Wednesday, February 24, 2010

See Kiwicare at the Ellerslie Flower Show

The Ellerslie International Flower Show March 10th-14th in Hagley park, Christchurch.

The show looks like being bigger and better than ever. Kiwicare will be there at site CR6C-F. This is one of the covered retail sites on the east side along the Park Terrace fence. Come along and see us. We will try and answer any questions you might have on garden care, pest control or our products.

Go in the draw to win a Beautiful Box Co. Gift box packed with Kiwicare garden products and other delicious gifts provided by Beautiful Box Co.

We will aslo be displaying plants and garden ornaments from the Portstone Garden Centre of Ferry Road Christchurch.

We hope to see you there.

Go to Kiwicare

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fleas Bite

The surge in visitors to the Kiwicare website from people seeking information on how to get rid of fleas is continuing and growing. The recent warm weather has seen flea numbers explode around New Zealand.

In a previous blog Fleas Take a Big Bite I described how to control fleas and more information can be found on the Kiwicare Flea page.

A question that has cropped up a few times is “My dog has fleas, why don’t they bite me?”

Dog fleas prefer to feed on dogs, cat fleas prefer to feed on cats and bird fleas prefer to feed on birds. So if the natural host of the flea is available they will feed on that host. However, cat fleas are the least fussy and will feed on us if they are hungry or the cat is not immediately available. Also, dog or bird fleas will feed on us if their host is not available. For example if there is a bird nest in your loft and the birds fledge and leave, any fleas left behind will come hunting for a blood feed from you.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Midges and Other Flying Insects

Following my blog last week on the appearance of midges around Bromley I was called by one of our suppliers asking me to help another client of theirs with a flying insect problem. The client is an engineering company a few hundred metres from the Kiwicare head offices and not surprisingly the problem was being caused by midges. They were settling on the white painted surfaces and windows around the entrance of their showroom; not very inviting for visitors. I have supplied some deltamethrin (NO Bugs Super Professional Strength) for them to spray the area.

I have found an excellent website and forum site for lifestyle blockers and small farmers. The website has several thousand members and lively and informative discussion of all sorts of topics relevant to owners of small rural properties and more. There are good discussions of pest control issues and I recently started a thread asking members how bad flies have been or are in their various parts of the world.

I have received good feedback, some saying the flies have not yet been bad and other complaining bitterly about flies. The split is so far about 50:50 which suggests to me that flies are not as bad as usual because I would expect people with problems to be more likely to respond.

The beautiful warm weather we are having here in Canterbury at the moment is likely to increase fly and other insect numbers. I would appreciate any feedback you would have. So let me know how the flies are for you and where you are. Leave a comment here or Email me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Midges and Lake Flies

I am sitting in my office in Bromley, Christchurch, looking out the window on this dull but mild morning. On the glass are several midges or lake flies. The Kiwicare offices are close to the Christchurch City Council treatment plant and oxidation settling ponds. The ponds are ideal breeding grounds for insects that breed in water. The larvae of midges are known as blood worms and feed on decaying matter found on lake beds.

The New Zealand midges are native flying insects associated with water such as lakes and so are often referred to as Lake Flies. They should not be confused with the biting midges found in the northern hemisphere. The adults are 5-10mm in size and do not bite, having no mouth parts. The adults only live for around 36 hours. However, they can become a considerable nuisance when they congregate in very large numbers during warm weather. They may be seen in large clouds around lakes and will be attracted by lights and settle on light coloured surfaces.
I recall several years ago calling on poor home owners only a couple of blocks from here. They were almost unable to leave their home because of the clouds of midges that had congregated on and around their house. It was almost impossible to breathe without breathing in the midges. This was very unpleasant for them. Treatment with surface insecticides were only able to partially help because new insects appeared as fast as they were killed by the treatment. But at least the owners were able to go about their business again after treatment. Thankfully the ponds have not had as bad a year for midges since then but numbers can be a nuisance even on normal years. I wonder what this year will hold in store.

Another place where the lake flies are often found and cause a problem is driving out to Little River on Banks Peninsula. Here the flies breed in Lakes Ellsmere and Forsyth and clouds hang above the road in such numbers that the fly squash on the windscreens become a hazard to safe driving. Windscreen wash and wipers only serve to smear the dead insects on the windscreen. On these days the helpful people at the Little River Garage provide free windscreen washing facilities to drivers on their way to Akaroa.

The use of NO Flies or NO Bugs Super will reduce the numbers of midges congregating on your home and will at least reduce the nuisance.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Plague of Crickets

I have fielded several calls recently regarding a ‘plague’ of crickets in Northland.

Black field crickets are normally a problem only in Northland, Auckland, parts of Taranaki, and Hawke’s Bay. Eggs are laid in moist soil from February to May, and nymphs (immature adults) emerge from November to January. Adults appear from February and live for two or three months. They inhabit cracks in the soil and eat surrounding crowns of grasses, which usually die. During long drought periods the growing crowns of grasses are attacked; this often kills the plants and leaves the soil open to weed invasion.

Kiwicare Lawngard Prills will kill the insects in the soil as eggs and nymphs and adults the hide in cracks in the ground will also be killed on contact with the insecticide. A bait can be made by mixing Maldison Insect Control with grain (wheat, barley or crushed maize) at the rate of 12.5g to 1kg grain and spread on 500-1000m2 depending on extent of infestation. This should applied around February when the adults appear.

What is an insect’s favourite game?

Seal and Waterproof Concrete, Brick and Terracotta

Have you ever wanted to make it easier to keep concrete, stone or brick work clean? Have you wanted to stop water penetration and prevent frost damage to your patio pots?

Waterproofing walls provides better heat retention and reduces damp which would lead to a cold house. It stops concrete floors becoming dusty and reduces staining. It slows algal and mould growth and makes graffiti removal easier. And it reduces water penetration and consequent damage by frost.

Concrete walls and drives, Oamaru stone, brickwork, terracotta pots, these and more porous surfaces can be waterproofed and protected with NO Leaks sealers. Kiwicare make two sealants for use on hard porous surfaces. NO Leaks Masonry Sealer is a silicon sealer for use on concrete, stone such as Oamaru and Summerhill, and non-coloured or light coloured masonry. NO Leaks Red Brick and Terracotta Sealer is designed for dark porous surfaces. It is important that Masonry Sealer is NOT used on dark surfaces as it causes salts to bloom on the surface where they will show as pale marks which are almost impossible to remove. For such areas use Red Brick and Terracotta sealer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stop Germs – Sanitise Your Hands

It is reported that there is likely to be a wave of swine flu again this flu season. Hand hygiene is our first line of defence against many transmissible diseases, including the flu virus. We use our hands to contact objects and surfaces that may be contaminated with micro-organisms of all sorts. I am typing this article on my laptop, and now that I look at it, I see that the keys have a level of natural oils on them and dust has collected between and below the keys. Yuck. I will have to give the keyboard a clean this evening. I know that if I looked at the keys closely enough I would find many bugs, some of which might cause illness. Other surfaces that we regularly touch such as pens, door handles, chairs, steering wheels, coins etc. are also contaminated. They are all regularly contacted by the hands of many people not just your own. Imagine how easily bacteria and virus particles can be passed from one person to another via these surfaces.

Our skin is warm and moist with sweat and oils, providing conditions suitable for growing bacterial colonys. Most of the bacteria on our skin are harmless and even pathogenic bacteria cannot normally penetrate healthy skin to cause infection. But if the skin is cut or broken or we put our hands near our mouth or eyes then bacteria and viruses may find a way to enter our bodies and make us ill.

Wash and Dry Your Hands Regularly

Washing and drying your hands with soap and water or alcohol based hand gel is the single most important measure for preventing the transmission of disease from one person to another. Always wash or use sanitiser after using the lavatory and before eating.

Use the twenty second rule: 20 seconds to wash and 20 seconds to dry.

If available use soap and running water. Vigorously rub soap onto all parts of the each hand for at least 20 seconds. Rub fingers between fingers and rub tips of the fingers against the palms of the opposing hand. Rinse thoroughly in the fresh running water.

Dry your hands. Repeated drying of hands on a single reused cloth towel is not recommended. It is preferable to use disposable paper towels or single use reusable towels and take care to dry all parts of the hand; rubbing for at least 20 seconds. Air towels usually require 45 seconds to dry hands completely.

Hand Sanitisers

If there is visual soiling of the hands full hand hygiene (washing and drying as above) should be performed. The use alcohol-based hand sanitisers, such as NO Germs Hand Sanitiser from Kiwicare, are useful to decontaminate hands if there is no access to hand washing facilities. Hand sanitizers should be seen as an additional hand hygiene step. Hand sanitisers should contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective and will kill 99.9% of germs. If there is no visual soiling hand sanitizer can be used indefinitely.

For thorough sanitisation and hygiene of hands:

1. Remove jewellery and apply enough NO Germs to palm to keep hand surfaces moist for at least 20 seconds.
2. Rub palms together.
3. Rub between and around fingers.
4. Cover all surfaces of hands and fingers.
5. Rub thumbs.
6. Rub fingertips of each hand in opposite palm.
7. Continue rubbing until hands are dry.
8. Do not use NO Germs with water and do not dry on paper or cloth towels.

I now keep a pump bottle of NO Germs Hand Sanitiser on the shelf behind my desk. I can swivel around and use it each time I leave and return to my desk. NO Germs contains skin moisturizers and a pleasant fragrance so that I am happy to shake the hand of all those that come to visit me. I know that I am not going to pass on or contract any nasties in the process……… and my soft hands must impress.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Don’t Let Mosquitoes Ruin Your Barbeque

I was sitting on a friend’s deck last night. It had been a spectacularly beautiful day in Christchurch and the evening was mild and still. Sitting on the deck watching the sun set with a good glass of red wine and chatting was an excellent way to spend the evening. But as the sun dipped below the trees and dusk fell there was the inevitable arrival of fuzzy dark points appearing from the gathering gloom. Shortly afterwards we started to scratch and it was quickly realised that the mozzies were there for a feed.

We could have moved inside and closed the doors and windows, but luckily my friend remembered the insect repellent wipes I had left some weeks previously. They were passed round the group and each of us wiped our exposed skin with the wipes impregnated with natural essential oils. The mozzies were still to be seen but from then on they did not land on or bite us and we were able to continue our very pleasant evening on the deck. And we all smelled so good.

On my next visit to this friend I will bring them a citronella candle which will be additional protection against the little biters. The Safari wipes contain a combination of naturally repellent oils; lemongrass oil, citronella and pine oil. They are certified organic and contain neither DEET or DMP but are effective protection from New Zealand mosquitoes.

For those that need more powerful repellency when travelling to areas of the world where mosquitoes carry dangerous diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Kiwicare recommends the use of one or more of the non-organic but highly effective Safari range. The range includes roll-on, stick and aerosol personal insect repellent.

If you have problems with mosquitoes around your deck or patio it is worth considering where the mosquitoes might be coming from. Mosquitoes need still water to breed. Do you have a fish pond, without fish? Or a container of stagnant water sitting around the garden? Or is there a leak from a hose or pipe that leaves a permanent puddle? All such places are potential breeding sites for mosquito larvae. If so drain them, dry them out or fix the leak. Spraying surfaces that mosquitoes contact with residual surface insecticide such as NO Bugs Super may also help to deter mosquitoes and kill them before they get a chance to feed on you.

Enjoy your barbeque on the deck without the itchy feeling of being the dinner for mosquitoes.

Why are mosquitoes unlucky in love?
Because they always love in vein.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bees are Beneficial

Bees pollinate our fruit crops, other flowering crops, the flowers in the garden and of course they make honey. But honey bee numbers worldwide have been falling and there is considerable worry over the implications for food crops. There appears to be a combination of reasons for the decline in bee numbers. In Europe and North America a syndrome known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) is wiping out hives and honey bee colonies in many parts of the world are under pressure from mites and viruses including the varroa mite. The varroa mite is now established in many parts of New Zealand and is reducing productivity of bees both as pollinators and as honey producers. There is also evidence that other bee species such as the bumble bees are reducing in number and over use of insecticides may be affecting all bees.

As a teenager I kept honey bees in my parent’s garden. My father had bought the first hive so that my mother would get stung! You might thing that this was rather callus, but in fact it was an act of love. My mother suffered from arthritis and bee venom is said to reduce the symptoms. At the height of my honey production we had five hives. Of the five hives there was one particular colony that was much more aggressive than the others. It once chased us and several visitors from the patio while we were enjoying a barbeque. Weather conditions influenced their mood and it was a particularly muggy grey day with that feeling of thunder lurking in the distance. On such days avoid wasps and bees.

Honey Bee Swarms

Honey bee workers are brown and have lightly hairy bodies. Honey bees can form colonies containing as many as sixty thousand individuals but the average hive is likely to have around half that number; this still a lot of bees. At the centre of the colony is the queen who is little more than an egg producing machine. A few unfertilised eggs become fertile males, but almost all eggs hatch as infertile female worker bees. However, if a female egg is fed a special food known as royal jelly the egg hatches as a new fertile queen. Several queens may hatch at the same time and they fight for the right to take over the colony. The old queen, or sometimes new queens, will leave the nest, taking with her a large number of ‘loyal’ workers in search of a new home. This is a swarm.

Swarms will contain many thousands of bees. Scouts are sent out from the swarm in search of a suitable nest site. The swarm may bivouac on tree branch or wall waiting for the scouts to return and lead them to the nest site they have found. The site may not be deemed suitable by the colony and the process may be repeated until a suitable home is found.

When swarming, bees are usually quite docile and are not likely to sting unless provoked. If a bee lands on you try not to react violently. I appreciate that this is easier said than done, but violent movement is only likely to result in a sting. However, if stung the sting releases a pheromone that will induce other bees to sting so stay calm and move away from the bees.

Honey bees sting to defend themselves and their colony. The sting is painful and will cause a reddened swelling in most people. Some people are unfortunate in that the sting will cause anaphylactic shock and they must keep adrenalin on hand for immediate treatment if stung.

Bees can only sting once. Their sting is barbed and as the bee is brushed off the sting is pulled out of the rear of the bee. The bee will then die from the wound but the sting will continue to pump toxin from the attached balloon like toxin gland. Do not pinch the sting to remove it. This would only serve to pump the toxin into your skin. Instead use a fingernail to scrape out the sting.

If a bee swarm arrives at your property call a local beekeeper; see the National Beekeepers Association swarm collection contact list on their website or look in Yellow Pages. A beekeeper will usually be happy to collect a swarm for use in their hives.

If the swarm moves into the eaves or other part of your buildings it might only be resting and leave again in the next day or two. If, however, a swarm stays more than a few days, it is likely to set up a nest. Once a colony has been in place for more than a few months it will have begun a honey store. In some cases the colony cannot be collected and must be destroyed because it poses a hazard. Destruction of the colony can be achieved using powder type insecticide such as Carbaryl, but the honey store will also need to be removed. If honey is left in place it will continue to attract other swarms and wasps and the problem can be ongoing.

Bumble Bees

Bumble bees are individually larger than honey bees and are quite rounded, hairy and distinctly yellow and black. Bumble bees are social insects but their colonies are much smaller than those of honey bees. Bumble bees can sting and bite but rarely do.

Bumble bee nests should only be destroyed if they are in positions that pose a risk to people and cannot be moved. Nests are often found in compost heaps or amongst piles of grass clippings. In this case it is sometimes possible to use a large shovel to carefully lift the material, including the nest, and move it to a more suitable site.

If destruction is the only option the colony can be destroyed using carbaryl powder such as NO Wasps Powder or Carbaryl Insect Control puffed or spread around the entrance to the nest.

What goes “zzub zzub?”
A bee flying backwards.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wasp Stings and How to Avoid Them

Common and German wasp colonies increase in size through the summer and will peak over the next couple of months. Nests can contain as many as five thousand individuals by late summer and the nests can be the size of a beach ball. These shiny black and yellow striped wasps were accidentally introduced to New Zealand and have found the conditions here very much to their liking. In particular the honey dew in beech forests provides the workers with the high energy carbohydrate food to keep them active and wasp densities can become very high. Also the milder winters in New Zealand compared to their native European habitat means that some colonies can survive through the winter and produce huge nests the second year.

Nests of both common and German wasps are usually in underground cavities or holes in trees, but they frequently set up home in the roof voids or subfloors of houses and other buildings. The entrance to the nest can be identified by the stream of wasps entering and leaving in warm weather. There is almost always only one entrance/exit.

The sting of the wasp is painful and will cause redness and swelling. Wasps, unlike bees can sting multiple times. Some people are particularly sensitive to the stings and anaphylactic shock can result. Susceptible people should carry adrenalin for use in an emergency.

I have been stung many times in the past while dealing with wasp nests. Almost all the stings have occurred late in the season when wasps change their feeding habits towards higher levels of protein. Wasps will catch other insects, even catching flies on the wing. The change in feeding seems to make wasps more aggressive. Using liquid insecticides on wasp nests also has the effect of making the wasps angry. Powder type insecticides are recommended as they help to keep the wasps calm in a similar way to the smoke beekeepers use when handling their hives.

If a wasp lands on you try not to react violently. I appreciate that this is easier said than done but violent movement is only likely to result in a sting. Stay calm and move away from the nest, the wasp is likely to leave.

When controlling a wasp nest use powder insecticide such as NO Wasps Insecticidal Dust or Carbaryl Insect Control (aka NO Wasps Carbaryl). Use the NO Wasps puffer pack to pump the powder into and around the entrance to the nest. If wasp activity is high leave treatment until darkness has fallen and activity has dropped. Do not use the powder when it is raining or rain is due. Wet powder will not be picked up as effectively on the wasps to be carried into the nest.

If the wasp nest is in the eaves of a house it can be difficult to get powder in the nest if the wasps are entering via a hole under the eaves. In this case use NO Insects Carbaryl 80 as a spray and spray the areas where wasps are landing and entering.

NO Wasps powder is 4% carbaryl so that wasps do not detect it and will land on it and take it into the nest. Carbaryl 80 is 80% carbaryl and is effective where the wasps cannot avoid it when entering the nest.

Stay sting free this summer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Tonight’s TV3 episode of Target gave us a sad tale of bed bugs biting guests in a motel. Bed bugs are a problem that is confronting many in the hospitality industry. As the program mentioned the motel operators could not be blamed for getting the problem, as bed bugs are easily transported from place to place in clothing or luggage and cleanliness is little protection. There was criticism of the way the motel staff handled the situation but it sounded like the motel had employed a professional company to get rid of the pests.

It would have been helpful if the program had given advice on how to identify and eradicate bed bugs. This would have been helpful to people in the accommodation industry and to people that get bed bugs in their own home.

If you are looking for help and advice you can find it on the Kiwicare website or by contacting Kiwicare by email or phoning 03 3890778 (8.00am-5.00pm Mon-Fri).

Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Bed Bugs on TV3 Target Tonight

I will be watching tonight’s Target programme on TV3 7.30pm with interest. It is scheduled to look at the growing problem of bed bugs and how to deal with them. Last week the program showed pest control technicians attempting to control fleas in the Target house. I hope this program tonight does not show the professional pest control industry in such a bad light.

Bed bugs are a particularly difficult pest to get rid of. They secrete themselves in cracks and crevices in the bedroom where their host sleeps. Only at night do they emerge in search of food, attracted by body heat and carbon dioxide in the breath. Their hiding places are hard to treat and there is evidence that these insects are developing resistance to the synthetic pyrethroid insecticides. It is therefore more important than ever that thorough examination of the infested room and those adjacent is carried out. Look everywhere.

Insecticides containing an insect growth regulator are effective in breaking the life cycle of these pests. NO Fleas Total is such an insecticide and along with the plan of action described here you can get rid of bed bugs by DIY without the cost of calling in a pest control business. If you feel you need to call in a pest controller I strongly recommend using a business registered with the Pest Management Association of NZ and ask for a registered technician to carry out the work.

Patient: In my sleep I keep seeing bed bugs with proboscis dripping blood.
Doctor: Have you seen a psychiatrist?
Patient:  No, just bed bugs.