The Culprit Behind the Zika Virus

February 11th, 2016

The Culprit Behind the Zika Virus

Spring is coming, and that means our good friends the mosquitos will be back in business full time. The Aedes mosquito is causing quite a stir this year, spreading all sorts of fun illnesses to innocent people. And now it has added a new one to its list. The Zika virus has spread rampantly throughout Central and South America in the past year, and officials see it coming to the U.S. next. While the virus is not spread from person to person, a person can be infected by a mosquito and then pass it on to another mosquito, who can pass it on to more humans. So far the only Americans that have caught the virus were people who traveled to infect areas, but the virus can be transmitted for up to two weeks after a person is first infected, meaning that person has plenty of time to bring it back to the U.S. even if they no longer show symptoms.

The main culprit behind the spread of the virus, the Aedes mosquito, is a rare beast among mosquitos. Unlike most mosquitos, these guys are voracious daytime hunters. They are particularly attracted to tropical climates and are resourceful at breeding in even the tiniest amount of water sitting around in pots, puddles, gutters, and anywhere else water collects. Therefore, the best way to protect yourself from catching the Zika virus is to avoid getting bitten. Get rid of any standing water around your house, and always wear sunscreen during the day whether you’re inside or outside. These pests don’t discriminate.

Are you preparing for the oncoming mosquito season? What are you doing to protect yourself?

Aphid Attacks

February 10th, 2016

Aphid Attacks

If you have ever planted a vegetable garden, then you have also probably experienced the annoying pest the aphid trying to destroy that very garden. Aphids are a major pain to any gardener. They feed on just about every type of plant you can think of. They have small, soft bodies and use their slender mouth parts to pierce stems, leaves, and other parts of a plant so that they can suck out the fluids. A large population of these pests in your garden can cause leaves to become curled and yellow and stunt the roots’ growth. They also leave behind a stick honeydew that attracts other insects both harmful and beneficial.

To prevent a mass infestation of aphids you want to check your plants at least twice a week for their presence. Catching them before they cause too much damage can save your garden. Once you start seeing signs of damage on your plants the pests are much more difficult to control. Pay close attention to the upwind edge of your garden and under leaves. Look for the natural predators of aphids such as lady beetles and lacewings. If you can catch them, the best way to stop the damage is to get rid of the leaves or new shoots on which they are clustered. It’s also a good idea to grow your plants under some kind of protective cover, especially in the seedling stage. Finally, you can use insecticide soap, but make sure you apply it thoroughly to all sides of the leaves an stems.

Have you ever had to deal with an aphid infestation? How did you deal with them?

Zika Virus Q & A

February 9th, 2016

Q: How is Zika virus transmitted?

A: Zika virus is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes genus of mosquitoes, which is the same type of mosquito that carries dengue fever and chikungunya. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which live predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical regions, are the primary carriers, but Aedes albopictus mosquitoes might also transmit the virus. This species, commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is found much farther north in the summer.
Q: Where is Zika virus found?

A: Zika virus was first identified in 1947 in Africa as an infection of rhesus monkeys in the Zika forest of Uganda. It was later confirmed to cause human disease in 1968. For many years infections appeared to be both rare events and limited to Africa, India, Southeast Asia and western Pacific Island. More recently, epidemics have spread across the Eastern Pacific and into south and Central America. There have also been reports of Zika virus cases in Illinois, Florida, Texas and New York, but all of the individuals obtained the disease while traveling to infected countries.
Q: What are the chances of an outbreak in the United States?

A: While the probability of infected mosquitoes traveling to the United States is unlikely, there is reason to believe that Zika virus can spread locally. If more imported cases continue to surface, especially as the summer months near, it may result in human-to-mosquito-to-human spread of the virus in areas of the country where mosquito vectors are present. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organization are monitoring the situation closely.
Q: What are the symptoms of Zika virus?

A: In general, most cases cause no symptoms. Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus become ill. Those who do develop symptoms often experience several days of mild headaches, fever, rash, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and joint pain.
Q: What is the treatment for Zika virus?

A: Zika virus is a self-limiting disease that typically only requires supportive care. Unfortunately, there is no medicine to treat Zika virus, nor any vaccine to prevent it at this time. However, the U.S. government has launched an effort to develop a vaccine given the recent surge in cases in the Americas.

The 20 percent of infected people who actually develop symptoms should get plenty of rest, stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, and take acetaminophen for pain. It’s important to avoid aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) until another infection like dengue fever can be ruled out.
Q: Can infection in a pregnant woman cause birth defects?

A: Little is known about the association between pregnancy and Zika virus, but studies of possible mother-to-child transmission of Zika virus are ongoing in Brazil, where there is a major outbreak of the disease. It is thought that a mother who is already infected near the time of delivery can pass on the virus to her newborn, but this is rare.

Zika virus has also been linked to a neurological disorder called microcephaly, which is known to halt brain development in newborn babies, cause babies to be born with small heads and lead to early death. It should be noted that 2,782 cases of microcephaly were reported in Brazil in 2015, when the Zika virus outbreak began, compared to 147 cases in 2014 and 167 cases in 2013.
Q: How can I prevent Zika virus?

A: The NPMA urges people to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by applying an effective insect repellant containing at least 20% DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus. People who are spending long amounts of time outdoors should also consider wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts to limit exposure to mosquitoes. The type of mosquito that carries Zika virus is a daytime biter, so taking preventive measures at all times of the day is crucial.

It’s also important to take steps around one’s property to combat mosquito nesting and breeding sites. This includes eliminating standing water in or around the home, keeping windows and doors properly screened and repairing even the smallest tear or hole.

Will Brazil’s Carnival spread the Zika virus?

February 8th, 2016

Light Em’ Up

February 5th, 2016

Light Em’ Up

A new insect light trap is becoming a popular alternative to expensive pesticides among farmers. For years farmers have relied on pesticides to control insect infestations, unaware that insects can also be effectively controlled by using a special light to trap them. Many farmers have just started using the light traps, and have experienced unparalleled results. According to agricultural officials and researchers, one light trap was able to control most of the insects that might attack the farmers’ crops. This method is much cheaper than using pesticides and does not come with any environmental concerns. The trap works for both sexes of the insects, and can substantially reduce the carryover pest population. The light trap can also be used at all stages of crop growth, from the initial planting of the crops to their harvest. Using this method, farmers place the light trap at the center of the crop field between 6pm and 9pm for three hours. One farmer reported that his field was almost insect free after using the light trap.

Would you consider using light traps to control your insect population? How do you currently protect your crops from insects?

The Threat of the Zika Virus

February 4th, 2016

The Threat of the Zika Virus

The Zika virus is the newest illness to cause concern and panic throughout the world. One of the most worrying aspects of the virus is its subtly. The virus has a two to seven day incubation period, meaning a person may not even know they have been infected until a week after they catch it. As the virus only show itself through mil symptoms similar to those you’d get if you caught the flu, it is also difficult for doctors to diagnose. In fact, most people don’t experience any symptoms at all.

The major concern in relation to the virus’ subtly is that it has been linked to microcephaly in newborns. If a woman catches the Zika virus in the first trimester of her pregnancy, there is a high chance that her child will be born with the birth defect microcephaly. Children born with microcephaly have a smaller head than normal, resulting in an underdeveloped brain. Many children born with microcephaly also have a shorter life expectancy. Officials are warning pregnant women to postpone their travel to areas where the virus is active.

Does the subtly of this virus concern you?

Protecting Yourself From the Zika Virus

February 3rd, 2016

Protecting Yourself From the Zika Virus

The explosion of the Zika virus in Central and South America has caused widespread concern and fear. For around 50 years the virus was simply a mild concern to citizens in Africa and Southeast Asia. The infection rate was low and the virus only caused mild flu-like symptoms. However, in 2007 the virus “went rogue” crossing the ocean and spreading to Brazil. In the last year the virus has exploded, spreading throughout Central and South America. The greatest concern officials have at the moment is the virus’ link to the birth defect known as microcephaly. The number of cases of babies born with the birth defect to mothers who were infected with the virus has increased from a few dozen to thousands.

So, how can we protect ourselves against this virus? First of all, the primary way this virus is transmitted is through mosquito bites. So far, officials have seen no evidence of it being transmitted from person to person. Dr. Ali Khan recommends doing everything you would normally do to protect yourself from getting bitten by a mosquito. Wear insect repellent, long sleeves and long pants, and try to empty any containers of standing water where you are. It is important to note that all the cases of Americans catching the Zika virus so far are of people who have traveled to areas where the virus is active. There have been no locally transmitted cases reported yet. We do have the same type of mosquito that can transmit the virus, but as they have yet to catch the virus, no Americans can catch the virus locally yet.

Are you concerned about the spread of the Zika virus? Do you think the U.S. is taking the proper precautions against the virus?

What Is Zika Virus And Should We Be Worried?

February 2nd, 2016

The Culprit Behind the Zika Virus

February 1st, 2016

The Culprit Behind the Zika Virus

Spring is coming, and that means our good friends the mosquitos will be back in business full time. The Aedes mosquito is causing quite a stir this year, spreading all sorts of fun illnesses to innocent people. And now it has added a new one to its list. The Zika virus has spread rampantly throughout Central and South America in the past year, and officials see it coming to the U.S. next. While the virus is not spread from person to person, a person can be infected by a mosquito and then pass it on to another mosquito, who can pass it on to more humans. So far the only Americans that have caught the virus were people who traveled to infect areas, but the virus can be transmitted for up to two weeks after a person is first infected, meaning that person has plenty of time to bring it back to the U.S. even if they no longer show symptoms.

The main culprit behind the spread of the virus, the Aedes mosquito, is a rare beast among mosquitos. Unlike most mosquitos, these guys are voracious daytime hunters. They are particularly attracted to tropical climates and are resourceful at breeding in even the tiniest amount of water sitting around in pots, puddles, gutters, and anywhere else water collects. Therefore, the best way to protect yourself from catching the Zika virus is to avoid getting bitten. Get rid of any standing water around your house, and always wear sunscreen during the day whether you’re inside or outside. These pests don’t discriminate.

Are you preparing for the oncoming mosquito season? What are you doing to protect yourself?

Monkey Beetles Business

January 29th, 2016

Monkey Beetles Business

Monkey beetles are generally docile unassuming insects. They take shelter within the flowers that they pollinate, earning themselves a free home through their work of pollinating the flower. Everyone wins, and no one goes home sad. However, when mating season arrives, these guys turn into full-fledged warriors. Monkey beetle mating is no easy task, as the female monkey beetles will only mate on a flower. This means that if a male wants to secure a mate he must also claim a flower as his territory.

When a male monkey beetle spots a female he has to quickly fly over and lay claim to the mate and the flower before another monkey beetle gets there first. Even after he’s approached the female, he’s likely to be challenged by another male monkey beetle. And so the battle begins. The two males will fight for the rights to the flower and the female in a fierce battle to the death atop flimsy petals. And boy do these guys get down and dirty. I watched a video of a fight, and the two males became so engrossed in fighting each other that they accidentally pushed the female out of the flower. Talk about single-minded determination. The winner didn’t seem too concerned by this either. When he realized the female was gone he just went out looking for another one.

Does this behavior remind you a little of the way guys can behave when fighting over a woman? They get so focused on their fight with the other male that they forget about the female they are supposed to be fighting for. Did you notice how similar the behavior of these males is to human ones?