Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Bedbugs With Drug-Resistant MRSA ‘Superbug’ Germ Found

ATLANTA — Hate insects? Afraid of germs? Researchers are reporting an alarming combination: bedbugs carrying a staph “superbug.” Canadian scientists detected drug-resistant staph bacteria in bedbugs from three hospital patients from a downtrodden Vancouver neighborhood.

Bedbugs Superbugs

Bedbugs have not been known to spread disease, and there’s no clear evidence that the five bedbugs found on the patients or their belongings had spread the MRSA germ they were carrying or a second less dangerous drug-resistant bacteria.

However, bedbugs can cause itching that can lead to excessive scratching. That can cause breaks in the skin that make people more susceptible to these germs, noted Dr. Marc Romney, one of the study’s authors.

The study is small and very preliminary. “But it’s an intriguing finding” that needs to be further researched, said Romney, medical microbiologist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

The hospital is the closest one to the poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood near the city’s waterfront. Romney said he and his colleagues did the research after seeing a simultaneous boom in bedbugs and MRSA cases from the neighborhood.

Five bedbugs were crushed and analyzed. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, was found on three bugs. MRSA is resistant to several types of common antibiotics and can become deadly if it gets through the skin and into the bloodstream.

Two bugs had VRE, or vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, a less dangerous form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Both germs are often seen in hospitals, and experts have been far more worried about nurses and other health care workers spreading the bacteria than insects.

It’s not clear if the bacteria originated with the bedbugs or if the bugs picked it up from already infected people, Romney added.

The study was released Wednesday by Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Rats!

Remodeling in the East Bay

From dirt to doorknobs

It’s a rare attic or crawlspace where we see no evidence of these nasty critters. It seems like they climb, swim, dig, or chew their way into our houses no matter what we do. One homeowner complained of rats that ate the fruit out of their dining table centerpiece!

Rat raceway between insulation and subfloorRat raceway between insulation and subfloor

It’s bad enough that they get into our attics and crawlspaces, worse yet is what they leave behind. Proteins in their urine are potent allergens and become airborne when dry. Their urine and feces can contain hantavirus, a group of deadly virus that can be aerosolized and transmitted through air movement (more on hantavirus).

In the average house ducts leak at least 30%, and the building “shell” leaks at least 100% more than what’s required for adequate ventilation (data). If the leaky ducts run through the attic or crawlspace, they can directly vacuum up rat leavings and deliver it into each room of the house. If they don’t vacuum it up directly, they can depressurize the house, causing the house itself to suck it in through all the little holes and cracks between the attic or crawlspace and the house.

Rat urine on a water pipeRat urine on a water pipe

 In a typical building performance project that involves rodent infestation, we remove all contaminated materials and neutralize soiled surfaces. Then we reduce duct leakage and eliminate air infiltration between the attic or crawlspace and the living space. Even if the rats eventually get back in, the bad stuff stays in the attic or crawlspace, not in the bedrooms.

This unsealed, leaky duct plenum makes a handy toilet. Unfortunately, it is also pulling pollutants into the indoor air.This unsealed, leaky duct plenum makes a handy toilet. Unfortunately, it is also pulling pollutants into the indoor air.
 

First Fruits Hydroponics – Sweet!

  The other day I was treating a new customer’s residence for pest, the customer mentioned that he was getting ready to go pick some tomatoes at the farm down the street. I looked at him as if he was insane and asked with slight confusion “Farm? Pick some tomatos? Around here…Where?”  He pointed east and said that it was located about a few blocks from where we were standing.  I was still totally confused (more so than usual). I have lived in south Pinellas county all of my life and I know every ditch, alley and telephone pole…I thought.

The customer explained that it was a large hydroponic garden hat had all kinds of fruits and veggies. Now my curiosity was seriously perked.

I went back to the office and googled hydroponic gardening in St. Pete and…I’ll be darned! There is was….

First Fruits Hydroponics
3215 46th Ave. N.
St. Petersburg , FL 33714
Phone: (727) 492-8908

(For those of you, who do not know what hydroponic gardening is; check out their websites description that is located at the bottom of this blog.)

Spending most of my Saturday on paperwork, Sunday officially became my day to play and I was going to market!

The hydroponic gardens are located directly behind the owners other business, Kellogg’s Kennels

Who would have thought all those wonderful fruits and veggies were located behind this building?

I walked around the side of the kennell and was amazed at first sight. There were alot of plants here!

Wow, what a selection!

 

The hydroponic gardens are surrounded by a chain link fence and I was very pleased at how well kept the entire project was. I was instantly greeted by Shelly Kellogg, owner of this little hydroponic paradise. Her first question was “Are you new here?” It was later explained that around half the people that come are new visitors. Shelly went instantly into her mini lecture of what hydroponic gardening is, how it works and what benefits it offers.

I’ll tell ya right now, I was impressed.

Even the bee’s enjoy the hydroponic gardens!

 

As I was leaving I had the chance to talk to the other owner(Shelly’s husband) Jeff Kellogg. He was just as nice as his wife and equally informative.

The Kellogg’s illustrate one of things that made this country great, when the economy took a dive and their kennel business slowed down, they did not ask for help….they helped themselves!  A definate thumbs up.

There is so much to tell you about Jeff and Shelly’s endeavor but I would rather have you read it on their website and hear from them in person. Seeya!

Please check out their website and their hydroponic garden

Home

 

Carol Cloud Bailey: Scout your landscape for pests, other concerns

Walk your space every day or two and inspect garden and landscape plants.

Look for pest problems, irrigation needs and changes in plant growth. Take a small notebook, clipboard or digital voice recorder to save your thoughts and observations.

Called scouting, it is the key to integrated pest management.By catching problems when they are small and manageable, control maybe easier and involve less toxic methods. Besides, it’s a great way to take a few minutes for yourself to enjoy your garden.

Less than 1 percent of insects are pests that damage plants, carry disease, weaken structures, or annoy humans and domestic animals.

Before reaching for the spray can or two bricks for smashing make sure the critter is not a beneficial insect.

Some of the common “good guys” that visit Florida gardens include assassin bugs, lacewings, earwigs, big-eyed bugs and spiders.

The most effective way to keep birds, squirrels, raccoons and other fruit-stealing critters away from veggie gardens and ripening fruit on trees is the use of mesh garden nets. Several other strategies to scare away those who want to share your harvest include inflatable owls, rubber snakes and a string of clattering CDs or pie pans; none of these tactics has proved very effective though all deliver some results if moved or changed every day or two.

Spiders are a good thing in the garden. Most spiders will eat many different types of prey, including some insects. Spiders are arachnids and differ from insects; they have four pairs of legs instead of three, no antennae and two body regions— insects have three — and spider mouthparts function vertically.

Dr. Philip C. Anderson, a physician and medical researcher who has worked on brown recluse bites and venom for 40 years, once commented, “In general, spiders attempt to avoid people. People should accommodate them.”

Garden program

Amy Dahan will discuss “How to Create a Healthy Community of Plants and Wildlife in Your Backyard” at the April 5 meeting of the Martin County Chapterof the Florida Native Plant Society.

Dahan is director of Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Environmental Studies Center, 2900 Indian River Drive, Jensen Beach.

For more information, contact Marge Gasser at 772-283-1379 or mmglive@yahoo.com.

Quote

“Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

— Nathaniel Hawthorne

Carol Cloud Bailey

Village of the Damaged

Those cute little creatures that share our living space here on earth are quite good at damaging our world in places not normally noticed. maybe its just their way of pay back.

 Pecking Creatures

In the pictures below, birds have been “pecking” out the latex sealant in many areas of the roof’s edge. The problem here is that water flows into the holes during one of our heavy Florida rains and is running down to the floor below and heavily damaging the walls.

This has been going on for many weeks, just as soon as the gaps are resealed, the birds return and peck out more holes.

 

Gnawing Creatures

This customer heard a gnawing sound in his attic, we checked out the attic and found a heavy rodent evidence but there was no signs of gnaw marks anywhere to be found. Gnaw marks can’t always be located but the customer was so adamant about the gnawing that we checked the roof. Bullseye!

 

THE VERY DESTRUCTIVE TYPE

 

 This is from my aunts house, she had a raccoon in her attic. The raccoon would walk along the wooden fence, hop onto the rain gutter and slip into the attic through the vent that the raccoon had ripped open.

And my personal favorite…

THE  WEIRD TYPE

A new customer called in with a rodent problem. We met the home owner and she described the usual rat observations until she mentioned that the curious little rodent was pulling the upholstery tacks out of the dinning room chairs.

 She said that each morning the little rascal would remove a few tacks out of the chairs.

The Evidence…..

 

Here is some rat trivia from Wiki

Did you know….A 2007 study found rats to possess metacognition, a mental ability previously only documented in humans and some primates.

Domestic rats differ from wild rats in many ways. They are calmer and less likely to bite; they can tolerate greater crowding; they breed earlier and produce more offspring; and their brains, livers, kidneys, adrenal glands, and hearts are smaller.

Rats are edible by humans and are sometimes captured and eaten in emergency situations. For some cultures, rats are considered a staple.

Ancient Romans did not generally differentiate between rats and mice, instead referring to the former as Mus Maximus (big mouse) and the latter as Mus Minimus (little mouse).

On the Isle of Man (a dependency of the British Crown) there is a taboo against the word “rat.” See Longtail (rat) for more information.

The Black Death is traditionally believed to have been caused by the micro-organism Yersinia pestis, carried by the Tropical Rat Flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) which preyed on Black Rat living in European cities during the epidemic outbreaks of the Middle Ages; these rats were used as transport hosts.

The normal lifespan of rats ranges from two to five years, and is typically three years.

 

Forensic entomology dubbed scariest job of 2010

People scare local entomologist, not bugs
 
They live in a world of creepy-crawlies, collecting the flies, maggots and beetles that live off the dead. 
 

Because it’s such a macabre profession, forensic entomology this Halloween season has been dubbed the scariest job of 2010 by Careercast.com, a job-search website. In winning that dubious distinction, it edged out jobs such as communications tower technician, bomb squad technician, crime scene decontamination technician and medical test subject.

Not surprisingly, John Wallace disagrees.

The Millersville University professor is one of 15 forensic entomologists in the world certified by the American Board of Forensic Entomology.

“To me, there are many scarier jobs,” said Wallace, 49. “Bomb squad? Climbing a communications tower? I can’t see doing that. You can tempt fate only so often. What’s my risk? The person is already deceased.”

Wallace agrees that some aspects of his job might creep people out, especially those with a fear of insects. Forensic entomologists simply can’t afford that phobia because bugs are their bread and butter.

So to speak.

Still, it’s not every day a reporter hears someone ask an assistant, “Have you seen my jars of maggots?”

He didn’t find his maggots, but he does have a display case of insects, including blowflies, rogue and carrion beetles and other bugs that speed or hinder decomposition.

Because of popular TV shows focusing on crime-scene investigations, it’s often forgotten that forensic entomology has more uses than just determining how long a person has been dead.

Wallace once helped a veterinarian expose a false claim by a client who said his dog contracted maggots at the doctor’s clinic by determining the age of the maggots.

His expertise also is useful in cases of elder abuse and food contamination.

Wallace has one student working on wildlife entomology, which can be used to help in cases of poaching or other conservation crimes.

“She developed a technique to isolate wildlife DNA in maggot tissue,” Wallace said.

Still, there is no denying that forensic entomology can play an important role in solving murders, and Wallace has been part of that process.

In 2007, he helped the Innocence Project with a criminal appeal involving Kennedy Brewer, who was accused in Mississippi of raping and murdering a 3-year-old girl. The primary evidence against Brewer, who had been sentenced to death, were 19 sets of bite marks on the child’s body that the prosecution claimed were Brewer’s.

The defense, however, maintained that the bites were made by crayfish in the creek where the body had lain for three days.

Wallace traveled to the crime scene, collected three dozen crayfish and brought them back to his Millersville laboratory. There he kept them in a tank along with a dead pig.

He concluded that the marks left by the crayfish exactly matched the pattern of bites on the body. The evidence exonerated not just Brewer, but also Levon Brooks, who had been sentenced to life in prison after similar evidence had helped prosecutors convict him of a different homicide. Police later arrested Justin Albert Johnson, who confessed to both killings.

“So Kennedy Brewer was freed, and Levon Brooks was freed,” Wallace said. “They were wrongly convicted. That, for me, was a red-letter day.”

Closer to home, Wallace helped prosecutors during the trial of Micah Stewart, accused of the 2004 murder of his girlfriend, Courtney Fry. Visiting the morgue where her skeletal remains had been taken after being discovered in a Manor Township field in January 2005, he collected black soldier flies.

“Looking at the life cycle of that fly and the temperature data, I came up with a time interval of when those flies appeared on her body,” Wallace said. “That gave police a rough idea of how long she had been there.”

More recently, he examined pupa cases of flies found on the remains of Jonathan Moyer, who had been murdered by convicted killer Felina Billetdeaux in 2005 in a Brownstown apartment. His body was hidden in a closet for about a month before being buried by Billetdeaux and another woman, Steva Hagelgans.

Wallace said there were no live flies on Moyer, but a lot of pupa cases.

“At one point in this tiny apartment, thousands of flies had emerged while these two women were living there,” he said. “To me, that’s scary.”

Wallace admitted there is a ghoulish aspect to his job.

“I have seen some of the worst of humanity, and those images stay with you,” he said. “So some might say that’s pretty scary. But I just collect insects.”

Who has the scariest job?

After forensic entomologist, the top 10 scariest jobs of 2010, according to Careercast.com are:

2. Miner — The fear of confined spaces is one of the most common phobias, and there are few worse places for a person suffering from claustrophobia to be than a narrow mine shaft deep underground.

3. Broadcast tower technician — The tallest broadcast tower is the KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota at a whopping 2,063 feet high. And whenever routine maintenance needs to be performed on this massive structure, a broadcast tower technician goes all the way to the very top.

4. Bomb squad technician — While police departments are increasingly employing robots for bomb disposal, there are still plenty of instances where humans are needed to get the job done.

5. Field epidemiologist — Protected by little more than a hazmat suit, field epidemiologists get up close and personal with germs, blood, needles and dead bodies on a daily basis — not to mention the risk they run of contracting a deadly disease themselves.

6. Crime and trauma scene decontamination — Unless you’ve got the stomach for regular exposure to blood and dead bodies, this might not be the job for you.

7. Pharmaceutical test subject — Many people carve out lucrative professions as human guinea pigs, enduring injections, blood draws, dangerous side effects and the risk of permanent injury or even death on a regular basis.

8. Bush pilot — Some studies put the chances of an Alaskan bush pilot dying in a crash at one in eight during a 30-year career.

9. Cryonics technician — Cryonics is controversial among scientists, but no matter what your opinion is of the practice, there’s no denying that any profession which involves removing the heads of people who’ve just died and preserving them at -200 degrees Fahrenheit is a little bit scary.

10. Comedian — For anyone gripped by a fear of public humiliation, having to stand in front of a large crowd and tell jokes to a potentially hostile audience can be a traumatic experience.

Forensic Entolmology is the science of determining a time frame and/or circumstance from the empirical evidence of insect activity on or around the site in question. A time of death can be reasonably determined by factoring in ambient temperature , availability of corpse to insects, and the progress of blowfly larvae through their life cycle on that corpse.

Approximately fourteen days is necessary for a blowfly to go from egg to adult.

 

Tale of the Headless Dragonfly: Ancient Struggle, Preserved in Amber

In a short, violent battle that could have happened somewhere this afternoon, the lizard made a fast lunge at the dragonfly, bit its head off and turned to run away. Lunch was served.


Headless dragonfly. This ancient species of dragonfly is seen largely intact in amber, missing only a few feet and its head – presumable in the mouth of the lizard seen fleeing at the left. (Credit: Photo by George Poinar)

But the battle didn’t happen today, it happened about 100 million years ago, probably with dinosaurs strolling nearby. And the lizard didn’t get away, it was trapped in the same oozing, sticky tree sap that also entombed the now-headless dragonfly for perpetuity.

This ancient struggle, preserved in the miracle of amber, was just described by researchers from Oregon State University in Paleodiversity, a professional journal. It announced the discovery of a new sub-family of dragonflies in the oldest specimen of this insect ever found in amber.

More importantly, the study and others like it continue to reveal the similarities of behaviors and ecosystems separated by many millions of years, said George Poinar, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University. Poinar is one of the world’s leading experts on life forms found preserved in this semi-precious stone that acts as a natural embalming agent.

“Dragonflies are still eaten by small lizards every day, it’s a routine predator/prey interaction,” Poinar said. “This shows once again how behaviors of various life forms are retained over vast amounts of time, and continues to give us insights into the ecology of ancient ecosystems.”

Dragonflies are one of the world’s more colorful, interesting and successful insects, Poinar said, having managed to survive for a very long time. This is the oldest fossil ever found in amber, but other stone fossil specimens of dragonflies date back as much as 300 million years, including some that were huge, with wingspans up to three feet.

Amber is a semi-precious stone that originates as the sap from certain trees. Later fossilized through millions of years of pressure, it’s unique for the ability to capture and preserve in near-lifelike form small plant, animal or insect specimens that provide data on ancient ecosystems.

“Dragonflies are now, and probably were then, very quick, evasive, and greedy predators,” Poinar said. “They feed on other larvae and insects, mosquitoes, gnats, lots of things. Some are quite beautiful, very popular with insect collectors. And some modern populations like to migrate regionally, going south to mate.”

But as the new amber specimen shows, dragonflies are now and for a long time have also been prey, particularly of small lizards. Young and hatchling dinosaurs also probably dined on them, Poinar said.

The quick and merciless battle preserved in this stone took place in the Early Cretaceous somewhere between 97 million to 110 million years ago in the jungles of the Hukawng Valley of Burma, now known as Myanmar. The dragonfly — with one notably missing part — is preserved almost perfectly. Only the foot and tail of a small lizard remains in the stone, presumably as the animal was trying to flee.

“It’s unfortunate we don’t have the entire specimen of the lizard, because it probably had the dragonfly’s head in its mouth,” Poinar said. “Both died when they were trapped in the tree sap in the middle of this duel.”

Like a never-ending feud, these battles are still going on today. Scientists have documented in some sites near waterfalls in Costa Rica that there are many dragonflies of a certain species. But if lizards are present, there are no dragonflies — it appears they all get eaten.

Sometimes things change. Sometimes they don’t.