Pest Control

We need to worry about what kinds of poisins being used for pest control and their effects on the environment - but remember if not controlled the spread of malaria, yellow fever, west nile virus and bubonic plague are still very much a reality.


Adult fleas are not only a nuisance to humans and their pets, but can cause medical problems including flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), tapeworms, secondary skin irritations and, in extreme cases, anemia. Although bites are rarely felt, it is the resulting irritation caused by the flea salivary secretions that varies among individuals. Some may witness a severe reaction (general rash or inflammation) resulting in secondary infections caused by scratching the irritated skin area. Others may show no reaction or irritation acquired after repeated bites over several weeks or months. Most bites usually found on the ankles and legs may cause pain lasting a few minutes, hours or days depending on one's sensitivity. The typical reaction to the bite is the formation of a small, hard, red, slightly-raised (swollen) itching spot. There is a single puncture point in the center of each spot. (Ants and spiders leave two marks when they bite. Mosquitoes, bees, wasps and bedbugs cause a large swelling or welt). Also, fleas may transmit bubonic plague from rodent to rodent and from rodent to humans. Oriental rat fleas can transmit murine typhus (endemic typhus) fever among rats and from rats to humans. Tapeworms normally infest dogs and cats but may appear in children if parts of infested fleas are accidentally consumed.

Common Name Scientific Name
Cat Flea Ctenocephalides felis (Bouche)
Dog Flea Ctenocephalides canis (Curtis)
Northern Rat Flea Nosopsyllus fasciatus (Bosc)
Oriental Rat Flea Xenopsylla cheopis (Rothschild)
Rabbit Flea Cediopsylla simplex (Baker)

Life Cycle and Habits - Fleas pass through a complete life cycle consisting of egg, larva, pupa and adult. A typical flea population consists of 50 percent eggs, 35 percent larvae, 10 percent pupae and 5 percent adults. Completion of the life cycle from egg to adult varies from two weeks to eight months depending on the temperature, humidity, food, and species. Normally after a blood meal, the female flea lays about 15 to 20 eggs per day up to 600 in a lifetime usually on the host (dogs, cats, rats, rabbits, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums, foxes, chickens, humans, etc.). Eggs loosely laid in the hair coat, drop out most anywhere especially where the host rests, sleeps or nests (rugs, carpets, upholstered furniture, cat or dog boxes, kennels, sand boxes, etc.). Eggs hatch in two days to two weeks into larvae found indoors in floor cracks & crevices, along baseboards, under rug edges and in furniture or beds. Outdoor development occurs in sandy gravel soils (moist sand boxes, dirt crawlspace under the house, under shrubs, etc.) where the pet may rest or sleep. Sand and gravel are very suitable for larval development which is the reason fleas are erroneously called "sand fleas."

Larvae are blind, avoid light, pass through three larval instars and take a week to several months to develop. Their food consists of digested blood from adult flea feces, dead skin, hair, feathers, and other organic debris. (Larvae do not suck blood.) Pupa mature to adulthood within a silken cocoon woven by the larva to which pet hair, carpet fiber, dust, grass cuttings, and other debris adheres. In about five to fourteen days, adult fleas emerge or may remain resting in the cocoon until the detection of vibration (pet and people movement), pressure (host animal lying down on them), heat, noise, or carbon dioxide (meaning a potential blood source is near). Most fleas overwinter in the larval or pupal stage with survival and growth best during warm, moist winters and spring.

Adult fleas cannot survive or lay eggs without a blood meal, but may live from two months to one year without feeding. There is often a desperate need for flea control after a family has returned from a long vacation. The house has been empty with no cat or dog around for fleas to feed on. When the family and pets are gone, flea eggs hatch and larvae pupate. The adult fleas fully developed inside the pupal cocoon remains in a kind of "limbo" for a long time until a blood source is near. The family returning from vacation is immediately attacked by waiting hungry hordes of fleas. (In just 30 days, 10 female fleas under ideal conditions can multiply to over a quarter million different life stages.)

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 70°F to 85°F and optimum humidity is 70 percent. The cat flea is the most common flea in Ohio which feeds on a wide range of hosts.


Mosquitoes are principally nectar feeders with only the females requiring a meal of blood, except for the Toxorhynchites, which never drinks blood. This family includes the largest of the extant mosquitoes (colloquially referred to as "mosquito eaters" and "mosquitor hawks"), the larvae of which are predatory on the larvae of other mosquitoes. These mosquito eaters have been used in the past as mosquito control agents with variable success.

In the English language, the word Mosquito (Span., little fly) dates back to 1572. The word was adopted to replace the term "biting flies" to prevent confusion with the house fly. It is derived from the word musca (Latin fly, cf. Skt maksh) and is related to the Italian moschetta and the French moustique.

The female mosquito (in almost all species) sucks the blood of mammals, including humans. Mosquito bites often swell up hours after happening, causing a red ringed white bump about a centimeter in diameter. This bump can itch for days and over-scratching the bite can cause it to bleed. Continued over-scratching can cause scars. Mosquito bites can transmit diseases, such as malaria and West Nile Virus, so authorities in many areas take measures to reduce mosquito populations through pesticides or more organic means. An easy way to reduce mosquito populations in a residential area is the removal of standing water (where mosquitoes breed), and the use of repellents, such as DEET.

The females of blood sucking species locate their victims primarily through scent. They are extremely sensitive to the carbon dioxide in exhaled breath, as well as several substances found in sweat. Some people seem to attract mosquitoes more than others. Empirical studies of mosquito bites suggest that the risk of being bitten follows an approximately negative binomial distribution. Being male, being overweight, and having type 'O' blood may increase the risk of being bitten. Mosquitoes can detect heat, so they can find warm-blooded mammals and birds very easily once they get close enough.

Malaria - Malaria is caused by a parasite that is transmitted from one human to another by the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. In humans, the parasites (called sporozoites) migrate to the liver where they mature and release another form, the merozoites. These enter the bloodstream and infect the red blood cells. The parasites multiply inside the red blood cells, which then rupture within 48 to 72 hours, infecting more red blood cells. The first symptoms usually occur 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, though they can appear as early as 8 days or as long as a year later. Then the symptoms occur in cycles of 48 to 72 hours. The majority of symptoms are caused by the massive release of merozoites into the bloodstream, the anemia resulting from the destruction of the red blood cells, and the problems caused by large amounts of free hemoglobin released into the circulation after red blood cells rupture.

The disease is a major health problem in much of the tropics and subtropics. The CDC estimates that there are 300-500 million cases of malaria each year, and more than 1 million people die. It presents a major disease hazard for travelers to warm climates. In some areas of the world, mosquitoes that carry malaria have developed resistance to insecticides, while the parasites have developed resistance to antibiotics. This has led to difficulty in controlling both the rate of infection and spread of this disease. Falciparum malaria, one of four different types of malaria, affects a greater proportion of the red blood cells than the other types and is much more serious. It can be fatal within a few hours of the first symptoms.

West Nile virus - Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, which may circulate the virus in their blood for a few days. After an incubation period of 5 to 15 days, infected mosquitoes can then transmit West Nile virus to humans and animals while biting to take blood. The virus is located in the mosquito's salivary glands. During blood feeding, the virus is then injected into the animal or human, where it multiplies and may cause illness. West Nile encephalitis is NOT transmitted from person-to-person.

Yellow fever  - a viral disease transmitted between humans by a mosquito. Yellow fever is a very rare cause of illness in travelers, but most countries have regulations and requirements for yellow fever vaccination that must be met prior to entering the country. General precautions to avoid mosquito bites should be followed. These include the use of insect repellent, protective clothing, and mosquito netting. Yellow fever vaccine is a live virus vaccine which has been used for several decades. A single dose confers immunity lasting 10 years or more. If a person is at continued risk of yellow fever infection, a booster dose is needed every 10 years. Adults and children over 9 months can take this vaccine. Administration of immune globulin does not interfere with the antibody response to yellow fever vaccine.

Mosquito Bite Prevention - Mosquitoes are attracted to perspiration, heat, carbon dioxide, and lactic acid. All of these are produced after exercising, so avoid outdoor exercise during peak mosquito hours (at dawn and dusk). Our bodies also release lactic acid after eating certain foods, so avoiding outdoor dining during those hours is helpful, as well. Commonly believed mosquito-attracting foods include bananas (or other potassium-rich food items), and salty foods. Eating bananas or any other high potassium food will leave a trace scent on your sweat and attract mosquitos - so don't feed bananas to your children if they are going to play outside in mosquito infested areas!

Avoid perfumes when outside. Using hand creams and lotions with a sweet scent can also increase your risk of attracting mosquitoes, so go for the unscented varieties during mosquito season. Try using unscented soaps when showering, too. Even though they're rinsed off, the scent remains on your skin and attracts bugs.

Keep a barrier between yourself and mosquitoes by wearing long sleeves and long pants when outdoors at dusk, or in areas with especially high concentration of mosquitoes (woods, swamps, hiking trails). Use screens in all your home's doors and windows during summer months. Skin so Soft, Vicks vapor-rub, Methyl alcohol, and Neet are various mosquito repellants that may smell but work quite well.

Botanical Pest Preventative Altenatives -

Feeding pets - Garlic, brewer's yeast or B vitamins has not been shown to be completely effective against fleas. Pennyroyal, eucalyptus, rosemary, tea leaves and citronella have also not provided effective control. In fact, overdosing of garlic or onion can be irritating or toxic to pets. Try bathing pets with Rosemary or thyme provides temporary relief.

Other Pests

Ants and Roaches - Set out a dish containing equal parts sugar and boric acid. Ants and Roaches are attracted to the sugar, and the boric acid is ingested drying them out from the inside leaving a dessicated shell. Caution - boric acid will yellow whatever it touches and is unsafe to leave around children!

Four Thieves Vinegar

Use equal parts of one handful of each of the following herbs:

Place herbs in a 1 quart glass jar and cover completely with cider vinegar. Cold infuse (let sit at room temperature in a cool place) for six weeks and then strain off herbs. Use as a wash or spray in heavily infested areas.

Common sense advice about Traveling!

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