Bed Bugs and Bats!?

March 30th, 2015

Warren Booth and his colleagues at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma have utilized genetics to unravel the origin of bed bugs. They discovered that there are two lineages in Europe. The lines are so diverse that they nearly split into two species. What’s more shocking is that their origin lies with bats. The new findings were published in the journal Molecular Ecology. They provide the first genetic evidence that bats were the ancestral hosts of the bed bugs that plague human residences today.

According to Exterminators, Americans spent around $446 million getting rid of bed bugs in 2013. The bed bug business increased 18% last year alone.  Bed bugs have been around for centuries. They have been involved with humans for about as long. Historic references to bedbugs in ancient Egyptian literature have been documented and archaeologists have also discovered fossilized bed bugs thought to be around 3,500 years old.

A single pregnant female can infest an entire apartment building. They can go through many rounds of inbreeding with no detrimental effects. All they need are human hosts to satisfy their thirst for blood. Bed bug infestations are difficult to treat. It is estimated that 90% of common bed bugs have developed a mutation that makes them resistant to the insecticides known as pyrethroids that had been previously used to kill them.

Booth’s team sampled hundreds of bed bugs from human and bat dwellings from 13 countries in and around Europe. An analysis of their DNA showed no sign of “gene flow occurring between the human and bat bed bugs, even though some bats lived in churches or attics and could therefore have come into human contact.” “The bat lineage probably dates back to when bats and humans once shared caves,” says Booth.

There are two types of people, Booth says. “The type that have had bed bugs and the people that will still get them. We’re living in a time where they’re becoming much more common.”

Peacock Spiders

March 27th, 2015

Peacock Spiders

The courtship ritual of Peacock spiders are incredible displays, but for some reason they are not widely known in their home country of Australia and around the world. “They are 3 to 5 millimeters in length and people simply don’t expect such beauty and complexity from something that small, let alone something that is a spider,” says Jürgen Otto a mite biologist at the Australian Department of Agriculture in Sydney

A mix of animal metaphors, the elephant peacock spider, Maratus elephans, is named for the pattern on its abdomen that looks like an elephant’s face. With this species, there are now 38 peacock spiders that have been formally named, and Otto believes there are at least 25 more waiting to be officially named and described.


Peacock spiders have become his passion. Puzzled as to why they weren’t more widely documented until he started doing so in 2008, he remarked “These spiders aren’t particularly rare in Australia – they occur from Melbourne all along the coast into northern Queensland. They can be observed close to all major population centers: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, as well as Perth in the west.”

Even for people who suffer from arachnophobia, these spiders are cute. “Cute is probably the most common attribute that people apply to them,” Otto says. “My hope is once that has happened there is a chance it will rub off onto their less colorful cousins. It will take some time: spiders have had a bad rap for a very long time and videos aimed at scaring people far outnumber those like mine designed to do the opposite.”

Otto’s passion started by chance. As a trained mite specialist, he is used to looking for small creatures. While walking with his family in 2005, he noticed a nimble and iridescent spider on the path. When he tried to identify it later, he found it in a book from the 1970s. It was called the “gliding spider”. The spider was believed, at that time, to be able to fly.

Ultrasound Devices Found in-Effective vs Bed Bugs

March 26th, 2015

Using ultrasonic frequencies are an alternative method for controlling certain pests that while available and marketed to the public are not all effective. In reality, few of these devices have been proven effective in repelling mosquitoes, cockroaches, or ants. Yet despite the lack of evidence, the devices continue to be sold. New versions of these devices that target bed bugs are now readily available.

According to an article that will appear in the Journal of Economic Entomology, commercial devices that produce ultrasound frequencies are NOT promising tools for repelling bed bugs. The results of tests of four electronic pest repellent devices designed to repel insect and mammalian pests by using sound will be published in the article. The article is titled “Efficacy of Commercially Available Ultrasonic Pest Repellent Devices to Affect Behavior of Bed Bugs,” by K. M. Yturralde and R. W. Hofstetter.

Each device, purchased online, was used according to manufacturers’ instructions.  In the study, a sound arena was created for each ultrasonic device. A control arena was also crated that featured no sound. The study found that there was no significant difference in the number of bed bugs observed in the control and sound arenas. Bed bugs were not deterred or attracted to the arena with the sound device.

The authors conclude that the ultrasonic devices need to produce the right combination of frequencies in order to attract bed bugs and they failed to do so. Bed bugs are commonly exposed to frequencies made by humans and by appliances found in homes. Future studies of bed bug bioacoustics might consider using low-frequency sounds produced by host species to attract bed bugs.

Bedbugs are small parasitic insects that bite exposed skin of sleeping humans and animals in order to feed on their blood. Bedbugs are not known to carry or spread disease.  About the size of an apple seed, they hide in the cracks and crevices of beds, box springs, headboards, frames and objects around a bed..

If you suspect that you have bedbugs in your home, professional extermination is highly recommended.

How to Spot Termites

March 25th, 2015

very year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage in the United States. Termites are known as “silent destroyers” because of their ability to chew through wood, flooring and even wallpaper undetected for years—damage that isn’t covered by most homeowners’ insurance policies.

As spring approaches and the ground begins to warm across the country, termite populations will emerge in search of new structures to invade. Starting from South to North, termite explorers, referred to as swarmers, will look for hospitable homes, with buildings that have sustained damage from severe winter weather particularly at risk. Once swarmers have determined your home to be a good fit, it’s likely that the rest of the termite colony will follow, resulting in a full-blown termite infestation.

By becoming familiar with the species of termites that are most prevalent in their area along with their habits, homeowners are better equipped to detect the warning signs of an infestation, and call in a pest professional to assist with termite identification before the problem gets out of hand. Here’s a handy guide to help you learn how to spot termites in your home and identify their species correctly.

Termite or Flying Ant?

Many people will see termite swarmers in homes during the spring and mistake them for flying ants; this can end up being a costly mistake if the rest of the termite colony follows the swarmers. Winged termites have a straight waist, straight antennae and their wings are equal in size. Flying ants on the other hand have waists that are pinched in the middle, bent antennae and two sets of wings, with the top set being larger than the lower. Termites are also most likely to swarm in the spring, while flying ants may swarm at various times of the year.


Subterranean Termites

Found in every U.S. state except Alaska, subterranean termites are creamy white to dark brown or black and 1/8 inch long. They live in underground colonies or in moist secluded areas aboveground that can contain up to two million members. Subterranean termites also build telltale “mud tubes” to gain access to food sources and protect themselves from the open air. This termite species is considered to be by far the most destructive of all termites throughout the United States.

Subterranean termite

Formosan Termites

Formosan termites are similar in color to subterranean termites but can grow to 1/2 an inch long. They can be found in Hawaii, California and much of the southern U.S. Originally from China, Formosan termites are the most aggressive known termite species, capable of consuming one foot of 2X4 wood in just 25 days. They live in huge underground colonies with an average of 350,000 workers and build intricate mud nests inside the walls of a structure. Because of their aggressive nature, Formosan termites are difficult to control once they infest a building; a mature Formosan termite colony can cause severe structural damage to a home in as little as six months.

Formosan termite

Dampwood Termites

Dampwood termites can be spotted throughout the pacific coastal and adjacent states, the desert or semi-arid southwest, and in southern Florida. This termite species is typically between 1/2 and 5/8 of an inch long. As the name suggests, dampwood termites infest wood with high moisture content and don’t usually infest structures because of their need for excessive moisture, but it is important to avoid attracting them as they can cause serious property damage if they make themselves at home.

Dampwood termite

Drywood Termites

Unlike subterranean and Formosan termites, drywood termites do not require contact with the soil. They are typically between 3/8 and one inch long and often establish nests in roof materials and wooden wall supports, along with dead wood that may be around the home. They are found in the southern states, from North Carolina through the Gulf Coast and in to the coastal areas of California. They form colonies of up to 2,500 members and usually swarm on sunny, warm days after a sudden rise in temperature.

Drywood termite

It’s not always possible for an untrained eye to spot evidence of termites, but homeowners should keep a look-out for the certain signs of termites that can help them identify a termite infestation. Read more about signs of termites in home.


Atlanta Mosquito Control Experts

March 24th, 2015

Atlanta Mosquito Control

Atlanta Termite Control

March 23rd, 2015

It is no secret that termites cause billions of dollars of damage every year in the United States. They prey on building foundations, joists, studs and even furniture once they get inside. Getting rid of them can be both difficult and expensive.  In reality, termites are not looking for a “house” to munch on. What they want is something called organic cellulose usually found in dead plants and trees.

Termites inhabit colonies that can consist of a quarter million or more. They usually live in the soil or in the wood they consume. They can be found in dead tree stumps or in mounds built to house their colonies. Termites swarm in the spring, which is when they are most noticeable. A homeowner may notice mud tunnels they make as they transport food sources.

The key to living with termites is to stop them from moving in. Termites thrive in moist conditions, so it is essential to take the following steps:

1.       Eliminate moisture around your home.

  1. Repair leaking faucets, water pipes and air conditioning units. Divert water away from your home’s foundation, keep gutters and downspouts clean and get rid of standing water on your roof.  Also remove excessive plant cover, wood mulch and seal entry points around water and utility lines or pipes.

2.       Remove food sources.

  1.  Keep firewood, yard debris and lumber away from your home’s foundation or crawl space.

3.       Inspect your home’s foundation regularly.

  1. Drywood termites burrow mazes of tunnels and chambers within walls and furniture and leave behind feeces that resemble pellets. After they swarm, they shed wings, which may be found in small piles around your home. Subterranean termites construct tunnels from mud, their feces and saliva. The presence of these tunnels near the foundation of your home is a pretty good indicator of a termite infestation.

4.       Reduce openings that offer access to your home.

  1.  Use cement, grout or caulk to fill cracks in foundations as well as around the spots where utilities pass through the wall.

5.       Plant carefully.

  1.  Ensure that trees and shrubs are not planted too close to the structure and do not allow them to grow against exposed wood surfaces.

6.       Inspect periodically.

  1.  If you do see a termite colony, you will want to destroy them immediately.

Insecticide Resistant Mosquito!?

March 20th, 2015

Insecticide Resistant Mosquito!?

A hybrid mosquito found in Mali has developed a resistance to the insecticide used in anti-malaria bed nets. Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) are a form of personal protection that has been shown to reduce malaria illness, severe disease, and death due to malaria in endemic regions. According to the CDC, ‘In community-wide trials in several African settings, ITNs have been shown to reduce the death of children under 5 from all causes by about 20%.’

Gregory Lanzaro, a medical entomologist at University of California Davis, says he and his team are calling the hybrid mosquito a “super” mosquito as it can withstand exposure to the insecticides used to treat bed nets. The super mosquito is a result of the interbreeding of two species of malaria mosquito.

Lanzaro believes that their study discloses evidence that the introduction of insecticides into the environment of malaria-carrying mosquitoes altered their evolutionary relationship and broke down the “reproductive isolation that separates them.”

“What we provide in this new paper is an example of one unusual mechanism that has promoted the rapid evolution of insecticide resistance in one of the major malaria mosquito species,” Lanzaro asserts. In their study, Prof. Lanzaro illustrates how the hybrid emerged. A type of gene-swapping or “adaptive introgression” transpired at around the same time usage of insecticide-treated bed nets increased.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite. Symptoms of the disease range from fever and chills to flu-like illness. Left untreated victims may develop severe complications and die. According to the CDC, in 2010 an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 660,000 people died, most (91%) in the African Region.

The Plasmodium parasite enters the human bloodstream through the bite of an infected mosquito. Once inside the body, the parasite multiplies in the liver, infects red blood cells and disrupts blood supply to vital organs.

Lanzaro was not surprised to find resistance in malaria infected mosquitoes. “Recently,” he adds, “it has reached a level at some localities in Africa where it is resulting in the failure of the nets to provide meaningful control, and it is my opinion that this will increase.

First Responder: The Scorpion Fly

March 18th, 2015

First Responder: The Scorpion Fly      

Over the years, Forensic Entomologist believed that blowflies were the first on the scene of a homicide. In fact, forensic investigators examine DNA in their guts and larvae they leave at the scene for clues to solve murders. But he idea that blowflie are there first may not be entirely true. At Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas forensic field tests using a human corpse rather than animals, such as pigs that are normally used, discovered a different first responder than was expected.

According to a new study recently released, what happened could alter what forensic investigators look for in human remains while trying understand how the victim died. The first animal on the scene wasn’t a blowfly. It was the scorpion fly, a predator of bugs thought to be harmless to humans. Not only did scorpion flies feed on the cadaver, they performed mating dances and copulated.

Scorpion flies that buzz gardens and the edge of woodlands were known to gravitate only to animal carrion, said the researcher, Natalie K. Lindgren, a student at Sam Houston who was the study’s lead author. “The interesting thing about scorpion flies on human cadavers is they showed up first and remained there for a while.” Lindgren said this important because “we already know who we expect to see first,” but the undocumented presence of scorpion flies on a human remains left on soft dirt in a sub-tropical bog in Huntsville is “expanding our understanding of decomposition ecology.”

These off looking insects are called Scorpion flies because the males of one family (Panorpidae) have enlarged abdomen and genitalia which resemble a scorpion’s tail and stinger. Scorpion flies have two pairs of wings and strong hind legs. Despite their double set of wings, scorpion flies fly slowly and in erratic patterns. Scorpion flies are not known to harm humans. They seldom breed in large groups and tend to live in single, mated pairs.

Working with humans can get emotional, Lindgren admitted, but “once you realize that person or family wanted the body used for research, you feel kind of good about what you’re doing, trying to discover things and making science stronger.”

March News from Bug Busters USA – Termite Awareness Week

March 17th, 2015

March News from Bug Busters USA

Termite Awareness Week Facebook Cover Photo

Termite Awareness Week

March 16th, 2015

Termite Awareness Week Facebook Cover Photo