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West Nile Virus Cases Increase; NPMA & CDC Urge Caution


Thursday, August 2, 2012
 

Government Officials Warn of Public Health Threat

Mosquito season is in full swing and with it the increased threat of West Nile virus (WNV) infection. As of July 31, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 241 cases of WNV disease and four deaths have been reported. This is the highest number of cases reported through the end of July since 2004. These figures grow daily as more West Nile virus reports are confirmed. Government health officials and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) experts are warning that this mosquito season may pose a severe public health threat. In fact, health officials have said that WNV cases in Texas are at epidemic levels.

“The CDC is closely monitoring West Nile virus reports from around the country,” said Roger Nasci, Chief of CDC’s Arboviral Diseases Branch. “Compared to this time last year, the number of reported human cases is much higher. People spending time outdoors, particularly in areas of the country where WNV activity is increasing, should take precautionary measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.”

”In addition to protecting oneself, NPMA is asking the public to help by limiting the number of mosquito breeding grounds around their homes. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as half an inch of water, so it’s important to take stock of any items that may collect water after a rainfall such as flowerpots, children’s pools and toys, grill covers, and others,” advised Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NPMA.

Ant Survey 2012 InfographicWNV is a mosquito-borne virus transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird. “In most cases West Nile virus is a mild infection with symptoms so slight they can go unnoticed, or feel like a summer flu,” said Dr. Jorge Parada, medical spokesperson for the NPMA. “In extreme cases, it can be a potentially life threatening infection with higher fever, head and body aches, worsening weakness, confusion and even coma. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.”

About NPMA

The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.

About CDC

CDC works 24/7 saving lives, protecting people from health threats, and saving money through prevention. Whether these threats are global or domestic, chronic or acute, curable or preventable, natural disaster or deliberate attack, CDC is the nation’s health protection agency.

Exploring America’s #1 Nuisance Pest

By Dr. Laurel Hansen, Jim Fredericks, and Missy Henriksen

For many Americans, ant infestations are an irritating nuisance and a source of disgust, concern and frustration.  Recently, pest professionals across the country explored this issue in an online ant survey designed to better understand the pervasive nature of the pest in homes and businesses through the United States.

The pest professionals who participated in this research tend to serve suburban and urban communities, have firms with fewer than 25 employees and derive approximately one-quarter of their total revenue from ant-related services. Data for the survey was collected over a nine-week period, from mid-November 2011 through early January 2012. Pest management professionals from 37 different states participated in this research by completing a self-administered, online questionnaire. The data was weighted to better reflect known population parameters.

Ants Everywhere.  Every participating pest management professional from Maine to California treated ant infestations during 2011. Most firms treated several hundred infestations — some, many more.  Though carpenter ants (66%), odorous house ants (62%) and pavement ants (59%) were treated most often, more than a dozen other species prompted service calls, as well.

Ant infestations were especially common in the following structures:

  • Office buildings (88%)
  • Restaurants (83%)
  • Apartments and condominiums (82%)
  • Single-family homes (80%)
  • Nursing homes (70%)
  • Hospitals (58%)
  • Schools (58%)
  • College dormitories (34%)

Within these structures, the following areas were found to be particularly vulnerable:

  • Kitchens (96%)
  • Bathrooms (89%)
  • Inside walls (73%)
  • Bedrooms (61%)
  • Living rooms (60%)
  • Basements (54%)
  • Air conditioning and heating units (37%)

Outside, ants were reportedly pestering home and business owners on driveways, walkways and in landscaped beds (91%).

Ants on the Rise.  More than five out of ten pest professionals (54%) claim that ant infestations are on the rise.  Among them, nearly six out of ten (57%) have seen more infestations of odorous house ants.  No other species was mentioned nearly as often, suggesting that these insects are the primary cause of what many consider a growing problem.

Pest professionals that were surveyed suspect that ant infestations are on the rise for several reasons.  The most common include an increase in moisture (27%), changing pest control practices (22%) and new species (14%). Many professionals also believe that, today, ant infestations are reported more often because the typical consumer has become less tolerant.

To stem this trend, these professionals offer their customers IPM tips for preventing ant infestations.  The most popular include clearing shrubs and other vegetation from the base of a structure (82%) and cleaning up crumbs and spills whenever possible (81%).  Other tips involve controlling moisture (78%) and sealing cracks and crevices (73%).

Finding and Treating Ants.  Visual inspection is the most common method of finding ant infestations.  Indeed, every pest professional surveyed employs it.  Fewer (42%) use glue traps as inspection and monitoring tools.

When ants are found, pest professionals control them with a variety of exterior and interior treatments, as well as sanitation efforts like eliminating the sources of their food and water (57%).

Whatever treatment is used, the survey indicates that a single visit is often not enough. A majority (58%) of pest professionals report that at least two treatments are required to get an ant infestation under control, while fewer (20%) find that three treatments are necessary.

According to respondents, ants are considered one of the most difficult pests to control, along with bed bugs.  In addition, two out of three respondents (67%) believe that ants and cleanliness are correlated.

Integrated Pest Management.  Nine out of ten pest professionals (90%) feel that IPM is an effective method of controlling ants. IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, is a process involving common sense and sound solutions.  The latter involves three steps: (1) inspection, (2) identification and (3) treatment.  The treatment options vary from sealing cracks and removing food and water to applying pesticides when necessary.

One of the IPM approaches that is particularly important to ant management is the removal of vegetation in contact with the structure at any level plus the removal of nesting sites such as debris, boards, etc. in areas around the structure.

Additional IPM tips include:

  • Repair any leaky pipes, especially in areas under sinks where pests can often go unnoticed.
  • Seal up cracks and holes around pipes and wiring.
  • Keep all foods in sealed containers, including pet food.
  • Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water.
  • Wipe counters, floors and other surfaces frequently.
  • Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.
  • Vacuum often.

Tis the Season.  For most pest professionals, spring (64%) and summer (67%) are the busiest seasons for ant-related service calls.  Only a handful (14%) claim that ants are a year-round pest, which is especially true for Northern areas as Southern regions have a longer season for ant-related calls due to their warmer climate.

Regardless of season, consumers contact professionals when they see ants crawling where they don’t belong (96%).  Fewer calls result from flying ants (32%), and fewer still from evidence of structural damage (10%) or an ant bite (10%).

Public Attitudes.  Consumers who encounter ant infestations often are frustrated, annoyed and irritated.  Some are embarrassed and disgusted, others anxious and concerned.  Therefore, consumers look to pest professionals to eliminate the problem as quickly as possible.

According to three out of four pest professionals (74%), the typical consumer knows little about the risks posed by some species of ants, like painful stings and allergic reactions as well as the threat of food contamination.  However, almost as many (61%) believe that consumers are well informed about the property risks posed by ants, especially carpenter ants.

The severity of these food contamination and property risks depend largely on the species and the region in which it is most often found. Red imported fire ants, found mostly in the Southern states, are capable of painful stings that can result in welts and severe allergic reactions, while carpenter ants are known to cause significant property damage and are found across the United States.

In Conclusion. Ant infestations are on the rise throughout the country, especially in the places we frequent most. Luckily, pest professionals agree that a mixture of IPM tactics can effectively prevent and manage most infestations, keeping consumers safe from the health and property risks posed by these nusiance pests.

Record Heat Across Country Makes for Extra Buggy Summer


Thursday, July 19, 2012
 

Sweltering temperatures and dry conditions create the perfect storm for pest populations

The unrelenting heat may be putting a damper on summer fun for many Americans, but it’s actually creating ideal conditions for pests, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) warned today. The especially hot temperatures much of the country has experienced this summer are leading to increased populations of many pests, including ants, fleas, ticks, termites, scorpions, brown recluse spiders, black widow spiders, Japanese beetles, pincher bugs and earwigs.

“Insects are cold-blooded, which means that their body temperatures are regulated by the temperature of their environment,” explained Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. “In cold weather, insects’ internal temperatures drop, causing them to slow down. But in warm weather, they become more active. Larvae grow at a faster rate, reproduction cycles speed up and they move faster.“

According to the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, the first half of 2012 has been the warmest on record for the U.S. mainland since record keeping began in 1895. This summer has been especially brutal, with heat waves sending temperatures soaring in 20 states and breaking more than 170 all-time warmth records. In addition, unusually dry weather is causing wide-spread droughts, which when combined with the heat, can increase pest infestations.

“Hot and dry conditions send many pests indoors, as they seek moisture and cooler temperatures, so homeowners will likely encounter more pests in their homes than usual,” says Henriksen. “Even areas of the country that are receiving rain aren’t in the clear, as standing rain water breeds mosquitoes, which can spread West Nile virus.”

The NPMA recommends that those spending time outdoors take steps to prevent encountering pests, including wearing insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin. If you find pests in your home or property, contact a licensed pest professional. They will be able to properly identify your pest problem and recommend a course of treatment.

For more information, visit www.pestworld.org.

The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.

Keep your Backyard BBQ Pest-Free

Missy Henriksen –
Vice President of Public Affairs
NPMA, Executive Director, Professional Pest Management Alliance
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

10 Steps to Reduce Pests at Outdoor Festivities this Summer

June marks the start of summer and for many that means increased time spent outdoors with family and friends. From hiking, biking and swimming to more leisurely afternoons spent lounging in the backyard, homeowners across the country get outside to enjoy the warm weather on weekends, holidays and vacations throughout the summer months. If your summer is filled with outdoor activities, you’re joined by 85 percent of consumers who profess their love for picnics and barbecues during the summer.  Something many forget, however, is that in addition to preparing to host neighbors and friends, you’ll need to also expect to face unexpected guests in the form of summer pests like ants, flies and stinging insects.

Many of these pests are more prevalent during the summer, and therefore more likely to show up during outside gatherings and parties.  Ants, yellowjackets and flies are attracted to typical barbecue fare, and mosquitoes are especially active at dusk, when most people head outside to fire up the grill. Not only can each of those pests become a nuisance for homeowners, but they also pose significant health risks to you and your guests. Ants can contaminate food and house flies have been known to carry more than 100 different kinds of disease-carrying germs. Mosquitoes can leave behind much more than just an itchy red bite, and are known to carry diseases like West Nile virus, malaria and dengue fever.

Stinging insects send more than a half million people to the emergency room each year, and are especially active during the second half of summer when the colonies forage for food that will sustain their queens during winter. Yellowjackets, in particular, pose a significant health threat as they may sting repeatedly and can cause allergic reactions.

To keep your guests happy and your backyard pest-free during summertime barbecues, consider the following tips:

  • Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, so if you are planning a barbeque before sunset, plan on having plenty of insect repellant containing an EPA-registered active ingredient like DEET or Picaridin available for you and your guests. Adorn your deck or patio with citronella candles that can help minimize the presence of mosquitoes in the area, and wear long sleeves or pants to avoid bites.
  • Yellowjackets and other stinging insects are attracted to fragrances from shampoo, perfume and candles — not to mention food and drink. Avoid using scented items beforehand and provide clear plastic cups for your guests as aluminum cans and plastic bottles are good hiding spots for stinging insects.
  • Prior to the party, check screen doors and repair any holes. And with guests coming in and out of your house, make sure the doors close behind them.
  • Keep all food and beverages in sealed coolers and containers.
  • Keep garbage containers sealed and away from guests.
  • Clean trash, spills and crumbs immediately from tables and other surfaces.
  • Bring utensils and dishware indoors shortly after the meal.
  • Rinse all beverage bottles and cans, and dispose of them in tightly closed garbage containers.
  • Plan to serve food and beverages indoors, and reserve outdoor space for eating and entertaining.
  • Remove or drain sources of standing water in your yard that could be a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including birdbaths, wading pools or garden ponds.

Keep your family and friends healthy and safe this summer by following these tips for preventing pests from infiltrating your backyard barbecues. For more information, or to find a find a pest control professional in your area, visit PestWorld.org.

Stinging Insects 101

Missy Henriksen
Vice President of Public Affairs
NPMA, Executive Director, Professional Pest Management Alliance
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to identify the pest, the nest and the threat

Stinging insects such as yellowjackets, hornets, wasps and bees are common summertime pests and their stings can be more than just a painful nuisance. The National Pest Management Association reports that stinging insects send more than half a million people to the emergency room every year. Those with allergies to stings are most at risk, although anyone can be affected if a large number of stinging insects swarm and sting at once.

One way to protect yourself and your family from stinging insects this summer is to ensure your property is free from hives and nests. On a routine basis, walk around the exterior of your home, paying special attention to overhangs, eaves, the underside of porches and decks for nests. Also inspect shrubs, trees, sheds and other structures. If you do find a nest on your property, do not attempt to remove it on your own. The colony can become defensive and attack en masse. Instead, contact a licensed pest control professional who will be able to relocate or remove the hive in a safe manner.

Some stinging insects pose more serious threats than others. To determine the risk to your family, you will need to identify the species. A trained pest professional will be able to properly identify a pest species and its threats, but you can also use this guide to help determine the species:

Bumble beeBumble Bees

  • Pest: Bumble bees are between ¼ – 1 inch in size, have black and yellow markings, and an overall fuzzy appearance.
  • Nest: Bumble bees build their nests out of pollen clumps, usually in the ground or a dense grass clump, and often in an abandoned mouse nest.
  • Threat: Bumble bees are considered a beneficial insect because they pollinate flowers. However, they can sting. If a nest is located in a near a structure, then control is necessary.

Carpenter BeeCarpenter Bees

  • Pest: Carpenter bees are between 1/2 – 1 inch in size. They resemble bumble bees, but the top of their abdomen is largely bare and shiny.
  • Nest: Carpenter bees do not live in nests or colonies. They bore into wood, where they make galleries for rearing their young. Carpenter bees tend to prefer decaying or weathered wood to new or painted wood.
  • Threat: Carpenter bees are a serious property threat, and can cause structural damage over time if they are not eliminated. Male carpenter bees can be territorial and may hover in front of one’s face aggressively, but they have no stinger and these actions are merely for show. Female carpenter bees do have a potent sting, which is rarely used.

Honey beeHoney Bees

  • Pest:  Honey bees are between 1/2–5/8 inch in size and orangish brown or black in color.
  • Nest: Honey bees are social insects and live as colonies in hives, with mature colonies of 20,000 – 80,000 individuals.
  • Threat: Honey bees are not aggressive and do not search for something to attack. Instead, they are defensive and will attack only whatever seems to threaten the colony.

Bald-faced HornetsBaldfaced Hornets

  • Pest: Baldfaced hornets are largely black in color, with a mostly white face.
  • Nest: Baldfaced hornets build aeriel nests out of paper carton. The nests are usually in exposed locations, often on trees, utility poles, overhangs or other structures. The nests can be quite large, growing to 14 inches in diameter and 24 inches in length.
  • Threat: Baldfaced hornets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.

European HornetEuropean Hornets

  • Pest: European hornets are large in size, between ¾ and more than 1 inch. They are brown with yellow abdominal stripes and a pale face.
  • Nest: European hornets build paper carton nests that are usually covered in a brown paper envelope as protection. Typically, the nests can be found in hollow trees, barns, out buildings, hollow walls of houses and attics.
  • Threat: European hornets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.

Open Pipe Mud DaubersMud Daubers

  • Pest:  Mud daubers are long and slender, usually black in color, and may have pale markings or a metallic luster.
  • Nest: Mud daubers are solitary wasps and do not live in colonies. Females construct nests of mud. Many short mud tubes, usually about 1 inch long, are constructed side by side. They frequently build nests under eaves, porch ceilings, in garages and sheds, barns, protected building walls and attics.
  • Threat: European hornets are considered beneficial insects because they control spiders. However, if their nest is located near human activity, control is warranted.

Velvet Ants ("Cow Killers")Velvet Ants

  • Pest:  Despite their name, velvet ants are not ants at all, but are actually wasps. Female velvet ants are very hairy and black in color, sometimes with areas of bright red, orange, yellow or white. Males are less hairy and duller in color, but have wings, unlike females.
  • Nest: Velvet ants often live in the nests of wasps and ground-nesting bees. In other cases, they build nests in bare or sandy soil.
  • Threat: Velvet ants are sometimes called “cow killers” because of their very potent sting. However, only female velvet ants have stingers.

Paper wasp queenPaper Wasp

  • Pest:  Paper wasps are brownish with yellow or reddish markings.
  • Nest: Paper wasps get their name from the paperlike material of which they construct their nest. Paper wasp nests are often umbrella-like in shape and are never enclosed in an envelope. Nests are often found hanging from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, as well as porch ceilings, door frames, eaves, deck floor joints, railings, etc.
  • Threat: If a nest is touched, there is a high probability you will get stung, although paper wasps are typically not aggressive. Paper wasps are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.

YellowjacketYellowjacket

  • Pest: Yellowjackets have a yellow and black color pattern and are between 3/8 – 5/8 inches.
  • Nest: Yellowjackets live in nests constructed of paper carton, which can grow to be basketball-sized. One nest will contain a number of rounded paper combs, attached one below another and covered with a many-layered envelope. Depending on the species, the nest may be near the ground, such as on plant roots, logs or timber, or aerial and attached to shrubs, bushes, houses, garages or sheds.
  • Threat: Yellowjackets are slow to sting, unless their nests is threatened.Yellowjackets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.

Remember, it is not advised to attempt to remove a stinging insect nest on your own, and doing so can be extremely dangerous. Instead, work with a licensed pest professional to access your property and the nest to determine the best way to eliminate the threat to your family.

Insect Management Info by The Housing Hour, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.thehousinghour.com.