It's July and the noisy cicadas have emerged! With the cicadas come the Eastern Cicada Killer, Sphecius Speciosus. Despite their frightening appearance, these wasp are very beneficial in reducing cicada populations and females only sting when provoked. The cicada killer grows to approximately 1.5 inches in length and has a black abdomen with yellow on the abdominal segments with orange wings. These wasp emerge in the summer months when the cicadas (food) are most abundant. The female cicada killer will dig a burrow that may be up to 10 inches deep and extends 6 inches horizontally. Following the excavation of the burrow, the female will locate a cicada, paralyze it with a sting and bring it back to her burrow. Once the cicada is placed in the burrow, she will deposit an egg on it and upon hatching, the larva feeds on the cicada.
The Pigeon is extremely common in urban areas of the United States. The coloration on pigeons varies widely, the most common being gray with a white rump, two black bars on each wing, a broad black band on the tail and red feet. Examples of all white or all black birds are commonly seen as well as every shade in between. They average 13 oz. in weight and are about 11 inches in length. The common pigeon was derived from the European Rock Dove and was introduced to this country as a domestic bird.
The feral pigeon adapts well to man-made environments and more often is the most troublesome bird pest in urban areas. The abundance of shelter provided by the design of many buildings assures that pigeons will have ample places to roost, loaf and nest. Nests are made of sticks, twigs and grasses bunched into a loose platform. Pigeons are monogamous. Eight to 12 days after mating, females lay 2 eggs which hatch after 18 days. Males guard and care for the female and nest. The young mature and leave the nest 4 to 6 weeks after they hatch and more eggs are laid before the first young leave the nest. Breeding occurs during all seasons but mainly in spring and fall. Pigeons commonly live up to 15 years, but in more urban areas they tend to live only 3-4 years.
Pigeons droppings accumulate below roost sites and deface buildings. Cleaning the stains is costly and large accumulations of droppings can kill plants and cause an unpleasant odor. Pigeons may carry and spread diseases to which humans are susceptible. They are known to carry pigeon ornithosis, encephalitis, Newcastle disease, toxoplasmosis, salmonella, and several other less common diseases. Pigeons may also carry several different types of ectoparasites, such as mites, fleas and ticks. Many of these parasites will not only infect pigeons but also humans.
The best and most permanent solution to pigeons roosting or nesting is to "build them out" by making the site as bird-proof as possible. Pigeon exclusion is generally a highly involved process and is situation-dependent. One must survey the bird infestation to determine roosting, loafing, and nesting sites, then determine which of the exclusion practices is best suited for each site. Examples of pigeon exclusion methods include, blocking access to roosting areas. Cover openings to lofts, steeples, vents, and eaves with wood, metal, glass, masonry, a 3/4 inch rust-proof wire mesh, or a plastic or nylon form of wire mesh. Discourage roosting on ledges by changing the slope of the roost. A ledge with a slope of 45° or more is unattractive to pigeons. Porcupine wires (bird spikes) are a long term method of discouraging pigeon roosting. The wire consists of long strips of metal with many sharp protruding spikes. These can be placed on a roost to drive away the pigeons. Repellent gels and sprays are also effective.
For more detailed information on pigeons and pigeon exclusion, give us a call!
Non-Chemical Rodent Management
The non-chemical approach consists of: (1) rodent proofing, (2) sanitation, and (3) traps.
Rodent-proofing or exclusion is the process of denying rodents entry into buildings by improving the building's structural integrity. Coupled with effective and ongoing environmental sanitation programs, these two practices provide the best long-term and cost effective component of any rodent IPM program. Fundamentally, exclusion involves the elimination of dead spaces, cracks, crevices, and other openings so that pests cannot hide in, enter, or leave a specific building, room, or piece of equipment (Scott 1991). Regardless of the cost or thoroughness, rodent-proofing programs require continuous vigilance.
Seal cracks and openings in building foundations and any openings for water pipes, electric wires, sewer pipes, drain spouts, and vents. No hole larger than 1/4 inch should be left unsealed, in order to exclude both rats and house mice. Make sure doors, windows, and screens fit tightly. Their edges can be covered with sheet metal if gnawing is a problem. Coarse steel wool, wire screen, and lightweight sheet metal are excellent materials for plugging gaps and holes. Norway and roof rats are likely to gnaw away plastic sheeting, wood, caulking, and other less sturdy materials. Because rats and house mice are excellent climbers, openings above ground level must also be plugged. Rodent proofing against roof rats, because of their greater climbing ability, usually requires more time to find entry points than for Norway rats. Roof rats often enter buildings at the roofline, so be sure that all access points in the roof are sealed. A common avenue of entry for rodents, especially roof rats, into the open eaves of an attic is via a tree limb touching the roof of the structure. Such tree limbs should be pruned back a minimum of 6 feet. If roof rats are traveling on overhead utility wires, contact a pest control professional or the utility company for information and assistance with measures that can be taken to prevent this. Circular rat guards of galvanized metal should be placed around vertical wires and pipes to prevent rats from climbing upward. Rats may wedge themselves between a drain and the wall and thus reach the upper floors of a house; a circular rat guard on the drain will prevent this.
Sanitation is fundamental to rat control and must be continuous. Based on the biology of rodents, it should be obvious that the overall health of a rodent, and the growth of rodent populations, heavily depends on the availability of food, harborage, water, and nesting materials. When these resources are scarce or lacking, rodent populations cannot proliferate. If sanitation measures aren’t properly maintained, the benefits of other measures will be lost and rats will quickly return. Good housekeeping in and around buildings will reduce available shelter and food sources for Norway rats and, to some extent, roof rats. Neat, off-the-ground storage of pipes, lumber, firewood, crates, boxes, gardening equipment, and other household goods will help reduce the suitability of the area for rats and also will make their detection easier. Collect garbage, trash, and garden debris frequently, and ensure all garbage receptacles have tight-fitting covers. Where dogs are kept and fed outdoors, rats can become a problem if there is a ready supply of dog food. Feed your pet only the amount of food it will eat at a feeding, and store pet food in rodent-proof containers.
For roof rats in particular, thinning dense vegetation will make the habitat less desirable. Climbing hedges such as Algerian or English ivy, star jasmine, and honeysuckle on fences or buildings are conducive to roof rat infestations and should be thinned or removed if possible, as should overhanging tree limbs within 3 feet of the roof. Separate the canopy of densely growing plants such as pyracantha and juniper from one another and from buildings by a distance of 2 feet or more to make it more difficult for rats to move between them.
Trapping is the safest and most effective method for controlling rats in and around homes, garages, and other structures. Because snap traps can be used over and over, trapping provides a quick knockdown of the population and is less costly than baits but more labor intensive. Traps can be set and left indefinitely in areas such as attics where rats have been a problem in the past. The simple, wooden rat-size snap trap is the least expensive option, but some people prefer the newer plastic, single-kill rat traps, because they are easier to set and to clean. Snap traps with large plastic treadles are especially effective, but finding the best locations to set traps is often more important than what type of trap is used. Generally, young rats can’t be trapped until they are about a month old, which is when they leave the nest to venture out for food.
The lure baits used on the snap traps should be varied. The success of any bait usually depends largely upon how much other food is available and what the rodent is accustomed to eating. Nutmeats, dried fruit, bacon, or a piece of kibbled pet food can be an attractive bait for traps. Fasten the bait securely to the trigger of the trap with light string (dental floss), thread, or fine wire so the rodent will spring the trap when attempting to remove the food. Even glue can be used to secure the bait to the trigger. Soft baits such as peanut butter and cheese can be used, but rats sometimes take soft baits without setting off the trap. Set traps so the trigger is sensitive and will spring easily.
The best places to set traps are in secluded areas where rats are likely to travel and seek shelter. Droppings, gnawings, and damage indicate the presence of rodents, and areas where such evidence is found usually are the best places to set traps, especially when these areas are located between their shelter and food sources. Place traps in natural travel ways, such as along walls, so the rodents will pass directly over the trigger of the trap. Traps are effective when set next to a wall beneath a board leaning against the wall. This creates a shadowy runway, one of the most preferred types of areas for rats and mice.
Scott, H.G.- 1991. Design and Construction. Building Out Pests, pp.331-343. In: Ecology and Management of Food-Industry Pests. (J.Gorham, Ed.) Assoc. Anal. Chem. Arlington, Va. 595 pp.
Rats are some of the most troublesome and damaging rodents in the United States. They eat and contaminate food, damage structures and property, and transmit parasites and diseases to other animals and humans. Rats live and thrive in a wide variety of climates and conditions and are often found in and around homes and other buildings, on farms, and in gardens and open fields.
Spittlebugs! Never heard of Spittlebugs? You're not alone. There are approximately 23,000 species of Spittlebugs (Family: Cercopidae). Spittlebugs occur throughout the United States and can at least occasionally be found on almost any plant. Adult spittlebugs are inconspicuous, often greenish or brownish insects, about .25 inch long. Immature Spittlebugs are recognized by the frothy white mass that nymphs surround themselves with on plant tissue where they feed. In fact, the tell-tale sign of Spittlebugs is the plant foam and will normally appear in the plant where the leaf attaches to the stem or where two branches meet.
Spring and Swarms!
What is a bee swarm?
Swarming is the honey bee’s method of colony reproduction. The old queen and about half of the worker bees leave their former nest and seek a new home, usually in the spring but sometimes at other times of the year when local conditions permit. To start the process, certain worker bees, called “scouts,” begin to canvass the surrounding territory for a potential new nesting site even before the swarm leaves its original colony.
A departing swarm consists of a large number of bees flying in a cloud that seems to drift along through the air. People not familiar with honey bees are generally frightened by such a mass, which can contain 5,000 to 20,000 bees, but unless a bee becomes tangled in someone’s hair, it isn’t likely to sting. The queen is in the group, but not leading it. Usually within 100 to 200 yards of the original hive, the bees alight on an object and form a cluster, which looks like a seething, fuzzy glob of insects. Sometimes bees fly from the cluster to collect water and food, but most workers leaving the cluster are scouts that search out potential new home sites for the swarm. When they return from a good site, they dance on the cluster to communicate the location of their find.
A clustered swarm of many bees may appear frightening, but most spring swarm clusters of European honey bees—the common honey bees in central and Northern California—are extremely docile. It takes quite a bit of stimulation, such as being hit by sticks and stones or squirted with a hose, to induce defensive behavior. The same may not be true for Africanized honey bees or for any swarm of honey bees that has run out of food, as these aren’t nearly as predictable and can be very touchy, even as swarm clusters.
Honey bees will nest in cavities having a volume of at least 4 gallons but prefer cavities around 9 gallons. Honey bees also prefer dark cavities with an easily defended entrance that is at least 9 feet from the ground. Hollowed-out trees are ideal sites. However, honey bees may nest in all sorts of cavities such as inside walls of houses; in or around chimneys; in outbuildings, fences, shrubs, water meters, utility boxes, barbecue grills, and soffits; or under decks. Within a few hours to a few days, the swarm’s scouts usually reach a consensus about the best available site. Then the swarm takes to the air one last time to move to the new home.
Once in flight, the swarm is guided by scouts and arrives at the new site. It forms a cluster around the entrance with many bees fanning their wings and releasing a chemical signal to guide the others. Then the bees enter their new home, somewhat slowly. This is what most people notice when they see bees clustered on a section of a building. Inside, the low humming sound of the bees ventilating their nest often can be heard.
If the bees don’t find a new nesting location, they may begin producing beeswax and forming combs at the spot where the cluster formed, such as a tree limb, the overhang of a house, or another unusual place. These “exposed comb” colonies may exist until fall (or year-round in warm-winter areas), but robbing bees, hungry birds, and inclement weather usually put an end to these colonies and their combs.
The need for managing bee swarms or hives depends on the location and whether the bees are establishing a hive. Swarms moving on without establishing a hive aren’t a concern. However, bees establishing a colony in a home need to be removed.
Swarm clusters—the correct term for swarms when they aren’t flying—are ephemeral by nature and therefore generally don’t need to be managed. Whenever the bees locate the proper new nesting site, the swarm will fly off to the new location. The bees usually leave a bit of beeswax at their clustering location, so appearances of additional swarms at that same place can be anticipated in the future.
The western honey bee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus, naturally occurs in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This species has been subdivided into at least 20 recognized subspecies (or races), none of which are native to the Americas. However, subspecies of the western honey bee have been spread extensively beyond their natural range due to economic benefits related to pollination and honey production.
Like all Hymenopterans, honey bees have haplo-diploid sex determination. Unfertilized eggs (no paternal genetic contribution) develop into drones (males), and fertilized eggs (both maternal and paternal genetic contribution) develop into females. Worker honey bees are non-reproductive females. They are the smallest in physical size of the three castes and their bodies are specialized for pollen and nectar collection. Both hind legs of a worker honey bee have a corbicula (pollen basket) specially designed to carry large quantities of pollen back to the colony. Worker honey bees produce wax scales on the underside of their abdomen. The scales are used to construct the wax comb within the colony. Workers have a barbed stinger that is torn, with the poison sac, from the end of their abdomen when they deploy the sting into a tough-skinned victim. This results in the worker bee’s death. The queen honey bee is the only reproductive female in the colony during normal circumstances (some workers can lay unfertilized male eggs in the absence of a queen). Drones are the male caste of honey bees. The drone’s head and thorax are larger than those of the female castes, and their large eyes appear more ‘fly-like,’ touching in the top center of the head. Their abdomen is thick and blunt at the end, appearing bullet-shaped rather than pointy at the end as with the female castes.
In the honey bee colony, labor is divided among individuals based on caste and age. A drone’s only purpose is to mate with a virgin queen from another colony. The queen is the sole egg layer in the colony and is responsible for producing all of the colony’s offspring (up to 1500 eggs/day). Worker honey bees are thusly named because they perform all colony maintenance tasks. The cohesiveness of the honey bee colony is dependent on effective communication. Honey bees primarily communicate within the colony through chemical signals called pheromones. Workers, drones, and queens have various glands that produce pheromones. These pheromones include the queen mandibular pheromone that enables a colony to detect the presence of their queen, brood pheromones that signal the type of care required by the immature bees in the colony, and Nasanov pheromone that communicates the location of the colony to workers who may have been displaced in a colony disturbance.
One of the most notable honey bee behaviors is stinging. Stinging is a defensive behavior worker bees use to protect the colony. When a colony intruder is detected, guard bees release an alarm pheromone that elicits a defensive response by the colony. Moreover, when a honey bee stings, it releases alarm pheromone to attract more bees to sting the location that was stung. All worker honey bees die after stinging, and European honey bees rarely sting without provocation.
Due to their highly social life history, honey bee colonies can be considered superorganisms. This means the entire colony, rather than the bees individually, is viewed as the biological unit. With that in mind, honey bees reproduce not by producing more individual bees, but rather by producing more colonies. The reproductive process of creating a new colony is called swarming.
European honey bees typically swarm in the spring and early summer when pollen and nectar resources are plentiful. To initiate the swarming process, 10 to 20 daughter queens are produced by the colony. When the daughter queens are in the late pupal stage, the mother queen and about 2/3rds of the adult workers leave the colony and travel to a location where they will coalesce while they send scout workers in search of a place to establish a new colony (typically an enclosed cavity, like a tree hollow).
European honey bees are adapted to temperate climates, where there is only a short season with generous amounts of pollen and nectar available. For this reason, they typically swarm only once a year. The remainder of the spring/summer is devoted to collecting and storing enough nectar and pollen to generate the food stores needed to survive the fall and winter.
This behavior of resource hording is what makes European honey bees excellent honey producers. Nectar is collected from flowers and transformed into honey though enzymatic processes and dehydration within the colony. At this time, the honey is capped over in the wax comb where it can stay fresh almost indefinitely, depending on the original nectar source. Beekeepers and honey hunters may then collect this honey comb for human consumption.
Scorpions are nocturnal, predatory animals that feed on a variety of insects, spiders, centipedes, and other scorpions. Large scorpions occasionally feed on vertebrates such as small lizards, snakes, and mice. Most scorpions live in warm, dry climates, and many of the species found in North America occur in Arizona, adjacent areas of California, and parts of New Mexico. Of the 70 or so species found in North America, only one, the bark scorpion, Centruroides exilicauda (formerly C. sculpturatus), is considered dangerous to people.
Scorpions are easily distinguished by their crablike appearance, pair of pincers, four pairs of legs, and long, segmented tail ending with an enlarged segment bearing a stinger. Although they have two eyes in the center of the head and usually two to five more along the margin on each side, they don't see well and depend on touch. When running, they hold their pincers outstretched, and the posterior end of the abdomen is usually curved upward. Scorpions that hide under stones and other objects during the day tend to carry their stinger to one side, whereas burrowing scorpions hold their stinger up over their backs.
The bark scorpion is found throughout Arizona, in the extreme southeastern portion of California near Arizona, and in southwestern New Mexico. In Mexico, the bark scorpion is found in Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, and Sonora. Bark scorpions reach a length of 3 inches and have a very thin tail only 1/16 inch wide; the body is yellow without stripes or patterns. The bark scorpion is the only common climbing scorpion and does not normally burrow but usually lives above ground under tree bark and in palm trees and crevices of rocky cliffs. Because it can ascend slump block walls or stucco, this species is the scorpion most likely to enter dwellings. The bark scorpion is attracted to moisture around homes and in the house. It also may be found in stacked lumber or bricks, firewood piles, cellars, and attics. It needs only a crack of 1/16 inch to enter a home.
Scorpions grow slowly. Depending on the species, they may take 1 to 6 years to reach maturity. On average scorpions may live 3 to 5 years, but some species can live as long as 10 to 15 years.
Scorpions have an interesting mating ritual. The male grasps the female's pincers with his and leads her in a courtship dance that may last for several hours. The exact nature of this courtship dance varies from one species to the next. In general, the male deposits a sperm packet and maneuvers the female over it. The sperm packet is drawn into the female's genital opening located near the front on the underside of her abdomen. The female stores the sperm packet, and the sperm is later used to fertilize her eggs. After mating, unless he is quick and able to escape, the male is often eaten by the female.
Once the female is impregnated, the gestation period may last several months to a year and a half depending on the species. A single female may produce 25 to 35 young. Scorpions are born live, and the young climb onto their mother's back. The young scorpions remain on their mother's back until their first molt. They assume an independent existence once they leave their mother's back. Scorpions molt five or six times until they become full-grown adults.
Scorpions generally hunt at night and use their stinger to paralyze prey. However, if the scorpion is strong enough to overpower its prey, instead of injecting its venom it will simply hold the prey and eat it alive. This conserves venom, which can take up to 2 weeks to regenerate, during which time the scorpion's main defense is inactive.
Outdoors during the day, scorpions hide in burrows or debris, under wood, stones, or tree bark, and under floors of buildings in crawl spaces. Indoors, scorpions may be found in cracks and crevices of woodwork, behind baseboards, in closets and attics, and inside walls. Scorpions gain entry into buildings through poorly sealed doors and windows, cracks in foundations, attic vents that aren't properly screened, and through plumbing and other openings.
Scorpions are predatory arthropod animals of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. They have eight legs and are easily recognised by the pair of grasping pedipalps and the narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back, ending with a venomous stinger. Scorpions range in size from 9 mm (Typhlochactas mitchelli) to 20 cm (Hadogenes troglodytes).
The evolutionary history of scorpions goes back the Silurian era 430 million years ago. They have adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions and can now be found on all continents except Antarctica.
Scorpions number about 1750 described species, with 13 extant families recognised to date. Only about 25 of these species are known to have venom capable of killing a human being.:1The taxonomy has undergone changes and is likely to change further, as genetic studies are bringing forth new information.