Protecting Your Family From Pests Since 1974!
The arthropod species that is officially known as Tunga penetrans is more commonly known as a chigger flea, sand flea, chigoe, jigger or chigger. These fleas are native to the Caribbean islands and they are historically notable for infecting the crew of the Santa Maria after it wrecked on the island of Haiti. Columbus and the rest of his crew made the bad decision to bring this flea species back to Europe with them. Now, chigger fleas are endemic on the European continent, and they remain common to this day as stowaway arthropods on shipping vessels that travel between South America and Europe. This is why chigger fleas occasionally burrow beneath the skin of people walking barefooted on the sand of European beaches. However, chigger flea infections are far more common in Central and South America where they are considered a serious public health risk. Once a chigger flea creeps beneath the skin of its mammalian host, more female chigger fleas are attracted to the host, resulting in an infection known as tungiasis. Eventually, an affected person can acquire numerous chigger fleas beneath the skin, causing severe pain and serious medical issues. Considering this well known information, it is all the more impressive to learn that a dedicated entomologist allowed herself to become infected with a chigger flea solely to observe its development below the surface of her skin.
Marlene Thielecke, a Ph.D. student at Charité University Medicine in Berlin, was studying chigger fleas in Madagascar in an effort to develop a treatment for tungiasis infection. One day Thielecke spotted a chigger flea beneath the skin on her foot, so she left it in as a convenient method of observing how the flea reproduces. Ever since chigger fleas were first described, researchers have debated over the manner in which these arthropods reproduce. It was not known whether males impregnate females that are already embedded in skin, or if females are impregnated before becoming embedded in its host’s skin. After several days, the flea in her foot did not die, nor did it produce eggs. This indicated to Thielecke that the female was waiting for a male suitor while embedded within her own skin, thus solving the mystery. As it turned out, Thielecke was correct, and this method of reproduction makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as males can impregnate a greater amount of fertile females by accessing skin that already contains female fleas. Also, since female fleas gather below skin in clusters, more females can become impregnated, as this saves males from having to expend energy searching for individual female fleas in the wild.
Would you allow yourself to risk infection if it meant uncovering the answers to a long-running scientific mystery?
Certified Termite & Pest Control shares advice for avoiding mice and rats during Rodent Awareness Week
Car and house wiring issues can be expensive and sometimes downright dangerous. Believe it or not, rodents like mice and rats could be the culprits behind the damage. While many people are aware of the health risks posed by rodents spread, it’s often a surprise that they also have a love for gnawing on wires, putting property at risk for house fires and car issues. To promote greater awareness about rodent health and property issues, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has declared October 21-27 to be Rodent Awareness Week. Certified Termite & Pest Control joining NPMA in this important effort by educating homeowners on the threat of rodents and signs that could indicate rats or mice are a problem on properties.
Rodents spend about three percent of their daily activity just gnawing on objects like wires — sometimes causing issues behind a home’s walls or underneath the hood of a car. It’s important to take the proper precautions to prevent a rodent infestation in your garage and house to avoid these vandal visitors. Entering into cars and homes is easy since rats and mice can squeeze through tiny openings and gaps, some as small as a dime.
Here are the top 10 tips for avoiding rodent problems, according to NPMA’s consumer education site, PestWorld.org:
If a rodent infestation is suspected, it’s best to contact a licensed pest control professional to assess the situation. For more information on rodents and prevention tips, please visit www.certifiedtpc.com
Termite Activity Within Soil Provides The Animal Kingdom With Food
As much as people hate termites for the damage that they cause to manmade structures, there is no doubt about the ecological benefits that result from termite activity within soil. Subterranean termites, as their name would suggest, are soil dwelling insects that can travel several feet below the earth’s surface. Ground soil that is starved for nutrients becomes rejuvenated by the minerals that termites bring to the soil’s surface. Mound building termites are comprised almost entirely of subterranean termites. These mound building termites are particularly beneficial to the environment, as these termites move more soil than non-mound building termites. This is understandable given that some termite mounds take up to five years to complete and can reach nearly twenty feet in height. Constructing these towering mounds requires massive amounts of clay, silt, sand and saliva. The termite saliva is used to bind the three natural materials into a sort of building block. Removing this clay from the soil results in minerals being brought to the ground’s surface, which allows for the continued growth of vegetation. However, many people are not aware of the fact that subterranean termite activity provides numerous animals with nutritious forms of sustenance.
The movement of minerals to the ground’s surface during mound construction allows for the cultivation of plants. After termite mounds become abandoned, the mounds progressively decrease in height due to wind and rain. Once the mounds resemble small hills, vegetation begins to grow on the mounds, providing grazing wildlife with mineral rich food. Animals such as white rhinos and zebras prefer to consume grass growing on termite mounds as opposed to grass growing in marked pastures due to the superior mineral content present in mound-grown plants. Termite mounds also provide elephants with much needed nutrients. Elephants often lack salt in their diets, which has led them to consume the salt-rich dirt used to build termite mounds. These elephants use their tusks to pick out salty minerals from hardened termite mounds. This type of feeding behavior is known as “geophagy”, and even pregnant women living in some African villages have taken to eating dirt from termite mounds due to the reported prenatal health benefits that it provides. If that is not strange enough, early European settlers would often use termite mounds as clay ovens for bread-baking.
Do you know of any other ecological benefits that termites provide that were not mentioned in this blog?
Children are always getting into scrapes and seem to have an incredible knack for finding the most dangerous situation and wandering into it our of pure curiosity. One common fear is that a child will pick up something dangerous that they find interesting and stick it in their mouth, nose, or ear. Insects can often be included in this manner of childhood mischief. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of insects that a child could pick up and not come to harm, there are also incredibly dangerous insects that are even more enticing to children because of their bright colors or fuzzy-looking hair. One of these insects is the Southern flannel moth caterpillar, also referred to as the “furry puss” caterpillar because of the hair covering its body that can make it resemble a fluffy cat. Well, everyone (or almost everyone) likes fluffy cats, especially curious children that want to feel the soft-looking hair. Because of this, children often try to pet the caterpillars, discovering their mistake when they are stung by the poisonous spines that are hidden beneath its fluffy hair.
A five year old girl from Texas, Adrie Chambers, encountered a furry puss caterpillar while she was playing at her daycare last week. The daycare workers discovered Adrie after the encounter, immediately calling her mother Lauren Chambers when the girl began to experience swelling and an upset stomach. They believe that Adrie likely was stung by a caterpillar when one fell onto her from a tree and bit her on her arm. This little five year old girl was experiencing the effects of the most poisonous caterpillar in the whole country. These stings start out feeling like a bee sting, but the symptoms quickly get worse, causing pain so intense that you can feel it in your bones.
Adrie was quickly taken to the hospital and treated for the sting. The doctors from the hospital, however, credit the daycare workers with saving Adrie from experiencing even more pain from the sting when they used tape to try to remove the stingers from the affected area. “They said if that had not happened it could actually cause her whole body to go numb and start shutting down,” Lauren Chambers said. Thankfully, the little girl is now recovering just fine, and will live to get into plenty more scrapes, as is a child’s God-given right.
Has your child ever picked up or touched something or animal that it shouldn’t have and gotten hurt by the encounter?
Plants are living organisms just like us, but do they feel pain? People have claimed that grass is often murdered by lawnmowers, and the smell of freshly cut grass could be a distress signal. This may or may not be true, but as it happens, a plant undergoes drastic internal changes in response to being attacked by insect pests. Surprisingly, plants can even communicate with other plants when being attacked by bugs. These defensive signals are facilitated by calcium. Calcium is used by plants in order to signal threat to other leaves where calcium quickly spreads. An influx of calcium indicates that a plant has activated its defense mechanism in response to damaging outside threats.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison have uncovered far more information relating to how plants respond to insect pests. The breakthrough in research occured after scientists used a green fluorescent protein in order to light-up a plant’s physiological processes. Although scientists have long known that calcium makes up a significant part of a plant’s defense mechanism, nobody knew about the process that prompts the calcium into spreading from leaf to leaf in the first place. Now, thanks to the fluorescent protein, researchers have recorded hours of video footage that shows a plant’s internal mechanisms. It turns out that the calcium influx is prompted by glutamate. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter in many mammals, including humans. When a plant is attacked by an insect pest, glutamate activates a wave of calcium. In one video, a plant was damaged by a hungry caterpillar. Once the insect bit into the plant, researchers could see a wave of calcium fill the plant and spread to its leaves. The calcium is sent to other leaves in order to warn them of impending attack. The calcium warning system moved quickly at about one millimeter per second. There is still much research to be done in this area before anything groundbreaking can be found.
Do you believe that plants can release chemicals that repel insect pests?
It will likely take some time before Americans and other westerners warm up to the idea of eating termites. Despite the widespread claim that termites taste good, termites do not conjure up images of tasty or healthy eating in the minds of most westerners. However, in Africa, termites have been consumed for thousands of years. Native Africans are discriminate about which types of termites they consume. For instance, worker termites are reportedly undesirable as a food source, but winged termites (alates) are the most sought after, and apparently, they are the tastiest as well. Soldier termites are also consumed regularly, but queen termites are left alone, as there only exists one per colony, and catching one would mean destroying an entire nesting mound. Although termites are proven to be highly nutritious, consuming these insects does not come without health risks.
All insects, termites included, carry disease-causing pathogens that can be absorbed in the guts of those who eat them. This is understandable, as insects can inhabit areas that are less than sanitary, to say the least. For example, researchers purchased termites from a roadside vendor in Kenya, only to discover that they were tainted with lethal doses of Streptococcus aureus and Staphylococcus aeruginosa upon laboratory testing. Falling ill from pathogen-contaminated insects is a natural consequence of consuming insects that have not undergone food safety assessments. It is not unheard of for packaged termites to develop deadly contaminants while being shipped. One record found five people who died from botulism as a result of consuming termites that became contaminated over a four day shipping period. These termites were shipped in plastic bags that created an anaerobic condition for the termites. Consuming termites can also result in parasitic infections, but this risk comes with the consumption of any insect that is not properly processed. In order to prevent consumers from falling ill from the consumption of edible termites, heat and pressure treatments are essential, but this process is only legally required once food safety organizations approve of termites as a legitimate source of food. This has yet to occur in many western countries.
Have you ever felt ill after consuming insects in another country?
Cockroaches are one of the most common household pests. While cockroaches are not pleasant to look at, they are not disease vectors, which is a good thing, as several cockroaches have recently been found within an elementary school located in Portage Township, Michigan. Although the roach presence within the school has not reached infestation levels as far as the administration knows, the roaches are, nevertheless, proving difficult to eradicate.
While it is extremely unlikely to fall ill from pathogens that could be carried and transmitted by a filthy cockroach, officials with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences claim that cockroaches are, in fact, the most common allergenic indoor pests. Roach saliva is particularly allergenic, but a cockroaches’ body and droppings also contain allergenic proteins. This is why Melissa Deavers-Lowie, director of communications for Portage Township Schools, wasted no time calling a pest control service upon finding a few cockroaches within a classroom.
Last Monday, pest control operators treated the classroom for cockroaches, but sure enough, the resilient insects reappeared a mere two days later. According to Deavers-Lowie, the school’s kitchen is free of cockroaches, but pest control professionals will be spraying the entire building on Friday. State law demands that a building should remain free of all inhabitants for a period of 24 hours following an insecticide treatment. Normally this would mean that the students would get a day off, but as it happens, this Friday happens to be an administrative day that students have off anyway.
Although finding cockroaches within any building is not uncommon, the school’s staff are curious as to how the cockroaches accessed the classroom, especially after the insecticide treatment. Several teachers and staff members will continue to investigate how the roaches wound up in the classroom. Classes will be back in session on Monday.
Do you think that a student brought cockroaches into the classroom in order to get a day off?
As humans we cannot vomit on attackers as a form of defense. Well, most people surely cannot anyway. However, vomiting as a form of defense during enemy attacks is common in the insect world. For example, caterpillars of the small mottled willow moth will not hesitate to projectile vomit on their hostile enemies. These caterpillars are also known as beet armyworms. Many caterpillars possess defensive hairs that are usually quite effective at fending off enemies. However, the beet armyworm covers enemies in a special vomit that deters enemy attackers. A variety of different ant species are the most common predators to beet armyworms. The beet armyworm vomit is particularly bothersome to ants, but it only deters them from attacking, it does not kill them. This vomit could be thought of as a sort of pepper spray used by beet armyworms.
When a small number of ants approach one or more beet armyworms, the armyworms will promptly vomit their digestive contents onto the nearby ants. The compounds in the armyworm vomit cause ants to frantically clean their heads, at which point their plan of attack fails. The compounds that are contained within beet armyworm vomit act as surfactants. For example, the vomit envelops over ant bodies, including their heads. In order to prevent death by drowning, the ants must frantically clean themselves of the digestive fluids. When the vomit covered ants become preoccupied with cleaning themselves of vomit, beet armyworms make their getaway.
Although this method has proven to be quite effective against ant attacks in laboratory settings, the vomit will obviously not suffice to protect the armyworms from large numbers of invading ants. However, the vomit does protect beet armyworms from a number of different solitary insects. Upon analyzing the caterpillar vomit, scientists found that it acts as a surfactant, which is a fluid that covers an entire object on contact, as opposed to simply dripping off like water. Insects make frantic efforts to remove this surfactant substance from their bodies after being attacked by beet armyworms. Surprisingly, researchers found that beet armyworm vomit acts as a surfactant no matter what the caterpillars eat. This is the first time an insect’s bodily fluid was found to act as a surfactant. But researchers believe that the method of vomiting surfactant substances as a from of defense may be widespread among insects.
Do you believe that surfactants would deter spiders from attacking caterpillars?
Has there ever existed one single individual in history who claimed to not like the taste of honey? As far as most people are concerned, honey is a universally beloved edible substance. Imagine the excitement felt by our ancestors once they discovered honey. Given the undeniably delicious taste of honey, you would think ancient humans wasted no time collecting as much of the sweet substance as possible. But when, exactly, did humans start collecting honey from honey bee combs? How long have humans been constructing beehives for efficient honey collection? Given the danger involved with collecting honey from honey bee nests, how did early beekeepers protect themselves from swarms of stinging honey bees? According to experts, even our pre-human ancestors collected honey for their own personal consumption.
Bees first began producing honey as far back as 200 million years ago. The primate relatives of humans, such as chimpanzees and monkeys, poke sticks into beehives located within trees and below the ground in order to extract sweet-tasting honey. It has been theorized that the earliest humans in Africa extracted honey by resorting to the same method. When humans first migrated out of Africa, they continued to search for honey in unknown regions. Archeological evidence shows that humans used baskets and gourds for honey collection in what is now Europe all the way back in 8,000 BCE. The Egyptians may have been the first people to have practiced modern beekeeping as they built beehives out of clay before selling the resultant honey to consumers. During this time, bees were raised professionally within hundreds of beehives located on large farms. These farms were owned by the Egyption government, and beekeepers were skilled slaves. Ancient Egyptian commoners were able to purchase honey from stores, and honey was also gifted to small-time government leaders by powerful Egyption politicians. By the seventeenth century, wood became the material of choice for beehive construction. The first wood-constructed beehives were octagonal in shape as the inventor of wooden hives believed that bees naturally preferred octagonal shapes that are similar in appearance to honeycombs. Octagonal beehives were eventually replaced by modern box hives in 1851.
Have you ever tasted pure honey straight from the hive?