Monday, October 30, 2017

A few spots left for Rodent Academy in Dallas

The following announcement is from Janet Hurley, IPM Program Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.  The course is being offered as part of our IPM Experience House educational events and will be held December 5-7 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center at Dallas. 

The primary trainer for the event is Dr. Bobby Corrigan, rodent consultant and author of the very useful book: Rodent Control: A Practical Guide for Pest Management Professionals.  I've known Bobby since our days as grad students in entomology at Purdue University, and he is well worth hearing. He is a rare expert on rodents and pest control, and an engaging teacher. 

Class size is limited to 50 and there are just a few spaces left, so you will have to move quickly to get in. To learn more about the class, cost and how to register, click here

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fall Pest Management Seminar in Dallas

Everyone needs a day of training to keep sharp. Why not have
fun at the same time, and join us on November 2?
Registration is now open for the Fall Pest Management Seminar, sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. This is one of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to get your pesticide applicator CEUs in the Dallas area.  To register, go to our AgriLife Conference Registration site.  Early registration is still only $70, and includes lunch.

One big change this year is our location. This meeting, and all training meetings in the foreseeable future will be held at a new address, the Richardson Civic Center. It's a very nice facility and no more hard yellow chairs!  We hope you'll join us and check it out.

The class is designed for commercial and non-commercial applicators with turf and ornamental-oriented licences. Continuing education credits will count for both Structural and Agricultural license holders.  This year's course and speakers includes:

  • Review of the latest Ag and Structural Pesticide Laws and Regulations by Allison Cuellar. Yes, not the most interesting subject, but Allison knows her stuff and will keep you on your toes.
  • Rodent Management by Janet Hurley. Many of you know Janet from her many talks on school IPM and Laws and regs; but she is a rat catcher on the side.  
  • Gary Brooks with Bayer Crop Sciences will present an update on common turfgrass pests. Gary is an entomologist by training and loves sharing pictures and stories about the pest problems he encounters.
  • Raymond Miller with Dow Agrosciences will cover "Best Management Practices for Weeds". Raymond brings years of experience with weeds to help you do a better job managing tough weeds.
  • Dr. Frank Wong, also with Bayer Crop Sciences is a plant pathologist, but has recently been involved with Bayer's pollinator protections efforts.  He will offer suggestions on designing your IPM program to better protect honey bees and other pollinators.  
Brochures with maps and detailed registration and program information are available at the registration website, or by clicking here

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Texas sized mosquito event

Mosquito covered shirt in Port LaVaca, TX. Photo
by Richard Murray on Facebook.
Remember last week when I warned that mosquitoes would be hurricane Harvey's final gift?  Well, mosquitoes are here as seen in this Facebook image, taken in Port Lavaca, TX this weekend.

The giant mosquitoes in this picture are probably in the genus Psorophora, (sore ROFF oh ruh) one of our largest, most painful and aggressive biters.  Psorophora mosquitoes have some impressive chops when it comes to survival.  One of the so-called floodwater mosquito species, they lay their eggs on land rather than water like most mosquitoes.  But not just on any land--eggs are laid at the edges of receding floodwaters, where they will re-hydrate and hatch during the next large rain event.

Because Psorophora are opportunists, taking advantage of brief rainstorms, they must have a quick lifespan.  The larvae of floodwater species like Psorophora are the speediest growers of all mosquitoes.  They need as little as 3 to 3.5 days of standing water to pass through the four molts common to mosquitoes. The pupal stage has even adapted to survive and complete its development on the mud surface of drying puddles.

What we see in this picture is evidence that floodwater mosquitoes were primed at the pump when Harvey hit the upper Gulf coast two weeks ago.  When the rains came, mosquito eggs hatched across thousands of square miles of coastal prairie and marsh, and billions of Psorophora larvae raced through childhood. Add to this that Harvey's rainfall impacted over 400 miles of Gulf shoreline, dumping an estimated 27 trillion gallons of water. The rainfall was epic and completely unprecedented. The city of Houston doubled it's previous all time monthly rainfall record with 39.11 inches (and Houston gets lots of rain). That's 400 miles of Gulf coast prairies producing mosquitoes, also unprecedented, I suspect.

So don't be surprised to read and hear lots of mosquito stories over the next couple of weeks.  If you have to be out and about in this part of Texas, there is protection you can carry. For extreme conditions a mosquito head net will be necessary. Wear light colored, tight knit, long-sleeved fabrics. T-shirts or short-sleeved shirts will not be enough.  Permethrin-impregnated shirts and pants may be worth their weight in gold.  And don't forget to bring DEET repellent. Lots of it.

Thanks a lot, Harvey!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Insects and floodwaters

Fire ant floating colony in Houston floodwaters.
Photo by NBC DFW  @OmarVillafranca
Many in the pest control industry find themselves in the midst of the devastating floods hitting much of south and east Texas this week.  If so, it may be a good time to remind ourselves of some unique pest challenges associated with high water.

Flooding brings all sorts of wildlife into unusually close contact with people, but few critters are more dangerous than fire ants. When floods occur, fire ants exit the ground and float, instinctively linking their legs and forming a floating mat which is nearly impossible to sink. When they inevitably bump into a dry object like a tree, a boat or a person, the ant mass "explodes" with ants quickly exiting the mass and swarming the object.

Diving underwater, or splashing water on the ants, will not help.  The best option is soapy water, which is pretty good at killing the ants and helping drown a floating ant island.  According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension publication, "Flooding and Fire Ants:Protecting Yourself and Your Family", two tablespoons of soap in a gallon of water, sprayed on a floating mat is effective at drowning ants.  If any of you are engaged in water rescue this week, carrying a supply of soap along with a squirt bottle would be a good idea.

You might not have thought of it, but bed bugs can also become an issue after a public emergency like a tornado or flood.  When lots of people are brought together in an emergency shelter situation, the risk of bed bug encounters goes up.  The University of Minnesota has put together a nice publication on the subject. If you are in a community hosting an emergency shelter consider offering your services to inspect shelters and treat for bed bugs as necessary.  Don't forget the diatomaceous earth and silica aerogel dusts as a means of providing significant control for shelter bedding at minimal risk.

Lastly, after the storm is long gone be prepared for mosquitoes.  The primary mosquito species in the Texas Coastal Bend area are the salt marsh and pasture-land breeding mosquitoes. These are difficult to control at their breeding sites, short of aerial mosquito control campaigns.  But to some extent, these mosquitoes can be controlled in backyards with residual mosquito adulticides. If your company does residential pest control, but hasn't yet gotten into the adult mosquito control business, this may be a good time to start. One good way to educate your customers about the mosquito threat is the Mosquito Safari website.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Murine typhus on rise in Texas

Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Department of State Health Services recently reported an increase in the number of reported cases of typhus in Texas. Texas historically has had more cases of typhus than other states, but this new study published in the CDC's Emerging Infectious Disease journal  shows that numbers of cases have increased ten-fold in the past 14 years.

When rodents are present in a house, there may also be rat fleas.
The oriental rat flea is thought to be the principal vector of
murine typhus, a disease on the rise in Texas. (Image courtesy
Pest and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org)
In addition to a general increase in cases statewide, the data shows that what used to be solely a south Texas problem is creeping into more northerly parts of the state. Houston, for example, which had no cases of typhus as recently as 2007, reported 32 cases last year.  Nueces County, home to the city of Corpus Christi, had the highest case rate in Texas, reporting about 140 cases/100,000 population.

The causative agent for murine typhus (the term "murine" is a scientific term referring to rodents) is a rickettsial parasite called Rickettsia typhi. This parasite is always present in rodent populations, both Norway and roof rats, and to a lesser extent mice and opossums.  The primary vector that transmits the parasite from rodent to rodent, and occasionally to humans, is the oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis, though other fleas, including the cat flea are suspected to be occasional vectors.

Symptoms of murine typhus include fever, headache and rash. Left untreated, the disease can be fatal in about 2% of cases; but once diagnosed, typhus is easily treated. Numbers of cases peak during the summer months of June and July, but in south Texas there is a secondary peak in cases during the winter.

The typhus pathogen is thought to infect people when they scratch an itchy flea bite. It is present in the flea's feces, which may be rubbed into the site of the bite during scratching.

While the exact cause for the increase in typhus cases is unknown, pest control will play an important role in any solution. Experience with murine typhus in the past has shown that cases peak when flea numbers are highest, and that case frequency declines when rats are controlled, and insecticides applied for fleas.

In 54% of the cases reported in this study, fleas were reported to be present in the home, and 34% of patients recalled a flea bite.  Rodents were known to be present by the victims in about 29% of the cases, and some form of other wildlife was present in 42% of cases.

Good flea control, rodent exclusion and rodent control are among the most important public health services our industry provides. So if you didn't have enough reasons to explain to customers why they need you, you now have one more.




Thursday, August 17, 2017

New resource for ant control

Take some of the best ant experts in the country and ask them to write about their favorite ant pests. What do you get?  The new eXtension Ant Pests page.

This new addition to the eXtension (pronounced EE-ex-TEN-shun) website is the latest contribution to an information repository from Cooperative Extension Service centers across the country. The goal of the site is to provide in-depth biology and control information about important ant pests for anyone who needs it.

And who needs it more than pest management professionals?

So check us out.  And while you're there, you might enjoy exploring other pest management resource areas including fire ants, feral hogs, pests around structures (school IPM plans), and Wildlife Damage Management.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A life saving opportunity

How would you like to save a life today? Through pest control? It's not as hard as you might think.

In the years since Bill Gates retired his position as CEO of MicroSoft Corporation, he and wife Melinda have devoted tremendous effort to battling malaria.  Malaria and the mosquitoes that transmit it is the single greatest killer of humans in the world, accounting for most of the 700,000+ mosquito-caused deaths annually.  But unlike many of the other major problems in the world, solutions to the malaria epidemic are available now.

The Gates Foundation is partnering with the NGO World Vision to give away 100,000 bed nets. These nets protect families from mosquitoes that carry deadly diseases, including malaria. Each one is treated with an insecticide that kills mosquitoes but has a low LD50 for humans.

Insecticide-treated bed nets have played an enormous role in the fight to end malaria. But distribution is a huge logistical challenge. This is where you can help.

If you're willing to take two minutes to learn more about the fight against malaria, and take a one question quiz, Mr. Gates has pledged to donate a bed net on your behalf to a family in Inhambane province--an area in the south African country of Mozambique where malaria is common.  You can do this at the Gates Notes Bed Net Giveaway website.

On a related note, my wife and I recently watched a film about the malaria problem in Mozambique called Mary and Martha, with Hillary Swank playing an American mom who loses a son to malaria.  It's a sad but compelling and uplifting film, well worth watching.  And it shows how a simple thing like a treated bed net can make a world of difference for families in another part of the world.