Posts Tagged ‘St. Petersburg’

Rats! Metro Detroit has more this year

Rats are more than creepy. The scavengers also pose a public health risk — they carry diseases that can infect humans and pets.

The rodents are an increasing concern in metro Detroit, where several pest-control firms say they have seen a significant rise in rat calls. The reasons are unclear, but experts suggest several culprits: abandoned properties; a push to demolish empty buildings; even a wetter-than-normal summer, leading to thicker vegetation and more hiding spaces for rodents.

Troy-based Rose Pest Solutions has logged a 36% upswing in rat calls, a trend largely driven by residential calls in Detroit and suburbs such as Grosse Pointe Farms, Roseville, Warren, St. Clair Shores, Royal Oak and Sterling Heights. And Lake Orion-based A & D Animal Control, which services Oakland County, had about a dozen rat calls this summer, compared with less than a handful in some other years, said Al Krier, owner for 37 years.

Pest experts say the rats will eat just about anything. They can chew through concrete in search of food.

They’ll filch your garden vegetables or your pet food. Dog droppings? Yep, that too.

Abandoned property, slight rise in rainfall among likely causes

 Already waging battle against a surge in bedbugs, several metro Detroit pest-control companies say they’re now fighting another nuisance — rats.

 “We’ve been talking about it, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on,” said Mark Sheperdigian of Troy-based Rose Pest Solutions, which reported a 36% boost in rat calls — from 157 to 213 — through Aug. 31 this year, compared with the same time period last year.

 Certainly, some pest-control companies say they have not noticed an increase in calls specifically for rats.

 But others say they’ve not only been getting more calls overall from commercial and industrial property owners, but there has been increased concern from homeowners who have spotted the rodents darting along their fence lines, slipping in and out of nearby abandoned buildings and burrowing under everything from foundations and tree roots to hot tubs and expensive landscaping features.

“Rats tend to be a commercial-area problem. You don’t get them usually in residential areas,” said Ross Stevens, owners of Southfield-based Stevens Pest Control.

 Detroiter Kris Stevens said she and her neighbors battled a rat problem earlier this year, even though they try to keep their yards free of debris. They asked the city to put down rat bait this summer after noticing burrows and paths along fence lines and under a tree root that had grown under some concrete.

 Pest-control experts say it was the right thing to do because there’s a good chance there’s a colony nearby.

Many possible causes

 Animal populations fluctuate from year to year, and a single factor — disease or a killing winter, for example — can crash those populations. But it usually takes several things to make a population surge in numbers, said Sheperdigian at Rose Pest Solutions.

 Some exterminators theorize that more abandoned commercial areas, combined with a slightly rainier than usual summer and the lush vegetation that such weather brings, have given the rodents more places to hide. Or perhaps a push to demolish long-vacant buildings is scattering established colonies of rats into neighborhoods.

 Plus, with tight budgets in recent years, both government and industry may be cutting back on rat-baiting.

 “We’ve had accounts we lost because the companies went out of business,” said Dean Krotchen, owner of Livonia-based Anteco, which answered 22 calls for rat control this summer, compared with 16 last summer. “We’re no longer there, people are no longer there. But that doesn’t mean the rats are no longer there.”

 But clearly, rats aren’t income-specific.

 Brandon Currie, 32, of Warren holds the dead rat he caught Thursday outside his home as his son Trevor, 3, looks on. Currie works for a metro area pest-control company. Several of the pest-control firms in metro Detroit are reporting in an increase in calls about rodents this year. (KATHLEEN GALLIGAN/Detroit Free Press)

Area pest-control companies say they’ve been called to some of the poshestand cleanest restaurants and neighborhoods in metro Detroit — some of which sit close to vacant land. Some rats, also, are drawn to birdseed or pet food that has been left out.

 Krotchen said he’s currently working with a doctor who noticed signs of rats — holes, trails — around her otherwise clean and pest-free home.

“They don’t care what you make. They want a food source and a place to hide,” he said. Public health risks

 Rats are usually nocturnal and avoid human contact.

 Still, they are a public health risk, carrying diseases like leptospirosis, a rare bacterial infection from water that has been contaminated by animal urine. Some Macomb County veterinarians have reported that cases of the infection have been increasing among dogs.

 “They’re walking disease bins,” said Dale Kaukeinen, who last year coauthored the Rodent Risk Report, a national assessment of 30 of the largest U.S. cities. The report ranked Detroit as 10th at risk, based on 18 factors that ranged from average rainfall to foreclosure and poverty rates to even the money put into infrastructure improvements.

 The Michigan Department of Community Health has not recorded any serious human illnesses or deaths linked to rats in recent years, and it’s tough to assess the population’s size, said Mary Grace Stobierski, the state’s public health veterinarian.

 Local public health departments don’t track the calls to pest control, and rat bites aren’t usually reported, she said.

 Plus, rats are instinctively evasive and are active mostly after dark. Many property owners don’t see them, but spy their burrows or tracks instead.

 But as the weather cools, rats will be even more tenacious about finding warmth and food, and they’ll be looking for opportunities, said Ross Stevens of Stevens Pest Control. He recalled one job in which a suburban homeowner judged the distance wrong while pulling into his driveway. His vehicle punched a hole in the wall.

 It wasn’t long before he called Stevens.

 “We caught about a dozen young rats in one night,” Stevens said.

Do you hear noises in the attic? Do you hear “gnawing” sounds?

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Brevard mosquito battle comes with costs

A million acres — and arms — will get sprayed to fight the pests

An insect that weighs .00008 of an ounce and is less than an inch long costs the county an estimated $9 million a year to control. It also bugs the economy and tourism in other ways.

 Aircraft technician Michael Matthews inspects a helicopter before doing some aerial spraying for Brevard County’s Mosquito Control at its facility in Titusville. The county spends $9 million annually on the service, covering more than 1 million acres each for the ground and for the air. (Rik Jesse, FLORIDA TODAY)

The humble yet annoying mosquito will re-enter the environment in all of its glory soon with the coming heat and rain. This will not only drive consumers to stores to seek relief with favored repellents and the latest gadgets, but may even have an effect on tourism in the county. It’s too early to tell how bad the mosquitoes will be just yet, according to Peter Taylor, operations manager of the Brevard County Mosquito Control District.

They are at their worst when there are lots of them, and much of the population growth of the insects depends on warmer weather — which we’re now getting in a major way. “The mosquito season changes from year to year,” he said.

 “Their activities are governed by temperature and humidity, and as the year goes into the summer, you start getting rain patterns; but (in the summer) they reproduce at faster rates, and they get out to get blood meals to get the nutrients so that they can reproduce. As it gets warmer, they actually go through their life cycling faster, and that’s the reason it picks up when it’s warmer.”

The types of mosquitoes in Brevard County are of the salt marsh variety, using wet soil to lay their eggs. The county will spray about 1.2 million ground acres this year, at a cost of about $2.63 per acre, and another 1.1 million aerial acres at $1.56 per acre. Derek Helms, owner of the Pest Control Depot in Palm Bay, said a rise in purchasing anti-mosquito supplies tends to come with the summer rains.

 Usually, April and May are drier, he said. “It depends on how heavy the rains are, and then people start coming in,” he said. Overall, he said, mosquito repellants play a relatively small role in his sales, because most people understand that they are just a natural part of the environment. When they do need items, they usually go for sprays containing DEET, which is not as expensive as the alternative — a fog machine to keep the critters away.

“Homeowners realize when they have to spend $250, $300 for a (fog) machine, they generally back down,” he said. “They work really well, but it’s usually not an investment most people are willing to make.”

Yard-wide sprays are sold around town and can work for several days, said Stacey Hewatt, floor manager at Ace Hardware at Pineda, but the most popular item last year was a clip-on, battery operated repellent from Off! The item, similar in size to a cell phone, is on sale for $7.99, and Hewatt figures they will be popular again this year. “I think people buy according to what they are doing,” she said. “If at a baseball field, they might buy the spray. We sell something you can do to your yard, spray your own yard down prior to a barbecue, and it works for a couple of days.” And the buggers even affect tourism.

 Integrated Mosquito Management and the University of Florida teamed up for one of the few official studies on how mosquitoes affect tourism in the state in 1998. The study showed that areas with a high population of mosquitoes tend to have fewer tourists. “It showed a relationship between the number of mosquitoes that were trapped and the tourist dollars that were taken in. And there’s definitely a relationship there,” said he county’s Taylor. “If it gets really bad, people are just not going to get out and enjoy and spend money.”

Call Beucher & Son 727-388-6759

Art and Lice

15th C.              A walrus ivory, double-sided comb from 15th century France, called the “King David” comb, resides in the Hunt Museum. The ‘H’ shaped comb is 16 cm wide and 12 cm high. It has one row of coarse teeth and one row of fine teeth. “It is decorated on both sides in low relief with carved scenes depicting the story of King David and Bathsheba. One side shows King David sitting by a fountain and playing a harp with three women, this is surrounded by floral decoration. The other side shows David, Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and two female attendants.” The Hunt Museum is located in Limerick, Ireland. [Anon., 2005a]

c. 1400             A ivory double-sided comb from northern Italy is located in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The center panel of the comb has a bass relief carving. [Anon., 2009a]

 c. 1450            A painted and engraved, ivory, double-sided comb, the “Fountain of Youth,” was found in the upper Rhine region of Germany. It depicts  medieval adults, and a fountain. The comb is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum (no. 231-1867). [Anon., 2009b]  

1491                 The earliest known representation of human lice is from a woodcut in the first edition of ‘Hortus sanitatis’ (The Garden of Health), which was compiled and published in 1491 by Jacob Meydenbach, Mainz. [Mumcuoglu, 2002] The drawing shows a kneeling man being de-loused by a standing woman using a brush. A crude cartoon-like representation of three oversized lice, each an oval with legs, are seen running around the water bowl. [Anon., 2005b]

c. 1500            Two intricately carved openwork, double-sided combs of boxwood, one with ivory inlays, were made in northern France in c. 1500. They now reside in the French Musee National du Moyen Age, Paris, France. [Anon., 2009c] 

1546                 Bhatkal (North Kanara District), India was in ruins by 1720, except for ten small temples covered with copper and stone. Khetappayya Narayana Temple, which was built in 1546, contains sculptures depicting the social life of the period.  In one panel, a man relaxes on a cot while his wife caresses him and picks lice from his long hair. In another panel, a child is being fondled by his father, while the mother is busy picking the lice from the husband’s head. [Kamat, 1987] 

c. 1555             Tintoretto (1518-1594) painted “Susanna and the Elders” in c. 1555. The painting shows a ivory double-sided comb among Susana’s luxury items. The painting is held by the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna. [Kren & Marx, 2009] 

c. 1598             Caravaggio (1571-1610) painted “Martha and Mary Magdalene,” in c. 1596. The painting, which shows a double-side comb, is held at the Institute of Arts, Detroit. [Kren & Marx, 2009] 

17th Cent.        17th century physicians still followed Aristotle’s dictum that lice were born from sweat by a “spontaneous generation” phenomenon. [Aristotle, 350 BC]  However, their patients continued to treat themselves by delousing. This is often shown in 17th century paintings, especially in Dutch “genre painting”. [Cabotin, 1994] [Mumcuoglu, 2002] [Johansen, 2007] 

17th C.             Sculptures representing trained monkeys delousing humans can be found in Lisbon, Portugal. [Anon., 2004]  

1631                 Dirck Hals (1591-1656) painted Moederzorg (Mother’s Care), which shows a mother grooming a child’s hair by lamplight. This was one of the earliest Dutch paintings using this theme. [Wheelock, 2004] 

1648                 Quiringh Gerritsz van Brekelenkam (1622-1679) painted “Woman Combing a Child’s Hair” in 1648. The picture shows the use of a delousing comb. [Wheelock, 2004] 

1651                 Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681) painted “The Stone Grinder’s Family” in 1651. The painting shows a woman delousing her daughter while her husband grinds a steel blade under the eye of her son. [Johansen, 2007] 

1652                 Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681) painted “Woman Combing a Child’s Hair” in 1652. The picture shows the use of a delousing comb. [EID, 1999] [Anon., 2008]           

1658-60           Pieter de Hooch (1629-1684) painted “A Mother’s Duty,” which shows a seated mother delousing the hair of her kneeling child. The painting is located in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. [Johansen, 2007]

1669                 Caspar Netscher (1639-1684) painted “Woman Combing a Child’s Hair,” which now resides in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The painting shows a woman combing a young boy’s hair, while (nearby) his sister makes faces in a mirror. [Dunder, 2009]

1670-1675       Bartolome Murillo (1617-1682) painted “The Toilette” in 1670-1675. The painting depicts an old woman searching for lice in the hair of a seated young boy who is petting a dog. [Kren & Marx, 2009] 

1673                 A tortoiseshell double-sided comb and engraved case made in Jamaica in 1673 are now located in the Victoria and Albert Museum (no.  524-1877). [Anon., 2009d] 

1690                 In 1857, the British Museum acquired an elaborately engraved tortoise shell comb with two rows of teeth, from the Bernal Collection. The comb was engraved “Port Royall in Jamaica, 1690” [Bohn, 1857]

Handmade oil painting reproduction of Looking for Lice, a painting by Jules Pascin.

An ex-voto shows a mother intent on picking lice from her daughter’s head as her sister sits nearby. Outside the door, a boy — perhaps their brother — falls from a tree. The ex-voto thanks the Virgin Mary because, despite his mother being distracted, the boy escaped serious injury.

Me #1 Lice Farma