffing out bugs has taught Dominic Panzino a thing or two.
Like how you never open your suitcase in a hotel room until you rip off the bedsheets and inspect the mattress for bedbugs.
“You know that lip on the mattress?” asked Panzino. “Well, pull that back and you’ll see ‘em.”
If the blood-sucking critters are hiding in the bed, they’ll find a way into your luggage and, eventually, inside your home, says the supervisor for Haskell Termite & Pest Control.
Bedbugs are back with a vengeance, according to some national reports, and the lodging industry isn’t the only one doing battle. Nursing homes, hospitals and shelters are also under siege.
“It’s a significant problem in Florida” and has been since about 1999, said entomologist Philip Koehler of the University of Florida.
The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which monitors the hotel and motel industry, received 66 complaints about bedbugs from July to April 13 of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The prior fiscal year, there were 99 complaints. There is no record of how many complaints were verified.
“Certainly any time a guest has a complaint we are concerned,” said Geoff Luebkemann, spokesman for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.
But right now the problem doesn’t seem to have reached pandemic proportions, he said.
“Our view is it’s not a great big concern right now,” Luebkemann said.
Tell that to Kimberly Ann DeRoch, a Tampa woman who filed a lawsuit last year against an Orlando motel after she claimed she was chewed up by the reddish-brown bugs. The bites were so bad, DeRoch said she developed an infection and scars.
Her case is still working through the courts, the law firm representing DeRoch said Friday.
Although the bugs don’t transmit diseases, they can cause rashes and trigger allergies, Koehler noted.
Bedbugs aren’t just turning up in hotels, he said. They’ve infested nursing homes, hospitals and shelters. A few months ago, a local pest management company sent Koehler a cell phone photo of a wheelchair.
“There must’ve been 10,000 bugs on that chair,” Koehler said.
The bedbug buzz got a boost last week, when the Environmental Protection Agency hosted its first bedbug summit. Koehler said he helped instigate the event in the hopes of getting a federal thumbs-up on using pesticides recently banned because of health concerns. The EPA said no.
That has pest control companies searching for alternatives. One idea is using oil-filled space heaters to kill the bugs, which can’t survive temperatures of about 115 degrees, Koehler said. The bugs can be killed by fumigation, much the way termites are killed, but it takes about three times the gas, Panzino said.
For a large facility, such as a nursing home or high-rise apartment building, the cost of exterminating bedbugs can run as high as $150,000, Koehler said. Not to mention the expense and inconvenience of moving patients and residents.
“It’s a really sad situation,” he said.
Residential infestations aren’t as common, but Panzino said he has had about eight to 10 calls this year compared with the usual one or two.
“This is probably the worst,” he said, “but there hasn’t been a major outbreak.”
The decline of bumblebees — and what we can do to help
4/13/2009: By now, you’ve probably heard about the decline of European honeybees, a phenomenon also known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). While researchers still look for a singular cause for CCD, the effect remains the same: Colonies of domesticated bees (Apis mellifera) are mysteriously dying out because bees aren’t making it back to the hive.
In my work as an urban naturalist, I’ve met many people who are concerned about honeybee colonies, but who don’t know how to help — short of becoming beekeepers themselves. (Which, given the recent uptick in beekeeper short courses offered throughout the Twin Cities, some people actually do.)
Bumblebees are another story. They, too, are fellow pollinator-symbionts, but though obviously larger sized, they’re overshadowed by the reputations of their smaller, honey-making Apis cousins. Nevertheless, bumblebees are important pollinators of many soft fruit crops, tomatoes, peppers, curcurbits, runner beans and wildflowers. Bumblebees can fly at lower temperatures than honeybees, which makes them useful in colder climates.
Interestingly, these miniature bee giants also produce vibrations during flight that releases pollen from tomato anthers; this special ability is appropriately called buzz pollination, and in case you were still questioning the significance of bumblebees, tomatoes grown in glasshouses are typically (and efficiently) pollinated by bumblebees using this method.
Some species becoming endangered
Unfortunately, a few of the known 49 native bumblebee species in the United States are becoming endangered. According to the National Research Council, populations of wild bees are in a “long-term downward trend.” It is not known for sure what the specific cause of their decline is; some bee experts like Robbin Thorp speculate that our native populations acquired some kind of pathogen from commercially reared bumblebees.
For those of us who are not beekeepers, bee researchers, or insect pathologists, what can we do? Surely we can do something to support and conserve bumblebee populations in our urban and suburban landscapes. And there are.
One action is to keep planting flowering perennials to your landscape. Organizations like the U.K.-based Bumblebee Conservation Trust encourage gardeners to not only plant flowering perennial plants, but also to select plants that will produce flowers throughout the entire growing season. In an age where crop monocultures dominate the agricultural landscape and where blacktop and turfgrass dominate urban/suburban landscapes, lack of forage plants can be a serious problem. The more we plant, the more we create a “mosaic” or patchwork of areas within our urban jungle that bumblebees can find nectar and pollen. Remember, for bees, flowers are more than just pretty — they’re food.
Another thing to do is avoid using pesticides — especially the ones that affect insects’ nervous systems. If you are a professional grower and need to spray out of economic necessity, that is understandable; if you are a homeowner or hobby gardener, chances are good that there is an alternative that provides similar control at a much-reduced ecological cost. For example, if you have a single apple tree in your backyard, try using timing-specific pest controls such as kaolin clay or tying bags over young apples. If you absolutely need to keep your roses aphid-free, use insecticidal soap instead of an organophosphate. If you simply must (or stubbornly insist on using) conventional pesticides, at the very least avoid spraying flowers. The message here is that synthetic pesticides don’t just target pests, they also target bees, as well as your pests’ natural enemies; the more you spray, chances are the more you’ll rely on spraying.
Creating a bee habitat
Finally, we can create habitat. Like some solitary bee species, bumblebees make nests near the ground or under the ground in existing holes, such as abandoned rodent burrows. In the next month, overwintering bumblebee queens will be emerging and searching for new nesting sites. These nests are using simple and inexpensive materials.
The work we do today to create “nectar pathways” of flowering areas within developed areas of our cities and suburbs, coupled with nesting habitats, may be the help our bee friends need to reverse the downward population trends. And the payoffs may be huge. After all, if some countries around the world are already experiencing food scarcity with normal levels of bees, what might happen to food sources when (and if) populations of bees bottoms out? Surely we can all agree that we can no longer take any of our bee species for granted. To bee or not to bee is the question we already know the answer to.