urbpan: (dandelion)
The pest control industry is a highly regulated multi-billion dollar global industry. The discovery that vinegar attracts fruit flies, or kills weeds, will not drive them out of business. As with most internet claims, if a helpful hint for pest control sounds too good to be true, it is. A good test of whether a substance or a product is effective at controlling pests is if a major pest control product distributor carries it in its inventory.

You see, critics of the pest control industry are right about one thing: they’re in it for the money. But their business model isn’t “conceal the fact that cinnamon works as a mild insect repellant so that we can sell more bug spray.” Their business model depends on developing and selling products that work as directed, and marketing them effectively. They know that some common substances like boric acid are effective—but instead of ceding the market to the laundry detergent folks, they have formulated products that contain boric acid, but that are more user friendly (contain anti-caking agents, or are combined with food-based baits, etc).

If you want to see if a pest control product distributor is serious about selling effective merchandise, look for ultrasonic repelling devices. These are popular plug-in devices that make a sound that humans can’t hear that other animals can. They don’t repel pests. This has been proven scientifically. If the distributor is selling these then they care more about making money than solving pest issues. Or you could check to see if they sell diatomaceous earth—this is an all-natural mineral substance that (when used properly) effectively kills insects and some other arthropods. It’s relatively safe to use around humans and other vertebrates, and is inexpensive. If the distributor refuses to carry DE products, then they likewise care more about the bottom line than serving their customers.

Of course prevention is always the most effective method of combating pests: if your house is clean and tidy, if all of your doors have doorsweeps and your windows have intact screens, if there are no holes in the walls or gaps at the bottom of the garage doors or cellar bulkheads, if you have properly landscaped your yard to keep it sunny and dry, if you have trash cans and recycle bins that are designed properly and removed and cleaned regularly, then you will have very little reason to spend money on either dangerous poisons that threaten your children and pets, or to misuse dryer sheets and mothballs in a misguided attempt to scare away mice, ants, and evil spirits.
urbpan: (dandelion)
While searching for some back-up for my crazy pest control notions (clean trash cans and dining areas with a pressure washer to keep yellow jackets away) I came across this horrifically wrong article. I won't link to it for fear of driving unsuspecting traffic their way.

With summer on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about picnics and barbeques and all those fun outdoor activities! Wherever you bring food outside, inevitably pests like bees and wasps turn up ready to ruin your party. How do you keep bees away from your food? Here are some tips for getting rid of bees and wasps:

1. Clip On Bee or Wasp Repellent. This is an easy way to get rid of bees and wasps without using traditional wasp or bee repellents that come in spray bottles. The clip ons are just as effective, but there’s no worry about getting chemicals into your picnic food!

There is no such thing as wasp repellent (I'm going to ignore every time they say bee when they mean yellow jacket. I'm getting used to this bit of taxonomy fail.) Anyone who tries to sell you wasp repellent is guilty of fraud. Perhaps this blogger is talking about mosquito repellent. Knock yourself out.

2. Dryer Sheets. Dryer softener sheers are an easy way to keep away bees and wasps without using chemicals. Just leave a few sheets around your picnic table or areas you’re serving food. Best of all, your picnic will smell clean and fresh! You can also use dryer sheets to keep bees and wasps away from people. Simply rub the sheets on exposed skin, or keep a sheet or two in your pockets.

Not proven to work, but hey, as wastes of time and money are concerned this one is pretty minor. If your brand of dryer sheets don't have chemicals in them, you are being swindled. Do they have an odor? Chemicals.

3. Mothballs. These musty smelling balls act as an effective wasp repellent. Scatter them around your picnic area to get rid of bees and wasps. To ensure they don’t get in food or eaten accidentally, try tying a few in old pantyhose. Though mothballs are intended to kill moths in enclosed areas, in open spaces they perfectly safe for humans. Bees and wasps don’t like the smell so they work perfectly as a bee repellent.

HO LEE SHIT. Perfectly safe for humans?? This is by far the most irresponsible part of this article. Not only is this an "off-label" use of a pesticide (against federal law) but it's one of the most dangerous pesticides still in use.

4. Brown Paper Bags. One of the easiest ways to keep away bees and wasps is to hang up a blown up brown paper bag. Simply fill a bag with air and round it off to look like a bee or wasp nest. Bees and wasps are very territorial and will not venture near areas where there are other bees or wasps. It may sound silly, but it works.

Again, this is a harmless waste of time and money. Let me tell you about the times that I have found 3-5 different eusocial wasp nests in the same hundred square feet area.

5. Cut Up Cucumber. Bees and wasps dislike the scent of cucumber slices, so leaving a few of them around your food platters on a picnic is an easy way to keep wasps away with something you may already have on hand. And if your guests are hungry for a snack, you have a healthy one at the ready!

Do they dislike cucumbers enough to ignore the tuna salad and the apple juice? Try it and let me know.

6. Cloves. Bees and wasps don’t like the strong smell of cloves. Scatter a few around the perimeter of your picnic, to get rid of bees and wasps.

This is based on a grain of truth: clove oil is an insecticide. Is there enough clove oil in a jar of cloves that you scatter on the ground to keep aerial pests from visiting your picnic area. I'll stay skeptical on this one.

Hopefully these easy tips have taught you how to keep bees away from your next picnic, using a few materials you probably already have around the house!

And here's the real problem. There must be an easy fix using materials we already have around the house right? That easy fix is called don't eat outside in the summer. OR if you do, don't use anything containing sugar or meat, and while you're at it don't wear any products that smell like flowers or fruit. The truth is that there are (depending who you ask) about a dozen species of yellow jackets, two or three of which are very very attracted to human sources of food. Yellow jackets can be unpredictable: I have eaten an entire "meal" of chicken fingers, sweet and sour sauce (their favorite! Smells like fermenting fruit juice), and soda, all the while with yellow jackets all around, crawling on my hands and on the food. I was not stung. I have been stung, randomly, out of nowhere, just because I wandered close to a nest I didn't know about.

Use common sense and please don't misuse pesticides.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Tapinoma melanocephalum, the ghost ant, was featured on my 280 days of Urbpandemonium post on New Years Day. Here are some more shots of this interesting little invasive pest species. Here is a worker on the edge of a thin sheet of plywood.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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A light fixture is no place to establish a colony. I mean, it has its virtues--it's under the eave protected from the rain, for example. But whatever benefits this location provides are vastly outweighed by being an inconvenience to the humans within the building.

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It's a shame because the architects of this young nest were bald-faced hornets Dolichovesula maculata*, who voraciously hunt other insects to feed to their young--I have read that they even catch their closest relatives, the much hated yellow jackets. Adults feed on liquid sugar, either flower nectar or the juice of discarded fruit. Workers defend the nest bravely and energetically. One memorable time I was attacking a mature nest and the workers kept bouncing off my bee veil, directly in front of my eyes. More often then not these social wasps build their nests high in the leafy canopy of trees, and we don't even know they were there until the autumn reveals the empty nest.

* "Spotted, long little wasp"
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I go to the Cape once a year--a coworker opens his family's house up to the zoo staff for a week. This time my 36 hour visit coincided with the Summer Solstice. Here's the bay side beach showing an awful lot of low tide.

lots more )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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One thing I have learned time and time again as a pest control professional, is that you usually can't solve anything by throwing poison at it. This little fly (my stupid camera did a nice job for once--this fly is less than 2 mm long) lays her eggs in the bacterial slime coating the inside of a drain. The teeny maggots hatch, and feed safely within the mucusy goo. Attempts to exterminate them with bleach and other chemicals mostly deflect off the slime. The only way to interrupt the cycle is to do the hard work of scrubbing the slime out of the drain pipe with a sturdy brush. You can follow that up with maintenance treatments of a competing bacteria (several solutions are commercially available) that eat the slime-producing creatures that make the habitat for the fly. In this case, the fly is Clogmia albipunctata* usually referred to as the "filter fly," "drain fly," "bathroom fly," and so on. As pest issues go, they're pretty minor, but they have caused some fascinatingly hideous problems in rare cases: human urinary myiasis, nasal myiasis, and occupational asthma.

* You guys have been so good--what the hell does "Clogmia" mean? Is it because they live in drains, like clogs do? That can't be right. "albipunctata" means white-spotted. The family name Psychodidae uses the word "psycho" in the sense of "butterfly or moth," since these are also known as moth flies.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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At the end of the autumn, the fertile males and females are born. They leave the nest and mate. The males die. The fertilized females seek shelter--under the loose bark of a dead tree perhaps, or in the gap of the exterior of a worn and shoddy building. That's how this would-be yellow jacket queen (Vespula sp. or Dolichovespula sp.) ended up indoors. Disoriented from the long winter and working off of reserves of energy, she headed the wrong way from her hiding place, emerging into a room and heading toward a full-spectrum fluorescent light instead of the light of day.

Her resemblance to the European paper wasp ends at her black antennae (the EPW's are orange) and her stout body. Her workers, should she be successful in establishing a nest will be as small as houseflies, and more protective of their home than the average guard dog. I can knock down a EPW nest with a short stick and no more protection than sunglasses and a baseball cap. A yellow jacket nest might require a full tyvek suit and bee veil to safely tackle.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Generally speaking, these guys are too fast to be pinned down by a human hand. Then again, if you see one in the daylight, chances are it's not doing too well anyway. Vigorous and repeated attempts at chemical control mean that many cockroaches encountered indoors are staggering about impaired by a neurotoxin.

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This on-the-back posture has been discussed elsewhere, common to dead and dying roaches. This individual is Periplaneta americana, the "American cockroach" which is probably native to subsaharan Africa. Think of it as tiny bit of karma for America's gruesome plunder of that continent's people and resources.

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They can only survive indoors in hot and humid places like boiler rooms, subways, locker rooms, and greenhouses.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I laid on my back, looking up under a zoo exhibit with my flashlight. I was looking for construction weaknesses that might allow pests access. While I was under there I found this very busy cellar spider Pholcus phalangioides nursery. It's not clear if the female in the lower left corner of the photo is responsible for the many egg cases in the web, but I suspect that most of them are old and empty.

Cellar spiders are very common in dark and secluded indoor spaces. I encounter them frequently, and consider them to be beneficial allies who help me control flies and cockroaches.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Pest control requires shoveling snow sometimes.

Ant; eater

Jan. 3rd, 2015 02:20 pm
urbpan: (dandelion)
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So this is me trying to get a good shot of an ant with my new camera, through a loupe.

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Here it is without the loupe (just enlarged and cropped in iPhoto)

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Through the loupe, then enlarged and cropped in iPhoto. You can see the two nodes on the petiole between the thorax and abdomen. These were critical (along with other field markings) in identifying this ant as Tetramorium sp., the pavement ant.

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None for you Jockamo! Enjoy your blue ice treat instead.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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A chewing noise was reported from the ceiling of this building. I went up on to the roof and found this large gap at the peak.

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This is the view down the gap--rodents have been chewing the wood smooth. Since we don't have roof rats in our part of the country these are most likely gray squirrels or possibly flying squirrels.

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I mostly meshed over the gap, leaving a space for any rodent inside to escape the roof and get caught in a live trap.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Take a bad boy and make him dig 5 feet,
The dirt in these shovels will give us a beat
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Back at it, digging a trench to sink mesh to exclude rodents.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Augmenting some exclusion work--the mesh needs to buried much deeper to keep rodents from burrowing under.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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The view of the FP zoo restaurant from behind the door to the dumpsters.

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Ugly cell phone photo of a striped garden caterpillar on the hospital garage door. The half inch mesh (and the 15 squares to the inch screen) nicely measures this larva out to 1.63333333333333 inches long.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I got a new eight foot grabber.

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I was finally able to remove some sparrow nests from the facilities bays.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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On Friday my plan was to mostly tidy up my work so that I could leave for a week with a good conscience. Then I got a call saying there was a "huge yellow jacket nest in the playground." That sort of thing needs immediate attention. Fortunately when I arrived on the scene I re-evaluated the situation to "small European paper wasp nest." Still technically in the playground, so I killed them. At least I didn't have to put my moon suit on.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This is my "map my walk" map of changing the sticky sleeves on the stable fly traps at Stone Zoo.


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