Bed bugs use humans (and a few other critters) for food. Have you ever wondered what eats bed bugs? Dr. G. Buczkowski from Purdue University is finding out. He designed experiments where he placed bed bugs with pharaoh ants and watched the predation. In a scary video, he shows the pharaoh worker ants swarming the bed bugs, feeding off their stored blood and tearing pieces of them off to take back to the nest. The ants especially liked freshly fed bed bugs, but they were willing to eat bugs that had not recently fed, nymphs and even eggs. Now he needs to figure out how to use them effectively as a biological control, and not have the ants become pest problems in homes.
As spring slowly approaches, weeds seem to be the first plants to turn green. If you are practicing integrated weed management, some of the most useful tools are “mechanical” and “cultural” controls. To gardeners and landscapers, this means hand-weeding and the use of mulches. Organic mulches in landscape planting beds not only control some weeds, but also improve soil characteristics, provide nutrients, and enhance property aesthetics. Landscape maintenance professionals sometimes apply a combination of mulch and herbicides to landscape beds in order to provide long-term weed broad-spectrum weed control. However, there are concerns that these herbicides may leach and runoff into urban and suburban streams, lakes and rivers. A recent article (Chris Marble, 2015, Herbicide and Mulch Interactions: A Review of the Literature and Implications for the Landscape Maintenance Industry, Weed Technology In-Press) suggests satisfactory weed control can be achieved with high mulch depths (>7 cm) regardless of herbicide use. Research is needed to determine which herbicides are best suited for different mulch types to improve weed control and reduce environmental impacts.
If you have ever watched CSI on TV, you know that you can use a black light to detect body fluids. This may be helpful if you are investigating a crime scene – or a pest situation. If you have found mouse feces, but have been unsuccessful in catching the mice, you can use a black light to find their trails. Mice mark their trails, and communicate with each other, by excreting small droplets of urine. Mouse urine is full of information about the mouse that produced it: its species, sex, age, reproductive status, sexual availability, social status, individual identity, and current stress level, as well as the age of the scent mark itself. Urine glows under a black light (primarily because it contains the element phosphorus). Setting numerous traps along the favorite routes of mice, as indicated by their urine trails, will increase your trapping success.
Many everyday materials fluoresce when placed under a black light. Fluorescent substances absorb the UV and then re-emit it almost instantaneously. Some energy gets lost in the process, so the emitted light has a longer wavelength than the absorbed radiation, which makes this light visible and causes the material to appear to glow.
Here are some common items that fluoresce: tonic water (actually it’s the quinine), vitamin B-12, some species of scorpions (if you live in the southwest, look for bark scorpions under rocks at night), antifreeze, and some laundry detergents.
We survive winter here in Colorado by living in warm houses and wearing layers and layers of polar fleece and down. How do insects survive?
Some insects, such as boxelder bugs and yellowjackets, spend the winter as adults in protected areas, under loose tree bark or under the shingles of your house. Insects that over-winter as adults usually enter diapause — “an inactive state of arrested development” (sounds like me yesterday, watching the snow fall). During diapause, their growth, development, and activities are suspended, with a metabolic rate that is high enough to keep them alive. Diapause is triggered when daylight starts to become shorter in the fall. Warm temperatures tend to wake up the insect from diapause. This usually takes a long period of warm temperatures; it would be a mistake to wake up too soon.
There are many strategies for surviving winter. Monarch butterflies migrate to the mountain highlands of Mexico. Dragonflies and mayflies spend the winter in ponds and overwinter as nymphs. Others overwinter as eggs (aphids), larvae (corn borers) or pupae (swallowtail butterflies). Some insects replace the water in their bodies with glycerol, which act as an “antifreeze”, so the cells in their bodies can reach temperatures below freezing without forming ice. With or without antifreeze, most insects simply cannot function at temperatures below 40 degrees F. Because they rely entirely on the world around them for the warmth they need to function, they have developed this wide range of techniques for surviving cold weather and assuring the survival of their species.
Did you hear the Associated Press news story this morning? A scorpion stung a woman on the hand just before her flight from Los Angeles to Portland took off. The plane, which originated in Los Cabos, Mexico, returned to the gate and the woman was checked by medics. She refused additional medical treatment but didn’t get back on the plane. The Alaska Airlines spokesman said that it was unclear how the scorpion got on the plane.
The spread of insects, microorganisms and weed seeds by travelers is a real concern.
The news article didn’t say what kind of scorpion was found. We already have three species of scorpions in Colorado. The northern scorpion is found along the Utah border and on the west slope. The northern desert hairy scorpion is also present on the west slope and in Dinosaur National Monument. The common striped bark scorpion (pictured above, photo by W. Cranshaw) is widespread in southeastern Colorado.
What can you do to prevent new and unwanted visitors when traveling?
- Don’t “pack a pest” when traveling. Fruits, vegetables, plants and animals can carry pests.
- Declare all agricultural items to customs officials when returning from international travel. Call USDA or the Colorado Department of Agriculture to find out what’s allowed.
- Clean hiking boots, waders, boats and trailers, off-road vehicles, and other pathways of spread to stop hitchhiking invasive species.
- Use certified “weed-free” forage, firewood, gravel, hay, mulch, and soil.
- Don’t move firewood. Purchase your firewood locally to avoid the spread of invasive infestations such as Emerald Ash Borer.
- Join CitiSci.org – Citizen Science – an invasive species mapping program that allows citizens, school groups, and professionals to enter invasive species observations into a global database.
Somebody loves you – head lice! However, the feeling isn’t mutual. Here’s a Valentine’s Day card to share with your elementary school class.
Thank you for sharing your unconditional love and head lice with me!
While head lice do not carry or transmit diseases, they are contagious, annoying and hard to get rid of.
We have used various chemical treatments and prescription shampoos over the years to kill lice. Recent studies are showing that the treatments are not only working less effectively, but they also do not kill the lice eggs. Scientists believe this is due to a genetic mutation that allows head lice to withstand exposure to the main ingredients (usually a pyrethroid) found in many non-prescription head lice drugs. According to John Clark, University of Massachusetts, “…our new work now shows that head lice are now almost 100 percent knockdown resistant”.
Lice have been around since before recorded history. Dried up lice and their nits have even been found on the hair and scalps of Egyptian mummies. Head lice will not infest your home the way fleas or bed bugs can. They can only survive for a short period without a host — at the most from 24 to 48 hours. They cannot jump (no “knees”) or fly (no wings).
One of the home remedies circulating on the internet is to cover the scalp with mayonnaise, followed by a plastic bag. THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED. Just last week, a parent used this treatment on an 18-month-old child (as reported by ABC News). The girl was left unattended and apparently fell asleep, allowing the bag to slip down over her face, suffocating her.
One of the best sources of information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year, Colorado rolled out a new logo and slogan – “it’s our nature”. Faculty and staff at the Colorado IPM Center, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and Colorado Environmental Pesticide Education Program are working to help consumers and producers understand current pest management practices and their environmental impacts. A new non-profit organization, called People and Pollinators Action Network is working to make Colorado safer for human and pollinator health. Our efforts will support our beautiful state and the “nature” we all enjoy.
We have had a few warm days, in-between snowstorms. If it’s in your nature to do some spring cleaning, this might be a good time to sort through the garden shed or the shelves in the garage, where pesticides are stored. By practicing Integrated Pest Management, you can decrease the need for those products. The National Pesticide Information Center (1-800-858-7378, firstname.lastname@example.org) can answer questions on how to best dispose of pesticides.
We use pesticides to control invasive plant species that threaten native habitats, to control vector-borne diseases, and to manage pest problems on crop plants when alternative methods are ineffective. Americans apply approximately 450 million kg active ingredient of pesticides each year to control weeds, insects and other pests. However, there are risks to human and environmental health from the use of pesticides; children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure. Of particular concern is the application of pesticides in and around homes, schools, public buildings and parks. Consider other management strategies before reaching for a pesticide.
Home application of pesticides is typically far greater per acre than agricultural use – often by a factor of 10 to 1. According to the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program, at least one pesticide was found in almost every water and fish sample collected from streams and in about 50% of all wells sampled nationwide. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 conducted a survey (June to November 2010) to track pharmaceutical and personal care products, pesticides and waste indicators in Colorado watersheds. They took 138 samples from 124 different sites across 29 stream systems and 10 lakes and reservoirs. Of pesticides found, the most common analyte was the weed-killer 2,4-D, which was detected 102 times.
If “it’s our nature” to ski, hike, fish and enjoy everything that Colorado has to offer, let’s do our part to keep Colorado healthy for people, plants, pollinators and wildlife.