Fire ants aren’t really a single species so much as they are a set of species in the Solenopsis genus which all have one thing in common: they have a sting that feels like someone put out a lit match on your skin. And while that’s painful enough when it happens once, the red imported fire ant is particularly fond of swarming its victims with little provocation and inflicting hundreds or even thousands of stings at once. Continue reading
Cockroaches have a reputation for being the ultimate survivors. They can live through everything from poisoned, rotting food to nuclear fallout and can even survive a week without a head. Quite naturally, this skill with survival extends to making them all but impossible to evict from a home once they’ve decided to move in, and so it’s important to know how to avoid getting their attention in the first place. Continue reading
Perhaps there’s a nearby hill with an amazing view that’s perfect for enjoying with company and a couple sandwiches. Perhaps you’ve built up your backyard to the point where it would be a crime not to enjoy a few meals outdoors every year. Then again, maybe you know someone in your neighborhood who loves to host backyard parties, parties where you sometimes bring food to share. No matter how it happens, if you bring food containers out into a natural setting, you should always make sure it’s clear of insects when you take it back home. Continue reading
A compost pile is supposed to fill up with all sorts of bacteria and microorganisms we wouldn’t want to see anywhere inside our homes. After all, the pile full of organic trash that’s actively decaying so that it’ll turn into a decent fertilizer for the garden or lawn. Continue reading
According to the old urban legend, the fact that bumblebees can fly breaks every law of aerodynamics. Of course, if any physicist honestly believed this, he or she would tell you that it means we needed better laws of aerodynamics rather than more aerodynamic bees. Still, the myth makes for a good illustration of how the bumblebee doesn’t particularly care to fulfill anyone’s expectations of how a bee should behave. Continue reading
While the United States isn’t fortunate enough to be free of mosquitoes, we are at least free of the mosquito species which transmit malaria to humans. Unfortunately, we are no longer free of all mosquito-transmissible diseases, because the West Nile virus landed on our shores in 1999 and it has since spread to every state short of Alaska and Hawaii.
It’s worth saying that the West Nile virus is mostly harmless, and the CDC estimates that up to 80 percent of those infected will never show any symptoms. In other words, it’s a virus which our immune systems are very capable of defeating. In one of every five cases, however, the victim will come down with a fever and additional symptoms such as:
- A persistent headache
- Joint pains
- A rash
Symptoms will persist for around a week or so, but victims may feel fatigued for several weeks or even months after recovering.
Less than one percent of those infected by the West Nile virus will come down with a much more severe form of the illness. Although it’s most likely to happen to those who are most vulnerable, including the very old, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems, severe symptoms could show up in anyone. In addition to the above symptoms, in cases where the virus reaches the brain you can expect:
- Meningitis (inflammation of the brain)
- Stronger headaches
And even if the victim survives all that, he or she may have to live with permanent neurological damage for the rest of his or her life.
In terms of trade-offs, the West Nile virus is at least a better alternative than malaria, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year. At the same time, though, it’s much worse than nothing, which was what Americans had to fear from mosquitoes until 1999-2006, which is the length of time it took for the virus to spread from New York to Washington State.
So while no one has ever really wanted to be a mosquito’s evening meal, it’s now more important than ever before to do our best to control mosquito populations. You can do your part by removing or cleaning out any standing pools of water on your property and using bug spray and mosquito lures whenever you spend a decent amount of time outdoors. If you contact a pest control company in your area, they should have additional information and tools which you can use to minimize your exposure to both the annoyance of mosquito bites and the potential for greater harm thanks to the West Nile virus.
Ticks can be particularly hard to fight. They don’t have an insect’s ability to fly or a flea’s ability to jump 11 inches straight up, but they still manage to sneak onto the tips of tall grass, drop onto passing animals, and then crawl around until they find a nice bit of exposed skin to drink from. They’re also practically indestructible, their heads are hard to remove once they’ve dug into your skin, and the deer ticks that fill the forests and plains of the East Coast and Midwest carry Lyme disease. Continue reading
Although fleas live entirely off of blood, they don’t spend their whole lifespans on their hosts. In fact, unlike with lice, flea eggs are designed to fall off as the host animal scratches at the itchy flea bites. The eggs then hatch into larvae which survive and grow by eating dried bits of blood and flea feces that also fell off while the host was scratching. Once they grow big enough, the larvae enter the pupal stage and emerge as fully grown fleas, ready to jump up to 11 inches straight up off the floor, bedding, chair, or wherever else they happened to land. Continue reading
The way most home owners deal with pests in the house are pretty simple. With bugs, it’s usually either a spray, or a swatter of some kind. With rodents, it’s normally just some kind of trap with bait. The basic principles are either using some kind of chemical, or physical force, or even a combination of two to deal with a pest problem. Continue reading
One of the classic signs of an ancient or neglected house is cobwebs, those thick and dusty piles of spider silk that fill the corners of rooms and the spaces beneath chairs and tables. But what exactly distinguishes cobwebs from ordinary spider webs? Continue reading