Yellowjackets leave empty nest
For the Indiana woman in this story, it's very good news that yellowjackets don't use the same nest site year after year. She discovered a 4-foot by 3-foot yellowjacket nest in the loft of her barn recently. The nest was active last summer, but thankfully, it's now abandoned.
More on "buggin'"
Buggin' with Ruud
Here's their description of the show:
Cicadas, tarantulas and beetles, oh my! Whether you love or loathe bugs, collect them or have the irresistible urge to squish them on sight, the adventures of Animal Planet's Bugman, quirky entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste, offers viewers an eye-opening journey into the fascinating world of insects large and small. His world premiere series, BUGGIN' WITH RUUD, debuts on Animal Planet Wednesday, June 15, at 8 p.m. ET/PT as part of the network's brand-new destination night, WILD WEDNESDAYS.
Looks interesting. My first thought when watching the preview was that Ruud is the Steve Irwin ("Crocodile Hunter") of the bug world.
Fun with produce
Concerned about genetically modified produce and pesticides on the food you buy in the grocery store? Then join Obi Wan Cannoli, Cuke Skywalker, Ham Solo and Chewbroccoli for the Organic Rebellion, and look for the USDA organic label on your food.
"Star Wars" parodies have been done countless times before, but this little movie is just plain fun.
Time to rebait your yellowjacket trap
The yellowjacket workers (noticeably smaller than the queens) are leaving the nest now to forage for food, and you can get them, too. (Yes, some nests still get established even if you catch yellowjacket queens in your trap.)
Our RESCUE! 10-Week Yellowjacket Attractant Cartridge will last you from now through the end of August. (Great for people like me who are forgetful about rebaiting their trap -- and I work here!) Here is a list of stores where you can find it.
Japanese beetles heading westward
According to this article, Japanese beetles have infested all of Illinois and are showing up in Iowa.
Our Customer Service department also received several calls today about Japanese beetles in Missouri.
The USDA probably needs to update this map of the infested areas.
This is all newsworthy because of the efforts of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service to prevent the westward migration of the Japanese beetle. This document also has some good information on the subject. It mentions that nine western states in particular are designated for special protection against Japanese beetle infestation: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. (Although, they may be too late to prevent Japanese beetles in Colorado.) To help accomplish this quarantine, the USDA uses Japanese Beetle Traps at airports as a control measure.
Waiting for "Batman" to come back
Some readers have asked for an update on my bat situation. I don't have anything new to share, other than I'm waiting for our local "Batman" (the bat removal guy) to return for the outside inspection of the house (which is performed at dusk to see if any fly out at that time). It has been nearly three weeks since the inside inspection, and although I haven't seen or heard any bat activity, I am getting impatient -- especially since I paid for the entire job up front on July 1 and I can't seem to get a straight answer on when the outside inspection can be completed.
Sorry -- I'm a little on edge after reading this story.
Bakersfield braces for bugs
The residents of Bakersfield, CA have an unusual nuisance bug problem every year around this time: an infestation of false chinch bugs.
Name that bug
Have you ever come across an unfamiliar-looking bug? Here are two sites which may prove helpful in identifying the insect.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Entomology has an "Insect ID" page which covers such categories as ants, beetles, biting insects, indoor/kitchen insects, outdoor insect invaders, and the catch-all division, "odd insects."
And then there's "What's that Bug?" -- more of a homegrown web site where readers submit their own photos of insects for identification by the author. I'm not sure if he's an entomologist, but he appears to know his stuff about a variety of insects, including Latin names. He, too, has categorized submissions by the type of insect.
Will yellowjackets bounce away?
I'm not sure where the rumor first started about Bounce dryer sheets repelling mosquitoes, but the folks at snopes.com (the best site, IMHO, for checking on the validity of forwarded e-mail stories and other urban legends) have disproven this one, along with some other supposed uses for Bounce.
I was thinking about the rumor because I just read a blog that mentions Bounce can also be used to repel yellowjackets.
The Bounce site lists many tips for using the sheets around the house, but it doesn't say anything about repelling bugs. I asked our head entomologist here, and he said it's highly unlikely that yellowjackets would be repelled by the scent... they may actually be attracted to the perfume-y smell.
The only true way to test Bounce as a bug repellent is to attract the insects, then see if the Bounce sheet drives them away. We've got the attracting part down, with our product to lure yellowjackets into the RESCUE! trap. Perhaps I can convince our R&D department to tackle this question as snopes.com did with the mosquito rumor.
Japanese beetles: Palisade, CO "gets it"
The town of Palisade, in western Colorado near Grand Junction, has begun their third year of mass trapping efforts to rid the area of the Japanese beetle. As part of the Colorado Department of Agriculture's Japanese Beetle Eradication Program, all landowners in Palisade are given Japanese beetle traps by the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension free of charge to place in their yard.
Orchards are a growing industry in Palisade, with the region producing produce grapes, apples, peaches, cherries and plums. Adult Japanese beetles have threatened the health of these orchards by chewing leaves between the veins, causing a 'skeletonized' effect.
Japanese beetles are also a great regulatory concern, so the state wants to ensure that shipments of its nursery goods to any other states are not restricted because of the Japanese beetle infestation.
Kudos to the town of Palisade and the CSU Extension for realizing that, as mentioned in my last post, mass trapping is an effective means of eradicating the Japanese beetle.
Using traps to control Japanese beetles
I'm going to take a detour from my bat rant to focus on Japanese beetles. The hungry bugs are just starting to emerge in the Southeastern U.S. (the Northeast usually gets hit in late June/early July), and their feeding frenzy will last about two months. These beetles have a taste for over 300 varieties of ornamental plants.
While disdain for Japanese beetles is universal, opinions differ on the best way to control them. Options range from pesticides to picking them off plants by hand.
Pheromone traps, however, are the most effective non-pesticide method of combatting Japanese beetles, according to an expert on the subject.
Until his retirement in late 2004, Dr. Michael Klein was a research entomologist at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) lab for horticultural insect research in Wooster, Ohio since 1969. Japanese beetles are his specialty.
The ARS team is responsible for monitoring infestations and preventing the migration of the Japanese beetle westward, because of the bug's serious threat to agriculture. To keep the beetles from hitching a ride on an airplane heading from Cleveland to California, ARS uses pheromone traps to catch them at various airports around the country.
In addition, Dr. Klein uses traps to protect the prized wild rose bushes and other plants in his own back yard. He contends that "Pheromone traps provide a visible means of combating a Japanese beetle problem and have a positive effect on the environment."
When I talked with Dr. Klein last year before his retirement, he addressed two common misconceptions (perpetuated by articles like this) about Japanese beetle traps:
Misconception #1: Traps lure Japanese beetles from miles around.
Most attractants lure them from no more than 160 feet, he says. The beetles, however, are strong fliers and can travel several miles, touching down at random intervals to see what's available for a meal. So the traps only lure beetles that are already in flight near the yard.
Misconception #2: Traps make the problem worse by luring more beetles than they catch.
Dr. Klein says that incorrect trap placement can lead to this conclusion. If a trap is placed next to a rose bush, a large number of beetles can be lured to that area, and some may stop at the roses rather than the trap.
Dr. Klein offers these tips for using Japanese beetle traps effectively:
- Enlist your neighbors to battle the beetles with you. Traps are effective in your yard alone, but if you can get those bordering your yard to set traps along with you, the overall beetle numbers will be greatly reduced.
- Trap placement is critical. Many people may mistakenly place the traps next to the ornamental plants, because that's where the beetles are present and causing the damage. Traps should be used about 30 feet from desired foliage, to lure the beetles away. It is preferable to place them next to a non-flowering tree or shrub, such as a pine tree or boxwood, which is not attractive to the beetles.
Dr. Klein has used the RESCUE! Japanese Beetle Trap following our redesign of the product in 2003 and the favorable results he received from ARS testing.
Because of my bat situation and how it's affected me, I've been giving thought this week to the emotional response that one has when a pest of any sort -- be it bats, yellowjackets, mice, cockroaches, termites -- invades your home. It's a lot like the feeling you have when your home is burglarized (something that's happened to me as well). You feel violated. You're fearful. And you get angry because home is supposed to be a place of refuge, and something or someone has destroyed the peace that you normally feel there. You can't relax because you're too worried about seeing another one of the dreaded creatures. Extermination of a serious problem is usually very costly, and it's an expenditure on which you hadn't planned.
Emotions got the better of me this week as my fear from going inside my own house led to tears of frustration. At times I felt like it was affecting my mental health as I envisioned walking in and seeing hundreds of bats in my living room. Bats were foremost on my mind before anything else. A simple "How are you?" by a friend would elicit a heavy sigh from me and an explanation of my bat problem.
Jason, my neighbor who helped with the bats, used to live in Austin, Texas. That area had many bats, but the big problem Austin residents had in their homes was scorpions. He tells a story of when he once put on a long-sleeved shirt from his closet, then felt something moving up his arm from underneath the shirt -- it was a scorpion. He had to remain very still so it wouldn't sting him while it crawled up his shoulder and out the neckline of the shirt, when he could finally flick it off.
My next-door neighbors had a mouse problem over the winter that exasperated them. Thankfully, my two cats have kept our house mouse-free. And at least with the bats, the females have only one "pup" a year -- unlike mice, who reproduce rapidly and exponentially.
When I read about the Oklahoma family who found 20,000 bees living underneath the floorboards of their home earlier this week, I empathized with them. They have to move out of their historic 1930s house indefinitely while someone tears out and destroys what are probably beautiful hardwood floors to remove the bees.
It seems that just about everyone has a story about a major pest problem that has affected them in their home. My boss had to call an exterminator for squirrels in his attic. My parents recently found a killer bee hive in the valve box for their irrigation system. I know of several people (myself included) who have found yellowjacket nests within their walls. At trade shows, I've heard the desperation in many voices when people tell me about the Asian ladybugs overwintering in their houses.
This is why I think it's so appropriate that the brand name for our line of pest control products is RESCUE! If you've ever dealt with an invasive pest issue that's gotten the better of you emotionally, rescue is exactly what you need.
Have you ever dealt with a pest problem in your house like any I've described? You can tell us about it by posting a comment here. Know that you have a sympathetic ear in me, RESCUE! and this blog.
A small victory
Sometimes it feels good to face your fears. I was able to sleep in my house last night for the first time since Sunday (the third bat sighting). I did leave the lights on, however. There were no problems -- I didn't hear or see any bat activity. I may need to wait a full week until the outside inspection of the house is completed, so I'll face a few more nights of sleeping with the lights on.
Banishing the bats, part 1
Here's the post-inspection update on the bat situation (see "More battiness" on 5/30/2005).
Good news: The situation is not as bad as I feared or imagined. Matt from Skunkworks found no more bats in my attic, which is the most likely place from which they are getting into my house.
I have an old house -- a 1908 Craftsman Bungalow. It has 1-1/2 stories of living space, and most of the upstairs is finished with two bedrooms and a bathroom. However, there are a few unfinished nooks, crannies and crawlspaces that are closed off from the living space but accessible from the inside -- and probably from the outside as well. The attic gets stiflingly warm in the summer, and this past weekend it was very warm, as the daytime temps climbed up into the high 80s.
He did find a small number of old bat droppings in the attic space at the top of my stairs. It's plausible that they came into the house from here and flew downstairs to the main floor where I found them. There is a small door leading to this space, with about a 1-1/2 inch gap at the bottom of the door. I stuffed a towel into this gap to temporarily seal it off.
The bats I had in my house (he identified the bodies of the bats caught by my neighbors Dale and Jason) were big brown bats, which are fairly common in North America. They like warm spaces, with the ideal temperature being 120 degrees. Big brown bats have much smaller colonies than little brown bats -- the number could be under a dozen. This is good news as well. I had envisioned a horror scene of hundreds of critters roosting in the attic.
According to Matt, these bats may have been spending the colder months in Mexico and are just making their way back up to the Northwest. This is where it gets freaky. Apparently bats from the same colony may not always travel together, but they will take the same path and find the same house once a few have established it as their home. So even though there are no bats in there today, if a few from the same colony make their way up here, they will hone in on exactly the same place.
For the time being, our weather has cooled off into the 60s with rain, so there shouldn't be any activity until it warms up again. The inspection will need to be completed next week with an examination of the outside from the roof area, and an observation of the possible entrance/exit at dusk, when they wake up and begin flying.
Once that part of the inspection is done and conclusions are drawn, the plan will be to seal up all possible outside entrances -- making sure no bats are trapped inside.
After the house is sealed, I'm having the exterior painted later this month. This was already in my plans, but my neighbor and I joked that the bats just won't recognize the house if it's a different color!
So I should be safe from any bat movement in my house through the weekend, according to Matt. I haven't decided, however, if I feel confident enough in that assessment to unpack my bag and resume sleeping there at night.
By the way, much of what he told me seems to contradict what I've found in various searches on the internet. It seems that the more I read, the more uneasy I feel because of differing information such as the size of the colonies, where they migrate and so forth. So I've decided to refrain from any more Google searches and just trust in what he told me as the local expert.
Wouldn't you hear the buzzing?
An Oklahoma family recently found 20,000 bees living under the floorboards of their 1930s house in Tulsa.