Archive for the 'Pests' Category

Time to speak out

I’ve bitten my tongue for far too long. I’ve let climate-change deniers have their say to avoid stepping on various toes and I can’t do it any longer.

Climate change is real. Period.

There, I said it.

It took a vacation to “my” Colorado mountains for a family reunion to open my eyes to how bad things really are.

If you don’t believe me or the consensus of real scientists who deal in facts, I have a challenge for you: Take a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and go up to about 9,000 feet. Take in the wonder that is around you for a while and then start looking at things in detail. You will start to notice dead and dying lodge-pole pines; in some places whole mountainsides wiped out.

You will see burn piles where last winter, after snow fell, rangers burned 5,000 piles of beetle-infested and dead trees, according to rangers I spoke with. The burn marks were evident at that altitude and they’ve already started building piles to burn this winter (when snow’s on the ground so as to not spread fire).

Who did I get this from?

  • Two different park rangers at two different locations, one as worried as I, the other slightly more optimistic.
  • A wildlife biologist who lives there (extended family member to fully disclose).
  • I also observed the destruction myself.

One of the rangers told me he started a talk at one of the campgrounds two years ago detailing how climate change is affecting the park.

Today, groups are studying a little mammal, a cousin to the rabbit, called the pika. It’s the park’s canary-in-the-coal-mine, if you will, a term I used with the ranger. Groups are studying its changing migration patterns and watching the little guys for signs of extinction. It will go first, the ranger said.

There wasn’t enough cold last year to kill the beetles that are eating the trees from the inside out. Some always survive and kill a few trees. But the trees need at least a week of below 20 degree weather in winter to kill off the bulk of the beetles. That didn’t happen.

Can I say that again? There weren’t 7 consecutive days of high temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in that part of the Colorado mountains last winter. That’s stunning. I remember that kind of cold in Denver, much less the mountains.

Then there are the fires raging all across the parched west, including the one west of Fort Collins, about 50 miles or so as the crow flies from the northern edge of the park. All those dead trees are tinder for a spark; fuel for fires started by nature or humans and quickly spread by winds that won’t quit.

Or check out Africa, where parched is taking on a whole new meaning. Or the arctic, where polar bears can’t find enough ice to survive.

How much observable data do you need?

Study what’s really happening, then come back and tell me climate change isn’t real with a straight face.

And just for fun, watch this clip of physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Real Time with Bill Maher cleaning the clock of climate denier and former GM chairman Bob Lutz using changing migration patterns as his example.

Closer to home, Kentucky didn’t have much of a winter last year. School actually got out on time, which didn’t happened in three prior years that I’ve paid attention because of a school-age child. And many of the “snow days” in those years weren’t because of snow, they were because of ice. We get ice because it doesn’t get and stay cold enough to snow.

We might have an extreme winter this year, Colorado might have little winter again, or the reverse might be true or some combination of severe storms, or drought, too much cold or not enough. Remember the deadly and destructive March 2 tornadoes? Awful early in the year, don’t you think?

That’s what climate change is: Long-term it means the planet is warming, but short-term, it means changing weather patterns, and more extreme and severe weather (droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc.).

There’s no more “normal.”

We better get used to it since politically no one seems willing to stand up to the deniers.

Clearing the water, and mosquitoes, at McConnell Springs

A just-completed construction project at McConnell Springs near downtown Lexington was designed to improve water quality in the park’s unusual system of springs — and downstream.
If things go well, it also could mean the end of the “Mosquito Meter.”
The meter is a sign with a moveable arrow that employees put out on days when the blood-sucking insects are especially bad.
“A healthy aquatic system provides the fish, insects and other things that help take care of the mosquitoes,” said Charles Martin, director of the city’s water quality division, on a visit to the park Monday.
When warm weather comes and new trees and plants have been put in, McConnell Springs Stormwater Quality Wetland Pond Project will look like just another nature exhibit.
But it’s actually a state-of-the-art pollution abatement system, the heart of which is an underground device called a Suntree Nutrient Separating Baffle Box.
The box — essentially a large basket that must occasionally be emptied, is the first line of defense against the runoff from more than 100 acres of industrial and residential development in the Forbes Road area that flows into the east end of the park.
The box will catch the big stuff — plastic bottles, sticks and other trash. (During heavy rains, an above-ground metal gate will trap trash.)
Then the runoff flows through a series of three ponds and into a larger pond/wetland area. By the time water leaves the wetland, it should have lost most of the the lawn chemicals, and highway oil and grease it came in with.
The project is part of an effort by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to help cities deal with what is called non-point pollution. That’s pollution from many places instead of, for example, an pipe that comes out of a factory.
It cost $524,000. About 60 percent of the money came from the EPA, the rest from the city. When the project was announced in June, Mayor Jim Newberry called it “an example of how we’re trying to address our storm water and sanitary sewage that have long polluted our local springs.”
The project has been around since 2004, but serious work on it only began in 2008, Martin said. The work since then has been, for government, lightning fast, he said. He credited help from a number of federal, state and local agencies, as well as citizens’ groups such as the Friends of Wolf Run.
Because it is a demonstration project, plenty of people — from school children to groups of engineers — will visit it and learn how it works.
McConnell Springs already gets a lot of visitors because it is an excellent example of the region’s natural underground plumbing.
Water from as far as two miles away bubbles up in a spring called the Blue Hole, then goes back underground, then comes up in another spring called the Boils. Again it goes under, then comes up in Preston Cave, and eventually flows into Wolf Run Creek.
Members of the Friends of Wolf Run monitored the construction. Ken Cooke, a leader of the group, said the city’s management of the project showed that large construction jobs can be done in winter months without silt and sediment problems.
When heavy downpours come this spring, volunteers from the Friends group will rush out in the rain to help monitor how the project works with a fresh wave of runoff coming in.
“We’re not afraid to get wet,” Cooke said.

Rainy summer means more ants now, other insects later. Here’s what to do about it

Joe Kaegi, who does public relations for Terminix, called to day that  our unusually wet summer is causing ant problems “to hit unusual highs in Lexington” because the insects are flushed from their nests and go indoors in search of shelter and dry food.

The Lexington Terminix office has seen 30 percent more calls that is usual for this time of year, and expects to see increases in spiders, roaches, crickets and other bugs throughout the year.

In the meantime, here are some Terminix tips for dealing with ants,  an ant FAQ, and some fun ant facts:

Tip 1: Seal as many cracks in the building’s exterior as possible. Ants can invade homes, apartments and other buildings through very small exterior openings, allowing them easy access to food and other resources indoors.

Tip 2: Trim tree and shrub branches to prevent them from touching the building. Ants can scale trees, bushes and other surfaces in order to access entry points. Plants or other objects touching a building can help direct insects to these vulnerable areas.

Tip 3: Eliminate piles of debris from around the home. These could serve as nesting sites for ants.

Tip 4: Do not allow food (human or pet) to sit out. Store all food items in sealed containers. Ants are opportunistic and will exploit any resources they can find.

Tip 5: Dispose of trash regularly, and discard it in a lid-sealed container.

Tip 6: If you notice ants in your home, clean their path with soap and water. Ants use scent trails to navigate. Eliminating these trails will force the ants to relocate the sources of food they were exploiting.

Tip 7: Immediately clean food or drink spills to remove any residue that could be left behind.

Ant FAQ

Why do ants invade human structures?

Ants invade structures in search of food, water and shelter. These pests commonly enter homes, apartments and businesses to either escape parched conditions outdoors or in some cases to find drier habitats if conditions outside are saturated.

How do ants get into structures?

Ants can scale trees, bushes and other rough surfaces, to gain access to entry points in a structure’s exterior. Plants or other objects allowed to touch the side of the building can help direct these insects into homes, apartments and businesses. Because of their size, most ant species can slip through very small openings.

Are ants a sign of unsanitary conditions?

Ants are more likely to establish themselves in areas that provide access to an abundant supply of food (crumbs, dog food, etc.) and water, but their presence is not necessarily a reflection of cleanliness. Ants are opportunistic and will exploit any resources they can find.

Do ants pose a health risk to humans?

On rare occasions, stinging ants have caused humans to experience anaphylactic shock, which may be life threatening. While ant stings can be painful, encounters that require medical attention are rare.

Can ants cause structural damage?

In most cases, ants are only a nuisance pest. However, species such as the carpenter ant can cause extensive structural damage if left undisturbed. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not devour wood, rather they hollow it out in order to build their nests. Fire ants can also have negative implications for humans. In areas of the country where they live, fire ants are credited with damaging farm equipment, electronics and other types of property.

Why do ants march in lines?

Ants use scent trails to navigate. Worker ants will follow these trails to find food or other items and return with them to the nest. If finding a trail of ants indoors, washing the area where the ants have traveled will force them to relocate the resources they were exploiting.

ANT FACTS

  • Ants are so numerous that their combined weight is estimated to be more than the collective weight of the human population.
  • Ants can carry 10 to 20 times their own weight.  That would be the equivalent of a 200-pound man carrying a mid-size automobile.
  • Ants eat more meat each day than all other carnivores combined.
  • Ants, like humans, will herd and milk other species for food.
  • Some ant species enslave other insects by raiding their nests, stealing their pupae and forcing the captives to work for the ant colony.
  • Queen ants of some species can live as long as 20 years.

To learn more about ants and other seasonal pests visit: www.terminix.com