Sunday, February 26, 2012

Midges Make the Press

The Christchurch Press took an interest in my recent blogs (7th Feb and 9th Feb) on the midges causing a nuisance around the east of Christchurch. They also found video of the midge clouds and other people that had suffered recently from these insects.

I then had calls both from TV3 and other building owners around the Bromley sewage settlement ponds. TV3 came to have a look but after a couple of cool days there were few midges to film. The calls from other businesses were to ask for advice on the midges and information on how to deal with them. 

What should you do when a midge lands on your pepperoni?
Give it a pizza your mind.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Termites in New Zealand

Termites are wood damaging social insects many species of which are of economic importance in other parts of the world. New Zealand has some native species but these do not cause any serious damage to timber in either forests or construction. 

Australia has several species of termite that cause considerable damage to timbers and there is a danger that Australian termites or destructive termites from other parts of the world could be introduced to New Zealand in importe wood and wooden artifacts. there have been several such infestations found in recent years and ministry of agriculture and forestry (maf) have put large resources into eradicating such incursions when they have been found. most recently a house in waikanae was tented and gassed to eradicate the very destructive west indian drywood termite at a cost of $400,000. Australian termites, Coptotermes acinaciformis and Porotermes adamsoni are currently known to exist in New Zealand and when found MAF responds by eradicating and tracing.

Termites form very large colonies which live inside and feed on wood. One of the difficulties with identifying a termite problem is that there can be little evidence of their existance until the timber is weakened to the point of failure. The Australian termites found in NZ probably came into the country many years ago in imported hardwood timber.

There are destructive termites that will colonize both dry and damp timber. They are able to digest the cellulose of wood with the assistance of micro-organisms in their gut that are able to breakdown cellulose to sugars. There is a seasonal flight of winged termites known as alates. They fly to mate and found new colonies but usually don’t travel far. They are attracted to lights and may enter houses at night.

Because of the difficult of identifying timbers infested with termites it is likely that a destructive species will eventually become established in New Zealand. Treatment of timbers for borer using products such as Kiwicare NO Borer fluids will help to protect timber from infestation by termites.

MAF are trying to make home owners and other aware of termites and what to look out for. You will find more information on the Australian termites most likely to be a problem in New Zealand here.

MAF advice is:

Signs of Australian drywood termite infestation
As termites excavate timber internally and leave a thin external layer, damage is often not obvious, although it may result in the bubbling of timber surfaces. With subterranean termites, the most obvious signs are mud leads across open surfaces and mud packing between layers of landscaping timber or inside wall cavities. Their subterranean tunnels are usually found in the top 20 centimetres of soil.
Winged reproductives fly from their parent colonies en masse on hot, humid summer evenings. They are attracted to light and may enter houses or become caught in spider webs close to light sources. However, native termite reproductives will also be flying in the same conditions.
Colonies inside living timber could also be found while cutting down trees or splitting wood.
If you think you have found invasive termites DO NOT disturb their activity or the surrounding area. If possible, collect some individuals, preferably soldiers (larger, darker head with mandibles) and place the container in the freezer. Call the MAFBNZ disease and pest hotline on 0800 80 99 66.
A termite walks into a bar. The barman says ‘We don’t serve druggies like you here.’
Shocked, the termite replies ‘What do you mean? I’m not a druggie.’
The barman says, ‘What about the bar-bit-u-ate?’

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cluster Fly Season Starts

Cluster flies have not started clustering yet but they are soon likely to begin seeking shelter in the dark dry places within homes and other buildings. Clustering starts at end of February – middle of March in New Zealand. They squeeze in through cracks around windows and doors, loose weatherboards, soffits, eaves, vents, louvers and other similar gaps.

Prevent cluster flies clustering in your home
If you have had cluster flies invade your home previously, now is the time to act. It is probably too late to control the fly larvae in the soil where they parasitise earthworms. But NOW is the time to spray the exterior walls and entry points of at risk buildings with a long lasting residual surface insecticide such as Kiwicare NO Bugs Super. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to controlling cluster fly infestations. NO Bugs Super will remain effective for several months reducing, flies that might enter the buildings and stopping clusters forming.

Cluster flies are more likely to enter structures on the warm north facing side of buildings so concentrate your treatment there, but don’t limit it to that side. Spray all entry points and any areas where clusters formed previously. Clusters will not necessarily form where they did in previous years. They may choose other buildings this year. So if your neighbour had problems previously, you may be wise to take precautions.

It has been a year where soil moisture levels have been kept relatively high in many parts of the country. It is yet to be seen how this will affect cluster fly numbers. There is a suggestion that as it will have benefited earthworms (the food of cluster fly larvae) and so it may mean a lot of cluster flies.

Be prepared.

“Waiter! Waiter! There’s a fly in my soup.”
“Sorry Sir. I must have missed that one.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to Get Rid of Midges and Lake Flies

Midges clinging to office walls
As mentioned in my last post the Kiwicare offices and factory along with other businesses and homes near the Christchurch sewerage ponds are being badly affected by New Zealand Midges or Lake Flies. Numbers were becoming serious and many were flying into the factory where there was a danger of contaminating product. So I spent some time yesterday treating the buildings with NO Bugs Super.

The results have been dramatic as the following photos show. This morning there is a carpet of dead and dieing midges.

Dead midges after spraying walls with NO Bugs Super
There was a fly flying six inches over a lake. In the lake was a fish that was gonna jump up and eat the fly. There is a bear thinking that when the fish goes for the fly he’s gonna grab the fish and eat it. There is a hunter that is gonna drop his sandwich and shoot the bear when it goes for the fish. At the same time there’s a mouse that is going to take the hunters sandwich when the hunter goes to shoot the bear. Also there is a cat who at the same time is eying up the mouse to eat when it goes for the sandwich.

So this all happens at the same time and the cat ends up falling into the lake.

So what is the moral of this story?
“When the fly goes down six inches the pussy gets wet”

P.s. Any one offended by this joke should reflect on the fact this is innuendo. And innuendo offends only those with a mind that comprehends the joke. For references to the innuendo here watch this ….and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Plague of Midges Caused by Quake?

Adult lake fly midge
Those living or working close to the Christchurch sewerage settlement ponds will be aware of the large numbers of lake flies (New Zealand midges Chironomus zealandicus) that are about at the moment.

Lake flies are often mistaken for mosquitoes but in fact are not closely related and they do not bite. They cannot bite because they do not have mouth parts. These adult flies have a short life in this stage, seeking a mate, laying eggs back in still water and then dieing after only about 36 hours as adults.

The larvae of these flies live in still water such as lakes, slow rivers and settlement ponds. The larvae, which are wriggly, worm-like and red are known as ‘blood-worms.’ They live in the mud at the bottom of the water where they feed on micro-organisms. The Christchurch and Auckland settlement ponds and lakes such as Lake Ellesmere are well known for producing plagues of midges in summer. This year is particularly bad around the Christchurch settlement ponds probably because of the disruption to the ponds in the Canterbury quakes. The quakes have caused disruption of the pond mud and damage to the Christchurch sewerage system has brought high levels of nutrient in to the ponds where the micro-organisms on which the midge larvae feed have been in bloom.

Midges covering building surfaces
Because these insects do not bite they are only a nuisance pest. But they can be a considerable nuisance. They will rest and hide in vegetation and on buildings around their breeding sites. Numbers can be such that as one walks past and disturbs them they lift off and will stick in hair and can be breathed in. This is rather unpleasant as I well know. Kiwicare is within a kilometer of the Christchurch settlement ponds and the building is covered with midges. The shrubs in the car park are also full of hiding insects. Each time I open the boot of my car a cloud of flies is disturbed and I have had to spit one or two out. There is also a carpet of dead ones building up in the car park. If the problem gets much worse I will have to spray the exterior of the building with NO Bugs Super to reduce the numbers. It will not get rid of them all as there is such a rapid turnover of numbers but it will help to make the place more pleasant to work around.

What did the NZ midge say to the mosquito?
Nothing. Without a mouth it was speechless.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wasps Sting Man to Death in Marlborough Sounds

On Saturday a man who disturbed a wasp nest was stung repeatedly was found dead shortly afterwards. He and his nephew had been collecting firewood in the bush near his home in Marlborough Sounds when they accidentally disturbed the wasp nest. He told his nephew to run before he was overcome and stung many times on the back and arms. When his nephew returned he found his uncle lying dead on the ground.

This is a rare occurrence but does demonstrate that wasps can be highly dangerous and care should be taken not to disturb wasp nests and to destroy them in the safest manner.

The Marlborough Sounds and other areas of New Zealand bush have the highest levels of wasps (Common and German) in the world. They feed on the honeydew excreted by scale insects that live on the bark of beech trees. You may recognise the presence of the scale insects by the black sooty mould that the honeydew encourages on the bark. If you look closely you may see fine ‘hairs’ sticking out from the tree with a drop of sticky honeydew on the end. This fuels wasps and nest densities can reach 20 per hectare.

Wasp nests in the bush are usually in the ground or perhaps a tree hollow. The nest will have only one entrance/exit and can be identified by the stream of worker wasps leaving and arriving at the entrance. When dealing with a wasp nests watch the wasps and identify the nest entrance. Apply a powder insecticide such as carbaryl to the nest entrance where the returning wasps land, so that they walk the powder into the the nest where it will kill the worker wasps, larvae and queen wasp inside. Powder insecticides keep wasps calm in a similar way to the smoke used by beekeepers to keep bees calm during checking of hives. Liquids sprayed or poured on wasp nests have a tendency to aggravate the wasps and increase the likelihood of stings.

More information on the safe destruction of wasp nests.

More on this tragic story.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hopping Mad Over Fleas

In New Zealand, February and March are normally the peak months for fleas. Fleas are more active in warm weather and they can survive and breed outdoors amongst leaf litter and outdoor pet bedding areas. This gives the fleas a greater chance of encountering and hopping onto passing pets and other animals, increasing the spread of fleas through the community.

Flea adults hop onto cats and dogs for a feed of blood and to lay their eggs. The eggs then fall off in to the places where the animals sleep. Eggs are about the size of grains of salt. When the larvae (caterpillars) hatch from the eggs they feed on skin cells and detritus in the bedding and carpets. Once grown they pupate. The adult flea emerges from the cocoon triggered by vibrations and body heat from pets or humans passing nearby in the house or garden.

Flea life cycle
Cat, dog and bird fleas will bite humans, particularly in the absence of their preferred host and food source, i.e. their cats, dogs or birds.

There are a few simple steps in getting rid of fleas and preventing fleas becoming a problem in the home or pestering you or your pets.
  1. Regularly treat your pets with a flea drop product which you can obtain from your pet’s vet or as recommended by the vet. This will kill adult fleas when they take a feed of blood from the pet.
  2. Spray pet bedding areas, carpet edges and exterior areas where pets rest with a residual insecticide such as NO Fleas Total from Kiwicare. Flea control sprays should contain an insect growth regulator (IGR) which will break the flea life cycle by preventing the parasite developing to adulthood. NO Fleas Total contain an IGR.
  3. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. Vacuuming removes the dust and detritus in carpets on which flea larvae feed and eggs, larvae, pupae and perhaps adults.. Use a vacuum with a sound bag and dispose of the bag immediately after use as it will contain flea stages.
The La Nina weather pattern affecting New Zealand this summer is bringing interludes of cool and damp weather which have so far been reducing the likelihood of fleas living and breeding outdoors. This has kept numbers and spread of the pest down up until now. But February is traditionally the hottest and most stable month and fleas can take advantage of hot dry conditions quickly to cause problems. Be prepared and prevent the discomfort of fleas biting your pets or your family. Treat now and don’t wait for the problem to arise.

Did you hear about the dog that went to the flea circus?
He stole the show.