With Bugs, You’re Never Home Alone

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“Start with your windowsills,” advises Rob Dunn. “Light fittings are often a graveyard, too.”

As households across the United States decorate their homes with plastic spiders for Halloween, Dr. Dunn, an applied ecologist at North Carolina State University, is encouraging people to search out the real thing — and then to photograph whatever they find, rather than squash it.

His new project, Never Home Alone, aims to gather at least 10,000 observations of arthropods — insects and their kin — from around the world. Anyone can participate, using the online nature-identification platform iNaturalist; the only condition is that the bugs must be observed indoors.

That is where humans, too, are mostly to be found. “We spend more than ninety percent of our lives inside,” Dr. Dunn said recently, citing a 2001 study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the world’s densest cities, the indoor biome is bigger than the outdoor space, at least in terms of floor area. (Indoor Manhattan, Dr. Dunn calculates, now exceeds outdoor Manhattan by a factor of three to one.) Yet scientists know almost nothing about the spiders and flies and booklice that inhabit this space alongside us.

“There’s no shortage of papers on cockroaches and termites,” said May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois who was not involved in the project. “But there are hundreds, potentially thousands of house dwellers that are neutral to beneficial that we know nothing about.”

Even Dr. Dunn was, until recently, guilty of ignoring his six-legged housemates. A few years ago, he and his colleagues decided to take a census of fifty homes in Raleigh, N.C., including his own.

“I would have told you I had four species of spiders,” he admitted. “When we looked, we found ten in my house — and that turns out to be the average.”

Indeed, some houses in Raleigh had more than two hundred arthropod species in total; Dr. Dunn and his team have found a similar multiplicity of bugs living in homes as far afield as Sweden and Peru.

For Dr. Dunn, the domestic interior suddenly seemed more exotic than the Amazon, filled with opportunities for discovery. (Dr. Dunn’s previous surveys include studies of the microbial diversity in armpits and sourdough.)A couple of the insects he and his colleagues saw were entirely new to science, but even the named ones were deeply mysterious. In most cases, researchers don’t know what the creatures eat, what their closest relatives are or from which habitats they originally hailed.

At the same time, the extent of this ignorance was overwhelming. It took the team hours to survey a single home, and even longer to identify each specimen. At that pace, Dr. Dunn would never have enough data to understand even the basic patterns of indoor insect life, or how they differed throughout the United States, let alone the world.

iNaturalist — a citizen-science app with users across the globe, and the ability to geolocate and even identify specimens from photos using A.I. — offered a way through this bottleneck.

In July, Dr. Dunn created a page for the project, and began asking the platform’s most active users to contribute. By mid-October, the project page had received more than 3,000 submissions, representing more than 800 species, from more than 1,000 participants around the world.

Already there are surprises. Take booklice: tiny light-brown bugs with fat abdomens and bulging eyes, they are neither lice nor restricted to books. They feed on starch, including the starch in bookbinding glue, but typically prefer the higher humidity of a kitchen or bathroom.

“If you were to ask any of us about booklice before this project, we would have said, sure, we’ll probably find some,” said Dr. Dunn. “So far, we’ve found them in one hundred percent of houses.”

Some of the most exciting data is coming from the tropics — unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the paucity of research on indoor insects there. One particular crab spider, so named for its ability to scuttle sideways and backward, appears to be ubiquitous. In a memorable sighting, the spindly-legged, fat-bodied brown spider is perched on a toothbrush, dwarfing it.

“People who live in tropical Asia clearly know this is in their houses, but it wasn’t known by scientists more generally,” Dr. Dunn said.

One of the first things Dr. Dunn wants to do once he reaches 10,000 sightings is analyze how all these species are distributed globally. In Raleigh, the houses he surveyed were populated with bugs that originated in the Fertile Crescent and came to the Americas with European colonists. By that logic, Dr. Dunn would expect many of the indoor insects in New Zealand to be British. But that assumption may be wrong.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of Kiwis that have been super keen on this project,” he said. “And it turns out that there are all these endemic New Zealand indoor species, like the Wellington house spider, that I’ve never heard of.”

Other patterns are emerging, logical but intriguing nonetheless. Households with pets harbor more insect diversity; so do homes where the windows are open more often. Different bugs favor different rooms — a preference that, in some cases, seems to have been fixed for millenniums: beetle and fly remains have been used to differentiate between bathrooms and kitchens in archaeological sites from ancient Egypt to England. It’s entirely possible that certain architectural styles or floor plans favor particular insect communities, but researchers know too little to even formulate those kinds of hypotheses.

For a bug-loving scientist who wants to understand the forces shaping life’s diversity in one of the world’s fastest-growing ecosystems, the thrill of the Never Home Alone project is obvious. But for home dwellers who are more inclined to swat a fly than admire its iridescent coloring, what’s the upside? Dr. Dunn bristled at the question, before gamely pointing out that many of these species are, or could be, extremely useful.

“In tropical Asia, there’s a jumping spider that’s common in houses, and it preferentially feeds on dengue-infected mosquitoes,” he said. Spiders, on the whole, are beneficial: they feed on less pleasant insects such as roaches, earwigs, flies and clothes moths, and they rarely bite.

When we spray pesticides, we tend to kill off the beneficial spiders and speed the evolution of resistant cockroaches and bedbugs. A man in California accidentally set fire to his parents’ house while trying to kill spiders with a blowtorch.

“In my lab, we all love spiders, but, in general, I would say our attitude about these species in our houses is misdirected,” said Dr. Dunn.

Effecting this attitude adjustment is perhaps the most ambitious goal of the Never Home Alone project. “Already, we’ve made connections with people we could never have reached before,” Dr. Dunn said.

He reached out to Zain Al-najm, an art student and iNaturalist contributor in Basra, Iraq, who uploaded a photo of a long-legged, thin-bodied Enicospilus wasp, its exact species unknown — the only observation on the website from this family of bugs in the entire Middle East.

“That was my most interesting insect,” Mr. Al-najm said in an email. “But where we live are a lot of creatures that we do not care about but are really amazing.”

One of the most prolific identifiers of species, Even Dankowicz, is a junior in biology at Brandeis University. Mr. Dankowicz has confirmed or corrected the identities of several hundred flies submitted to Never Home Alone.

“If you find a fly in your house, it could be a house fly,” Mr. Dankowicz said. “But just as often it’s, like, a flesh fly, a bottle fly or a cluster fly, and those are really great and interesting species that you should know about.”

Dr. Dunn accepts that most of us will never embrace the insects in our homes with great enthusiasm; he is striving merely for tolerance and, if possible, a little wonder. “Some of these species are super cool,” he said, describing a spider that kills its prey by spitting on it. (The spit is ejected from repurposed silk glands at speeds of nearly 100 feet per second).

But even without our good will, our insect housemates will be there; our homes, with their mild and constant climate, not to mention huge quantities of food and water, present a welcoming environment for life at all scales.

“The best we can do is hope to sway that population to species that benefit us, rather than do us harm,” said Dr. Dunn. “But first we have to understand who’s there.”

So, this Halloween, peek into those dark corners; look behind your toilet and under your bed. Resist the reflex to squash — or blowtorch — whatever you see, and take a photo instead.

Source: The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/science/spider-insect-survey.html

Clements Pest Control Announces Acquisition

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WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — Clements Pest Control has acquired Douglas Horticulture, a fast-growing lawn and ornamental pest control company based in the West Palm Beach area. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Douglas Horticulture, founded in 2012 by Austin Douglas, has become one of the fastest-growing ornamental pest control providers in the WPB market.

The entire Douglas team has joined Clements, including founder Austin Douglas, who will continue to oversee daily operations in a management capacity.

“We are excited to work with Mr. Douglas and his team. He has built a quality business with a stellar reputation, and we look forward to building on that foundation. The Palm
Beach area is expanding quickly and we are positioning ourselves to capture that growth,” said Christopher Slade, Chief Operating Officer of Clements.

Source: PCT Online http://www.pctonline.com/article/clements-acquires-douglas-horticulture/

First human case of virus spread by mosquitoes reported in North Florida

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It’s mosquito season and it’s almost impossible to avoid being bitten. 

Concerns about mosquito-borne viruses like Zika and West Nile are renewed every year, but a mosquito-borne disease thought only to be transmitted to animals seems to have jumped the barrier to humans.

Scientists first discovered the Keystone virus in the Keystone area of Tampa 50 years ago. The first known human case of the disease was just identified in North Florida, but it took doctors a year to make the diagnosis.

Doctors say there were likely other undiagnosed cases before this one. 

“There is a reasonable chance that there is a number of cases out there,” Dr. Glenn Morris, director of the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute.

The patient is a 16-year-old boy.

After attending band camp in North Florida last summer, he went to a walk-in clinic complaining of a fever and severe rash. Morris says the teen exhibited only mild symptoms.

Doctors tested him for various pathogens, including Zika, but nothing came back positive. After a year of investigating, they finally figured out it was the Keystone virus. They suspect a lot of other people across the southeast may have had the virus but were never diagnosed.

In mosquitos, the virus has shown up from the Chesapeake Bay to Florida and all the way to Texas. Right now, there is no simple test to identify the Keystone virus, but that could change soon.

Dr. Morris says several biomedical companies have contacted the University of Florida to talk about developing one.

Source: Tampa Fox 13

http://www.fox13news.com/health/first-human-case-of-virus-spread-by-mosquitoes-reported-in-north-florida

The Ultimate Guide to Keep Summer Pests Out of Your House

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Summertime is great, but as for the many pests it brings? Not so much. Because the warmer months bring so many creatures out of hibernation, homeowners across the country often see a spike in pest activity during summer.

Here are some of the most common summer pests, along with strategies to prevent their entry into your home and ideas to get rid of them once and for all.

How to Repel Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying, they can transmit diseases like the Zika virus. Preventing them from getting inside starts in the yard — you’ll want to make it as undesirable to insects as possible.

Regularly check for sources of standing water: Stagnant water can provide a place for mosquitoes to lay eggs (and provide nourishment to other insects in general). Look anywhere that water could have accumulated from a summer rainfall.

Remove bird baths: Birdbaths will tend to work against your cause, but if you have one, empty it out and scrub it with a brush at least once every few days. Refreshing the water regularly means eliminating any mosquito eggs before they have the chance to hatch. You can also add an aerator or other rippling effects to create an unstable surface that mosquitoes can’t land on, but won’t affect the birds.

Ensure windows are secure: Make sure windows and doors are well-insulated, repairing torn screen if necessary, to keep mosquitoes and other insects from getting inside. If you’ve been noticing consistent indoor pest problems, search all around the house for cracks, gaps, or holes and seal them accordingly. The entire family should also make a conscious effort to limit the number of time doors are left open while they come in and out of the house — the less opportunity for the bugs, the better!

For persistent problems, reach out to Clements to learn more about our Mosquito Control Misting Systems and Event Sprays. 

Keeping Ants Away

Extra strong sealing: Proper sealing around the exterior of your house is your strongest line of defense against ants, which can squeeze through all kinds of tiny crevices. Foam or caulk is often enough to keep even the tiniest of ants out.

Eliminate ant-temptations: Get rid of as many temptations around the outside of your home, as well; don’t leave half-empty soda cans out overnight, and keep food covered during summer barbecues and parties. If ants find food, they leave a scent trail for their friends to find, and the problem can escalate more quickly than you’d expect.

Seek natural remedies for small issues: There are all kinds of natural remedies that can not only prevent ants from entering your home in the first place but help address an existing problem. Lemon juice, cinnamon (in both powder and oil form), and peppermint oil can all help destroy the scent path left by ants, halting their entry into your home.

Shooing Away Fruit Flies and House Flies

Keep doors and windows closed: Keeping an eye on open doors and windows is perhaps the most effective way to keep flies from entering your home. Repair any torn screening, and if you have air conditioner units (instead of central air), make sure they are securely insulated all around. Natural repellants can be made from just about anything, including household herbs, essential oils, vinegar, lemon juice, and even pennies.

Reduce sources of attraction: Don’t keep ripened fruit or vegetables outside of the refrigerator. Keep garbage cans clean and thoroughly clean anything you put into recycling containers. Avoid leaving out juice, wine, and sugary beverages.

Getting Rid of Silverfish

Declutter: Decluttering your home and garage is a great first step in preventing silverfish, especially when it comes to old cardboard, newspapers, and stacks of mail. If you have any clothes in storage, keep them in a cool, dry place in sealed containers.

Reduce moisture buildup: Keep the house well-ventilated throughout the year — especially in bathrooms, basements, and attics. Additionally, clear the perimeter of your house of excess debris like leaves and branches to eliminate potential sources of moisture and insect shelter.

Avoiding Fleas and Ticks

Use repellent: First, make sure each person wears insect repellent before going outside for long periods of time, especially if you’ll be in wooded areas. Avoid interacting with any animals you aren’t familiar with, including strays, that could be carrying fleas, ticks (which may carry Lyme disease), or other parasites. Also, treat your dog with flea and tick repellent too!

Check yourself: When returning from time outside, check yourself, your family, and your pets for ticks. Inspect your clothing, shoes, and hats first, then look carefully through hair, in and around ears, under arms and behind your knees. Check especially small crevices, including the inside of belly buttons.

Shower quickly after outdoors: Shower within two hours of coming inside to make sure you wash off anything you could’ve missed, even re-checking areas to be sure you’re clear. Remove any ticks you do find with tweezers, pulling them straight up in a steady motion. Clean the area afterward with soap and water, iodine, or rubbing alcohol, and visit a doctor right away if you develop a rash or fever within a month of the bite.

Keep the house clean: A thorough cleaning is an important step in getting rid of fleas no matter how serious the problem. Vacuum all carpets, rugs, curtains, and furniture, and immediately discard the bag outside. Wash affected clothing and fabrics in hot water and dry in the hottest settings (take note of any items that might need special care). Keep in mind that if your pet(s) brought in the fleas, they’ll likely be spread all around the house, quite literally anywhere the affected pet has entered. Keep a lookout for bites and scratching for the next few weeks, and seek a professional if the problem persists.

Getting Rid of Roaches

Cleaning and home maintenance: In addition to sealing up potential points of entry for roaches, conscious cleaning and home maintenance are key to keeping them out.

Keep garbage controlled and taken out regularly: Some items are better off taken straight to an outside garbage can (like the packaging from raw meat that can quickly become odorous) or composted (like eggshells and vegetable scraps). Wipe down surfaces where you prepare food on a daily basis, especially after cooking. All food should be kept in secure containers, ideally in pantries or cabinets that are free of food particles and debris.

Avoid leaving dirty dishes in the sink: Also, make sure to thoroughly rinse them before placing them in the dishwasher — cockroaches can get in there more easily than you might think!

Eliminate all sources of standing water and messes: Whether it’s a pot soaking in the sink or a clogged shower drain – it’s got to go. Make sure your children’s and pet’s play areas, both inside and outside, are kept clean and tidy. Vacuum regularly, and if you have children or other messy eaters, be especially thorough with cleaning the pockets and crevices of your couch and dining chairs.

Say Goodbye to ‘Stinging’ Insects — Bees, hornets, and wasps

Unfortunately, your beautiful garden is what will make the most impact in attracting stinging insects to your yard. 

Reduce the number of flowers and trees: If anyone in your family has insect allergies (or if you even suspect someone might), limit the number of fragrant plants and trees in your yard, as well as bright flowers that will attract bees.

If you discover you have a wasp and/or hornet problem, you can use a homemade repellent around your porch and outdoor seating to deter them.

Don’t let summertime pests kill your buzz — prevent what you can and address problems quickly so you can get back to enjoying the sunshine!

Source: Redfin.com (in association with Clements) 

https://www.redfin.com/blog/keep-summer-pests-out-of-house

Illnesses from Mosquito, Tick, and Flea Bites Increasing in the US

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Illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled in the U.S., with more than 640,000 cases reported during the 13 years from 2004 through 2016.  Nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced into the United States during this time.

These findings are in the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is CDC’s first summary collectively examining data trends for all nationally notifiable diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea. It provides detailed information on the growing burden of mosquito-borne and tickborne illnesses in the U.S.

“Zika, West Nile, Lyme, and chikungunya—a growing list of diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea—have confronted the U.S. in recent years, making a lot of people sick. And we don’t know what will threaten Americans next,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “Our Nation’s first lines of defense are state and local health departments and vector control organizations, and we must continue to enhance our investment in their ability to fight against these diseases.”

U.S. not fully prepared

Widespread and difficult to control, diseases from mosquito, tick, and flea bites are major causes of sickness and death worldwide. The growing number and spread of these diseases pose an increasing risk in the U.S. The report found that the nation needs to be better prepared to face this public health threat.

CDC scientists analyzed data reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System for 16 notifiable vector-borne diseases from 2004 through 2016 to identify trends. Many infections are not reported or recognized, so it is difficult to truly estimate the overall cost and burden of these diseases. In 2016, the most common tickborne diseases in the U.S. were Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis. The most common mosquito-borne viruses were West Nile, dengue, and Zika. Though rare, plague was the most common disease resulting from the bite of an infected flea.

The increase in diseases caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea in the U.S. is likely due to many factors. Mosquitoes and ticks and the germs they spread are increasing in number and moving into new areas. As a result, more people are at risk for infection. Overseas travel and commerce are more common than ever before. A traveler can be infected with a mosquito-borne disease, like Zika, in one country, and then unknowingly transport it home. Finally, new germs spread by mosquito and tick bites have been discovered and the list of nationally notifiable diseases has grown.

Key findings

  • A total of 642,602 cases of disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, tick, or flea were reported in the U.S. and its territories from 2004 through 2016.
  • The number of reported tickborne diseases more than doubled in 13 years and accounted for more than 60 percent of all reported mosquito-borne, tickborne, and fleaborne disease cases. Diseases from ticks vary from region to region across the U.S. and those regions are expanding.
  • From 2004 through 2016, seven new germs spread through the bite of an infected tick were discovered or recognized in the U.S. as being able to infect people.
  • Reducing the spread of these diseases and responding to outbreaks effectively will require additional capacity at the state and local level for tracking, diagnosing, and reporting cases; controlling mosquitoes and ticks; and preventing new infections; and for the public and private sector to develop new diagnostic and vector control tools.

“The data show that we’re seeing a steady increase and spread of tickborne diseases, and an accelerating trend of mosquito-borne diseases introduced from other parts of the world,” said Lyle Petersen, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. “We need to support state and local health agencies responsible for detecting and responding to these diseases and controlling the mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas that spread them.”

Source: Center for Disease Control & Prevention

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0501-vs-vector-borne.html

Rodent Infestation, ‘Spread of Filth’ Found Before Egg Recall

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Before a U.S. farm voluntarily recalled 207 million eggs, government inspectors found rodents scurrying in manure pits, equipment that was coated with grime and food debris, and outside a swarm of “large flying insects too numerous to count.”

Unsanitary conditions were found during multiple inspections of a Rose Acre Farms facility in Hyde County, North Carolina, that allowed for the “proliferation and spread of filth and pathogens throughout the facility that could cause the contamination of egg processing equipment and eggs,” according to a report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detailing inspections. A review of the farm’s pest control records flagged an ongoing rodent infestation, with rodents, dead carcasses and baby mice observed, along with workers who weren’t following proper sanitary practices.

The farm voluntarily recalled the eggs earlier last week after more than 20 consumers became ill from a suspected salmonella poisoning. The recall is the largest of eggs in the U.S. since 2010, when more than 550 million were recalled from two Iowa farms, according to the website Food Safety News.

The FDA’s inspection report “is based on raw observations and in some cases lack proper context,” Gene Grabowski, an outside spokesman for Rose Acre Farms, said in an email. The company is preparing a formal response to the report and “until then, we would urge everyone to wait until all the facts are presented before rushing to judgment.”

‘Debris and Grime’

Throughout a March 28 review, federal inspectors “observed condensation dripping from the ceiling, pipes and down walls onto production equipment” and pooling on floors, the FDA said. Employees were found in violation of proper sanitary procedures, and a steel wool scrubber used to clean debris off equipment was stored on a cart in a dustpan that had a pool of water “floating with debris and grime.”

Salmonella Outbreak Forces Recall of 207 Million Eggs

On one visit, inspectors saw “at least 25 flying insects” in the egg processing facility landing on food, food production equipment and contact surfaces, according to the report.

The company voluntarily recalled the eggs after an investigation of illnesses on the East Coast triggered an inspection of the facility. The recall is equivalent to about 90 days of output at the farm, which produces 2.3 million eggs a day.

Source: Bloomberg News

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-18/rodent-infestation-spread-of-filth-found-before-egg-recall

Swatting at Mosquitoes May Help You Avoid Bites, Even if You Miss

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If you keep swatting at a mosquito, will it leave you alone?

Some scientists think so. But it depends.

Some blood meals are worth a mosquito risking its life. But if there’s a more attractive or accepting alternative to feed from, a mosquito may move on to that someone or something instead. That’s because if you keep trying and missing, the mosquito may learn to associate your swatting vibrations with your scent, a study published Thursday in Current Biology suggests. And it just may remember: This is not a person who will tolerate me.

Mosquitoes, which transmit diseases like ZikaMalaria and West Nile, do not just bite anything, said Jeffrey Riffell, a neuroecologist at The University of Washington who led the study. They prefer people over other animals, and some people over others. Attraction depends on how a person looks, smells or acts. But when a feeding situation isn’t favorable, a mosquito can switch preferences.

To find out more about mosquito biting preferences, Dr. Riffell and his colleagues put mosquitoes and different odors into a vortex that creates vibrations similar to those created when a hand swats a forearm, but misses. In just 15 minutes, the mosquitoes learned to associate the odors with the vibrations. Some once attractive odors became threatening signals that the mosquitoes learned to avoid. Rather than approach them again, the mosquitoes chose to approach a new odor instead. For at least 24 hours, they retained this memory.

Remembering the smell of a particularly defensive individual with a propensity to swat is important for a bug’s survival. One good smack to a mosquito stuck biting, and splat. Knowing who smells like a splat-maker means mosquitoes can seek out potentially less risky hosts instead. Dr. Riffell thinks learning about odors helps drives these decisions.

Mosquito senses are tuned for locating perfect hosts. From far away, carbon dioxide from our breath draws them in and triggers their visual system to seek out high contrast objects for inspection. Up close, mosquitoes detect odor, temperature, sweat and even the presence of alcohol or pregnancy(pregnant women emit more carbon dioxide). If signs of a good host don’t check out, the mosquito doesn’t bite.

But just how the insect processes the more than 200 chemicals in a person’s scent signature isn’t fully understood. One thing that helps, the researchers determined, is dopamine, a chemical in the brain that contributes to learning in humans, honeybees and other animals. Dr. Riffell thinks dopamine works by helping mosquitoes pick out an individual’s scent signature from other odors.

Dopamine travels through the brain and binds to receptors like a key in a lock, opening doors and creating connections between nerve cells that can drive behavior or thinking. When the researchers edited mosquito genes to remove these dopamine receptors, the insects lost their ability to learn. They also lost activity in the area of their brain associated with olfaction.

Understanding more about how mosquitoes process information and select hosts can help people develop more targeted ways to control disease transmission, like combining traps or lures with bed nets and insecticides. Another possibility once more is known, said Dr. Riffell, would be to target dopamine and impair learning in mosquitoes with insecticides or genetic tools. While a dopamine-impaired mosquito may not recognize your scent, it also may not realize swatting is avoidable.

Until then, Dr. Riffell says: “If there are mosquitoes around and you’re shooing them away (and you’re mean) you could encourage your friend to talk a lot and move around and sweat, and they’ll probably avoid you and go to your friend.”

Source: The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/science/swatting-mosquitoes.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FMosquitoes&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection

Pretty Little Termites

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University of Florida researchers say “pretty” termites do the most damage to structures. Younger colonies produced less-symmetrical (“ugly”) termites, while more mature ones produced more symmetrical (“pretty”) ones. That’s because younger termite colonies are under more stress.

Termites may be “pretty” in the eyes of a scientist, but don’t let good looks fool you: The prettier termites are more destructive than their uglier counterparts, a University of Florida researcher says.

Scientists who deem subterranean termites “pretty” say they sport symmetrical traits and are more likely to come from mature colonies, said Thomas Chouvenc, a research assistant in entomology. So-called “ugly” termites have asymmetrical traits, he said, and they generally come from young colonies. “Ugly” termites developed under stressful conditions, are short-lived and not efficient at maintaining the colony.

Thus, the older and larger the colony is, the prettier the termites are. And mature colonies can cause a lot more damage, said Chouvenc, a researcher with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). “If you have a mature colony with a million termites at 100 percent of their capacity, your house may be in trouble,” Chouvenc said. “If the colony is very young, with just a few hundred termites in poor shape, then it would take more time for them to damage a structure. In the end, mature termite colonies are the ones doing the most economic damage.”

Plenty of economic damage, in fact. Asian subterranean termites are among the most damaging termites in the world, especially in the tropics, and represent a significant part of the $40 billion annual cost worldwide, Chouvenc said. This species was recently introduced in Florida and is spreading fast. In their quest to discover more about how the Asian subterranean termite brings up its young and how that impacts larval development, Chouvenc and UF/IFAS entomology professor Nan-Yao Su conducted a study in which they examined the symmetry of the termite’s soldier caste. They studied 459 soldiers from 73 6-month-old colonies to see how well they nurtured young termites.

Younger colonies produced less-symmetrical termites, while more mature ones produced more symmetrical ones, the study showed. That’s because younger colonies are under more stress. They only have a king and queen to find food and groom the larvae, said Chouvenc, an entomologist at the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Once the larvae grow into workers, they can provide brood care to the newly laid eggs, so as the colony grows, the investment in caring for “baby” termites improves over time.

“A termite with poor symmetrical traits looks all messed up, like it was hit by a car,” said Chouvenc. “On the opposite end, termites raised in a mature colony in great conditions develop smoothly and are good-looking specimens.”

Here’s how termites can grow into “good looking” or “ugly” adults: The more worker termites in a colony, the better off the larvae will be. Chouvenc compared the situation to nursing care in most animal societies, including humans.

If there are only two nurses for 10 termites, they don’t receive much attention, food and bath time, and the brood will develop in stressful conditions, resulting in asymmetrical termites, Chouvenc said. As the colony grows, there may be 10 nurses for 10 larvae, making better conditions.

Because young colonies have small numbers of poorly efficient termites, compared to mature colonies, there is an incentive to eliminate such young colonies before they grow too big, to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place. Source: Brad Buck, IFAS Communications

This UF/IFAS study is published in the journal Insectes Sociaux.

Source:http://www.pctonline.com/article/pretty-little-termites-january-2018/

EPA Approves Lab-Grown Mosquitoes to Fight Disease

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The Environmental Protection Agency is allowing a Lexington, Ky., biotech company to release mosquitoes infected with bacteria called Wolbachia pipientis to help prevent the spread of certain diseases like Zika and yellow fever, according to Newsweek.

The company, MosquitoMate, uses the infected males to target the Asian tiger mosquito  -- Aedes albopictus -- responsible for spreading those diseases and others, the article states.

The theory goes that when the infected male skeeters mate with the females in the wild, the fertilized eggs won't hatch, thus decreasing the population.

There are 20 states approved for the release. 

Source: PCT Online

 http://www.pctonline.com/article/epa-approves-lab-grown-mosquito-fight-disease/

Take Those Extra Steps to Protect Your Holidays From Unwanted Pests

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Keeping Up with the Kitchen:

  • Keep your holiday leftovers airtight! Rodents and bugs can live off crumbs from days to weeks! Keep fresh fruit in your fridge until you’re hungry and ready to eat! Once finished, place all peels, cores and left overs in baggies BEFORE throwing away. This extra precaution keeps unwanted pest from laying eggs in fruit carcasses.
  • Out of sight does NOT mean out of mind! Pest are more than able to find their way to a trash can, make sure to take out the trash!
  • Keep it in the kitchen (or family room.) The more rooms you eat food in the more unwanted visitors you may attract. Make sure to eat in only certain rooms!

Handling the Household:

  • Keep it clean! Rule number one is, clean regularly, vacuum up those crumbs and SCRUB those dishes! Don’t forget the forgotten rooms also.
  • Make way, here comes the family! With family coming in from near and far, you’re susceptible to pests they might carry in. Place their bags and laundry in the dryer for 30 minutes on the highest heat to eliminate the chance of bed bugs or any other unwanted pests.  

Leave it to us!

  • If all else fails, call Clements Pest & Environmental Services, (772) 562-6450, and we’ll handle those pesky pests for you! We guarantee not a creature will stir, not even a mouse!

Florida Confirms First Zika Case for 2017

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida health officials are reporting the state’s first case this year of the Zika virus transmitted by a mosquito, the Associated Press reported.

Florida’s Department of Health said Thursday a Manatee County couple traveled to Cuba, and one of them contracted Zika while on the Caribbean island and was bitten by a mosquito after returning home.

That mosquito then bit and transmitted the virus to the other partner. Officials wouldn’t identify the sex of the couple, citing privacy laws.

Officials say there’s no evidence of ongoing, active transmission along Florida’s Gulf coast, or anywhere in the state.

Source: http://www.pctonline.com/article/florida-first-zika-2017/