Nelson Ruiz No Comments

The Most Commonly Encountered Ticks In Arizona

The Most Commonly Encountered Ticks In Arizona

Ticks are a major public health threat in some parts of the country, and while Arizona is home to several tick species, some of which spread disease, there are only four species that residents of the state commonly encounter. These tick species include the brown dog tick, the American dog tick, the rocky mountain wood tick, and the adobe tick. Unlike the other three species, the adobe tick is a “soft tick” from the Argasidae family. Of these four ticks, the brown dog tick may be the most dangerous tick to humans due to it ability to live entirely indoors and spread disease to humans. Since ticks have four pairs of legs, they are arachnids, and unlike the arachnids most people encounter in homes and elsewhere, ticks are parasitic organisms that feed on human blood, similar to mites, which are also categorized as arachnids. In order for ticks to survive, they must feed on the blood of their vertebrate hosts, including humans and a variety of other mammals, as well as birds.

Surprisingly, ticks are the most common arthropods that transmit vector-borne diseases in the US. When a tick feeds on a human, it becomes engorged with blood, but they extract all of the water from the blood before injecting it back into the human body. This means that ticks inject about 75 percent of the fluids they gather back into the human bloodstream, allowing them to efficiently transmit a variety of disease-causing organisms into the human body. These disease-causing organisms include bacteria, protozoa, viruses, spirochetes, rickettsiae, nematodes, and toxins. A tick bite can transmit pathogens while also putting a person at risk of developing a secondary infection, and some people are allergic to tick saliva, making them capable of causing serious allergic reactions, and possibly anaphylactic shock.

For residents of Arizona, the brown dog tick poses the greatest threat because this species feeds on dogs, which allows them to hitchhike into homes where they are capable of completing their entire life cycle. Adult brown dog ticks can survive for 18 months, while larvae can survive for eight months without feeding. Once indoors, brown dog ticks eventually detach from the skin of dogs and jump onto walls where they can then jump onto passing humans. Indoor brown dog tick infestations are not uncommon, but they can be prevented by regularly checking pets for ticks, keeping grass cut short, and allowing the sun to shine in shaded parts of a lawn, as ticks avoid sunlight.

Have you ever found a tick on your dog?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Chigger Pest Issues Are Surprisingly Common On Residential Lawns In Arizona

Many people have heard of the parasitic pests commonly known as “chiggers,” but few people living in the US know why these arachnids are considered pests. Chiggers are well known to people living south of the border in Mexico and South America where the pests often transmit diseases. While chiggers can be found in several southern states, these tiny arachnid pests are not considered medically important in the US since they are not known for transmitting disease to humans in the country. However, chiggers can pose a serious nuisance to residents of Arizona, as they are common in residential yards where they inflict bites to humans that result in severe itchiness and swelling.

The term “chiggers” is a common name given to harvest mite larvae that feed on human and animal skin cells. During the spring season, adult harvest mites deposit eggs in soil located in residential yards, parks, nature preserves and in any landscape where grass and/or other forms of vegetation are present. During the late summer and fall seasons, chiggers emerge from the eggs, and although chiggers are small, their red bodies can sometimes be seen crawling about in gardens and on turf. Upon hatching, chiggers immediately attempt to feed by crawling atop blades of grass in order to jump and land on the skin of any human that walks by. 

Chiggers prefer to feed on birds and rodents, but they will not hesitate to feed on humans if their favored food sources are not available. Once chiggers land on human skin, they move beneath clothing before using their mouthparts to feed on skin cells. Chigger bites transmit enzymes into the bloodstream that cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals, but even non-allergic individuals can experience irritation from chigger bites that last for up to two weeks.

A little more than a month ago, a resident of Arizona recounted his struggle with chigger bites while gardening in his backyard. The resident had tried applying a number of anti-itch creams to relieve the itching caused by the many chigger bites that he had sustained, but when these failed, he eventually turned to steroid medication. The resident also decided to avoid his yard until the chigger issue could be resolved, and this is pretty much all he could do. Unfortunately, experts state that chiggers are impossible to avoid in areas where they are present, and the best thing to do in order to avoid bites is to avoid chigger-infested areas entirely. With the exception of their annoying bites, chiggers in the US are considered medically harmless, and DEET repellent can provide short-term protection from their bites.

Have you ever spotted a chigger or sustained a chigger bite in Arizona?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Pharaoh Ants Establish Nests Within Homes, And They Spread Disease-Causing Microorganisms Wherever They Go

Pharaoh Ants Establish Nests Within Homes, And They Spread Disease-Causing Microorganisms Wherever They Go

More than 700 ant species have been documented in the United States, but only a small minority are considered pests within homes and yards. Much like other eusocial insect groups, many ant species have established permanent habitats outside of their native range. Some ant species have even managed to thrive in a variety of environmental conditions on nearly every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, of course. The relatively small group of ant species that have spread to virtually every urban region of the world are known as “tramp ants.” This name comes from their habit of hitchhiking to new areas all over the world via cargo shipments, much like a tramp or vagrant.

Tramp ant species tend to be nuisance pests around homes due to their ability to tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions. Tramp ants are also well adapted to surviving long periods within human habitats, as all tramp ants have endured long journeys across the world on cargo ships and other human forms of transportation. Naturally, several tramp ant species can be found throughout the US, and some of the most commonly encountered tramp ants in Arizona include Argentine ants, crazy ants, odorous house ants, and Pharaoh ants. Monomorium pharaonis, or “Pharaoh ants” as they are commonly known, are notorious for establishing stubborn indoor infestations where the ants pose a health threat due to the disease-causing microorganisms that the ants carry.

Pharaoh ants are one of the smallest sized ant pest species, as they usually do not grow any larger than 1/16 of an inch in length, but the tiny ants can still be recognized within homes for their strikingly yellow exterior. Pharaoh ants prefer to nest within obscure indoor locations that are difficult to access, such as within wall voids, beneath baseboards or within attic spaces. Since Pharaoh ant colonies can contain more than 30,000 individual ants, infestations can be hard to eradicate. Workers often forage around homes where they will consume just about any human food source that they encounter, such as meats, sweets, and fats. These ants also require copious amounts of water, and they can harvest water from any source, including from the wounds of debilitated and/or immobile people.

Pharaoh ants also nest outdoors, often beneath leaf-litter and stones, and while these ants do not damage lawns, their population can reach nuisance levels in residential yards where they frequently congregate within homes in order to secure easy human food sources. Considering the disease risk that these ants pose to the occupants of an infested home, a pest control professional should be contacted when Pharaoh ants are found indoors.

Have you ever spotted Pharaoh ants within your house?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

How to Silence Constantly Chirping Crickets

While many people find the sound the chirping crickets pleasant enough, it can begin to grate on a person when they are trying to catch some z’s while a cricket is playing its melody in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, crickets are also just about impossible to track down, as they are incredibly sensitive to movement, and thus immediately cease playing their music when you move to find them in the dark. And while their chirping may seem to drive you insane at night, it is their tendency to eat anything they come across, including clothing, paper, fungi, other dead bugs, leafy vegetables, and even other crickets, in your home that can really turn them into a pest. In addition to this, they attract other visitors to your home that are a more serious problem such as their natural predators, scorpions and spiders.

Ideally, you want to prevent crickets from ever entering your home in the first place. You can do this by removing possible nesting spots around the outside of your home such as piles of wood, leaf litter, and rock piles. Make sure your landscaping stops a good six inches from your houses exterior walls, cutting back bushes and any other ground cover. Outdoor clutter also works as great nesting places, so get rid of any clutter left in your yard such as cardboard boxes, tarps, and pool toys. Damp moist areas will draw crickets, as they prefer to hide from the blistering Arizona sun in these areas. Make sure to seal any cracks or small crevices in your walls and around windows and doors, and cover vents with mesh to prevent crickets from slipping inside. If you do find a nest in your walls, it is likely hundreds of crickets will come pouring out after you spray it with pest spray.

If crickets have already entered your home, there are a few ways you can try and rid yourself of them before calling in the pest control professionals. Getting rid of any sources of food and water is one way to handle the situation. Just like humans, they need food and water to survive. Eliminate any possible sources of water around your home and make sure there are no damp corners hiding in any rooms. Since crickets can survive on just about anything, even sawdust and glue, you need to meticulously clean any areas you think chirping is coming from. Take away their food and water, and the crickets will often move on to greener pastures. Crickets also prefer and are most active in warm temperatures, thriving between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You can try lowering the temperature in your home or placing a portable air conditioner in any area you think the chirping is coming from and the cold temperature should make them lethargic, hopefully getting them to stop their chirping. If your infestation is too serious to deal with on your own, then call in the pest control professionals to get the job done right.

Have you ever had to deal with an infestation of crickets?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

What You Need To Know To Minimize The Risk Of Sustaining Bites From West Nile-Infected Mosquitoes

What You Need To Know To Minimize The Risk Of Sustaining Bites From West Nile-Infected Mosquitoes

As many Arizona residents may have already learned, the west Nile virus is now a permanent component of southern Arizona’s ecosystem, making the diseased insects particularly prevalent around residential and urban areas of Phoenix and Tucson. Last May, state officials collected 87 mosquito specimens carrying the virus, which is up from a mere seven samples found in the same area of Phoenix last year. Unfortunately, the west Nile virus is not the only mosquito-borne disease to fear in Arizona, as officials also collected 53 specimens that were carrying St. Louis Encephalitis. This figure is up from only two cases of the disease found this time last year. The first west Nile disease case of the year in Arizona was confirmed last February in Maricopa county, and the mosquito season lasts from May through October in the state, so mosquito activity is not yet at its peak. In addition to this case, another west Nile disease case has likely infected a resident of Pima County. Needless to say, mosquito bites are of greater concern than ever before in Arizona. However, there are plenty of precautions that residents can take to prevent bites.

The west Nile virus is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito species, which is now abundant in southern Arizona. This particular mosquito species relies almost exclusively on standing water sources located in residential and urban areas in order to breed. Yards that contain an abundance of stagnant water sources will certainly see an abundance of mosquitoes. Removing standing water from residential yards will keep these mosquitoes away from human-populated areas and will also decrease the overall population size of the species. Even containers as small as a bottle cap can hold a sufficient amount of water for larval development. It is also important for residents to apply mosquito repellent before setting foot outdoors, especially when planning to remain outdoors for an extended period of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using repellents that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Products that contain DEET and are designed to repel Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes are the most important aspects of an effective mosquito repellent.

Do you worry about sustaining bites from disease-carrying mosquitoes around your home?

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

The Spines Of Buckmoth Caterpillars Cause Extremely Painful Stings Which Can Land People In The Hospital

Venomous caterpillar species can be found all over the United States. Some of the most commonly encountered species include tussock moth-caterpillars, flannel moth-caterpillars, saddleback moth-caterpillars, asp caterpillars and buckmoth caterpillars. Several venomous caterpillar species have been documented as inhabiting the Sonoran Desert region of southern Arizona, but buckmoth caterpillars are the most frequently encountered venomous caterpillar species in the state. These caterpillars possess numerous venomous “spines” that protrude from their body, and simply touching a specimen will cause these spines to become stuck in the skin where it continually releases venom. These spines are called “urticating hairs,” and they should only be removed from the skin with tape, as using fingers to pull out the hairs may squeeze more venom into the bloodstream, which intensifies the pain sensation. Unfortunately, these caterpillars often become abundant in residential yards where people often sustain stings while performing yard work.

Around 23 buckmoth caterpillar species have been documented in the southwest US, and these species are around 2 inches in length, and the exterior color of buckmoth caterpillars vary depending on the species. One of the most commonly encountered buckmoth caterpillar species in Arizona is named Hemileuca juno, and these caterpillars are often found grouped together on a variety of common tree species where they feed on leaves. It is not uncommon for buckmoth caterpillars to land on humans after falling from trees, and when this occurs, envenomation almost always results. Another buckmoth caterpillar species in the state, Hemileuca oliviae, dwells within grass where humans often sustain stings while walking. The venom of buckmoth caterpillars usually causes inflammatory dermatitis, and since the human body recognizes the venom as a foregin substance, allergic reactions sometimes result from stings. Most sting cases do not result in hospitalizations, but several cases of buckmoth caterpillar spines making contact with the eyes has resulted in serious medical consequences.

Do you believe that you have spotted a buckmoth caterpillar before?

 

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

What Attracts Spiders Into Homes? And How Residents Can Prevent Spiders From Setting Up Camp In A Home?

Many Arizona residents have learned from experience that warm spring weather tends to bring spiders of all sorts into homes. The reason for this trend is no mystery, as many people are aware that web-spinning spiders prey on flying insects, such as mosquitoes and common houseflies. Several flying insect species become abundant in urban and suburban areas come spring, and spiders naturally gravitate to areas where they can find food. In other words, as the flying insect population increases in residential areas, so do spider populations.

While spiders may be intimidating to look at, their mosquito, gnat and fly prey are far more dangerous to humans. For example, many common urban fly species, such as houseflies, are well known to spread numerous diseases to humans due to their filthy breeding and feeding habits. In addition to flies, urban mosquitoes have recently brought the west Nile virus into Maricopa County where the disease is now a permanent part of southern Arizona’s ecosystem. The last few years have seen urban mosquitoes in southern Arizona skyrocket in numbers, and this year many residents have reported finding mosquitoes within their home. Therefore, it should not be surprising to find an unusually high number of spiders within homes in the region. In fact, spiders perform a free pest control service by feeding on airborne fly pests around homes.

Luckily, very few spider species in southern Arizona are known for inflicting potentially dangerous bites. Only a small number of spider species in the region produce venom that can trigger severe allergic reactions. However, spiders can be a source of anxiety when they are frequently found within homes, and abundant indoor spider webs can become a nuisance. In order to prevent spiders from inhabiting a home, it is often necessary to first have a home inspected for insect pests that may be attracting spiders indoors. Spiders tend to remain in cluttered areas that are typically avoided by humans. Simply dusting curtains, ceiling fans, skylights, doorway entrances and areas behind furniture will help to keep spiders from becoming indoor pests.

Have you found any spiders within your home this summer?

 

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Massive Centipedes Can Invade Your Home Through Indoor Drains

Massive Centipedes Can Invade Your Home Through Indoor Drains

Arizona is home to some of the largest sized centipede species in the world. The giant desert centipede in Arizona grows to be six to eight inches in length, and the common desert centipede grows to be between four and five inches in length. The giant desert centipede can be recognized for its black head and orange tail, while the smaller variety is usually tan to brown in color. While these two centipede species inflict venomous and very painful bites, bites rarely cause serious reactions. Unlike the common house centipede, which is often encountered in homes all over the United States, desert centipedes are not chronic home-invaders in Arizona. That being said, large desert centipedes have emerged from sink and shower drain within houses. While this claim is argued on many websites, two entomologists, Richard Fagerlund and Johnna Lachnit, have stated that centipedes may enter homes through drains after invading septic tanks.

Although desert centipedes do not invade homes in the southwest as often as house centipedes, many residents of the region have found large desert centipedes indoors, particularly in beds. One desert-dwelling resident described a situation in which a large centipede emerged from his kitchen sink while washing dishes. He claimed that the specimen was around six inches, which he was able to determine easily after the centipede bared its entire body on one of his dinner plates. Another resident claimed that a large centipede crawled up her leg after it had emerged from her bathtub drain while showering. The two above named entomologists claim that centipedes can enter septic tanks before invading homes through drains. These two entomologists recommend covering indoor drains with commercially available drain covers, and if these are not on hand, placing a zip-lock bag over drains will suffice. It is also important to run hot water before retiring to bed each night, as nocturnal centipedes may emerge from drains before invading other areas of a home while residents sleep.

Have you ever witnessed an arthropod emerge from an indoor drain?

 

 

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Up To 4,000 Scorpion Stings Are Reported In And Around Phoenix Every Year, And Some Arizona Residents Are More Likely To Sustain A Sting Than Others

Up To 4,000 Scorpion Stings Are Reported In And Around Phoenix Every Year, And Some Arizona Residents Are More Likely To Sustain A Sting Than Others

Thirty scorpion species can be found in Arizona, and more species may have yet to be discovered within the state. This may be a bold statement, as one would think that all scorpions within Arizona have certainly been discovered by now. However, a new species, Vaejovis crumpi, was discovered in Prescott in 2011, and much of Arizona is uninhabited desert, making the existance of additional undocumented species a distinct possibility in the state. It is comforting to know that all potentially dangerous scorpion species in Arizona have likely been found, as a few scorpion species already inflict medically significant stings to thousands of Arizona residents annually. Surprisingly, between 3,000 and 4,000 scorpion stings occur annually within the Phoenix metropolitan area alone. Researchers have noted that scorpion stings are not evenly distributed across metropolitan areas in Arizona, making residents of Phoenix more likely to sustain scorpion stings than others.

The desert hairy scorpion, the devil scorpion and the bark scorpion are the three most commonly encountered scorpion species within Arizona. While the desert hairy scorpion may be the most intimidating species to look at given their 5 to 6 inch body length, this species is not considered medically significant, but the much smaller 3 inch bark scorpion can inflict potentially deadly stings. The risk of falling victim to a scorpion sting is remote within urbanized locations found where concrete sidewalks, buildings and business are abundant, but unsurprisingly, the risk of sustaining a scorpion stings is much greater in suburban regions. This makes most apartment dwellers relatively safe from scorpion stings, but the residents living within single family homes located near open and undeveloped landscapes are at the greatest risk of sustaining a scorpion sting in Arizona. Unlike apartments and townhouses, single family homes are isolated structures. Homes in these regions are also far more likely than others to become infested with scorpions. Residents living in these areas should be mindful of scorpions on their lawn during the night hours, as all scorpions are nocturnal.

Have you ever found scorpions near your home?

 

 

Nelson Ruiz No Comments

Mayflies And Caddisflies Can Trigger Severe Allergic Reactions In Humans

The insects known as caddisflies and mayflies are abundant in Arizona. These two insects dwell and breed near natural water bodies, and it is not uncommon for mayflies and caddisflies to swarm large populated areas located near lakes and rivers. For example, back in 2015, massive swarms of caddisflies terrorized residents of Bullhead City. This Arizona city is located near the Colorado River, so residents were used to occasional caddisfly swarms. However, the summer of 2015 saw repeat swarms that were so unpleasant that real estate prices in the city dropped drastically, as nobody wanted to retire to the city knowing about the swarms. Mayfly swarms can also be a nuisance for Arizona residents, as one resident of Oak Creek reported a mayfly swarm as large as 30 by 30 meters. At the moment, residents located near Lake Erie in Ohio are being bombarded with repeat mayfly swarms that are literally covering houses. These swarms are large enough to be picked up on weather radar. While it is well known that both caddisflies and mayflies can be a nuisance, their negative effect on human health is not so well known. Much like cockroaches and dust mites, mayflies and caddisflies are two arthropods that can induce allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. In some cases, these insects can induce asthma attacks, hives, skin irritation and eczema.

Given the caddisflies appearance, it should not be surprising to learn that they are closely related to moths and butterflies. Much like moths and butterflies, caddisfly wings are covered in easily detachable scales that serve as airborne allergens. These scales are a source of both indoor and outdoor allergens, and inhaling these scales can induce asthma attacks. Mayflies, on the other hand, do not spread airborne allergens; instead, the discarded skins shed by mayflies serve as environmental allergens. Although their discarded skins are not as readily airborne as the dust-like scales on caddisfly wings, these discarded skins can be blown about in the wind, making it easy for people to inhale this allergen. Mayfly allergens have been shown to induce seasonal asthma symptoms and eczema. Once case report describes in individual who developed “huge” hives as a result of making contact with mayfly allergens. Keeping these insects out of homes is particularly important to prevent the development of allergies or the worsening of existing allergies.

Have you ever witnessed a caddisfly or mayfly swarm?