Friday, October 21, 2011

South Australia, Barossa and Murray River

As I mentioned previously I was away on a holiday to South australia recently. A wonderful trip to the Barossa Valley to taste and select fine wines followed by a week on a house boat on the Murray River. It was like two separate holidays rolled into one.

Me with Two Hands
The reason for the trip, apart from the need to have a break from work, and choosing South Australia was to do with a present of a bottle of wine. I was bought a bottle of Two Hands Gnarly Dudes 2008. A Barossa Shiraz made from gnarly old vines. It is the most delicious wine I have ever tasted andI am something of an Australian shiraz fan. Indeed, I liked it so much I searched New Zealand for all the Gnarly Dudes I could find. But I couldn’t find much so I had no option other than purchasing a case online from the winery and having it shipped to NZ at no small expense. Unfortunately the 2008 was sold out and the 2009 I purchased, while still the second best wine I have had left me desirous of the 2008. I also had a hankering after tasting some of the other two Hands wines. After all the Gnarly Dudes was one of their ‘lesser’ wines.

The Two Hands Tasting Room
A colleague at work had been on a house boat holiday to the Murray River and had waxed lyrical about it as a holiday. When I realised that the Murray and the Barossa are so close a holiday plan was hatched.

Nine days in the Barossa was enough time to taste wines from over 30 wineries, yum yum yum. But after all that tasting, and there was a selection of maybe 5 or six wines at each winery, Two Hands still came top of my list and Gnarly Dudes top of my Two Hands list.

When I mentioned to the guys at Two Hands that I had come all the way from Christchurch just for their wine we got chatting and it was discovered that the winemaker I was talking to was from Sefton, not 20 km from where I live. I mentioned that I had drunk all the Dudes 2008 in NZ and he told me that he had found some left over in the warehouse. Yippeee!

Several hundred dollars later I am proud owner of 50% of the world’s Gnarly Dudes 2008.

My travel companion and I had selected a range of Barossa and Adelaide Hills wines for out trip to the Murray. The interesting selection included quite a lot of sparkling shiraz which I have come to find a great compromise for red wine and white wine drinkers. It is refreshing but with a more robust round flavour than white sparklers.

The Murray River was a fantastic trip. A house boat is the most relaxing of holidays. The combination of great scenery, great, wine and great company made this a superb way to spend a week.

Scallywag Houseboat
The revelation of the trip was the wildlife, particularly the birdlife. I would be hard pressed to find a photo, amongst the several thousand I took, without a bird in it. There were egrets and eagles, swallows and swans, pelicans and parrots, ducks and divers.

Welcome swallows followed the boat, swooping around the bow and stern, picking off insects disturbed by the wake and flying under the hull. After many attempts I finally got a decent photo of these agile birds.

Welcome Swallow
A kookaburra spent an evening fishing beside the houseboat and it seemed to delight in showing off for the camera.

Kookaburra and Dinner

There were also kangaroos and spiders, ants and skinks, frogs, flowers and dragon flies…….  it was a naturalists heaven, and I loved it. I would thoroughly recommend such a trip to anyone seeking a holiday of total relaxation and interest. But don’t forget your camera and a decent lens.

Kangaroo Skipping Past

Huntsman Spider – Brave Finger

Flowers Facing the Sun

Red Fire

Red Cliffs

Sitting watching the sun go down and lighting the red cliffs with red sunlight while sipping red wine beside the red of the fire on the bank of the river. What better?

How do you stop a kangaroo from charging you?
Take away it’s credit card.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Long Weekend of Rugby

The long weekend is getting close and nerves will be jangling in the hearts of all New Zealander’s as the rugby world cup final approaches. Whatever happens in the match the Monday off will allow the country to recover from the celebrations or the wake.

The Ireland vs All Blacks final I had hoped for never materialised and I have already had my wake. I hope I don’t have to have another one!

My brother in France will be supporting his adopted country and I will be supporting mine. Go the ALL BLACKS.

Martin Johnson takes the English team out for training and tells everyone to assume their normal position. 
So they all go and stand behind the goalposts and wait for the conversion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Kiwicare Website

Hello Again

You may be wondering where I have been for the last month. I have had a holiday to South Australia, spending time in the Barossa Valley followed by a trip up the Murray River on a house boat. Both of which I would strongly recommend (particularly in conjunction) and more of which I will tell you soon.

But for a large part of the time I have been working on the development of a new website for Kiwicare. The website has a bright new look and separates the home pest control and garden pest control sections with different looks and feels but still as one website.

A major development of the site includes two problem solver sections, one for Home Pest Control and one for Garden Pests, Diseases and Health. Try them out and give me your feedback.

It is also easier in the new website t quickly find information on a particular pest, disease, or garden health problem and its solutions. Or to find information on Kiwicare products.

Kiwicare Home Page

Next blog I will be telling you all about my terrific trip to South Australia. So if you are planning a visit there I suggest you read about my experiences, I think you will pick up some useful tips and get some hints about things to do and see.

Who’s been surfing on our web?
I can’t bear to tell you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yellow, Curled Up Growing Tips on Your Tomatoes or Potatoes?

If you see the growing tips of your newly planted tomatoes or potatoes curling up and going yellow they may be infected with a bacterium of the genus Liberibacter. This disease is spread by Psyllid sap sucking insects. The diseases caused by this bacterium are known as Psyllid Yellows in the plant and Zebra Chip in the tubers of affected potatoes. Liberibacter was first identified in Auckland by MAF in 2008 where it was infecting greenhouse crops of tomatoes and capsicums. It has since spread to other commercial operations and to home gardens.

Control of the diseases is only possible by control of the psyllid insect that transmits it. There is not, as yet, any effective treatment for the bacterium itself. The psyllids are sap sucking insects about the size of aphids but looking more like cicadas. The eggs are laid on the underside of vulnerable plants. The nymphs are scale-like but will move if disturbed.

The psyllids will feed on capsicum, chilli, egg plant, kumara and tamarillo as well as potato and tomato. Also, they may feed on bindweed and this can be a source of infestation and infection.

It is important to treat vulnerable plants early, particularly potatoes. The attack by the psyllids and the infection from Liberbacter can significantly weaken the plant and greatly reduce crop yield. Spray the underside of leaves with a good general garden insecticide. Systemic insecticides can be effective as psyllids are sap sucking insects. Spray regularly in the growing season, more frequently if evidence of psyllids are found. Also remove or treat with herbicide any bindweed in the garden to prevent this being a reservoir of infestation.

Why did the tomato go out with a plum?
Because he couldn’t find a date.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Win a Years Supply of Kiwicare Garden Products

Kiwicare and New Zealand Gardener Magazine are seeking nominations for Gardener of the Year. This year the winning gardener will receive a years supply of Kiwicare Garden products and prizes total $20,000 including regional winners.

This year there will also be prizes for the best school vege garden and the best community garden. Each will win $1000 for Kiwicare garden products and $1000 of Mitre10 vouchers.

If you know someone that is deserving of this award send a letter to NZ Gardener to nominate the most passionate gardener in your region; or a local school or community garden. Detail why they’d make a worthy winner and don’t forget to include your name and phone number, plus contact details for the person you’ve nominated, or someone involved with the school garden or community plot. Entries close on 12 September 2011.

Nominations can be sent to NZ Gardener 2011 Gardener of the Year, PO Box 6341, Wellesley St, Auckland 1141, or email: [email protected]

If I could only grow green stuff in my garden like I can in my refrigerator.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TVNZ Infested

Last night TVNZ1 began showing a series of programs named Infested. The program aired at 9.30pm and last night’s episode featured infestations of rats and bed bugs.

The family suffering from bed bugs were getting bites which were initially diagnosed by a doctor as an allergic reaction to something in their environment such as a change of washing powder. It was only when the lady of the house investigated and found bed bugs crawling on her children’s beds at night that the culprit was identified as bed bugs. This highlighted the difficulty in identifying bed bug infestations just from their bites and how difficult they are to find as they only emerge from their hiding places at night.

I suspect a large number of people watching the program suddenly realised that the itchy marks they had been getting recently may be caused by bed bugs. The Kiwicare website got a sudden influx of visitors between 9.30 and 11.00pm last night. Nearly a hundred people in New Zealand visited the site in this period seeking information on bed bugs and how to get rid of bed bugs using the Kiwicare Bed Bugs Box.
Visits to 26th July. Spike after TVNZ show Infested at 9.30pm
Next week’s episode of Infested will “….reveal the pain and anguish of living with shocking infestations of [some] cockroaches, rats, bedbugs, scorpions, ants, raccoons, mice, snakes and spiders.”

Have you heard about the pregnant bed bug?
She gave birth in the spring.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Snow Blizzards Stop Flights

With snow falling around me I was on my way to Christchurch Airport early yesterday morning. When I heard on the radio the airport was closed I checked and found that my flight and all those in the morning were cancelled. I re-booked for an evening flight and was confident that the runway would be cleared by then. False confidence as it turned out. I have had to cancel my trip to Auckland to attend the Bunnings Expo where I was to be the ‘expert’ for pest control questions. I am sure that Kiwicare Sales Manager Neil Martin and garden expert Ben Adams will be able to hold the fort.

Working from home yesterday I watched the snow continue to fall and considered what such a widespread cold snap might mean for pest issues around New Zealand.

Cold is the enemy of insects and small mammals. The smaller a creature the more affected by temperature they tend to be. Insects may be able to survive cold conditions by being in a state similar to ‘hibernation.’ Their metabolisms are slowed and energy reserved. Small mammals will seek shelter and use energy reserves to keep their bodies at a temperature that will sustain their lives. If they have sufficient reserves built up through plentiful times in autumn they will survive, if not, they die.

Some insects are adapted to survive freezing for short periods, but few can survive for extended periods. Some insects survive as grubs or adults deep in the soil where they are less affected by cold. Short cold snaps of a few days will not penetrate more than a few inches into the soil. Those insects or small mammals such as rats and mice that take refuge in heated homes can survive easily through the coldest periods. Not only are they protected from severe temperatures but they often find access to food supplies that sustain through the winter.

In consequence the short cold snap and snow will reduce both insect and rodent numbers in the wild, it will drive more to seek refuge in homes and other buildings, but it will not affect better adapted insects such as grass grub or sheltering pests such as cluster flies or rodents that enter our buildings.

What do snowmen wear on their heads?
Ice caps.
It snow joke!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Box Blight Disease of Buxus Plants

Buxus dieback
Plants of the genus Buxus (aka Box or Boxwood), which are often used for hedging and topiary, are being affected by a fungal disease caused by Cylidrocladium buxicola. It is thought it originated in Central America but C. boxicola was isolated from buxus hedging in the UK in the 1990s and has since spread to Europe and New Zealand. It causes dieback in the buxus, leaf drop and death in affected plants.

Affected dead leaves on buxus hedge
Early detection is vital. The initial infection is characterised by general darkening of the leaves, spreading in a circular fashion across the whole leaf. The infection then spreads to the stem below and the leaves die, turning light brown and falling off.

Complicating diagnosis, other die-back diseases, such as that caused by Phytopthera, cause similar symptoms, so it is not always easy to identify which disease is the cause. When affected, the buxus plants may also be susceptible to other infections such as mildew like fungi.

A recent study by Henricot et. al. of the Royal Horticultural Society, studied the control of C. buxicola using fungicides. This study found that among the fungicides tested carbendazim was effective at reducing and stopping growth of the fungus mycelium and mancozeb was effective at inhibiting the germination of spores. Kiwicare Super Spectrum (previously known as NO Insects or Disease Spectrum powder) contains a combination of these fungicides and is likely to provide some curative and preventative effect.

Although Henricot et al suggests they found little effect from copper spray I have had personal communication from professional landscape gardeners in New Zealand that they have used Kiwicare Root Protect Aliette with success, and Copper Oxy as a preventative, and it has worked to stop spread of disease when the disease has been identified soon enough. See here.

There are fewer options available to the home gardener in the UK than there are in New Zealand. So references that cite that ‘there are no effective fungicides available for control of Box Blight’ are referring to Europe not NZ.

It is also important to note that fungicide on its own may not be sufficient to control the disease once it has a hold. It is important to combine treatment with:
  • Improving air flow around the plants to reduce infection from wind borne spores. 
  • Cutting out and destroying dead or affected material.
  • Proactively clearing up and destroying dead leaves and dead material from around the plants as the spores can remain viable in the leaves for some years.
  • It would also be advisable to sterilise clipping and cutting implements when trimming buxus so as not to spread the disease.
Other dieback diseases of buxus such as Phytopthera can be treated with the fungicide NO Root Rot Aliette. Phytopthera are root diseases and it is advised that roots as well as the upper parts of the plants are treated.

Gardening requires a lot of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Quake Damage …..Bronze Lining?

This may not be a silver lining, but perhaps I would refer to it as a ‘bronze lining’ for quake damaged home owners in Canterbury.

Recently I have had several enquiries about borer treatment from people in Christchurch. With so many homes damaged and in the process of being repaired, many are cottoning on to the fact that this provides an opportunity to protect timbers from borer.

This is the ideal time to treat the wood with Borer Fluid. NO Borer fluids get deep into the timber and both kill borer larvae present in the wood and protect the timber for many years. Often it can be difficult to treat wooden homes and homes with wood for borer. Treatment is often limited to slowing the damage with the use of Borafume and Bug Bomb fumigators because treatment of bare timber is not possible; it is normally hard to get at the interior of walls and the sub-floor of many houses. But, when repairs are being carried out, the timbers may be exposed.

Interior surfaces of weatherboards and structural timbers in the walls can be attacked much more heavily than is evident from the painted exteriors. In general there are 10 times as many flight holes inside the wall as on the exterior. Similarly the underside of floor boards are more heavily damaged. When repairs are being carried out and these, usually hidden, surfaces are exposed it is the time to treat them. Why put your home back together without protecting it from insect damage?

At the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, silver medals were awarded to the winners and bronze for second place.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kiwicare in Top 3 Suppliers

New Zealand’s largest group of hardware stores, Mitre10, had their award dinner last night. Kiwicare were holders of the coveted Platinum Supplier of the Year having picked up the award for 2010. It was not expected that Kiwicare would win again following disruption from three major earthquakes centred near the head offices and factory during the year. But it was hoped that we would be able to sustain our long run of being in the top 10.

It was therefore with delight that we found we were in the top 3. This is a great result and reflects the hard work of all the Kiwicare team over the last year; production, administration and sales.

It is particularly satisfying to be in the top 3 for this award because it is the staff in the Mitre10 group stores that vote on a wide range of criteria; innovation, service, training, quality and sales.

A hippopotamus walks into a bar and asks for a beer.
“That’ll be $15 please” says the barman. “We don’t get many hippos in here.”
“At $15 a beer, I’m not surprised!” says the hippo.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Australian Redback Spider

Female Australian Redback Spider
Underside showing hourglass marking

It is Biosecurity Month and here at Kiwicare our ever vigilant staff noticed an unusual spider wandering across the factory floor. On identification it was found to be a female Australian Redback. This spider has a powerful venom and bite and has been known to cause death in rare occasions so we took care when collecting it and preserving it in 70% ethanol for id and reporting to MAF Biosecurity.

The Redback can be easily identified by the red marking on the back and a red hourglass shape on the underside of the abdomen.

Redbacks originated in Australia and are a cousin of the native Katipo. They have been spreading across New Zealand and are found as far afield as Otago and Bay of Plenty. I am not sure how common they are in Christchurch, it may be that this one hitched a lift on a container that recently passed through the facility.

What kind of doctors are like spiders?
Spin doctors!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Biosecurity Month

July is Biosecurity Month.

Get ready for a month of biosecurity-related stories plastering the media.

Biosecurity is vital for New Zealand – so let’s encourage people to know more and be involved. Vice-President Pedro Jensen is again co-ordinating the NZBI Biosecurity Month activities. As we did last year we will aim to co-ordinate and highlight biosecurity stories from around the country. Contact Pedro Jensen ([email protected]) for the NZBI Biosecurity Month email banner you can use in your emails. The design element can also be used as a temporary linked widget like the one below from your organisation’s website to our website.

Click on the widgets above to learn more about Biosecurity Month.

How many Kiwis does it take to eat a possum?
Two. One to eat, and one to watch out for traffic.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bed Bugs Bite Again

The ‘popular’ subject of bed bugs has been in the headlines again. In the run up to the rugby world cup finals the suggestion has been made that travellers, particularly backpackers, will be bringing bed bugs with them in their luggage or will be encountering them here in New Zealand while travelling.

A piece in the New Zealand Herald was followed by discussion on TVNZ Morning and various radio stations throughout yesterday and Radio Live today (1st July) at 16.55. The reports got most information correct but misquoted me in a few places. I didn’t mention second hand furniture, but it could be a way that bed bugs are moved from one place to another. If you are considering purchasing any second hand furniture,or you have recently, I would advise checking it carefully for signs of bed bugs and perhaps giving it a preventative treatment with NO Bed Bugs spray; just to be on the safe side. The travellers for the world cup can prevent picking up bed bugs in luggage with proactive treatment of their luggage and vigilance when in hotels, motels and backpacker accommodation. The accommodation industry in New Zealand is very pro-active in preventing and controlling bed bugs and visitors are less at risk here than many other parts of the world. Let’s help keep it that way.

Why is a train like a bed-bug?
It runs over sleepers.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mild Weather Leaves Rats and Mice Out

In April I predicted that rodents would be a problem of larger than normal proportions this winter, particularly in quake damaged Christchurch. See here.

Rats Surviving Outside This Winter
I am happy to say that this prediction has not come to pass yet. Rats and mice have been able to survive outside due to the mild weather that New Zealand has experienced so far this winter. While many rats and mice have invaded homes in search of food and shelter, this has, so far, been in the normal range and not been a plague.

The unseasonably mild weather has had implications for ski fields and the lack of snow has meant resorts like Queenstown have not been able to start the ski season leaving many ski field employees without work and skiers seeking alternative entertainment.

For animals in the wild it has meant that more food is available to them and less food is needed to keep warm. The result is a high survival rate but less movement of rodent pests indoors. However, if a cold snap does come along there is still a likelihood that rodents will move indoors to escape the cold. So it is important to be proactive and be prepared.

What did the lab rat say his mate?
"I've got my scientist so well trained that every time I ring the bell, she brings me a snack."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kiwicare Wins Award at Fieldays

The Kiwicare site and team won the Mystery Creek Pavilion Merit Award at Fieldays 2011 today. This award recognises Kiwicare as one of the best sites at this years Fieldays. Saturday is the last day of the show and I hope you will have time to come and visit us at the site and ask us your questions about the solution/s to any pest or garden care problem in your home, farm or lifestyle block.

Caz Woods of National Fieldays presents
Dave Riley (Kiwicare, Waikato Territory Manger) with the award
I will be there again along with Dave Riley, the local territory rep and Ben Adams, our new Auckland and Northland rep who is also an expert in horticulture and garden care.

See you there……..there are rewards for those that visit us and mention this blog.

Why does a cockerel watch TV?
For hentertainment!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fieldays 2011 Starts Today

The National Agricultural Fieldays starts today at Mystery Creek, Hamilton. This is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest agri-business event with over a thousand businesses showing their wares.

Kiwicare have a stand in the main Mystery Creek Pavilion at site PE26 which is almost opposite door 2. Come and say ‘Hi’ you will be rewarded with your choice of free NO Bugs Super to keep your home free from insect pests or Spectrum to keep your roses and other plants pest and disease free.

On site will be experts on pest control and horticulture. Come and ask us a question.

The Kiwicare Head Office and factory in Christchurch has been only slightly affected by the latest quake. Production and dispatch was restored yesterday although there may be some disruption to communication via email this is expected to be repaired today. Our apologies to anyone that has had trouble contacting us. You can now contact the office for orders and enquiries on our main number 03 389 0778 or via your local representative.

Did you hear about the farmer who ploughed his field with a steamroller?
He wanted to grow mashed potatoes!

Monday, June 6, 2011

How Fast do Bed Bugs Breed?

“How fast do bed bugs breed?” is a question I have been asked several times recently. What people want to know is how fast will a bed bug problem grow after bed bugs are introduced to their home.  It is not an easy question to answer because the answer is different in different situations. Temperature, availability of food (blood), availability of mates, predator numbers etc. will all influence the rate at which bed bugs can breed. But estimates can be made based on normal conditions. The answer is both interesting and disturbing.

Recent work has found that you should not expect a population explosion before 3 to 4 months has passed and it is only at this point that an infestation may be detected easily. When there are only a few adult bed bugs they can be difficult to detect. The infestation may not be noticed until the problem escalates because, even though people may be being bitten, the majority of people do not react to bites and may be oblivious of the fact that they are having their blood sucked in their sleep.

Month 1 – If a single pregnant female is introduced to a bedroom, perhaps as the result of bringing one home after travelling to and staying in an infested hotel, it is likely that there will still be only one breeding adult one month after introduction. However, there will be as many as 60 nymphs in various stages of development and 20-30 eggs. When bed bugs hatch from an egg they are very small and are unlikely to be seen by the naked eye. The bugs go through 5 stages of growth (instars), each growth stage requires a blood feed. Only in the final adult stage is a bed bug able to lay eggs.

Month 2 – By now there is likely to be less than 10 adult bed bugs, but as many as 150 nymphs and a few eggs.

Newly hatched and
3rd instar bed bugs on rice
Month 3 – Now things start to ‘hot up’ with as many as 100 adults and 1,000 nymphs and eggs.

Month 4 – By day 120 the bed bug population is into exponential growth phase with up to 200 adults, 5,000 nymphs and 2,000 eggs.

Month 6 – If there is sufficient blood to feed on and places to hide, an infestation could now be at enormous proportions and would undoubtedly have spread to all adjacent rooms. There could be 8,000 adults, over 100,000 nymphs and 70,000 eggs.

This scenario shows that early detection and treatment of bed bugs is vital. Carrying out a thorough inspection of  a bed and bedroom as soon as there is any suspicion of bed bugs and treatment with the Kiwicare NO Bed Bugs Box can ‘nip the problem in the bud.’ Or better still, be proactive about preventing bed bugs being brought into the home by treating luggage before travelling.

A bed bug walks into a bar and asks for 2 blood lites!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cockroaches Move Indoors

Bush Cockroach
New Zealand native Bush Cockroaches are invading homes where warm moist weather in parts of the country is encouraging them.

There are about 15 species of Native Bush Cockroach. They are small wingless cockroaches, up to 15mm body length. They can often be mistaken for the Gisborne cockroach which is also a ‘Wood Cockroach’ like the Bush but is more likely to be a nuisance pest. The Gisborne will grow much larger; growing to over 30mm.

The Bush Cockroach normally lives in logs and leaf litter or under loose bark. They prefer damp, dark habitats and are not usually a household pest. However, when they do invade a home,wandering in from the garden or brought in on wood for the fire, they can cause a certain amount of revulsion and consternation.
Gisborne Cockroach

They will not survive long in most homes as it is too dry where there is heating and there will be a lack of their normal food of rotting vegetation. But ‘not long’ can be several weeks and it maybe that home owners want to get rid of them sooner.

Preventing the entry of Bush or Gisborne cockroaches to the house or other buildings is the first thing to do. Make sure doors and windows are tightly fitting and keep vegetation and bark chips away from the house. Don’t store firewood close tot he house and take care when bringing the wood indoors not to carry cockroaches with it.

The use of residual insecticide such as NO Bugs Super inside and around the walls and possible entry points can deter the roaches and shorten their life in the home. But it is not necessary to use insecticides in the garden where they cockroaches are not a threat and pose no risk of harm. It is only when they move inside that that can be a nuisance.

“I was in that new restaurant across the street,” said one roach to his mate. “It’s so clean! The kitchen is spotless, and the floors are gleaming. There is no dirt anywhere–it’s so hygienic that the whole place shines.”

“Please,” said the other roach. “Not while I’m eating!”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Casino Staff Wearing Flea Collars

The recent news reports of some SkyCity staff resorting to wearing flea collars to prevent fleas in the casino biting them, raises some interesting points about fleas, flea control and the effectiveness of flea collars.

SkyCity say that they have regular cleaning of the casino and have a pest management program in place to deal with such pest issues. This is normal practice for any business catering for visitors and handling food or drink.

I do not believe wearing flea collars, even if they are worn around the ankle are an effective way to prevent bites, and pet flea collars may not be approved for use on humans. A good flea control program should deal with the flea infestation promptly.

However, getting rid of fleas may not necessarily get rid of the itching experienced by staff. It is well known that just thinking about fleas, bed bugs or other biting insects can induce us to feel itchy and cause scratching. Are you feeling itchy yet?

Scratching of the skin, which often happens subconsciously, will in turn cause inflammation and more itchiness. This feedback loop can easily lead people to think that the biting insect problem is continuing. There is also a social aspect of this phenomenon; if you see someone else scratching or they discuss feeling itchy, you will too, and so the phenomenon can spread through the staff.

The ‘trick’ to terminating the perception of fleas or other biting insects is to make it plain to the affected staff that a proactive and effective flea control operation has taken place. Wearing flea collars is only likely to keep fleas in the mind.

How do you find where a flea has bitten you?
Start from scratch!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Change in Distribution of Cluster Flies

There appears to have been a change in the distribution of cluster flies around New Zealand. There has been a shift from the Lower North Island to the South Island as shown by the information in Table 1. The table shows enquiries to Kiwicare regarding help in getting rid of cluster flies.
Table 1. Cluster Fly Enquiries
The increase in the South Island is largely due to cluster flies hitting Southland in a big way. Invercargill, Southland has seen number of visits increase (24, 26, 167) over the three years.

This is an interesting switch. It has been reported previously that cluster flies seem to go through a ‘boom bust’ cycle in local areas. My suspicion would be that this is governed by both weather conditions and the availability of their earthworm food source. If they are in big numbers for one or two years in an area, they may significantly reduce worm numbers and so suffer a drop off in their own numbers the following season as a consequence.

This fly goes into a bar and says “Is this stool taken?”

Bed Bugs as Carriers of Disease

A report in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases* this month reports that bedbugs carrying methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a bacterium resistant to many common antibiotics were found on patients in a Vancouver hospital. Also, on two patients, they found bedbugs with vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, or VRE, another bacterium resistant to common antibiotics.

This result raises the possibility that bed bugs can carry and transmit disease, something that has never been shown previously. While this result does not demonstrate that the bed bugs transmitted disease during their blood feeds it shows that there is the possibility. This result will, no doubt, spark further investigations around the world.

Should this result be confirmed and the transmission of disease by bed bugs during taking blood feeds from people and animals demonstrated, this will have great implications for the control of bed bugs around the world.

As I have previously blogged, there has been a resurgence of bed bugs around the world and in New Zealand. The combination of this resurgence and evidence that bed bugs transmit disease would be most concerning. It would make the control and eradication of bed bugs not just a matter of preventing nuisance and itchy bites but a matter of preventing serious disease and illness.

*The Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases is a journal of the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

A bed bug walks into the tearoom and says “Is it chai?”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thailand Bed Bugs Death

The tragic case of the death of New Zealander Sarah Carter and other travellers in Chang Mai, Thailand, may be a case of pesticide poisoning according to a United Nations scientist Dr Ron McDowall. Dr McDowall has revealed that traces of the organophosphate chlorpyrifos were found in the hotel in which Sarah was staying at the time she fell ill. It was the same hotel that a British couple, a Canadian and a local tour guide stayed in before their deaths in similar circumstances. According to Dr McDowall the symptoms of the deaths were in line with those of chlorpyifos poisoning.

It is thought the insecticide may have been used for the control of bed bugs and Thai police will be investigating.

Bed Bugs
The use of chlorpyrifos for indoor pest control has been banned in many countries. Because bed bugs are predominantly found in bedrooms and other places where people spend large amounts of time it is important that any insecticide used is particularly safe. Kiwicare NO Bed Bugs spray and fumigator products do not contain organophosphates, instead containing the very safe low toxicity pyrethroids permethrin, cyphenothrin and an insect growth regulator, pyriproxifen; all of which are insecticides approved for bed bug control in bedrooms by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Bed bugs are difficult insect pests to control and there is a danger that pest control operators, under pressure to eliminate the bugs quickly, will be tempted to use more powerful chemicals. This may be particularly the case in the accommodation businesses where room downtime and bad publicity from bed bugs is very costly.

It is almost certainly the case that, if the death of Sarah Carter was caused by chlorpyrifos (aka chlorpyriphos), it was not just due to using the chemical, but the extreme over use of the chemical. I find it difficult to imagine how chlorpyriphos could be used at the strength required to cause illness and death.

I am aware that some ‘professional’ pest control operators in New Zealand use organophosphates for control of bed bugs.  It would be hoped and expected that any such pest control companies would use these chemicals in a safe manner. But I would advise the use of the much safer NO Bed Bugs spray and fumigator in conjunction with the time and effort to find and treat all the possible bed bug hiding places.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rat “Blows In” with Auckland Tornado

I had an interesting enquiry from a home owner in Auckland’s North Shore along with a series of great photos. Graham sat at his kitchen window shortly after the tornado that devastated parts of Albany and watched a young Norway rat sitting in a fern stump for 10 minutes before making a get away.

It is possible that the heavy rain the accompanied the tornado flushed the rat out of its burrow. Norway rats, sometimes referred to as brown rats, water rats or sewer rats, normally live in burrows, often near river banks or sewers. So rising water can flush them out. It’s cousin the Black rat (aka roof rat, ship rat) is arboreal and lives more in trees and high places such roof spaces.

The pale colour of this rat is not uncommon, the Norway rat can vary from dark grey to even paler than this individual. The very pale underside is the easy way to differentiate Norway from Black rats.

Graham said the rat slowly walked down the fern stump and he was amazed how agile it was. Norway rats are good climbers as can be seen by these photos, but they are not as good as Roof rats. It is good advice to make sure trees and vegetation do not lead to your roof. Rats and mice will readily climb  a tree and drop down onto a roof where they are likely to find a way in at the eaves.

I suggested Graham set some bait out for this rat and his friends.

NO Rats & Mice weatherproof blocks would be most suitable. Use short lengths of pipe such as spouting down pipe approx 60cm long. Place the bait in the middle in a plastic bag and secured by a piece of wire or nail through the pipe. Rats and mice will happily eat through the plastic bag and the bag will keep the bait in place and fresh for longer. The bait tunnel should be placed securely against a wall or where rats have been seen travelling. Rats prefer to be in enclosed spaces and the tunnel will protect the bait and keep pets and birds out. Check and replace bait regularly and continue until no more bait is taken.

Thank you to Graham for letting me use his great series of photos.

Did you hear about the dyslexic rats?
Each thought they were a star.