Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday's Quiz: Weird Insect News

Today's quiz features odd and interesting news items related to insects from all over the world. So have fun today and look for answers to these questions in tomorrow's blog.

1. A French arts collective recently unveiled their latest creation: a 50-foot mechanical arachnid placed strategically on the side of one of Liverpool's biggest buildings. The three-story spider is called:
a. Big Mamma
b. Spot
c. Ringo
d. La Princess

2. On September 3, a Japanese temple burned to the ground when one of the monks accidentally dropped a torch he had fashioned for the purpose of ridding the temple of:
a. cockroaches
b. hornets
c. spiders
d. rats

3. PETA gave an award to a teacher in Eagle Rock, California last spring for what classroom innovation?
a. appointing an insect monitor to prevent the squashing of bugs
b. a science experiment that led to a humane mouse trap
c. relocating a bee hive that had formed outside the classroom
d. studying the habits of ants in an effort to help them multiply

4. A New Jersey man recently blew up his apartment, destroying 80% of the home.  What was he doing?
a. spraying for roaches
b. using fire crackers to scare rodents
c. mixing homemade insecticide in his kitchen sink
d. chasing a rat

5. Customs agents in Philadelphia, alerted by noises inside an overseas package, inspected the parcel and found what inside?
a. Pet roaches from Madagascar
b. Baby mice from New Brunswick
c. Giant beetles from Taiwan
d. Honey bees from Ghana

6. A recent article gives evidence of a variety of ants native to Brazil that have been observed doing something heroic. What are they doing?
a. the ants join together to carry drowning beetles to safety
b. individual ants perform a kind of ant-CPR on the queen if she is in danger
c. several older ants sacrifice themselves by covering the entrance to their nest
d. worker ants form a chain that enables weaker ants to return to the nest

7. A fossilized dragonfly from 250 million years ago was found to have a wingspan of
a. 12 cm
b. 28 inches
c. 15 mm
d. 3 feet

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fire Ants

As noted in a previous post, Argentine ants are the most common  household pests in San Diego County. However, there are about 200 different ant species in California, including the southern fire ant (Solenopsis xyloni) and the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). A recent article in the Riverside Press-Enterprise discussed an infestation of fire ants in Rialto, where these pests have been devouring crops and threatening residents for the last 10 years. Fire ants came to the United States on cargo ships from South America in the 1930's. Today they are a problem that has cost millions in dollars per year, especially in Riverside and Orange counties. The battle against fire ants got tougher after funding for a statewide eradication program was cut in 2003. All of Orange County and parts of Riverside and Los Angeles counties are under a red ant quarantine, limiting the movement of plants and soil in those counties.
Fire ants vary in size, ranging from 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch long, and are yellow to dark red-brown. They have a stinger at the tip of the abdomen. Colonies range in size from 80,000 to 250,000 workers in a single-queen colony. Queens can produce approximately 1,500 eggs per day. They are called "Fire Ants" because of the fiery, painful sting they inflict. The venom on these tiny ants causes painful, itchy welts or blisters. For individuals who are allergic, the bites can be fatal.
Because their nests are so large, sometimes several treatments of insecticide are needed to reduce or eradicate the colony. Baits which contain an insect growth regulator (IGR) and/or a slow stomach poison can also be effective. Here in San Diego, we don't see many infestations of fire ants - but with populations growing nearby, we want to offer suggestions to homeowners that apply to control of all varieties of ants. Here are the basics:
1. Determine what the ants are attracted to and remove the source.
2. Vacuum trails, clean with soapy water or spray with window cleaner.
3. Locate entry points and fill with caulking or petroleum jelly.
4. Place ant bait stations or gel bait labeled for ant control near the entry points.
5. Continue to clean up trails, as baits require time to work.
6. If ant invasions continue, call your pest professional.

Friday, September 26, 2008

More Bed Bugs

A final word for now on bed bugs, a pest problem that has been increasing exponentially in the last few years here is Southern California. Today we will discuss the intricacies of bed bug control. 
Bed bugs are controlled by various methods, We rely heavily on residual pesticides to kill bed bugs in their harborage areas and, hopefully, areas they travel through. We need to identify and treat all these areas because an infested area missed means the bugs will continue to be a problem. Heat is also an immediate killer, though there is no residual mechanism to kill bed bugs that come later. Sometimes mattresses and/or furniture are steamed at about 120 degrees, which immediately kills adult and nymph bed bugs. This may be helpful with mattresses and sofas, but will provide no residual protection from bed bugs that decide to re-infest the mattress. We strongly recommend special mattress covers that seal bed bugs either in or out of a mattress, thereby eliminating the mattress as a source of infestation through the whole process. Although there are some chemicals labeled for mattresses, safety is a first concern, especially where children or the elderly are involved. Thorough vacuuming can also assist in the treatment of infested areas.
Regardless of what techniques are used, multiple trips, inspections, and applications are essential for control. Generally a minimum of three trips is necessary for control in two to three week intervals, with some follow-up after that to ensure no more bed bugs have survived to re-infest the living area. 
Bed bug control is unlike any other pest control. It is meticulous, requires several visits, sometimes specialized equipment, and even then the bugs may make a resurgence requiring more visits and treatments. Beware of companies who promise an easy "cure." Bed bugs are a complicated problem, and one that will not be easily solved. As mentioned in yesterday's quiz answers, avoid the problem by avoiding discarded furniture at garage sales and thrift stores. This is a major source of bed bug infestation. For an informational slide show, click here. To go to the San Diego County website on integrated pest management for bed bugs, click here. To contact Centurion Pest Control, visit our web site here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bed Bug Quiz Answers

Due to technical difficulties, the answers to Tuesday's quiz are not being posted until Thursday. Here are the answers and a bit more information about bed bug control:

1. The correct answer to the question about the reappearance of bed bugs in the United States is (d)  - no one really knows. Experts have posited that the answer may be a combination of (b) more immigration from countries where bed bugs are common and (c) the reduced use of liquid insecticides, especially the abandoning of the use of DDT in this country. Whatever the reason, bed bugs are on the rise here, with populations doubling every year. This adds up to an expensive problem for homeowners and property managers.

2. The first indication of bed bug infestation is usually the presence of bites on their hosts because (d) they hide during the day and come out to feed at night. In fact, they often come out of hiding during the early morning hours, when people are in their deepest sleep, and as they take a blood meal administer a local anesthetic so that the host does not feel the bite until later - when it begins to itch. Because they are nocturnal, it is difficult to inspect for bed bugs. However, it is advisable when visiting a hotel to check the mattress, box springs, and headboard for signs of their presence. You probably won't see the bugs, but the small egg casings or feces may be visible.

3. Bed bugs carry no diseases that we know of, so the answer here is (d). However, their bites can be painful and very uncomfortable - and if the population is great there may be multiple bites.

4. When looking for bed bugs, check EVERYWHERE! The best and first places to look are the mattress and box springs - but you may find evidence in any of the other locations. The answer, again, is (d) all of the above.

5. Bed bugs cannot live at temperatures (a) above 100 degrees. You may actually be able to kill all existing bed bugs by turning up the heat - but there is no residual for any eggs that hatch. Steam cleaning a mattress at temperatures above 120 degrees is helpful in reclaiming a bed.

6. The best way to avoid bed bug infestations is to (c) avoid used furniture from garage sales, thrift stores, etc. Vacuuming and cleaning are essential in control of these bugs, but won't prevent an infestation.

7. Bed bug-resistant mattress covers are recommended because they (b) starve existing bugs in the mattress and prevent further infestation there. Many people believe they will get rid of a bed bug problem by discarding their old mattress and buying a new one. The problem is, if there are still bugs present in the house - hiding on the headboard or beneath base boards, they will come back to infest a new mattress as well. The best method is to cover the existing mattress - but not with plastic sheeting, with a mattress cover which is labeled as bed bug-resistant. If they have infested sofas or other upholstered furniture, it may be necessary to discard the furniture or at least have it steam cleaned.

8. Bed bugs can go without feeding for (c) 80 to 140 days. Because of their hardy resilience, they are a pest that is difficult to control. In most cases, a professional should be called in at the first indication of bed bug infestation. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday's Quiz: Bed Bugs

Last week we visited the topic of bed bugs, so the quiz today tests your knowledge of these blood feeders. Answers to today's quiz will be posted tomorrow, along with more information on bed bug control as it impacts San Diego homeowners and property managers. Here's the quiz:

1. Why have bed bugs made a reappearance in the United States after years of virtual extinction here?
a. a new "super" strain of bed bugs developed
b. immigration from other countries has increased
c. fewer and less effective liquid pesticides are being used
c. no one knows exactly why

2. The first indication of bed bug infestation is usually the presence of bites on their hosts because:
a. bed bugs are too tiny to be seen with the naked eye
b. bed bugs are transparent
c. bed bugs run away from people
d. bed bugs hide during the day and come out to feed at night

3. Bed bugs can be carriers of which of these diseases?
a. typhus and malaria
b. salmonella and plague
c. all of the above
d. none of the above

4. When looking for bed bugs, the best places to look are:
a. on mattresses and box springs
b. bed frames, headboards and wall hangings
c. baseboards, closets, window and door casings
d. all of the above

5. Bed bugs cannot live at temperatures
a. above 100 degrees
b. above 120 degrees
c. below 50 degrees
d. below 60 degrees

6. The best way to avoid a bed bug infestation is to
a. vacuum and clean your home thoroughly every day
b. set off bug bombs in your home
c. do not buy furniture at garage sales or from thrift stores
d. throw away your mattress and sleep on the floor

7. Bed bug resistant mattress covers are recommended because:
a. they kill all bed bugs within a 10-foot radius
b. they starve bed bugs on the mattress and prevent further infestation
c. bed bugs will not go near a mattress cover
d. all of the above

8. Bed bugs can go without feeding for 
a. 20-30 days
b. 60-80 days
c. 80-140 days
d. up to two years

Look for answers tomorrow, and more bed bug information in Friday's blog.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Moth Wars

In the classic Japanese horror flicks featuring Mothra, giant moths cause great destruction. To the right, you see Mothra in her larval form destroying the Tokyo Tower (Mothra, 1961). The film makers got it right in this shot. It is the larval state of pantry moths that causes all the damage. 
We have posted information about grain moths here before, but since they were recently featured in an online article - and because they are a year-round problem here in San Diego, we have decided to revisit the topic with additional information and tips on how to get rid of these troublesome pests.
The article posted on recordonline.com discusses the Indian meal moth. A similar pantry pest is the angoumois grain moth. Both these insects infest grain products, their larvae feeding on flour, rice, cornmeal, oatmeal, dried fruits, nuts, bird food and dried pet food, among other pantry items. If you have seen adult moths flying in the kitchen or pantry areas, control can be achieved with careful examination of stored foods - any dry goods you have in the pantry or cabinet areas. Check also bird seed, dry dog food, even fish food and stored spices. When moth larvae feed, they spin webs, leaving behind silken threads where they have travelled. Small particles of food often adhere loosely to the thread, causing the food to clump. Often the webbing left behind is obvious on the packaging. If this webbing is visible, throw out the entire package. The larvae can bore holes through cardboard and plastic packaging materials, so even foods that have not been opened should be examined. Any infested food and packaging should be disposed of in outdoor trash receptacles. If possible, store uninfected foods in airtight glass jars or in the refrigerator or freezer.
As you empty pantry shelves to examine food, remove all food container - even canned goods - and check for evidence of larvae on the bottoms of cans, inside drinking straws, and between stored  paper or plastic bags. Remove shelf paper. Clean shelves first with a vacuum cleaner and then with soap and water, or a disinfectant cleaner. Be sure you clean even cracks and corners, as small amounts of flour or meal may have accumulated there as well. A thorough scrubbing of the pantry area, and inspection of all dry goods will usually be sufficient to eradicate the problem. Pesticides are usually not necessary. If adult moths persist, a pheromone sticky trap can help relieve the problem before they lay more eggs. Getting to the source of the infestation is a major part of moth control. If left untreated, this pantry problem can become nearly as big and scary as the moths in the movies. Don't let this happen to you!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bedbugs, revisited

Although we have discussed bedbugs in a previous post, it seems like a topic for frequent discussion. With bedbug populations growing each month, these pests have become a major problem for homeowners and property managers. The following is part 1 of a lengthy letter Centurion has sent to property managers who are dealing with this frustrating and expensive problem. The hope is that more information will help all our customers prevent a bedbug infestation. 

Up until the last several years, bedbugs have not been a significant problem in the United States. Prior to the mid 20th century, bedbugs were much more common. With the advent of chemicals like DDT and the "generous" use of such pesticides, bedbugs were virtually eliminated and for about the past 50 years very few pest control operators ever saw one. It was hard to get specimens to study because their occurrence was so rare. No one is quite sure why there has been a resurgence of this pest, but it is possibly a combination of more immigration from foreign countries with bedbug infestations, and the Integrated Pest Management practices that minimize the use of pesticides and other chemical treatments. In any event, bedbugs have returned as not only a major pest throughout the United States, but also one of the most difficult pests to treat.
Bedbugs are blood feeders, and prefer humans as their hosts, though some species of bedbugs feed on other hosts. They like to hide in any small hiding place or void that will give them access to the host. They can befound in the joints of furniture, on and in sofas, in the tufts and seams of mattresses (a favorite), in the construction of box spring mattresses, under baseboards, ini picture frames, in small holes in ceilings, in clocks, in light sockets, in bed frames (also a favorite), virtually anywhere they can find a place to hide. They are easily seen by the naked eye, but are flat enough to get through most small openings. This gives you some idea of the scope and of the initial inspection and treatment. Most of the time the bed has to be taken apart, and furniture with drawers need the drawers removed and inspected along with the cabinet itself. Every hiding place has to be identified and treated. What follows is what adds to the difficulty of treatment.
Each female lays about 200 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are basically "glued" in place in a crack or crevice or other suitable place. These eggs resist chemical treatment and are very difficult to vacuum up. The eggs hatch and the resulting nymphs go through five stages before becoming adults, each stage requiring a blood meal. If conditions are optimal, this can be completed within a month and a half. If not, it may take nearly six months to complete this development. As adults they live about another six months unless food is not readily available, in which case they can survive up to about a hear and a half, waiting to feed.
Monday's blog will continue the discussion with part 2, control and prevention of bed bugs. The more you know, the better prepared you'll be to avoid these difficult pests. To view an informative slideshow on bedbugs, click here.

Preparation for Cockroach Control - or What not to do!

To the left you see an actual note left by one of our customers who was unable to be there when the technician arrived. She had a serious German cockroach infestation, and wanted us to just spray EVERYTHING! The problem was that she had not done the requisite preparation so that we COULD spray everything that needed to be treated. Dishes and food were in cabinets and in the sink, clutter was everywhere. Her hope was that we could blast the roaches with a magic killing force, and she would clean up afterward. Unfortunately, that is neither safe nor effective - nor legal!
In as effort to better communicate what needs to be done by homeowners and residents with bug problems preparatory to our treatment, here is the list for cockroach preparation and a few explanations.
1. Remove all contents of kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Stack contents in a room other than the kitchen and bathrooms and cover with a sheet, blanket, or similar material. This means the kitchen and bathroom cabinets need to be empty and clean. Food, dishes, pots and pans or other kitchen items should not be stacked on kitchen counters or on the floor of the kitchen. We need complete access to the empty and clean cabinets. Legally and professionally, we cannot spray food or dishes  - or anything left in a cabinet. If you decide to leave things in cabinets, there will be no protection against cockroaches in that area. Often customers believe the cockroaches are isolated to one area of the kitchen. This may be true. But to do the best job possible, please let us have access to all cabinet areas. 
2. Remove all kitchen drawers from the kitchen and cover. Please make sure that drawers and their contents are clean before returning them. Sanitation is one of the biggest items in cockroach control. Cockroaches can live off the crumbs in a drawer or the grease behind the stove. Thorough cleaning gives them less to eat and fewer places to hide.
3. If closets are infested, remove all items from the floors of closets and push clothes to the center. We will treat baseboards as available throughout the house.
4. If you have a fish tank, please cover it with a towel, sheet, or similar material, and turn off all aeration equipment until the pest control application has dried.
5. Please be prepared to vacate for at least four hours following treatment. Do not return materials to kitchen or bathroom cabinets until the application has completely dried. DO NOT clean out cabinets with wet materials until control has been established to ensure active material is not removed after treatment. You may use a brush or vacuum to remove dead cockroaches. Once the chemical is dry, it is safe to put food and dishes back in the cabinets.
6. Do not expect all roaches to die immediately. Cockroach control is a process. Even after thorough cleaning and pesticide application, you may expect to see live cockroaches for three weeks. Adult roaches will die within a few days, hatch-out will occur in 10-12 days. We use chemicals with excellent residual effect, which will continue to eliminate new hatches and eventually eradicate the problem. If you are still seeing live roaches at the three week point, please call for a follow-up service. 
 When chemicals are applied according to their label, risks are within limits found acceptable by state and federal government regulatory agencies. Working together, we can solve all kinds of pest problems!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quiz Answers

Yesterday's quiz tested your knowledge of fleas. How did you fare? Here, as promised, are the answers to the flea hoppin' quiz:

1. An expert on fleas is known as a (c) Pullicologist. Not in your dictionary? It's  not in mine either, but could be worth points on Jeopardy some day. The Spanish for fleas is las pulgas, so the derivation is probably Latin. For the really big money, what exactly does a pullicologist do? Probably scratches a lot!

2. Female fleas lay up to (b) 50 fleas per day. That's a lot of flea eggs. They typically lay four to eight eggs at a time, 400 to 800 total within a typical flea lifetime. Flea eggs usually roll off the host and into pet bedding or other areas where the animal spends time resting. This is why your pest technician may ask about your pet's sleeping areas, in an effort to treat the areas of your house most likely to harbor an infestation source.

3. Diseases spread by fleas include (d) all of these: plague, tapeworm, and murine typhus. Flea bites themselves are usually just annoying, but can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. 

4. The most common type of flea is the (b) cat flea. In fact, it could be called the "universal flea," as cat fleas, or Ctenocephalides felis, will happily feed on cats, dogs, rodents, or humans. You would need a microscope to tell the difference physically between dog fleas and cat fleas - but both will be happy to sample your blood. Dog fleas are rare in California. So-called "sand fleas" are actually crustaceans, unrelated to cat, dog, and rat fleas.

5. Flea eggs hatch in about (c) 10 days. Fleas undergo a complete metamorphosis. The eggs hatch into larvae in about 10 days, and the developing larvae feed on adult flea feces, which contain bits of dried blood. This is one of the reasons vacuuming is a big part of flea control. Depending on temperature, the larvae then molt three times in from seven days to several months. When mature, the larvae spin cocoons in which they pupate. From flea egg to adult flea can be a period of 16 days to a year or more.

7. According to the University of California online Integrated Pest Management guidelines, the best approach to managing fleas is (d) prevention. This means regular cleaning of pet bedding areas, and vet approved topical applications on the pets themselves. The most effective treatments inhibit the growth and/or reproduction of fleas. If fleas become a problem, chemical applications to carpeted areas and upholstered furniture may be necessary. Over-the-counter fogging agents do not have enough residual effect to control an infestation.

8. As indicated in the answer to #6 above, pre-emergent or pupal fleas can lie dormant for (d) up to 150 days. The immature fleas will not hatch until there is warmth, movement and carbon dioxide in the air - these are signals that a host is present. This is why we often experience a major hatch-out of fleas in a house or apartment that has been closed up and left vacant for weeks or months. What this means is that if your home has been sprayed for fleas, while the adult fleas will die within a few days, the pre-emergent fleas will wait for you. The best way to ensure the pupal fleas hatch and die is to vacuum daily after a flea treatment. 

We hope this information on fleas and their control is useful in dealing with one of Southern California's most enduring pests.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tuesday's Quiz: Flea Hoppin'

Although the  cooler weather means fewer fleas, we are still getting plenty of calls for flea control. Here is a quick quiz to test  your knowledge of these jumpy, itchy critters. The answers will appear in tomorrow's blog.

1. The official title of an expert on fleas is a
a. Fleaologist
b. Ichthologist
c. Pullicologist
d. Dermatologist

2. Female fleas can lay up to how many eggs per day?
a. 20
b. 50
c. 100
d. 150

3. Diseases spread by fleas include:
a. Plague
b. Tapeworm
c. Murine Typhus
d. all of the above

4. The most common type of flea is the
a. dog flea
b. cat flea
c. rat flea
d. sand flea

5. Fleas have been known to jump up to how many inches?
a. 5"
b. 13"
c. 18"
d. 25"

6. Flea eggs hatch in about 
a. 2 days
b. 5 days
c. 10 days
d. flea eggs don't hatch

7. The best method of flea control is
a. vacuuming
b. topical pet applications
c. chemical sprays
d. prevention

8. Pre-emergent or pupal fleas can lie dormant for how long?
a. up to 30 days
b. up to 60 days
c. up to 100 days
d. up to 150 days

Check your answers in tomorrow's blog!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Undercover Bees

A recent article in Science News describes the latest "Sting Operation" - bees and wasps trained to sniff out illegal and dangerous substances. According to the article by Susan Gaidos, researchers have found that bees are adept at discerning the smell of TNT, methamphetamine and other scents. With similar training, wasps have been used to find bodies in search-and-rescue missions. Bees and wasps may be put to work in sniffing out drugs and bombs at airports and border crossings, military installations and schools. Apparently, it only takes a few minutes of training to replace the bees' natural ability to find pollen with the target scent. The photo above shows a honeybee receiving an odor by sticking out its proboscis - filing away orders for the day. 
Chemist Robert Wingo of Los Alamos' Stealthy Insect Sensor Project is quoted in the article as saying, "The general premise is, if it smells, we believe we can train our bees to detect it." Bees are cheaper and quicker to train than dogs, and seem to be able to pick up scents that dogs cannot. In some cases, the bees perform better than lab instruments. How do they do it? Bees and other insects have antennae covered with thousands of microscopic sensors. Even moths can learn and remember a wide range of target odors. Research in insect tracking began in earnest in the 1990's, but the obvious question was how to harness the effect without letting bees loose in an airport or school. Today, portable bomb detectors are contained in units about the size of a shoe box. Inside, bees are kept in tubes and exposed to puffs of air as a video camera monitors the bees' reactions. They have been taught to stick out their tongues when the air puff smells of TNT or plastic explosives. Using the same approach forager bees can detect a wide variety of compounds, including illegal drugs, even when buried with other scents. Other teams of scientists are working with wasps, giving them similar tasks and training. But for now, the real world applications have been few. With further refinement, you may be facing undercover bees at airports and in the workplace soon. Just a matter of getting the bugs worked out!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bug Bite Prevention

A recent article in U.S. News and World Report lists recommendations from the U.S. National Library of Medicine on how to safely apply insect repellant. Protective clothing is always a good idea, especially when camping or enjoying the outdoors at dawn or dusk. But these tips on how to apply insect repellant may come in handy for the nature lovers among us.
1. Consider applying insect repellent to clothing to avoid skin irritation.
2. It doesn't take much! Use a minimum amount of repellant on exposed skin, avoiding contact with the eyes. Wash it off as soon as you come inside.
3. Although DEET is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, the article cautions against using such a highly concentrated repellent on children and pregnant women.
4. Be careful to never ingest or inhale insect repellent.
5. Avoid putting a lot of repellent on young children's hands - the danger here is that they may inadvertently rub their eyes or put fingers in mouths.
6. Children under 2 years of age should not wear insect repellent for more than 24 hours.
For more information on bug-repellent clothing, see our previous blog entry here. Another article on avoiding mosquito bites can be found at Newsweek's online site. San Diego Country's Vector Control division has great information on mosquito facts and control here. Although summer is winding down, we have had some humid days and several cases of West Nile virus reported locally. For an update on reported cases of West Nile in San Diego County, click here. Taking reasonable precautions just seems sensible.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

House Flies

Within the last week we've had several calls about large populations of flies in residential areas. Seems like a good time to revisit fly habits and control, with an eye to giving homeowners a few helpful hints.
The "house fly" or musca domestica is one of the most common of the thousands of species of flies. When more than the usual number of flies begin to invade a house, control requires some education and a little detective work. Adult flies are pretty easy to kill with over-the-counter bug sprays or an old fashioned swatter. But the problem will not abate until the source of the flies is discovered and removed. Flies can multiply rapidly because of their rapid development time and the large number of eggs produced - several batches of 100-150 per female. Eggs are laid in warm, moist areas, often associated with decaying organic matter such as manure, grass clippings, garbage, damp leaf litter, or decaying fruits or vegetables. They also appear in great numbers when an outdoor pest such as a rodent has died. Eggs hatch into larvae, or maggots. Fly larvae resist light, and typically burrow into the decaying matter from which they hatched. But in cases where flies are abundant and breeding is undisturbed, the maggots may be obvious. In the larval state, these pests are not even slowed down by the liquid chemicals applied for control of other household bugs. Therefore, control of flies is affected by control of the harborage site where flies are breeding. 
The first step in control when flies are invading a house is to check screens and weather stripping on doors and windows. Outdoors, clean up dog feces, rotting fruit, grass clippings, or any other decaying organic matter that may be attracting flies. Homeowners should check garbage cans, cleaning them to remove residual waste. In multiple-unit complexes where dumpsters are used, the dumpster company should be notified if there is fly activity, so a clean replacement can be provided. In both cases, garbage should be bagged before disposal, and cans should be in good repair, with tight-fitting lids. After all these preventive measures have been completed, the residual adult flies can be controlled with fly strips or bug sprays. Again, poor exclusion and/or sanitation are most often the cause of indoor fly problems. Save yourself some frustration by examining the area surrounding your home and eliminating the source of the infestation. For an effective method of killing random flies barehanded, click here. To read an article in Science Daily about how flies react to odors, click here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to yesterday's insect trivia quiz, interesting if not especially useful tidbits of information to tuck away in  your cortex for the next time you appear on Jeopardy. Some of these answers may surprise you!

1. The animal (not just the insect, the animal!) responsible for the most human deaths world-wide is (a) the mosquito. Some of the diseases mosquitos can transmit include malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, and locally West Nile virus (a type of encephalitis). To read more about mosquitos, West Nile virus, and how to avoid mosquito bites, see our previous blogs here. To watch an entertaining video clip from Dirty Jobs on mosquito control, click here.

2. The insect responsible for killing 1/3 the population of Europe in the 14th century was (b) the flea. Fleas - mostly traveling via rats - transmitted Bubonic plague, otherwise known as Black Death, killing millions of people in Europe. Thanks to antibiotics, plague can be treated today, but it has not disappeared from the planet. The World Health Organization still lists 1,000 - 3,000 cases of plague every year. Another good reason to control wild rodents and fleas in urban areas.

3. We are not sure why Pacific Grove, California has a city ordinance making it a misdemeanor to kill or threaten (b) butterflies, but we think it sounds like a lovely place to live. Ladybugs are more useful in the yard, and honey bees are endangered in some areas - but please don't kill the butterflies!

4. Crickets actually have a pair of "ears" on their (c) knees. In fact, another acceptable answer would be (b) elbows - as the "tympanum" or ear is a tightly stretched membrane which acts as a sound receptor on the cricket's front legs. Ears on knees (or elbows if you prefer) enable the female cricket to "hear" the chirping sound made by male crickets rubbing their forewings together to attract a mate. Chirp sounds are different for various cricket species, allowing them to find the right mate.

5. An adult cockroach can live up to (c) one week without a head. In fact, cockroaches might be able to survive headless even longer, but they need a mouth to drink water. Keep this in mind if you have to deal with a cockroach infestation: they need water! 

6. An adult bedbug can live up to (d) one year  without food. But the food they want is you! This makes them one of the insect world's best survivors. For more about bedbugs, click here.

7. The Michael Phelps of the bug world is (a) the dragonfly. Clocked at speeds from 50-60 miles per hour, they are the fastest of insects. This means that although it may be legal to threaten or kill a dragonfly in Pacific Grove, you would have to catch one first!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Insect Trivia Quiz

For our quiz today, we have taken factoids from various sources to make up a general pest trivia quiz. Answers to the questions below will be available in tomorrow's blog. Have fun!

1. Which insect is listed as the animal (not just insect!) responsible for the most human deaths world-wide?
b. flea

2. Which insect was responsible for killing 1/3 of the population of Europe in the 14th century?
b. flea

3. According to City Ordinance #352 in Pacific Grove, California, it is a misdemeanor to kill or threaten which of these insects:

4. Crickets "hear" through their
a. thorax
b. elbows
c. knees
d. all of the above

5. How long can a cockroach live without a head?
a. up to one hour
b. up to one day
c. up to one week
d. up to one year

6. How long can an adult bedbug survive without eating?
a. up to one hour
b. up to one day
c. up to one week
d. up to one year

7. Which insects are the fastest?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Leggy Pests: Centipedes and Millipedes

Common House Centipede
We had a call from a concerned homeowner last week who had encountered a couple of leggy pests in her home. Were they millipedes or centipedes or something else? Without seeing a sample pest, it is difficult to say. Here are some facts to help homeowners not only identify the many-legged insects that sometimes invade, but also keep houses more secure against these infrequent invaders.
First, for purposes of identification, let's look at some of the differences between centipedes and millipedes. Adult centipedes are yellowish to dark brown, often with dark markings, and 1/8 to 6-inches long. They have one pair of legs per body part - usually a total of closer to 30-40 legs rather than the 100 their name implies. Common house centipedes are greyish-yellow with three stripes down the back and very long legs banded with white. Their last legs extend backwards, they move very quickly and they do bite. Unlike millipedes, centipedes do not curl up when disturbed.
Most millipedes are brown or black, and can range in size between 5/8 of an inch and 4-inches in length. They do not have millions or even thousands of legs, although they may appear to have that many. Usually their legs total less than 100. Unlike centipedes, millipedes have multiple legs per body segment, usually 2-4. Their back legs do not extend backward, they move more slowly than centipedes, and the do not bite. Only three species of millipede live in California, the common millipede, the bulb millipede and the greenhouse millipede. Both millipedes and centipedes will not live long indoors - they prefer to be in the yard where there is moisture and vegetation. For this reason, control begins outdoors.
Neither centipedes nor millipedes are dangerous, nor do they carry diseases. Although a centipede may bite humans, the bite is rarely more serious than a bee sting. In fact, centipedes and millipedes are useful in the garden, feeding off other pests. But if you want to control them, the methods are similar. Remove any moist harborage in the area, like wood debris, rock piles, grass clippings, compost and leaf litter. Indoors, dry out any moist areas such as basements or bathroom closets. Rarely is chemical intervention necessary. Remember, if you do see one of these temporary invaders - they will not be able to survive long in your house, and are actually good for the yard. If you want to read more about centipedes and millipedes, click here or call us at Centurion.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Because we've had more calls on spiders than usual this week, we are getting a jump on Hallowe'en by featuring information on spider control today. For all of you who have a touch of arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, be warned! Spiders are not always the bad guys. Fear of spiders may have sprung from myths and legends, or perhaps because of the few spiders that can be harmful. We've noted in a previous post how to recognize and avoid the two spiders in our area which can deliver a poisonous bite - the brown recluse and the black widow. Here's a little more general information on spiders, members of the arachnid family.
Unlike insects, spiders have eight legs and two body parts, a fused head and thorax. There are literally thousands of different kinds of spiders. While spider bites may itch, the vast majority of spiders do not have fangs big enough to puncture human skin. And they will rarely bite unless they feel threatened or trapped. The smallest spiders are around 1 mm in length, the largest can have a leg span of 10 inches! One of the distinctive features of most spiders is their ability to spin webs. Just as there are a huge variety of spiders on the planet, there are also a huge variety of web shapes and sizes. The black widow spins a heavy, irregular, messy-looking web - and prefer to spin their webs in dry, protected locations. For this reason, we advise home owners to remove wood piles, rock piles and other clutter from their yards - and do so carefully, with  gloves on. Indoors, spiders, webs and egg casings can be removed with a vacuum - the bag should then be sealed and disposed of.
But what about the spiders in your yard who go about the daily task of catching and consuming flies, mosquitos, roaches and aphids? Do we really want to get rid of them? For many, even though spiders are helpful in the yard, they prefer to dissuade them from a proximity to the house. After you have cleared wood piles, weeds and debris, if spider webs are noticed in the eaves of the house they can easily be knocked down with a broom. Check window and door screens to assure they are in good repair, as well as weather stripping at the base of all outside doors. Keep in mind that most spiders are helpful in the garden and non-threatening. They have even been helpful to scientific studies such as the one shown here, where spiders are observed after they have been injected with various drugs. The resulting webs  give us an idea of how chemicals can impair function. To learn more about spiders and how to control them, see the UC Davis web site here (pun definitely intended!). If all else fails, and those spiders are really bugging you, call  your pest professional.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cockroach Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to yesterday's Cockroach Quiz. How did you do? Hopefully, the answers will help you understand some of the habits and control methods for cockroaches.

1. Cockroaches have (c) membranous wings, whereas beetles have hardened forewings (elytra). This does not mean that all cockroaches or all beetles can fly. If you want to see pictures of the various kinds of cockroaches most common in California, there are pictures and descriptions here. To the best of our knowledge, none of the cockroaches common to San Diego click when disturbed. Beetles, not cockroaches, are related to lady bugs, and feed on plants and fungi.

2. An adult German cockroach can fit through an opening as small as (b) 1/16th of an inch. An immature cockroach can fit through an even smaller opening. Part of exclusion involves sealing cracks and crevices in kitchens and bathrooms, where cockroaches can hide.

3. The egg cases of cockroaches are called (b) oothecae. HEPA (a) is an acronym for High Efficiency Particle Absorber - the kind of  vacuum filter suggested for use in vacuuming up roaches to avoid allergic reactions. The pronotum (d) is the shield-shaped section on most cockroaches located behind the head - another way to tell it is a cockroach and not a beetle.

4. German and Oriental cockroaches are the most common varieties seen in San Diego. Oriental cockroaches are (b) larger and darker in color than the German variety. Oriental cockroaches prefer cooler weather and survive well outdoors; American cockroaches can fly.

5. In controlling an infestation of cockroaches, (a) sanitation and exclusion are most critical. No amount of chemical treatment will eliminate a cockroach population without sanitation and exclusion. Keep food in tightly covered containers, clean kitchen and bathroom cabinets and walls, keep trash areas outside clean and garbage cans with tight fitting lids, eliminate piles of newspapers, paper bags, and boxes inside and outside the house, fix plumbing leaks, seal cracks to the outside, and check weather stripping on doors and windows.

6. Monitoring stations are helpful in identifying the origin of a cockroach infestation. It is wise o place monitoring stations in (d) the backs of kitchen cabinets, behind the refrigerator, and in corners of rooms.

7. One of the inherent problems with effective chemical control of cockroaches is (c) cockroaches can develop a resistance to chemicals used frequently or improperly. Cockroaches can actually pass along some resistance to their offspring if liquid chemicals are sprayed too frequently. Integrated pest management involves sanitation and exclusion, and the use of chemical applications used according to label directions.

8. The answer is (d) - all of the above. Cockroaches can carry salmonella, hepatitis or staphylococcus germs. Far from harmless, these invaders can put your family at risk for these and other diseases. If you have an existing problem which you cannot solve yourself, call your pest professional.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cockroach Quiz

Today's Tuesday Quiz will test  your knowledge of one of our least welcome pests: Cockroaches. If you have been following this blog, you already know how quickly they can multiply.  Now try some cockroach questions that may help keep these common pests at bay.

1. Cockroaches and beetles may look alike, but they have different habits and attributes. Which of the following are common only to cockroaches?
a. Cockroaches make a clicking sound when disturbed.
b. Cockroaches are related to lady bugs.
c. Cockroaches have membranous wings.
d. Cockroaches feed on plants and fungi.

2. Cockroaches are nocturnal. They like to hide in narrow, warm, dark places. How small a hole can an adult German cockroach fit into?
a. 1/32 of an inch
b. 1/16 of an inch
c. 1/8 of an inch
d. 1/4 of an inch

3. Cockroaches sometimes glue their egg cases underneath furniture, in appliance motors, or under kitchen shelves or drawers. What is another name for cockroach egg cases?
a. hepa
b. oothecae
c. larvaettes
d. pronotum

4. The difference between German and Oriental cockroaches is:
a. German cockroaches prefer cooler weather and live mostly outdoors.
b. Oriental cockroaches are larger and darker in color.
c. German cockroaches can fly.
d. all of the above.

5. In controlling an infestation of cockroaches, which of these methods are most critical?
a. sanitation and exclusion
b. trapping and baiting
c. exclusion and spraying
d. spraying and baiting

6. Monitoring stations help identify where the origin of an infestation of cockroaches is located. Where is the best place to put monitoring stations?
a. in the backs of cabinets in the kitchen
b. behind refrigerator
c. all corners of rooms
d. all of the above

7. What is one of the inherent problems with effective chemical control of cockroaches?
a. not putting enough chemical in place
b. chemicals evaporate and become useless
c. cockroaches form a resistance to chemicals used frequently or improperly
d. chemicals can't sterilize cockroaches, so they continue to reproduce

8. Which of the following diseases can be spread by cockroaches?
d. all of the above

Answers to today's quiz will be posted in tomorrow's blog.