Cockroaches: Allergies and Asthma

Birds Are Using Cigarette Butts To Stave Off Pests

Birds Are Using Cigarette Butts To Stave Off Pests

A new study that was conducted suggests that birds are partaking in pest control on their own. Birds are lining their nests with cigarette butts to repel pests and keep themselves warm. “It appears that this effect may be due to the fact that mites are repelled by nicotine, perhaps in conjunction with other substances, because thermal traps laced with cellulose from smoked butts attracted fewer ectoparasites than traps laced with non-smoked cellulose. This novel behaviour observed in urban birds fulfils one of the three conditions necessary to be regarded as self-medication: it is detrimental to parasites” Said Dr Constantino Macias Garcia, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. To read more about his interesting article checkout:

Mosquito Maven Takes Bites For Malaria Research

Mosquito Maven Takes Bites For Malaria Research

Chiara Andolina, a malaria researcher in Thailand, feeds her mosquito colony by letting the insects bite her right arm. These mosquitoes are picky and will dine only on live human blood.

Most of us do everything possible to avoid mosquitoes. But one Italian researcher literally sacrifices her right arm to keep the lowly insects alive.

Chiara Adolina is studying a new malaria drug, and she needs the little suckers for her experiments. So she feeds them each day with her own blood.

She extends her arm into a mosquito cage to give the insects “breakfast.” Several dozen mosquitoes spread across her forearm and jam their proboscises into her skin. “Can you see how fat they become?” she says. “Look at that tummy.”

Adolina affectionately refers to her mosquitoes as “my girls.”

Hungry mosquitoes feed on Chiara Andolina's arm. After a few minutes, the bugs fly away and the bite marks on her skin quickly disappear.

Hungry mosquitoes feed on Chiara Andolina’s arm. After a few minutes, the bugs fly away and the bite marks on her skin quickly disappear.

Only female mosquitoes transmit malaria, so she’s far more interested in the girls in her mosquito colony than the guys.

“The female mosquitoes bite because they need the proteins of blood to make the shell of their eggs,” she says. “So they’re pregnant ladies.”

Adolina raises the insects at the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, a remote laboratory on the Thai-Myanmar border. A drug-resistant form of malaria is emerging in the region, and counterfeit malaria medicines are a problem.

She’s working with a drug that tries to kill the parasite inside people during an early stage of the infection — at a time when the person hasn’t yet shown signs of being sick. The goal is to stop the parasite from moving back and forth between humans and mosquitoes.

Here in the U.S., biologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also farm mosquitoes for their malaria research, including some nasty bugs that are resistant to insecticides.

What happens if Adolina doesn’t feed her girls? “They’ll die probably,” she says. “That’s why when you see mosquitoes, and they really want to bite you, it’s not because they’re hungry. They really need to lay the eggs, so they need that blood meal.”

While working in Britain a few years ago, Adolina fed her mosquitoes reheated rabbit’s blood from a blood bank. Here in Thailand, though, she has a type of mosquito that will only dine on live human blood.

“Mosquitoes in Asia are really, really difficult to rear,” she says. “Really delicate. Very spoiled. If you put them in a cage, they won’t mate.”

This means Adolina has to artificially inseminate each tiny female in the colony. “It’s very difficult. It takes lots of time,” she says.

Most of the mosquitoes on her arm now have dark, swollen bellies, but they are still trying to probe into her skin some more. “They feed maybe five minutes,” she says. “But some of them, they are just trying to find the capillary. They just go around, and it takes longer.”

A few minutes after the mosquitoes have filled themselves with Adolina’s blood, most of the bite marks on her skin have disappeared. She says her body has gotten used to the bites — they hardly itch anymore.

All this, so that she can study these mosquitoes and the potentially deadly parasites inside them.

S.F. library: Don’t worry about bedbugs

S.F. library: Don’t worry about bedbugs

Alex Emslie
  • In this file photo, a bed bug is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington. Photo: Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press / SF

    In this file photo, a bed bug is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

    Photo: Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

San Francisco Public Library officials say patrons should not be concerned about bringing home bedbugs with books, despite a growing problem with the pests moving into more commercial and public spaces.

Library spokeswoman Michelle Jeffers said she and her colleagues had received several calls and at least a couple of e-mails since a New York Times article reported that the pests have been found in libraries around the country.

“I tell them San Francisco Public Library has never had a bedbug infestation, and we have protocols in place to handle it if it comes about,” Jeffers said.

Bedbugs are increasingly turning up in public spaces. A 2011 survey of U.S. pest control professionals found most calls about the bugs came from hotels, college dorms and nursing homes.

And 8 percent of exterminators said they had treated libraries, according to the survey, which was done by the National Pest Management Association.

In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, San Francisco reported 567 bedbug complaints to the California Department of Public Health – the most of any county in the state and more than twice the complaints the city reported in 2005.

Jeffers said the library occasionally receives a book that employees suspect might be carrying bedbugs. When that happens, staff members quickly seal it in a plastic bag and discard it. She called finding the pests on returned library books “truly a rare occurrence.”

“I hate the thought of it,” library patron Brad MacDonald said about the possibility of bedbugs in his books. “I guess I’d have to know more about how they survive in a book.”

Senior Environmental Health Inspector Nader Shatara, who coordinates inspections of possible bedbug infestations around the city, said books wouldn’t be attractive long-term hiding places for bedbugs but that hatchlings could travel on them.

Karen Cohn, senior industrial hygienist at the city’s environmental health office, part of the Public Health Department, said city employees in all possible bedbug hot spots have been trained to look out for the pests.

Cohn said she typically warns people about picking furniture or linen off the street or buying it from yard sales or secondhand stores. Cohn recommends taking suspect linen or clothing home in a sealed plastic bag and running them through the dryer’s hottest setting for at least 30 minutes to kill any unwanted hitchhikers.

A new city ordinance took effect Dec. 14 that will require exterminators to notify the Public Health Department each time they treat for the bugs. Cohn said they city will start receiving reports from exterminators in January.

Bedbugs in the Bay Area can live for up to 12 months without eating, according to Dr. John Swartzberg, who teaches infectious disease classes at UC Berkeley and edits the school’s public health Wellness Letter. Adult females can lay up to 500 eggs in their lifetime.

And they are notoriously difficult to eliminate. The National Pest Management Association found that 73 percent of exterminators thought bedbug infestations were the most challenging problem. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have suggested that the bugs could be developing resistance to available pesticides.

The bugs are afraid of light, and they plump up with human blood after a midnight feeding. Many bedbug victims awaken in the morning with itchy red welts wherever they were bitten, but some people don’t respond to the bites. They may never know about the uninvited roommates.

If you suspect a bedbug problem, the city recommends you contact your property manager or a licensed pest control operator immediately. Complaints about bedbug infestation handling should be reported to San Francisco’s environmental health office by calling 311.

Alex Emslie is a freelance reporter. E-mail:

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Ant Infographic

San Francisco To Release Innovative Design Guidelines to Build Out Pests

San Francisco To Release Innovative Design Guidelines to Build Out Pests

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 20, 2012.  A preliminary version of Pest Prevention by Design, authored by Chris A. Geiger, Ph.D. and Caroline Cox of the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), was recently released by the San Francisco Department of the Environment (DOE). These guidelines, which will formally be released in mid-January of 2013, were created to help architects, engineers and builders to design and construct buildings that minimize the use toxic chemicals for pest control. This is accomplished by laying out comprehensive guidelines for building designs that prevent pest problems from taking hold. According to the authors of this report, “To our knowledge, no other comprehensive guidelines on pest preventive design tactics exists.” The San Francisco DOE is now exploring ways to pilot test the guidelines in various housing developments in San Francisco, and is hoping that these guidelines will be incorporated into various green building checklists, such as Leadership in Energy and Environment Design certification (LEED).

These guidelines work to address the issue that pest preventive tactics are rarely included in a comprehensive way at the design stage of buildings. The authors point out that architecture, construction, facility management, and pest control companies are part of insular industries that have in the past rarely worked together to minimize future pest problems. The San Francisco DOE had the idea for these guidelines in 2005 when the department realized that it had stopped making progress in reducing the amount of pesticides used on properties managed by the city. The department concluded that part of its pest problem was the result of structural flaws that allowed pests to find their way inside. The city concluded that the fundamental design of these buildings was partially to blame.

To write these guidelines, the San Francisco DOE organized an advisory committee in the spring of 2011 made up of members from a variety of different disciplines. The committee had pest control professionals, architects, engineers, pest management academics, green building experts, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) experts/consultants, and government employees working together on this subject. For a year, the committee held monthly meetings, and the discussion from these gatherings was incorporated into the draft guidelines. CEH was contracted to coordinate the project, and the guidelines were reviewed by the International Code Council.

With a focus on prevention, the guidelines set out several general principles and provide additional detailed sections on improved pest preventive designs for different parts of building structures (i.e., roofs, windows, and doors). The first of the general principles emphasizes the importance of understanding local pest pressures. The guidelines’ authors argue that, “Architects, builders and engineers need not be entomologists or pest experts, but a rough familiarity with local structural pest species is essential in order to make the best design choices.” Different climate conditions intrinsically attract different types of pests. For example, pests are most troublesome in warm humid climates that speed up an insect’s life cycle. The physical space in which a building is constructed will also make a difference. To illustrate: constructing a building in an urban center, where subways provide a vast network of tunnels in which rodents travel, requires a different design approach than a building in a rural area. Additionally, the guidelines suggest that buildings be constructed so that they may be easily inspected. For instance, the guidelines indicate that built-in access to critical areas greatly assists pest management professionals in the early detection of wood-boring pests, potentially saving building owners thousands of dollars in wood replacement. The guidelines also account for tradeoffs, such as aesthetic or energy issues, that should be considered when designing a building that is more pest resistant.

Beyond Pesticides is a strong advocate for defined structural IPM practices and is working to champion the use of these methods particularly in schools and hospitals, where vulnerable populations are at elevated risk from pesticide exposure. Beyond Pesticides’ Healthy Schools Project aims to minimize and eliminate the risks posed by pesticides through the adoption of IPM policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level, thereby fostering a healthier learning environment. Central to this effort are activities aimed at public education on pesticide hazards and the efficacy of alternatives, and the continued development of model communities that serve as examples.

Beyond Pesticides also believes that hospitals have a special obligation to demonstrate leadership in instituting effective and safer pest management in order to advance the medical profession’s basic tenet of “first, do no harm.” Beyond Pesticides, along with the Maryland Pesticide Network (MPN), has worked with several health care facilities in Maryland to transition towards IPM practices.

If you would like to be notified of the formal release of Pest Prevention by Design and receive a copy of these guidelines, sign up here.

For more information on structural IPM, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ “What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?” page. If you would like to know if there are Pest Management Service providers that use IPM and least-toxic practices, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Safety Source database..

Sources: San Francisco Department of the Environment,

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Your Christmas tree may harbor up to 25,000 ‘freeloading’ insects: scientist

Your Christmas tree may harbor up to 25,000 ‘freeloading’ insects: scientist via

By Agence France-Presse

Christmas tree illustration via Shutterstock


“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

Er, not quite.

Get a magnifying glass and take a close look at your Christmas tree, says a scientist.

In all likelihood, it is harbouring thousands of bugs.

Bark lice, mites, moths and the odd spider are among the tiny creatures that live on pine trees and find themselves dragged into homes when Christmas comes around, says Bjarte Jordal at Norway’s University Museum of Bergen.

Stimulated by the lights and warmth, they emerge from hibernation in your living room.

“In research on Christmas trees there have been found as many as 25,000 individual (insects)… in some of the trees,” says Jordal.

He adds, though: “As they cannot feed on the limited plants found in most households, the bugs will quickly dry out and die.

“These insects and bugs do not constitute any risk or danger to people or furniture. And if anyone is worried about allergic reactions, I don’t think there’s any danger of that.”

New Species Discovered

Though it looks like a spider, has a web like a spider and moves like a spider, it’s not a spider. It’s actually a decoy built by a newly-discovered species in the Cyclosa genus.


When biologist Phil Torres was leading a group of visitors into a floodplain in Peru, he saw a white inch (2.5cm) long spider sitting its web. Its flaky appearance, seemingly covered in fungus, suggested it had been dead a while – until it started moving. It wasn’t until Torres got closer that he realized the illusion. The actual spider, only 5mm long in body length, was sitting above the decoy and shaking the web to create the illusion of movement.

The spider seems to be a completely new species, but its sculpting abilities have led experts to place it in the genus Cyclosa. Spiders in this genus are known to use debris in their webs to attract or confuse prey, but haven’t been seen to make anything as detailed as these decoys. The web-shaking behavior is also new. However more observations are needed before it can be declared a new species, as there is always the chance that this is a named spider engaging in never-before-seen behavior.

Photo credit: Phil Torres.

Sources (where several more photos are available)

Arming US troops with insect-protective gear

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology (CMAVE) in Gainesville, Fla., are evaluating insecticides, testing pesticide application equipment, and treating military tents, camouflage screening and sun awnings with long-lasting residual pesticides. The research is a component of a USDA-DOD initiative called the Deployed War-Fighter Protection Research Program. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency. Biting insects and arthropods can transmit pathogens that cause devastating diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis (spread by mosquitoes), or leishmaniasis (spread by sand flies infected with Leishmania parasites). Such illnesses are a particular problem for susceptible U.S. troops deployed to countries where these diseases are common. Entomologist Seth Britch, who works in CMAVE’s Mosquito and Fly Research Unit and is also a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, found that camouflage netting treated with a specially formulated insecticide effectively reduces mosquito populations and provides long-lasting protection for military personnel. Desert-pattern netting material was sprayed, allowed to dry, packed and shipped to Tallil Air Force Base in Iraq, where it was stored for five months, tested and then shipped back to CMAVE for analysis. Almost 300 days after it had been treated, the material was still successful in controlling mosquitoes. Treated netting also provided protection against sand flies and filth flies. In another experiment, scientists evaluated ultra-low-volume pesticide spray equipment, chemicals and application techniques in Kenya against sand flies. Britch, CMAVE center director Kenneth Linthicum, and collaborators from the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida and the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit in Nairobi, Kenya, tested two pesticide sprayers and two pesticides to kill sand fly species comparable to those found in Iraq and Afghanistan. DOD equipment and one of the pesticides tested performed well against sand flies. Linthicum, Britch and CMAVE entomologist Daniel Kline are also part of a team that evaluates repellents, treatment methods and spray equipment in locations like California’s Coachella Valley desert, which looks similar ecologically and environmentally to deserts in the Middle East. Researchers work to ensure that all application techniques and equipment are effective before being used by military personnel deployed to hot, arid environments. More information: Read more about this research in the November/December 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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