Thursday, October 1, 2015

Integrated Pest Management Seminar Nov 5

This year's Fall Integrated Pest Management Seminar will be held November 5 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center on Coit Road in north Dallas.  Registration is online and can be accessed by clicking here.

This year we are especially pleased to have two guest speakers coming from College Station: Dr. Kevin Ong and Mr. Mark Dyks.  In his role as director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, Dr. Ong is at the center of the maelstorm involving new and emerging plant disease problems.  He'll bring us up to date on what to look for and available treatment options.

This may be the last Fall Pest Management Seminar held in the
venerable Pavilion building (Building C).  Construction is
expected to begin on a new Research and Extension building in
2016.  Goodbye to those good old yellow chairs!
Mark Dyks is the new(ish) Chief Apiary Inspector for the Texas Apiary Inspection Service housed outside the main campus at Texas A&M University.  He will be talking honey bees and what steps we can take to protect them from pesticides and other risk factors in the urban landscape.

In addition, our own Janet Hurley will bring updates about changes to pesticide rules in Texas and on the national scene; Dr. Matt Elmore will share exciting news about new turf varieties and how they might influence weed management in the future; and I will speak about aspects of ant management and the prospects for new ant pests on the horizon.

If you haven't been to one of our workshops before, we offer 5 CEUs for both TDA and Structural Pest Control Service license holders. We tend to focus on pest management in turf and ornamental plantings, though structural pest control professionals can get their Pest, L&O, and Weed CEUs here as well.

All of our attendees have grown used to the Pavilion facilities at the Dallas Center.  And every fall and spring we get asked when we will replace the hard yellow fiberglass chairs for something more comfortable.  I can't really answer that question, but this may be our last big event in the concrete-floored building with the uncomfortable seating.  A new Research and extension facility is in the works, and with it possibly more comfortable seating options.  Personally, I've grown to love the old building and will be a little sad to see it go.

This is the first workshop we've had since our spring 2015 event that was preceded by bad weather.  If you were among those who registered but were unable to attend, we've got something for you!  Conference Services has arranged to have your registration fees applied to the Fall Seminar.  You should be receiving an email shortly from that office asking you to confirm your attendance this fall.

We look forward to seeing you, our fall friends, in a few weeks.  Because of the short notice, we ask that you register quickly.  We want to save you a yellow chair.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bee removal workshop Oct 9

Honey bee hive removal is an essential part of eliminating
bees from a structure.  
Honey bee removal from structures has proven to be a valuable niche market for many pest control companies. But this type of work involves more than putting on a bee suit and squirting a spray can.  Professional honey bee removal requires knowledge of bee behavior, knowing how to efficiently locate and open walls and floors, and how to remove and/or relocate nests. In addition there are important legal requirements that affect persons doing bee removal.

If you're interested in adding honey bee removal services to your business, you might be interested in a hands-on class being offered next month at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas.  We are now accepting applicants for the class being held at the IPM Experience House on October 9.  Instructors include Charles Adams, of Adams Bee Removal in Sherman, TX, and Lauren Ward of the Honey Bee Lab at Texas A&M University.

Charles Adams serves as school IPM Coordinator for Sherman ISD.  He has extensive experience in pest control, wildlife control and bee removal, and will be conducting a live bee removal from the walls of our very own IPM Experience House.  If the removal goes as planned, bees will be removed alive and set up in a new hive box. Bee preservation and extermination options will be discussed.

Lauren Ward is a Texas A&M University student working under the supervision of Dr. Juliana Rangel of the Department of Entomology and the Honey Bee Lab at Bryan, Texas.  Lauren is a frequent teacher of bee-related topics, and will provide information on bee biology and behavior and legal and practical issues surrounding the protection of bees.

Participants in the class will watch a honey bee hive extraction indoors and are asked to bring a bee suit or an extra long-sleeved shirt and gloves (optional).  We will provide you with a head veil, if you do not have one.

Topics to be covered:
  • Introduction to the Honey Bee – Lauren Ward 
    • History and background of honey bees 
    • Basic honey bee biology and behavior 
    • Are honey bees endangered? 
    • Licensing and legal issues honey bee removal and insecticide use  
  • Lunch (box lunch provided)
  • Suit up and honey bee removal from IPM Experience House -- Charles Adams
    • Safety equipment for working around bees
    • Locating the hidden hive
    • Hive removal options
    • Moving bees to a hive box
    • Cleanup
    • The importance of bee proofing
The class runs from 10 am to approximately 3 pm, Friday, October 9.  Cost for the class is $75 before Oct 8 and includes a box lunch. Late registration is $90 after October 7.  Register for the class online at   Class size is limited, so don't delay.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

One less pest to worry about...the hobo spider

This news is not something you are going to find anywhere else on the Internet. Rather it concerns something you will no longer find on the Internet.

Recently the Centers for Disease Control quietly removed hobo spider from its website on venomous spiders.  This goes back to a story previously blogged about on Insects in the City, namely that there appears to be no verified scientific evidence that hobo spider as a cause of necrotic bites in humans. Nevertheless, until now, the CDC continued to list hobo spider as a cause of venomous bites on its website.

The hobo spider (Eratigena agrestis) is a common house
spider in Europe, where there is no history of
human envenomization.
According to Colorado State University Extension entomologist, Whitney Cranshaw, "This is a... long overdue, but very welcome change. A large amount of scientific evidence had accumulated over the past 15 years that utterly refutes the claims of the original 1991 study that purported to make a link between slow healing wounds and the bites of this spider."

According to Cranshaw, over the past year the American Arachnological Society and others have petitioned the CDC to remove hobo spider from its web page.

Sometimes referred to as the aggressive house spider, the hobo spider is a European import that has established itself over the past century in the Pacific Northwest, from Washington to Colorado. Following a flurry of publicity in the early 1990s, it was thought to be an explanation for brown recluse like symptoms sometimes reported from this part of the country, where brown recluse is not found. This information even found its way into some pest control guide books.

Despite fears in the U.S. the spider has no history of association with necrotic bites in Europe, and repeated experimentation in recent years could not replicate skin lesions supposedly associated with its bite.

Cranshaw bemoans the fact that it will still be a long time before all the hobo spider misinformation on the Internet fades, but in the meantime you and your customers can sleep a little easier. There is one less pest to worry about.

For more information

Anyone who wishes to look into this issue in more depth may be interested in this bibliography compiled by Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, of articles concerning Eratigena agrestis as a medically important spider.

Original articles suggesting Eratigena (formerly known as Tegenaria) agrestis is a medically important species 
  • Akre, R. D., and E. A. Myhre. 1991. Biology and medical importance of the aggressive house spider,Tegenaria agrestis, in the Pacific Northwest (Arachinida: Araneae: Agelenidae). Melanderia 47: 1–30. 
  • Vest, D. K. 1987a. Necrotic arachnidism in the northwest United States and its probable relationship toTegenaria agrestis (Walckenaer) spiders. Toxicon 25: 175–184. 
  • Vest, D. K. 1987b. Short communications envenomation by Tegenaria agrestis (Walckenaer) spiders in rabbits. Toxicon 25: 221–224. 
  • Vest, D. K. 1993. Differential diagnoses of necrotic arachnidism in the northwestern United States. Am. Arachnol. Soc. 48: 10 (Abstr.). 
  • Vest, D. K. 1996. Necrotic arachnidism-Pacific Northwest, 1988–1996. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 275:1870–1871. 
Articles refuting the purported association of Eratigena (=Tegenaria) agrestis as a source of necrotic arachnidism (skin disfiguring spider bites)
  • Binford G.J. 2001. An analysis of geographic and intersexual chemical variation in venoms of the spider Tegenaria agrestis (Agelenidae). Toxicon, 39:955-968. 
  • Vetter R.S., Roe A.H., Bennett R.G., et al. 2003. Distribution of the medically-implicated hobo spider (Araneae: Agelenidae) and a benign congener, Tegenaria duellica, in the United States and Canada. Journal of Medical Entomology, 40:159-164. 
  • Vetter R.S. 2004. Causes of Necrotic Wounds other than Brown Recluse Spider Bites. University of California Riverside. Last accessed August 19, 2011. 
  • Vetter R.S. and Isbister G.K. 2004. Do Hobo Spider Bites Cause Dermonecrotic Injuries? Annals of Emergency Medicine. December, 44:6. 
  • Melissa M. Gaver-Wainwright, Richard S. Zack, Matthew J. Foradori,3and Laura Corley Lavine. 2011. Misdiagnosis of Spider Bites: Bacterial Associates, Mechanical Pathogen Transfer, and Hemolytic Potential of Venom from the Hobo Spider,Tegenaria agrestis (Araneae: Agelenidae) . Journal of Medical Entomology 48(2):382-388. doi: 
  • Bennett, R. G. 2002. Hyperbole and hysteria on the path to enlightenment: a review of current Tegenaria projects of relevance to Canadian arachnologists. Can. Arachnol. Newsl. 4–10. 
  • Bennett, R. G. 2004. An approach to spider bites: erroneous attribution of dermonecrotic lesions to brown recluse or hobo spider bites in Canada. Can. Fain. Physician 50: 1098–1101. 
  • Benoit, R., and J. R. Suchard. 2006. Necrotic skin lesions: spider bite—or something else? Consultant 46: 1386–1394. 
  • Bettini, S., and P. M. Brignnoli. 1978. Review of the spider families, with notes on the lesser known poisonous forms. In S. Bettinik (ed.), Arthropod Venoms, Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology. Springer-Verlang,Berlin, Germany. 
  • Isbister, G. K. 2004. Necrotic arachnidism: the mythology of a modern plague. J. Lancet 364: 549–553. 
  • Vetter, R. S., and G. K. Isbister. 2004. Do hobo spider bites cause dermonecrotic injuries? Ann. Emerg. Med. 44: 605– 607. 
  • Vetter, R. S., and G. K. Isbister. 2008. Medical aspects of spider bites. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 53: 409–429.

Friday, September 4, 2015

New Study Guide for ACE Exam

A little over a year ago, the Entomological Society of America (ESA) asked if I would be interested in helping assemble a study guide for PMPs preparing to take the Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) exam.  The idea for a formal study guide had been kicked around for several years because of the frequent requests by PMPs for help knowing how to prepare for the test.  I think at that time we all envisioned a brief outline of some of the key points one would have to study to successfully pass the ACE exam.  After discussions with my future co-author, the energetic and highly competent Richard Levine, we began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into.  It turns out that there is a lot of stuff to know if you are going to be an ACE.  As a result, the book kept growing to its final size of over 200 pages.

This week ESA began accepting orders for the new study guide. IPM for the Urban Professional: A Study Guide for the Associate Certified Entomologist is available at an introductory price of $69 for ACEs or ESA members through the ESA website. Cost for ACE applicants is $49 with the introductory price.

If you are already a BCE or ACE and would like to put on a prep class for employees or fellow PMPs in your area ESA is offering a deal.  You get a free copy of the book with a purchase of 10 or more study guides for your prep class. I know this sounds a little like a late night TV ad, but WHILE SUPPLIES LAST early orders will receive a free copy of the Handbook of Household and Structural Pests, edited by Roger Gold and Susan Jones. I value this book on my shelf not just because of the detailed pest information, but also because of the useful cross references it provides for deeper study.

We knew from the beginning that the ACE study guide was no substitute for a good field guide like Smith and Whitman's NPMA Field Guide to Structural Pests.  And it doesn't carry the detail and documentation you find in the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control.  But I think we did a pretty good job of reviewing key concepts of IPM and the science of entomology, and how they apply to pest control. After having read most of the handbooks for PMPs, I think this one covers some new ground and provides just enough detail to help you face the ACE exam with confidence.

The study guide went to press yesterday, and will be officially available at PestWorld 2015 in Nashville.

Friday, August 21, 2015

School time and that means L.I.C.E.

Head lice are not your typical pests.  For one thing, they largely afflict children. For another, they have very short lives off their host, so are not considered structural pests. Yet PMPs and school IPM coordinators are frequently asked questions or asked to help with head louse infestations.  So I think it's important for the pest control community to know something about these insects, and the latest treatment options.

When my daughter was in second grade she came home from school with head lice. My wife was horrified, but I have to admit I was a little excited.  "My chance to get experience killing head lice," I thought.  But after the third shampoo treatment, and head lice still showing up, it wasn't fun anymore. Perseverance, and lots of time with the louse comb finally got rid of the problem; but it left me with a greater respect for the head louse as a worthy opponent.

With the new school year, we expect new cases of head lice. And according to a new paper delivered at the American Chemical Society and reported this week in, this year's head lice are running with a tougher crowd. In the paper by Kyong Sup Yoon, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Texas is among 25 states tested so far and shown to have head louse populations that are resistant to the most commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) head louse shampoo treatments: pyrethrins and permethrin.  In fact, most of the samples tested by Yoon and colleagues (104 out of 109 samples) showed resistance to OTC louse treatments.

If you work with school nurses at a school district, or are asked by customers about lice treatment, or are simply a parent yourself, it pays to be familiar with the latest treatment options for head lice.  After all, these aren't your mother's lice.

First, many lice problems can still be handled with OTC products. Keeping IPM in mind, however, multiple methods (insecticide plus mechanical control in this instance) are always better than one. Louse combs are a great second tool in the parents' tool box.  These fine toothed combs allow hair to pass between the tines, but not lice. Combing should always be done in combination with use of a louse shampoo.

In addition, new treatment options for lice are now available through your doctor.  These products include ivermectin (Sklice®), spinosad (Natroba™), and benzyl alcohol (Ulesfia®).  These products will likely be more expensive, you you might want to try the OTC route + combing first.  But it's always good to have options.  A recent review article by Drs. Cynthia Devore and Gordon Schutze in the journal Pediatrics does a nice job of reviewing these as well as other options for treating children for head lice.

Devore and Gordon also address the current recommendations for how schools should handle control including whether children should be screened, how to manage a child on the day lice are detected, and whether children should be restricted from school (they argue no).  This paper could be an especially useful resource pass on to your school nurse if you work for a school district.

To spray or not to spray

So are environmental sprays needed to help control head lice infestations in a school or home?  One can certainly find pesticides labeled for environmental louse control. Most professionals say no, sprays are not necessary.

Transfer of lice on furniture from one person to another can certainly occur.  I remember a day when my daughter had head lice.  She was reading a book in our living room chair when she got up to go outside.  I started to take her place when I noticed a live and hungry-looking head louse on the chair back where her head had been pressed.

Despite the occasional transfer of lice via furniture or bedding in this way, spraying of such items is not recommended.  Head to head contact, sharing of combs, scarves and hats during play, are far more important means of transmission; and spraying will not help stop these activities. Simple washing of hats, pillowcases and clothing is a safer and more effective means of dis-infesting these items than pesticide sprays.

Keep in mind that these tiny insects have a very short life span once they are off the human head. Head lice are highly sensitive to desiccation, and according to the CDC live no more than 1-2 days off of a host. Any head lice lurking on a bean bag chairs or coat rack in a classroom, therefore, will not survive a weekend in an empty classroom.

So let's leave treatment of head lice to doctors and parents. But let's be ready to offer advice and provide resources for customers and colleagues battling these adaptable pests.  For more information on head lice see our Extension publication on head lice.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Inaugural IPM Experience House Class

Tim Madere, Janet Hurley and I (center, front) taught the very first course
to be offered at the IPM Experience House.  The house (background) is
in the process of being remodeled as a pest control training facility.
Yesterday marked a milestone for the development of IPM Experience House. Fourteen pest management professionals attended the very first hands-on class to be held at the facility. The class focused on rodent and pest exclusion.

Principal trainer for this week's class was Tim Madere with the City of New Orleans Mosquito, Rodent and Termite Control Board.

Have you ever met someone who lives and breathes pest control? Who when traveling to a strange town spends their free evenings scouting rodent activity?  Who doesn't complain to the hotel manager about cockroaches in the room because, well, it's another chance to observe cockroaches?  Well, Tim's that kind of guy.

Tim is heavily involved in the New Orleans Rat Project.  The Rat Project is a National Science Foundation-funded, multi-disciplinary project looking at ongoing impacts of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans human and rodent community.  Based on the stories and lessons Tim taught this week, there is no shortage of furry subjects to study in The Big Easy and other places in Louisiana. If you don't believe me, check out this video.

Tim Madere discusses rodent-proofing options in the
field. Can you spot the roof rat rub mark in this picture?
(Hint: Follow the wires from the meter to the soffit)
The course was designed to provide 8 hours of verifiable training for pest control apprentices and technicians, but many of the participants this time were pest control veterans.  According to Jackie Thornton and his technician Ryan Reichert, the reason they traveled all the way from Alvin, Texas was to share what they called a "unique opportunity to experience both classroom and hands-on field training" in one class.

In addition to some classroom time, the class went on two field trips.  First stop was the home of Janet Hurley, instructor for the class and lead school IPM educator for Texas.  Janet recently acquired a home with multiple pest control challenges, including roof rats.  Class members diagnosed the problem(s) and provided Janet with both lots of advice and free pest proofing with Xcluder stuffing material.  Later the class visited the IPM Experience House to learn about best ways to solarize household items for bed bugs as well as selecting the best insecticides for outdoor ant control.  If it hadn't been 100 degrees in the sun we might have stayed out even longer.

As I taught and learned from the group I was struck by how hands-on training easily becomes a two way process.  Not only do students learn from instructors, but teachers learn a lot too.  I never fail to pick up valuable information when I get to spend quality time with each of you. The business of pest control is complex, and each of our experiences are unique--so we all have something to teach.  As I listened to students share information and tips with each other I'm reminded that that's what IPM Experience House is all about, and what we want it to be in the future.

Thanks to all of you who attended the pest proofing class, and for being willing guinea pigs for our hands-on efforts.  There will be lots more about future training opportunities in this blog and on the Experience House website.  Let's keep in touch.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Loss for entomology in Texas

The entomology department at Texas A&M University lost a good friend and colleague this week.  Dr. Jim Olson, long-time entomology faculty member and former faculty serving with the Center for Urban and Public Health Entomology (now the Urban and Structural Entomology Program), passed away Thursday, July 2, 2015 in St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan.   

Dr. Olson was for many years the department's professor for medical entomology, with a special emphasis on mosquito biology and control.  He was actively engaged with the Texas Mosquito Control Association, and a mentor to many mosquito control professionals around the state.  While perhaps less known to PMPs, Olson was nevertheless influential in the pest control industry through his many graduate students and the knowledge he so readily passed on to the rest of us extension entomologists.  

If you had known Jim, you would immediately recognize someone who was highly intelligent, but the opposite of stuffy.  On the contrary, he was completely approachable and friendly.  Everyone who knew him would tell you that he was quick to share his opinion on many subjects. Even if you disagreed, you loved him for his passion and entertaining way of expressing ideas. Perhaps the strongest testimony to Dr. Olson's impact is the loyalty and devotion of former students and those who came under his wings--there are many examples.  

Dr. Olson was instrumental in tutoring me about Texas mosquitoes, and had an entertaining way of getting his points across.  One I especially remember was his pronouncement that "prime time television" (because it kept people indoors at dusk) had done as much to combat mosquito-borne disease in Texas as all our other public health efforts combined (probably true).  He did not hold a high opinion of those who fought the use of effective pesticides, having long seen the benefits of insecticides to human health in mosquito control.

A memorial service for Dr. Olson will be held at 10am, Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at Lone Oak Baptist Church, located four miles West of Snook, Texas on Highway FM 60. Memorial services are in the care of Callaway-Jones and Crematory.  His obituary and remembrances/condolences can be passed on to the family through this link at Callaway-Jones Funeral Home