Biting & Stinging Insects
Bed Bugs (biting): Once bed bugs have invaded your home, they can be a little difficult to eliminate. Their habits, size and hardy nature help contribute to their persistence in homes and apartments that they have invaded. An adult bed bug is about 1/4 of an inch long. This small body size helps this pest to hide in areas that make their elimination difficult. Bed bug nymphs react to pest control products more readily than their adult counterparts, but like the adults they can go for long periods without food. Blood taken from humans is the preferred food of young and adult bed bugs.
Bed bugs are not seen crawling around during the daylight hours where they would be easily identified. They hide in various areas during the day and come out at night to feed on human blood. Actually, the carbon dioxide we exhale during the night attracts them and the host (you) does not see or feel their presence. An obvious sign of a bed bug infestation in a room can be the presence of small drops of blood on mattresses sheets and/or pillow cases.
These tiny bugs can be found in small cracks in proximity to where humans rest or sleep. These cracks and crevices are generally behind and beneath baseboards, underneath area rugs, between carpeting and walls, in power areas of appliances or even in the folds of curtains and drapes. A thorough vacuuming of cracks, crevices and other areas where bed bugs hide is an essential part of a pest management program targeting this particular pest, but please don't forget to throw out the vacuum bag. In addition, you must wash and dry ALL of your clothing—this means everything—and place the clean items inside plastic bags, preferably outside your apartment or house, until after the treatment is performed.
Also, mattresses and box springs are often the main hiding places of a bed bug infestation. The decision to discard or treat them is based on the level of infestation and nature of the client. Whether the bed stays or goes, covering both the mattress and box spring with a zippered encasement deny bed bugs access to inner hiding areas and also entraps them inside. Otherwise, bed bugs may dislodge during transport and spread to other areas. This is why it is imperative to contact professionals in this matter, as you do not want to risk further infestation in the house.
Prevention Is Best for Bed Bug Control
There are a few ways to handle treatment options when it comes to controlling bed bugs. This depends on the extent of the infestation. It is important to remember that in order for a new infestation to become established, bed bugs must first be introduced into the previously un-infested environment.
The best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is to avoid the activities that place you at risk for an infestation. Some activities are easier than others to avoid. For example it is much easier to avoid purchasing used items than it is to eliminate travel, having overnight guests, or sending children off to summer camp or college. On the other hand it is much easier to never pick up items that have been discarded curbside or purchase used or second-hand bedding or furniture. There is no question that an awareness of bed bug risk factors is the first step in avoiding an infestation.
Early detection of bed bug activity is among the most important ways that you can protect yourself from a bed bed bug infestation nightmare that is difficult and costly to eliminate. The use of mattress and a box spring encasement is one of the most economical and useful tools that can aid in the early detection of bed bugs.
It is very important that the encasement has been specifically designed for bed bugs and have been scientifically tested to demonstrate their effectiveness. By encasing mattresses, any bed bugs that may be introduced are restricted to the exterior of the encasement where they can be readily detected through a good visual inspection. In addition, mattress and the box spring encasement can also prevent the infestation of the mattress and box spring should bed bugs be introduced.
Fleas (biting): Fleas are wingless insects (1/16 to 1/8-inch (1.5 to 3.3 mm) long) that are agile, usually dark colored (for example, the reddish-brown of the cat flea), with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm) and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm), making the flea one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper.
According to an article in Science News, "researchers with the University of Cambridge in England have shown that fleas take off from their tibiae and tarsi—the insect equivalent of feet—and not their trochantera, or knees. The researchers report their conclusion in the March 1 Journal of Experimental Biology." It has been known that fleas do not use muscle power but energy stored in a protein named resilin, with researchers using high-speed video technology and mathematical models to discover where the spring action actually happens.
Their bodies are laterally compressed, permitting easy movement through the hairs or feathers on the host's body (or in the case of humans, under clothing). The flea body is hard, polished, and covered with many hairs and short spines directed backward, which also assist its movements on the host. The tough body is able to withstand great pressure, likely an adaptation to survive attempts to eliminate them by mashing or scratching. Even hard squeezing between the fingers is normally insufficient to kill a flea. However, rolling them back & forth a dozen times disables their legs and they die.
Fleas lay tiny white oval-shaped eggs better viewed through a loupe or magnifying glass. The larva is small and pale, has bristles covering its worm-like body, lacks eyes, and has mouth-parts adapted to chewing. The larvae feed on various organic matter, especially the feces of mature fleas. The adult flea's diet consists solely of fresh blood. In the pupa phase, the larva is enclosed in a silken, debris-covered cocoon.
Fleas are holometabolous insects, going through the four life cycle stages of egg, larva, pupa, and imago (adult). Adult fleas must feed on blood before they can become capable of reproduction. Flea populations are evenly distributed, with about 50% eggs, 35% larvae, 10% pupae, and 5% adults.
The flea life cycle begins when the female lays after feeding. Eggs are laid in batches of up to 20 or so, usually on the host itself, which means that the eggs can easily roll onto the ground. Because of this, areas where the host rests and sleeps become one of the primary habitats of eggs and developing fleas. The eggs take around two days to two weeks to hatch.
Flea larvae emerge from the eggs to feed on any available organic material such as dead insects, feces, and vegetable matter. In laboratory studies, some dietary diversity seems necessary for proper larval development. Blood only diets allow only 12% of larvae to mature, whereas blood and yeast or dog chow diets allow almost all larvae to mature. They are blind and avoid sunlight, keeping to dark places like sand, cracks and crevices, and bedding.
Given an adequate supply of food, larvae will pupate and weave a silken cocoon within 1–2 weeks after 3 larval stages. After another week or two, the adult flea is fully developed and ready to emerge from the cocoon. They may remain resting during this period until they receive a signal that a host is near - vibrations (including sound), heat, and carbon dioxide are all stimuli indicating the probable presence of a host. Fleas are known to overwinter in the larval or pupal stages.
Once the flea reaches adulthood, its primary goal is to find blood and then to reproduce. Their total life span can be as short as one year, but may be several years in ideal conditions. Female fleas can lay 5000 or more eggs over their life, allowing for phenomenal growth rates. Average 30–90 days.
A flea might live a year and a half under ideal conditions. These include the right temperature, food supply, and humidity. Generally speaking, an adult flea only lives for 2 or 3 months. Without a host for food a flea's life might be as short as a few days. With ample food supply, the adult flea will often live up to 100 days.
Newly emerged adult fleas live only about one week if a blood meal is not obtained. However, completely developed adult fleas can live for several months without eating, so long as they do not emerge from their puparia. Optimum temperatures for the flea's life cycle are 21 °C to 30 °C (70 °F to 85 °F) and optimum humidity is 70%.
Adult female rabbit fleas, Spilopsyllus cuniculi, can detect the changing levels of cortisol and corticosterone hormones in the rabbit's blood that indicate it is getting close to giving birth. This triggers sexual maturity in the fleas and they start producing eggs. As soon as the baby rabbits are born, the fleas make their way down to them and once on board they start feeding, mating, and laying eggs. After 12 days, the adult fleas make their way back to the mother. They complete this mini-migration every time she gives birth.
Yellow Jacket: (Stinging) Yellow jackets are sometimes mistakenly called "bees" (as in "meat bees"), given that they are similar in size and appearance and both sting, but yellow jackets are actually wasps. They may be confused with other wasps, such as hornets and paper wasps. Polistes dominula, a species of paper wasp, is very frequently misidentified as a yellow jacket. A typical yellow jacket worker is about 12 mm/0.5in long, with alternating bands on the abdomen; the queen is larger, about 19 mm/0.75in long (the different patterns on their abdomens help separate various species).
Workers are sometimes confused with honey bees, especially when flying in and out of their nests. Yellow jackets, in contrast to honey bees, are not covered with tan-brown dense hair on their bodies, they do not carry pollen, and do not have the flattened hairy hind legs used to carry it.
These species have lance-like stingers with small barbs, and typically sting repeatedly, though occasionally a stinger becomes lodged and pulls free of the wasp's body; the venom, like most bee and wasp venom, is primarily only dangerous to humans who are allergic or are stung many times. All species have yellow or white on their faces. The mouthparts are well-developed with strong mandibles for capturing and chewing insects, with probosces for sucking nectar, fruit, and other juices.
Yellow jackets build nests in trees, shrubs, or in protected places such as inside man-made structures, or in soil cavities, mouse burrows, etc. They build them from wood fiber they chew into a paper-like pulp. Many other insects exhibit protective mimicry of aggressive, stinging yellow jackets; in addition to numerous bees and wasps (Müllerian mimicry), the list includes some flies, moths, and beetles (Batesian mimicry).
Yellow jackets' closest relatives, the hornets, closely resemble them, but have larger heads, seen especially in the large distance from the eyes to the back of the head.
Yellow jackets are social hunters living in colonies containing workers, queens, and males (drones). Colonies are annual with only inseminated queens overwintering. Fertilized queens are found in protected places such as hollow logs, in stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, in soil cavities, and man-made structures. Queens emerge during the warm days of late spring or early summer, select a nest site, and build a small paper nest in which they lay eggs.
After eggs hatch from the 30 to 50 brood cells, the queen feeds the young larvae for about 18 to 20 days. Larvae pupate, then emerge later as small, infertile females called workers. Workers in the colony will take over caring for the larvae, feeding them with chewed up food, meat or fruit. By midsummer, the first adult workers emerge and assume the tasks of nest expansion, foraging for food, care of the queen and larvae, and colony defense.
From this time until her death in the autumn, the queen remains inside the nest, laying eggs. The colony then expands rapidly, reaching a maximum size of 4,000 to 5,000 workers and a nest of 10,000 to 15,000 cells in late summer. At peak size, reproductive cells are built with new males and queens produced. Adult reproductives remain in the nest fed by the workers. New queens build up fat reserves to overwinter. Adult reproductives leave the parent colony to mate.
After mating, males quickly die, while fertilized queens seek protected places to overwinter. Parent colony workers dwindle, usually leaving the nest to die, as does the foundress queen. Abandoned nests rapidly decompose and disintegrate during the winter. They can persist as long as they are kept dry, but are rarely used again. In the spring, the cycle is repeated; weather in the spring is the most important factor in colony establishment.
Adults feed primarily on items rich in sugars and carbohydrates, such as fruits, flower nectar, and tree sap, and larvae feed on proteins, such as insects, meats, and fish. Adult workers chew and condition the meat fed to the larvae. Larvae in return secrete a sugar material relished by the adults; this exchange is a form of trophallaxis. In late summer, foraging workers pursue other food sources from meats to ripe fruits, or scavenge human garbage, sodas, picnics, etc., since larvae in the nest fail to meet requirements as a source of sugar.
Bald-Faced Hornets: (Stinging) The bald-faced hornet actually belongs to a genus of yellow jackets in North America, but unlike many congeners it lacks yellow coloring. Instead, it is called a hornet in the American sense of a wasp that builds paper nests. It is large compared to other yellow jackets, with adults averaging 2-3 cm long. It is sometimes confused with the similar-sized European hornet, the only true hornet in America, but is distinguished by its mostly white "baldfaced" head and three white stripes on the end of its abdomen.
It is best known for its large, football-shaped paper nest, which it builds in the spring to rear young. The nest, one of the largest of wasp nests, can be up to 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter and 23 inches (60 cm) in length. The population of a nest varies from 100 to 700 individuals, averaging around 400. The bald-faced hornet is protective of the nest and will sting repeatedly if it is disturbed. This wasp is more aggressive than most yellow jackets and the nest should be observed only from a distance.
Each spring, queens that were born and fertilized at the end of the previous season begin new colonies. A queen selects a location for its nest, begins building it, lays a first batch of eggs and feeds this first group of larvae. These become workers and assume the chore of expanding the nest. They chew up wood, which mixes with a starch in their saliva. They then spread it around with their mandibles and legs, and it dries into a papery structure.
The workers guard the nest and feed on nectar, tree sap and fruit pulp (particularly that of apples). They also prey on insects and other arthropods, chewing them up and feeding them to the larvae. They have been known to scavenge raw meat. In late summer and early fall, the queen begins to lay eggs which will become drones and new queens. After pupation, these fertile males and females fly off to mate and start new colonies.
The bald-faced hornet is considered useful by some people in that it preys on pest species of flies, caterpillars, and spiders. It is considered a pest itself, building hives of stinging insects near human habitation. It is a minor pollinator of some flowers.
Like other social wasps, bald-faced hornets have a caste system made up, in one nest, of the following:
- Queen – the fertile female which starts the colony and lays eggs
- Workers – infertile females which maintain the nest and young
- Drones – males, which lack stingers, and are born from unfertilized eggs
- New queens – fertile females, each of which may become a queen when fertilized and start a colony
If you're concerned about BED BUGS (and who isn't?) or other biting/stinging insects,
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