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Safety Alert: Spread of the Dangerous “Kissing Bug” in Texas

bugs are keeping Austin weird too

The kissing bug is not as cute as it sounds. In fact, its other nickname, the assassin bug, may be more accurate. Scientifically known as triatomine bugs, these insects are more than just bothersome. They can carry Chagas disease, which is potentially life-threatening. Although the kissing bug is more common in Mexico, Central America and South America, the pest has been found in 27 of the U.S. states, including Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is Chagas Disease?

Chagas disease is a parasitic disease that is transmitted to mammals through the feces of the kissing bug. The kissing bug feeds on the blood of animals and humans, usually during the night. The insects tend to bite the faces of humans, leaving behind droppings near the bite wound. If the droppings, which may be infected with the parasite that causes Chagas disease, are rubbed into the wound, the … Read Full Post »

Termites Are A Slow But Sure Expense

termites damage to home

Termites are one of the most destructive pests you’ll encounter, and stopping an infestation early is crucial to reducing the expense associated with their damage. Although it may take a termite a long time to chew through the wood of your home or office, it will eventually succeed in severely weakening the structure. A termite infestation could result in substantial damages and lengthy repairs if left alone.

The Life of a Termite

Termites are social insects that are related to ants. Like ants, they live in colonies, each member filling a specific role. They feed primarily on wood pulp and are often found chewing through a house’s foundation, flooring, and walls. Termite colonies can become very large very quickly, and the growing size represents an increasing threat to the stability of your home.

As a colony grows, the colony will seek to expand by sending out a new young queen. This winged termite will … Read Full Post »

Beware the Dangerous “Kissing Bug”

On the surface, a kissing bug sounds fun. Sadly, it doesn’t cause the world to smooch in perfect harmony. A kissing bug is just that: a bug. These bugs don’t cause property damage, but the bug’s bite and risk of transmitting Chagas disease render them worthy of strict pest control. Kissing bug sightings are currently on the rise in Central Texas.

Kissing bugs, also called conenose bugs, assassin bugs and Mexican bed bugs, often lug around the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite and earned their primary name by biting around people’s mouths and eyes. If the kissing bug releases feces when it’s feeding, T. cruzi becomes absorbed into the kissing bug’s chosen buffet source; usually, humans and canines are unsuspecting buffet tables. During the first few weeks, a person infected with Chagas disease experiences swelling at site, fatigue, fever, a rash, constipation and abdominal pain. This is the acute phase, which becomes chronic … Read Full Post »

The Newest Invasive Species in Texas

Texas is under invasion. Outside intruders are visiting our backyards, waterways, and agricultural fields. As people and goods travel across state and national borders faster than ever, invasive species from faraway places like Africa and Asia threaten our native plants and animals.

According to TexasInvasives.org, a multi-agency partnership that aims to educate Texans about the threat of invasive species, individual invasive species can cause crop and lawn damages of $100 million or more per year. Although only 15% of non-native organisms can be classified as “invasive,” these unwanted pests threaten the native species that make Texas unique and prosperous. Here are a few of the state’s newest enemies.

African Cluster Bug

This invasive insect is just as gross as its name implies. It’s often found in damaging swarms that can descend on cropland and gardens. With a fearsome reproduction rate and an appetite for local cash crops like flax and thyme, the African … Read Full Post »

Pests…On Your Plate

ant infestation

Are you cooking with… insects?

It’s hard to picture insects and arachnids as anything more than bothersome pests that disrupt barbeques, cause painful stings, and freak many of us out. But it may be time to start welcoming these creatures into your life….and on your plate.

The Latest Food Trend

Sweet and salty snacks, blackened seafood, alternative milk, and bug burgers? Believe it or not, these are all popular food trends this year, and yes, insects have solidified a spot in the culinary industry. Concerns about feeding the world’s ever-growing population and some courageous foodies’ efforts have given these creepy crawlers a new purpose.

The health benefits of this “alternative food source” can’t be denied, either. While the Huffington Post reports that eating insects can combat obesity, you should also know that many pests are protein, lipid, and calorie-rich and packed with many essential vitamins and minerals. Pair that with their abundant availability and … Read Full Post »

Is Your Yard a Mosquito Paradise?

mosquitoes atlanta, pest control orlando

When your pool party turns into an all-you-can-eat buffet for mosquitoes, it can feel like you’ve been engulfed by an indestructible horde of the pesky insects. The truth is that mosquitoes are fragile and need very specific conditions to breed. Here is everything you need to know about what a mosquito looks for in a home–and how to make your yard into an undesirable neighborhood.

For a mosquito, curb appeal begins with water. Specifically, dirty water that’s been sitting for a while. Why is water so important? Mosquito larvae filter nutrients from stagnant water, which means the old planter at the corner of the garage is prime real estate. The tire swing can turn into a luxury condo complex just four days after a good rainstorm. And, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even an upturned bottle-cap can become a studio apartment for the house-hunting mosquito on a budget. … Read Full Post »

Tarantulas: Science Fiction Stars Gone Wild

Almost everyone can identify a tarantula. The fierce-looking, hairy spiders can grow as large as dinner plates and cause arachnophobic homeowners to hug their chandeliers. They are pests to some and pets to others, and if you live in Texas, you’ll probably encounter one sooner or later. If you’re unlucky, you may find one in your yard. If your luck is even worse, one might decide to slip into your home unnoticed. In either case, you should be prepared.

What to do if You Encounter a Tarantula

First, relax. Finding a huge, hairy spider is disturbing, but tarantulas aren’t the dangerous monsters many people think they are. Compared to some of their fellow arachnids, they’re not very dangerous. They have fangs, but they rarely bite unless it’s in self-defense. If a tarantula does bite you, it would hurt like a bee sting, and you might have some mild swelling. Unless you’re severely … Read Full Post »

In the News: Tiny Wasps Cultivated Here in Texas for Use as a Citrus-Saving Weapon

While you no doubt love having your citrus trees, you’ve probably noticed that you aren’t the only one in the neighborhood who enjoys easy access to fresh fruit. Insects like the Asian citrus psyllid have been wreaking havoc in Texan citrus fields and home gardens, but pesticides may not be the best answer. Mass spraying tends to have pretty nasty side effects, and some species may even develop tolerance to such chemicals. Fortunately, a local lab is taking clues from nature by cultivating a non-stinging wasp that is a highly effective deterrent.

What’s Wrong with Psyllids?

The Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri, wouldn’t be such a problem if all it did was suck sap out of new shoots on various citrus tree species. Unfortunately, these tiny bugs also create a toxic byproduct that mangles some buds and kills off others, preventing trees from growing out properly. As if this isn’t bad enough, … Read Full Post »

Bee Removal: Protecting Our Bumble Buddies

why do bees swarm

Many people are afraid of bees due to the threat of bee stings. In most cases, bees are not dangerous to humans unless you are allergic. They are a necessary component of the ecosystem and responsible for pollinating many of the plants we eat. All the same, a hive can sometimes be built in an inconvenient location, and bee removal does become necessary on occasion.

The Life of Bumblebees

Whenever you identify a bee colony living near your home or office, the first step to removal is correctly identifying the bee species. Bumblebees have different habits than carpenter bees and honey bees, and understanding these habits will aid in your pest control efforts.

Bumblebees are docile and live in small colonies. They prefer to nest in grass clumps or old mouse holes, but they can also make their homes in birdhouses, under porches, in old planters, or in any other cozy space. The … Read Full Post »

Your Home May Not Be as Clean as You Think

If you’re like most people, your housecleaning routine ends with feelings of relief, accomplishment, pride and exhaustion. The floors shine, and the toilet sparkles. Even the toaster gleams, but did you look inside? If you didn’t get all the crumbs out yourself, something small and creepy might do the job for you.

Housecleaning is quite a chore, and sometimes it’s impractical to move every appliance and cover every square inch with disinfectant and a toothbrush. Unfortunately, if you neglect the little nooks and crannies for too long, dirt accumulates, and it may become a free smorgasbord for insects like the dreaded German cockroach.

Your Home’s Dirty Little Secrets

Pests love all the obvious lures like dirty dishes, overflowing garbage cans and smelly clothes, but they also love the spots that nobody ever thinks about. Grease, dust, food particles, mold and mildew can hide almost anywhere. Here are a few commonly overlooked areas you … Read Full Post »