Monday, January 31, 2011

New NPMA document on bed bugs worth a read

Last week the National Pest Management Association released a document outlining what their panel of experts have determined to be "best management practices" (BMPs) for bed bug control.  If you're interested in bed bugs and think this might make for some interesting reading, guess again. 

Sadly, the NPMA Bed Bugs best management booklet will not be making Oprah's Book of the Month list anytime soon.  The information is in outline form, similar to (yaaawn) bullets in a PowerPoint presentation.  Nevertheless, this is an important read for all technical directors and anyone overseeing a professional bed bug control operation.  Given the leadership role played by NPMA in this industry, the book will be as close to an authoritative guide to bed bug management as you will find.  It will also likely be looked to as a standard by lawyers and others pursuing PMPs for failure to control bed bugs. 

Don't expect any juicy pest control gossip, like what are the best insecticides for killing bed bugs.  Instead, you'll find general principles such as "always read and follow all label instructions when applying insecticides..." and "Choose products labeled for the target site."  There is a checklist of sorts for the places that should be treated, which might be useful in developing your own in-house treatment protocols.  In fact, the document could be used as a guideline to help develop a training program for your technicians.

The two appendices are also worth checking out.  If you have ever considered adding a canine bed bug detector to your company, Appendix A lists minimum standards for certifying a canine detection team (dog + handler).  I believe standards of this nature will become critical for consumers, and any pest management company considering investing in a dog team would be risking a lot by not following an accepted standard for training.  Appendix B provides a listing of research-based exposure times for bed bug heat treatment, important for anyone using heat in bed bug control programs.

Who said learning had to be fun anyway?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ohio's request for potent bed bug insecticide denied, again

For some reason, Ohio has been one of the hardest hit states with bed bugs. Even the governor has gotten involved, petitioning the EPA last year for a special exemption to allow the use of an older carbamate insecticide, propoxur, for bed bug control.  This exemption, also called a Section 18 Emergency Exemption after the FIFRA section that authorizes it, is something that EPA does not give out easily.

Propoxur, as it turns out, is still pretty effective against bed bugs.  In Australia, for example, PMPs regard one of the propoxur-containing products as most effective.  In another study using presumably resistant bed bugs from Sri Lanka, propoxur provided the best control compared to DDT and malathion.

Much to the dismay of Ohioans, their Section 18 request was turned down last summer.  The EPA was asked to reconsider, and in a letter dated January 11 Lisa Jackson, the EPA Administrator, responded.  In her letter Jackson denied the use of existing stocks for bed bug control, and steadfastly maintains that her agency believes the product poses an unacceptable risk for children.

In an interesting concession, Jackson told the governor that EPA would consider allowing the use of propoxur in senior residences, where the risk of exposure to children would be minimal: 
As I explained in my June 2010 letter to you, EPA cannot grant Ohio's broad request because the Agency's risk assessment indicates an unacceptable risk to children . Nonetheless, I committed the Agency to work with Ohio and others to identify comprehensive alternative approaches to address bed bug infestations . As we also discussed in September 2010, EPA is willing to allow the emergency use of propoxur in senior residences in ways that would ensure children are not exposed. EPA staff has discussed this proposal with Ohio officials and have asked them to submit a revised request reflecting this proposal, but Ohio has not yet done so. We continue to hope the state will submit a revised Section 18 request to help provide relief to a highly impacted population.

She also noted that EPA is reviewing new data that might affect the way EPA determines how much exposure to propoxur or other insecticides that children might receive as a result of crack and crevice applications.  So the door is still open for EPA to backtrack should political pressure trump science, as it sometimes does.

Maybe the saddest part of this story is that, according to governmental authority, children don't visit grandma anymore.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Pest ID guide

New pest control service technicians, school employees and even commercial customers are all people who could benefit from a new color publication just published by the Louisiana State University AgCenter.  Called the Pest Identification Guide for Pests in and Around Buildings, this 3.5 by 5 inch flip guide is small enough to fit in a glove compartment or jacket pocket.

The guide is highly graphical and does as good a job as any pocket guide I've seen for the most common pests likely to be found around commercial buildings, homes and schools.  The authors are a team of  entomologists and IPM specialists (including myself and colleague Janet Hurley) from universities throughout the South. Special credit goes to Dr. Dennis Ring, LSU AgCenter, for his work editing and working with the design team to produce a quality product.

Funding for the project was provided through the Southern IPM Center and was intended to provide a resource for school IPM coordinators and others.  Each page includes one or more color pictures, a scale and icon to show actual size, and description information, life cycle information, and where to look for the pest.

In my programs I am fond of preaching education as an essential part of the IPM toolbox.  This handy guide provides an additional educational resource for your customers.  The guide can help kitchen managers, warehouse managers, school principals and others know what to look for when reporting pests, and provides a useful tool for communicating with any pest control client. 

Pest groups covered include ants, cockroaches, flies, pantry pests, paper pests, public health pests, termites, spiders, wasps and bees, and rodents.  Cost is $12, and copies can be ordered online.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why knowing your clothes moths is important

Case-making clothes moth larva on wool.  Courtesy Clemson University. 
USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series,
The clothes moth is a common pest of woolens, furs and feathers worldwide.  In the U.S. there are two main pest species: the webbing clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella) and the case-making clothes moth (Tinea pellionella).  These two moths illustrate the importance to an IPM program of accurately identifying pests.

Clothes moths can be an especially important problem in museums and other accounts with a low tolerance for pests.  Fortunately, pheromone traps are now available for use as effective monitoring tools for detecting clothes moths at low population densities. According to Pat Kelley with Insects Limited, Inc., two different pheromone blends are used to attract the two species. While the case-making clothes moth can be attracted to webbing clothes moth pheromone lures due to a shared chemical component of their pheromone, at close range the webbing clothes moth pheromone is partly repellent to the case-making clothes moth.

Case-making clothes moth pupae dangling from
pupation site.  Photo by Pat Kelley.

To use clothes moth pheromone traps effectively, therefore, it's critical to understand the existence of the two types and to learn how to identify them.  Fortunately, distinguishing the two species is not too difficult with either adults or larvae. On damaged articles, the larvae and pupae are relatively easy to distinguish because the case-making clothes moth carries a silken, tube-like case throughout its development.  The webbing clothes moth larva does not carry a case and you will not see a case-making clothes moth feeding "naked"--without its case. According to Kelley, damaged spots on clothes attacked by the webbing clothes moth are characterized by copious amounts of silk webbing or tubes, usually with large amounts of frass (droppings).  The webbing clothes moth is sometimes misidentified as case-making clothes moth because it also spins a silken cocoon once it reaches its pupal life stage.  The webbing clothes moth pupal case, however, is usually attached to the damaged fabric.  The case-making clothes moth tends to dangle its pupal case from a horizontal surface, like a shelf or ceiling, above its food source (see image). 

Clothes moth on a glue trap.  Note the tuft of hair and straight,
downward-pointing palps (mouthparts) with lateral bristles. 
These are two key characters of both species of clothes moth.
Clothes moth adults are small, 5 to 7 mm-long, with brown or copper-colored wings.  Under magnification they are identified by a bristly, rock star-like mop of hair between the eyes and antennae, and by their straight, bristled palps (which are strongly curved in many grain-infesting moths).  Unlike many stored grain moths, clothes moths are shy and not commonly seen flying during the day.  Adult webbing clothes moth are more golden in color, with the tuft of scales between the eyes coppery-colored, and with no markings on the wings. Adult case-making clothes moth are duller in color (brown to gray) and may have a central, dark spot on each forewing. The tuft of hair is also duller (gray to brownish) in color.

Another significant difference between the two species involves how they move and enter traps. Because the case-making clothes moth flies more frequently, Insects Limited recommends a wing (hanging) trap for this species.  The webbing clothes moth prefers running over flight, so traps should be placed on the floor or other flat surface.

All this is important on a practical level because of cost.  Pheromone traps aren't cheap.  The Insect Limited folks currently are the only ones to sell case-making clothes moth traps, which cost approximately $90 for a set of 10.  Trece, sells webbing clothes moth traps with 5-6 lures (depending on whether you choose wing or stick-on traps) for a little over $20 (minimum order of $250).  When conducting surveillance for both species, you'll ideally need both pheromone lures and two trap designs--though Kelley says that webbing clothes moth will fly to enter the wing trap and vice versa.  If you can only deploy one type of trap, buy the one for webbing clothes moth (webbing clothes moth is not attracted to case-making clothes moth pheromone).

The subtle differences between these two species illustrates beautifully both the complexity of biology and the importance of being knowledgeable about your adversaries in an IPM program.