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Category: Good News Pest Solutions

Building a Better Bond with Bees

Understanding Bees BetterWe’ve posted several times about the dwindling bee population. In fact, for the past 11 years, the bee population has decreased by approximately 40% per year, resulting in a focused campaign on many fronts to not only try and deal with the problem, but to raise the public’s awareness of it as well.

That included a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture of 4-million dollars to help improve the health and reproductive cycles of bees in the Midwest. The US Postal Service recently launched “Protect Pollinators” – a Forever stamp campaign, highlighting the bee as well as the butterfly.

And all the attention spurred many others to start studying the Apis mellifera more closely, including several universities in the United States and Canada, and National Geographic.

Why Are Bees So Important?

You may remember that insects pollinate by transferring the male germ cells of a plant to the female stigma. Sometimes that’s the same plant – more often it’s a different plant, due to a difference in maturity and seeding times. There is some wind-borne pollination, but the majority of plants that we use for food can only be pollinated by insects.

Bees are the number one pollinators – handling 80% of insect-oriented pollination, accounting for some $15-BILLION per year in agricultural production. Not only can the large perennial colonies move to wherever they are needed, but they can communicate direction and distance from the hive to nectar sources – an attribute humans have taken advantage of as we work to help the bees help us.

Honey bees excel at finding the most abundant and sweetest source of nectar near the colony. Scouts communicate information about the source to their brood with what is called “dance language.”

It’s Science, Not Fiction

While the precipitous drop in bee population since 2006 looks to be slowing somewhat, scientists say that the size of the honeybee population has been cut almost in half since the 1970’s. And post-apocalyptic fears aside, they say that the one thing that could almost certainly mark the end of life on earth as we know it is the decimation of bees.

Where Are the Bees Going?

Several theories have been brought up over the years to explain the loss of bees. Habitat loss, fungal disease and pesticide use have all been considered. Colony Collapse Disorder has, until recently, been the most accepted explanation for dwindling numbers.

But a recent discovery looks to blame a more specific source – Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite from Asia. The pinhead-sized mite crawls onto young bees and sucks their blood. This eventually destroys a hive because it weakens the immune system of the bees, and it makes them more vulnerable to stress and disease.

See it to Believe it

National Geographic commissioned Anand Varma to take detailed photographs of developing honeybees. As you can see in the short video below, he took a long look at the first 21 days of a bee’s life, with the mites clearly visible in this macro-view of a bee colony.

Varma also explains how an experimental breeding program at the USDA Bee Lab in Louisiana is finding ways to exploit some bees’ natural resistance to the mites, while avoiding some known side effects. By delving deeper into what makes bees function and thrive, we can further assist them, possibly even reversing the disappearance of the bees and redeeming our past interactions with our favorite pollinator.

One way you can help the bees today and protect Florida’s status as the number 3 producer of natural honey is by choosing to utilize the 100% natural, integrated green pest control that Good News Pest Solutions provides. We’re committed to keeping your family, pets and the environment safe from harmful chemicals, whether you live in Apollo Beach or Port Charlotte. For more information, give us a call!

Bee Buzzes: The Key to Their Survival?

Bee Buzzes - A Key to their SurvivalOn the HBO show Silicon Valley, one of the running themes is how the computer whizzes use their technology to share data across thousands of phones and Internet-connected smart devices to improve the world.

Now scientists at the University of Colorado & the University of Missouri may have discovered a way to use that technology to solve a very non-technological real-life problem.

For years, farmers and entomologists alike have noticed dwindling bee populations and sought ways to stem their apparent decline. There are many reasons proposed for the diminishing bee population – habitat loss, climate change, exposure to pesticides, the increasing industrialization of farmland, even our own government programs that limit use of farmland, resulting in fewer pollination sources.

Regardless of the reasons, the reduced bee population, both in wild and managed hives continues to be a source of concern for farmers.

But now a team from the biology department at the University of Missouri may have found a ‘sound solution.’

A Sound Solution?

Scientists have used sonic vibrations to monitor birds, bats, frogs and other insects for more than 100 years. So the researchers decided to try that approach with bumble bees.

The first step was to determine the similarities in frequencies of various bees in the lab, much like determining a musical pitch. Then they teamed up with a group at the University of Colorado to record and analyze data using tiny microphones in three locations on Pennsylvania Mountain, in Colorado.

They soon discovered that existing algorithms that estimated the bee population, in almost every case, significantly underestimated the quantity and variety of bee populations that they found evidence of in the acoustical surveys.

But How Do Cell Phones Help?

Using improved algorithms based on the data, the team at UM are now working on an app that anyone can download on their smartphone. The app allows folks to use their phones as mobile microphones, recording, collating and uploading data on the bees’ buzzing, as well as a photograph of the bees recorded if they want.

The data from the study and its continued tracking, as well as the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of ‘citizen scientists,’ could help farmers track the pollination of their fields and orchards, as well as predicting potential areas where pollination is dropping off before it gets to crisis levels.

And that’s not all. Now that they’ve determined the frequencies, they hope to do future studies on whether or not bees detect competitors by their distinctive buzzes and whether flowers respond chemically to the sound of bee buzzes.

While bees are the number one pollinator of flowers and crops, thankfully, they’re not the only one. We’d like to think we’re doing our part to preserve the second largest pollinator, mosquitoes, with our exclusive No Bite Zones technology that turns the biting momma mosquitoes into vegans, along with their offspring. Especially as our summer rains continue, our clients from North Port to Parrish are enjoying a mosquito free season. If you’d like to check it out, give us a call! Like all our products at Good News Pest Solutions, it’s 100% organic and safe for everyone in your family.

 

Keep Your Cool in the Summer Months!

Green Ways To Keep Cool this SummerAs we move into the hottest months of the year, we thought we’d share some green tips on how to keep your cool in the house while still keeping your electric bill in check.

Cool Your Rooms!

For starters, cover your windows. As much as we enjoy a little natural light during the day, experts say that 30% of your home’s excess heat is coming through your windows. Using blinds, shades or curtains can reduce the temperature in your home on a hot day up to 20-degrees. Not to mention the electricity you’re not spending on air conditioning and fans.

Speaking of fans, make sure all your ceiling fans are turning counter-clockwise. This circulates the air and creates a wind-chill breeze effect, making you feel cooler, especially at higher speeds. In the winter, you can reverse the fans back to clockwise so the warm air that naturally rises is pushed down into the room. (Most ceiling fans have a switch in the base that changes the direction.)

If you don’t have ceiling fans, how about creating your own homemade DIY air conditioning. Fill a mixing bowl with ice or a frozen ice pack and position it at an angle behind a box or table fan. The fan will draw the cool air into the room, rapidly reducing the temperature. Or, if you’re feeling particularly industrious, check out these steps on how to build a “swamp cooler” that can reduce the temperature in a small apartment for only $25!

Cool Your Furniture!

Make sure your sheets are fresh – used sheets absorb sweat and body heat and hold onto it for longer than most people think. Cotton sheets breathe easier and stay cooler.

Water works! While you’re pulling off your sheets to change them, lay a large towel or two down before sliding the fitted sheet into place. Then take a clean, empty spray bottle and fill it with cool water. Spray the top sheet with a light misting of water from the bottle and the dampness will draw heat away from your body. And store the spray bottle in the fridge for the next night!

Also consider investing in a buckwheat pillow. Not only does the pillow not collapse under the weight of your head and neck, helping promote a more comfortable sleep, the buckwheat hulls also don’t hold onto heat – so both sides are the cool side!

Cool Yourself!

Sometimes the best way to beat the heat is by reducing your own temperature! We’ve heard lots of old wives tales about licking your wrists or plunging your head into an ice bucket. We’d like to think our methods are a little more sensible.

Of course, we endorse the standard approach of keeping yourself well hydrated through hot days. Technically, any liquid will do, but we recommend light and healthy beverages like iced tea, lemonade, and, of course, cool refreshing water!

Rather than licking your wrists, a cool compress on pressure points like your wrists and neck will make you feel cooler.

Consider a cold shower. The cool water is bracing and can reduce your body’s overall temperature. It’s especially effective right before bed, even if you don’t dampen the sheets.

(Don’t) Cool It on the Home Improvements!

Certain renovations may take longer to feel the effects from – but are definitely worth the expense for the long-term savings.

Trees can be valuable for shade, but also help cut down on the sun’s heat even when it’s not directly shining on them. Palm trees are less effective, but there are many native Florida fauna that will work well.

Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs – you know, the curlicue ones. The standard incandescent bulbs we’ve been using for generations expend 90% of the energy they use (which itself is much higher than CFL’s) on generating heat. CFL bulbs use less energy, last longer and will reduce the temperature in your home considerably.

You might already be considering insulation, but what about insulation that saves you considerably on your energy bills, reduces sound pollution AND helps control pests access to your house?

Our Thermal Acoustical Pest Control (TAP)  system is 32% more efficient than standard fiberglass insulation and provides a barrier for roaches, ants, silverfish and the sound of your neighbor’s dog that just won’t stop barking. It reduces heat in the summer, cold in the winter and, like all of our products, is 100% safe for your whole family, including pets! And while it’s not pink and doesn’t have a cartoon mascot, it is made with 87% recycled materials that would otherwise be filling a landfill – and is EPA certified!

Call us today to get more information on this remarkable product or any of our natural pest solutions!

Big Headed Ants – A BIG Problem

Big Headed Ants - A Big ProblemJust like most of our residents here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, a lot of our animals, plant life, and insects are also from other parts of the United States and the world. Sometimes that can be a good thing. But in many cases, bugs introduced from foreign sources are more invasive – taking over the native insects’ habitat and creating an imbalance in the natural ecosystem.

That’s definitely the case with Big Headed Ants (BHA).

Pheidole megacephala is considered one of the top 100 most invasive species on the planet. Big Headed Ants were first identified in 1793 on the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Like many other species of ants, BHA’s managed to board the trading ships of the Silk Road – the routes between Europe, Asia, and the Americas – and then were transplanted all across the globe.

Including the Sunshine State…

Here in Florida, the Big Headed Ants were first introduced in the Everglades, Key West, and St. Augustine, but they quickly spread to Charlotte, Broward, Brevard, Hillsborough, Highlands, Lee, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Seminole and Monroe Counties.

Big Headed Ants have been a problem for decades – even displacing many of the other invasive ant species, like red fire and white footed ants. But scientists are saying that in recent years, they’ve become an even larger problem. They believe the large spate of hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast, from 2003 to 2005, the most active tropical activity for our area since the ’60’s, destroyed lawns and trees, which resulted in importing replacement soil and vegetation, which may have been infested with BHA’s.

What do Big Headed Ants Look Like?

Despite their name, only 1% of the Big Headed Ants population sports the larger head – the major worker or soldier ants. The front half of the soldier’s head is sculptured while the back half is smooth and shiny. Minor workers look much like other ants, except for small spines on their midsection pointed upward and the long hairs that cover their entire bodies.

Colonies are very large and will contain a high number of fertile queens, another reason for their rapid spread. Because of our subtropical weather, the ants reproduce almost year round. You may see the winged queens flying about in the winter and early spring, but once fertilized, they shed their wings and nest in loose soil. They will burrow down and can lay almost 300 eggs per month.

The BHA’s feed on dead insects and sometimes live ones, devouring the honeydew extracts from sap-sucking aphids, whiteflies and planthoppers. Strangely, Big Headed Ants have a symbiotic relationship, since both are targeted by the same predators, lady beetles and certain butterfly larvae.

Should I be Worried?

Like their other invasive ant neighbors, the red imported fire ants, Big Headed Ants do bite when defending their nest or colony. Unlike fire ants, BHA bites don’t sting, but some people may still have an allergic reaction to them.

The real problem, though, is food contamination. Once the ants find a food source – sugary items to them are similar to their natural nourishments – they quickly alert any and every Big Headed Ant in the area – drawing them in large numbers. Trust me, you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to find your bed or carpets crawling with hundreds of ants because a cracker crumb wasn’t picked up.

Check With the Experts!

BHA’s are sometimes mistaken for termites because of the way they burrow into trees and their dirt leaves small tubes that they travel through, similar to those created by subterranean termites. Because of this, if you think you have an infestation, call us right away. Our highly-trained staff can quickly identify and properly treat whatever infestation you’re experiencing. We cover most of the Gulf Coast – from Lakewood Ranch to Punta Gorda, and we specialize in natural products that are safe for the whole family!

The Latest on When Mosquitoes Attack! (An Update)

Mosquito UpdateNo, they’re not really attacking, This isn’t one of those Friday night, B-level science fiction horror movies!

But, if you’ve lived in Florida any time at all, you’re aware that the extensive rains we’re having this month will lead to a larger than usual mosquito population in short order. In fact, Sarasota County is already warning their residents about an outbreak and taking specific measures to minimize the effect on their residents.

This time last year, we were all talking about the Zika virus and how mosquitoes were instrumental in spreading it across South America and our own Sunshine State. But as we’ve mentioned in the past, Zika isn’t the only virus that the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are known to spread.

Wait, What Else Do Mosquitoes Spread?

In fact, long before Zika was on our collective radar, we’ve known that those same mosquitoes are linked to the spread of dengue fever and Chikungunya virus, but we had no clear proof.

Since the first mosquito-related case of Chikungunya virus was discovered in the Caribbean in 2013, more than a million cases have been reported, including almost 200 in the United States. But until recently, those were all attributed to travel-related circumstances.

There are three strains of Chikungunya virus that have been genetically identified and named for their origins – West African, Asian and East-Central-South African (ECSA)

Now, researchers have discovered a female Aedes aegypti mosquito in Brazil specifically carrying the East-Central-South African strain of Chikungunya virus. Luckily, none of the mosquitoes scientists captured for this sample tested positive for Zika or dengue.

What Does This Mean for Us?

While Brazil might seem far away, it’s only a few miles as the mosquito flies. And proof of the virus present in a local mosquito there means that it could start spreading further north and that our own mosquitoes could have a higher likelihood of biting an infected person and then spreading it to the other hosts they snack on.

A more troubling thought is that because of certain conditions in Brazil, it’s much easier for the virus to spread rapidly. Although people infected with the virus aren’t contagious, the mosquitoes don’t check anyone’s medical alert bracelet before biting down, allowing the virus to spread easily in highly populated, tightly packed communities.

What Can We Do?

It’s never our intention here at Good News Pest Solutions to spread fear, so this is just interesting information. But why not take precautions now to prevent potential problems in the future – not to mention, virus or not, nobody likes being nibbled on by a pregnant, hungry mosquito.

That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to consider our exclusive No Bite Zones technology – the same all natural, organic solution they used to protect our athletes in Brazil last year. No Bite Zones uses a safe, natural process to transform the female mosquitoes from craving blood to feed the babies growing in their bellies, to complete vegans. And just as if they’re living in California, their offspring become vegans too! For life. That means fewer bites – period. And prettier flowers – since mosquitoes are the number two pollinators after bees.

Contact us today to protect your family and pets from annoying – and potentially painful – mosquito bites. Because even if you’re living all the way down in Punta Gorda, you can’t avoid the mosquitoes – so teach them to avoid you!

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