Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sprays for Ants

There is some confusion about using sprays as part of an ant control programme. It is interesting to note that in almost all testing of spray insecticides against ants, measurement of success is through reduction of ant numbers and eradication of nests; repellency is regarded as a negative attribute.
Ant sprays should kill ants that contact treated surfaces, but killing foraging workers benefits colony eradication little, baits are more effective. There is greater advantage and satisfaction for a user in sprays being repellent and forming a barrier to ants; keeping ants out of buildings. Ants usually only become a pest when they enter buildings or areas where they are a nuisance.
However, if sprays are to be used to eradicate ants and kill off nests then they need to be non-repellent so that ants walk across treated surfaces. If repellent type sprays are used in or around nests it may serve to disturb the ants and cause budding of the nests and spread of the ant problem. Budding is where the queens and workers in a nest head off in different directions to set up new nests. This a particular risk when dealing with Argentine ants and darwin Ants.
Therefore, there is need for two forms of spray: one repellent, and one non-repellent.
The same holds true for granular, slow release insecticides. There is a dichotomy between eradication and control, killing and repellency.
For most home owners trying to stop ants being a pest, the repellent form of insecticide is more effective. Products such as NO Bugs Super (deltamethrin) or NO Ants (permethrin) from Kiwicare are good barrier sprays and can be used around building to stop ants moving in in search of food.
Kiwicare’s NO Ants Ant Sand (bifentrin) on the other hand is non repellent and can be used in and around nests to kill the nest without disturbing the ant nests or causing budding and spread of the colony.
If one continually cuts corners one ends up with a smoother running wheel.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Weedy Spring

Humans may not have enjoyed the wet weather experienced through winter and early spring, but weeds have. It means soil moisture levels are high, and this, along with spring warmth, encourages seeds to germinate and plants to grow rapidly. Weeds are weedy because they are fast growing and most capable of taking advantage of such opportunities.
Weeds come in many forms; a definition of a weed is a plant growing in the ‘wrong’ place. Think of grass in your drive versus grass in your lawn.
Weeds also tend to be plants that can grow and spread faster than those desirable plants around them. Yet another definition would be invasive weeds; those plants that have been brought into New Zealand and given the opportunity to grow and spread in the absence of the herbivorous mammals and insects that would normally eat them or competitor plants (see the Weedbuster website for more info on these).
In the garden, weeds are those plants that grow in the lawn, disrupting the even look of the carpet of grass, uninvited seedlings that pop up in flowerbeds and grow rapidly spreading and strangling the desirable plants, or those plants that grow in cracks in driveways and paths, looking unsightly and damaging the paths or drives with their roots.
The weather forecasters at NIWA and MetService are predicting normal, or above normal rainfall and temperatures for New Zealand over the next quarter. This means that weeds will continue to cause problems in the rapid growing conditions and home owners will spend more of their time trying to keep the weeds in their garden under control. New herbicides are available to assist in their battle. The recent launch of Kiwicare’s Weed Weapon will be of significant benefit. It combines the effectiveness and safety of glyphosate with a new active ingredient that makes it work much more quickly and it will kill some weeds that glyphosate alone will not. Old technology glyphosate could take up to two weeks to begin knock down of weeds, but Weed Weapon with Xpi technology can show effects within a day or two. Indeed the ready to use version will show affects within a few hours.
A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ants On the March Across New Zealand

Many New Zealanders are already experiencing problems with ants in their homes and gardens. Usually ant numbers do not increase significantly until November but this year the numbers are well above normal and ants look set to invade more Kiwi homes and other buildings than before.
Ant nests can be inside buildings but are more likely to be outside in dry soils under places like paving, drives and rocks. The ants move indoors seeking food. They are often found following each other in trails leading to and from food or marching across kitchen work tops and into larders.

There are several pest species of ant in New Zealand and most are not native. They have been brought into the country accidentally from Australia and other places around the world. As with many other pests they have found conditions to their liking and multiply out of control because their natural predators or competition are not found in New Zealand. As a consequence, species such as Darwin Ants, Argentine Ants, White Footed Ants and others form much larger colonies in New Zealand than in their native regions.

Since the beginning of August I have handled 125% more enquiries regarding ant problems than the same period last year.

The combination of high soil moisture levels following a wet winter and early spring warmth have produced almost perfect conditions for ant problems.
Spring is always the best time to start baiting to control ants. Baits have most effect when the nests have fewer numbers and queens are beginning production of eggs and new workers. With the early boom in ant problems it is particularly prudent to be pro-active and protect your home from ants now.

Be prepared for the ant invasion, bait and protect yourself now. Baits and other products for control of ants are readily available at hardware stores and supermarkets and advice can be found at or by contacting Kiwicare.

How many ants does it take to fill an apartment?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bed Bugs in Rental Accommodation

A recent enquiry about how to confirm whether evidence suggests bed bugs were in a rented apartment before moving in, or whether they could have been brought in by the new tenant, is one of many similar enquiries I have had.

The enquiry is often spurred by a ‘conflict’ between the tenant and the owner, or property managers, about whose responsibility getting rid of the bed bugs is. Unfortunately this is a common conflict when it comes to bed bugs or other infestations in rental property or moving into accommodation.

It is usually impossible to determine, with certainty, where the bed bug infestation originated. There is rarely any fault involved, as bed bugs are not a sign of poor hygiene and can easily be picked up during travel, in goods moved from one place to another, etc.

It is always in the interests of both parties to deal with the problem promptly to save both pain and costs. I suggest the tenant and manger/owner amicably come to an agreement to jointly cover costs of eradication. This always saves time and costs for both parties.

A men tells a friend: “I still can’t get rid of these bed bugs. I’m so tired of being bitten every day. They live in my old sofa in the living room”.

“Get rid of the sofa then.” Suggested his friend.

The guy replied:” Well, I threw out my sofa several times, but the bed bugs keep bringing it back”.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Taupo. There and Back Again

The NZ Biosecurity Institute NETS2012 conference was held at Wairakei Resort, Taupo, 18th – 20th July. I took the opportunity to make the trip to the conference a bit of a photographic journey. Too much in recent times my work has kept me locked in the office and not experiencing my favourite thing to do; travelling around the most beautiful country on the planet; God’s Own.
So rather than fly to Taupo or Rotorua from Christchurch, an expensive option, I took the ferry across Cook Straight and drove to Taupo, giving myself time to stop and take in some sights. The drive and cruise across were spoiled by rain and flooding on the Monday.
Tuesday started dull but just as I was passing over the Desert Road, the clouds cleared, exposing the snow covered peaks of Ruapehu and Tongariro. A sign pointing towards the mountains signifying the way to the ski field was irresistible.
Mount Ruapehu central North Island New Zealand

Having dragged myself away from the mountainsand driven through the on-going flooding from the previous day’s rain, I arrived at the Waikakei Resort.
The conference was a great opportunity to renew acquaintances and catch up with what is new in Biosecurity. I was pleased to see many new faces this year along with the same ‘old’ crowd. I believe the number of registrations was up, encouraged by the full and interesting program.
In the past I have spent most of my NETS conferences at animal and invertebrate pest talks, but this year, with Kiwicare’s recent work on herbicide development, I took more interest in weed presentations. Consequently I learned much including how much I still have to learn.
As is often the case, I was spoiled for choice on the field trips. I finally selected ‘Taupo – More than a Geothermal Wonderland.’  I had been to Taupo and surrounding areas many times in the past, but I had not previously had the time and opportunity to see any geothermal sights other than the puffs of steam emanating from geothermal vents in the cattle fields. At least I think the steam was from geothermal vents.
The trip gave me a chance to see some of the bubbling activity, to learn more about these very different habitats and the threats posed by incursions of pest plants, animals and civilisation. Thanks go to Kevin Lowe and Sarah Beadel for their guiding knowledge.
The first part of the field trip was to look at the Wairakei Golf Club which must be unique in having installed a pest proof fence to keep unwanted mammals out, and, to Sarah’s frustration, some exotic species in. 
One of the issues with the pest proof fence was that it has a single automatic gate entry and it may not be fast enough to stop all pests entering. Ray Weaver of the Pohutukawa Trust managed to make it in just as the gate was closing.
Wairakei Golf club pest proof fence

The Craters of the Moon are a steaming cauldron of bubbling mud, fissures venting hissing steam and prostrate kanuka dripping with sulphurous dew. The restoration of these areas by removal of wilding conifers and pampas grass amongst other weeds was described by our guides. A difficult task carried out from helicopters or on foot taking great care as no one wants to be scalded in boiling mud. It is to the credit of our guides that no one was lost during the walk around the area, as far as I know.
Steam from fissures and bubbling mud at Taupo Craters of the Moon

I was pleased to see that the workshops on Friday morning included one on GPS, Photos and Plant ID. As part of my work with Kiwicare I take handle enquiries from gardeners and other asking for identification of weeds and advice on control. My first choice of reference is always An Illustrated Guide to Common Weeds of New Zealand written by Ian Popay, Paul Champion and Trevor James. I had spent dinner the evening before with Ian. What a fascinating and dedicated man. Trevor gave the photographic portion of the workshop. Although I am a keen amateur photographer Trevor gave advice that I hadn’t thought of for the best photographs of samples for identification. For example: 
  • Taking photos of as many parts of the plant as possible; leaves, flowers, fruit, bark, roots, whole plant and environment plant is in.
  • Avoid harsh sunlight and use a grey background such as a road, so that the camera’s automatic light metre does not give an under or over exposed subject.
  • For cameras that can adjust aperture use a narrow aperture (high f-number) to give good depth of field.
Heid Pene then advised on how to take, store, pack and send samples for identification and inclusion in a herbarium. 
The Annual General Meeting of the NZBI had some interesting discussion about what leadership the institute should take in the light of the loss of the MAF Biosecurity branding. The institute is a broad church and at times it has taken the position that it cannot represent all the opinions within the organisation as some of them conflict. But there was unanimous support for an approach to the minister expressing the view of the institute that the branding, and the effort that has gone into its development and recognition by the public should not be lost. I fervently hope that the institute takes more such opportunities to identify consensus within the institute and voice opinion to government, public and media.
Trevor James tell workshop how to take photos for identification

Trevor and Heidi’s handouts have been added to the NZBI website.
After lunch it was time for the drive back south to catch the ferry to the mainland. Chris MacCann knowing of my photographic journey suggested I go south via the wreck of the Hydrabad on Waitarere Beach, just north of Levin. I had a picture in my mind of the skeleton of a ship embedded in the sands of the beach with the waves lapping against it. I got to the beach just before sunset and quickly found the sign. But where was the wreck? Nothing in the water, nothing sticking out of the beach.  A walk into the dunes and there in a hollow was a couple of beams marked by some kind soul with driftwood.
The dunes have swallowed up the wreck of the Hydrabad

But the trip was not in vain. Far from it; the sun was setting over the Tasman and I managed to add to my vast selection of sunset on a beach photos with some of my favourites.
Sunset over Tasman from Waitarere Beach

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What did I do? I go on a geothermal trip, drive up to overlook Tongariro and two weeks later the mountain awakes after slumbering for over 100 years. I promise, I didn’t touch anything.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pest Identification

Often people have pests or weeds they want identified so that they can find out how to control them. Sometime it is difficult to describe the pest or weed in words. A picture paints a thousand words and so I often ask people to send me some photographs. But photographs sometimes do not show the detail that is needed for identification.

Here are a few guidelines on how to take photographs for identification.

Most cameras (compacts or reflex) are capable of taking good photos. Even many phones and other electronic equipment with image capture capability can give sufficiently good photos for identification purposes.

The most important thing is focus – blurred images are of little use.
  • Many cameras have a macro function for focusing close up on small objects.
  • Take more than one image.
  • In order of importance take an image of:
    1. The whole weed/pest/object
    2. Specific parts of the weed/pest/object. e.g. flower, leaf, seed, legs, teeth, droppings, damage.
    3. The situation in which the weed/pest/object is found.
  • If possible compose the photos with a neutral uncluttered background. A grey road is a good background. Do not use a white or black background as this will affect the camera’s exposure and the weed/pest/object will be too dark or too light.
  • Avoid harsh sunlight and images with bright areas and shadows. If it is a sunny day take the photograph in a shaded place.
  • Avoid camera shake, use a fast shutter speed if possible; faster than 1/30th of a second. For slower shutter speeds brace the camera against a solid object or use a tripod.
  • Most cameras will display the image and may have an enlarge function. Check your photo for clarity. Take another one if necessary.
  • For small objects and when using a camera with the ability to change the aperture use as small and aperture as the light allows. This give a better depth of field so more of a 3 dimensional object will be in focus. Use f16 or smaller (the bigger the f number the smaller the aperture).

Sending in samples for identification

For identification it is often necessary to send a sample of the weed/pest/object. There are some basic points to remember:

  • Include all available parts of the plant e.g. leaf, flower, seed, berry, bark.
  • Take a note (write it down, don’t rely on memory) of where the plant was situated and what size it is and other details.
  • Place the samples in a plastic bag and seal.
  • Keep the samples cool. Avoid leaving the samples in a hot car.
Insects or other
  • Try to avoid damaging the subject.
  • Ideally put the insect in 70% alcohol to preserve it.
  • Seal in a jam jar or other airtight container.
  • Keep the sample refrigerated.
  • Take notes of where the subject was found and when.
Pack the samples well before sending. Samples can be sent by post but they are better taken in person or sent by courier.

There are many organisations in New Zealand that will provide identification of plants, insects or other material depending on what it is. These would include CRIs such as Landcare Research, universities, museums, MPI (ex MAF) Biosecurity and pest controllers. I will be happy to receive and try to identify pests, weeds, plant diseases etc. But please contact me prior to sending.

A biology student did an experiment on a grasshopper. If its legs were taken off what would happen?
He pulled off one of its legs and yelled “hop!”, and the grasshopper hopped. 
Then he took another leg and yelled “hop!” and the grasshopper hopped. 
Then he took all of its legs and yelled “hop!” but the insect did not hop. He yelled again, but the insect did not hop.    
So he came to the conclusion that when all the legs of a grasshopper are removed, it becomes deaf.

He was right! Long-horned grasshoppers and crickets have ears in the knee-joints of their front legs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Best Organic Fertiliser for Vegetables

Are your winter vegetables flourishing? No. Then they probably need a good vege fertiliser.

Kiwicare Organic Nourish Vegetable Fetiliser is formulated using a combination of natural and renewable marine sources (fishmeal and seaweed) and natural salts, humic acids and organisms that benefit the soil. It has a Nitrogen:Phosphorous:Potassium (NPK) ratio with a balance of the major plant nutrients considered best for a range of vegetables.

It also contains trace elements (plant vitamins) and elements that plants require in small amounts such as iron, manganese, boron, copper, zinc and molybdenum.

The natural formulation which is certified organic by BioGro, New Zealand’s organic certification organisation, is absorbed by both foliage and roots. Components in the fertiliser release nutrients for rapid absorption and others release the nutrient slowly so that the vegetables get continuous access to nutrients rather than a quick burst followed by nothing.

The humic acids are the major components of the breakdown of organic material and many soil scientists regard them as essential for good plant growth.

Good soil is a living eco-system, full of fungi, bacteria and algae that help breakdown large molecules into the smaller ones that plants can more easily absorb and they keep detrimental disease causing organisms at bay. The micro-flora (mirco organisms) in Nourish help to promote this healthy balance of organisms.

So Nourish Fertilisers have the ideal balance of essential nutrients for vegetables in a renewable organic form that gives the plants healthy growth over a period of time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

NZ Biosecurity Institute NETS2012 Registrartion Open

You can now register for NETS2012. The registration form and registration brochure are avaialable on the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute website.

The New Zealand Biosecurity Institute National Education and Technology Seminar (NETS) will be held at the Wairakei Resort Hotel 18th – 20th July 2012.

A pest controller walks into an antique store spies a large brass rat. He falls in love with it, and so he takes it to the counter.
“Interested in the rat, eh?” says the cashier.
“Um, yes … how much?” asks the customer.
“Well, five dollars for the rat–but 200 dollars for the story that goes with it” he replied.
“I’ll just take the rat, without the story.” Says the customer.
He leaves the store, his precious brass rat tucked under his arm. After a while he notices that a few rats are following him. He walks a few more steps and the number of rats behind him increased. This continued, until there were virtually thousands of rats following him.
Afraid, the man runs to the sea and throws the rat in. All of the rats plunged in after it, and met their watery deaths.
The man runs back to the antique store. The cashier was still chuckling to himself. “So now do you want the story?”
“No,” said the man, “but have you got any brass lawyers?”

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Plan Your Autumn and Winter Garden Spraying

Don’t ignore your dormant garden in autumn or winter. It may look like nothing is happening in the garden but lurking among the leaf litter, bark, dead twigs and branches are the spores of diseases and the over-wintering eggs of insect pests. You can ensure your garden explodes with vital health in spring by taking a little time now to protect your trees and shrubs from these pests and diseases.
  • Clear up leaf litter and dead material on the ground. This can be disposed of in your organics bin, burned or composted, but if composting make sure the compost is not used for at least 6 months to ensure any disease spores and pest eggs are killed.

  • In frost free weather prune and destroy dead, damaged and diseased parts of trees and shrubs. Then protect them from disease and pests using winter protectants such as copper oxychloride, sulphur and spraying oil.

  • To protect from fungal disease and a range of pests spray your fruit trees, roses and ornamentals with sulphur; first after leaf fall and again in late winter before new growth appears. DO NOT mix sulphur products with other garden sprays.

  • In autumn, fruit trees benefit from a clean-up spray of copper sprays and spraying oils. This will control fungal spores and insect eggs that would over-winter on the trees and prevent fungal disease entering through damaged parts of the plants. Spray again after any pruning and throughout winter. Spray copper followed by spraying oil. Mixtures of copper and spraying oil can be used to save time but are less effective than separate sprays.

  • Winter clean-up sprays are best applied in still, dry, cool, dull weather, in late autumn and through winter.

  • Tender trees and shrubs should be protected from wind and frost. Move them into sheltered positions or wrap them in wind and frost protecting garden windbreak.

  • Care for your lawn. Rake up fallen leaves regularly. Do not allow leaves to build up on the lawn where they would prevent light reaching the grass, rotting and killing it underneath. Finish laying any new turf or re seeding you may want to do. Mow your lawn only if growth makes it necessary but set the blades at least 2cm higher than normal.

  • Your indoor plants will benefit from some attention in winter too. Move them away from cold draughts and adjust watering depending on whether they are in heated rooms. Most indoor plants prefer high humidity. In unheated rooms they will need less water but in heated rooms they may need more frequent watering and the drying conditions of heating mean the plants should be misted more often.

Winter gardens can be pleasant places to spend time and because you will have fewer pests and diseases to deal with in spring and summer the work done protecting your plants now will give you more time to enjoy your garden in warmer months.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What to do on ANZAC Day

ANZAC day tomorrow! Let’s hope the weather remains good. We have been having something of an Indian summer this autumn and this has meant ongoing, or even increased, problems for some people with insect pests.

The weather has been warm during the day but clear skies at night have meant low temperatures and even a frost this morning in the fields around my home. This time of the year is normally when rats and mice move indoors to find fresh sources of food and shelter from the cold. Perhaps a good use of your time would be to take 30 minutes of your ANZAC day off and look around your home for places that rats and mice could enter.

It is almost impossible to make any building 100% proofed against rats and mice but 95% makes having an infestation 20 times less likely. Setting out some rodenticide baits and traps would add to the protection; controlling any rodents that find their way in.

What do you get if you try to cross a rat with a skunk?
Dirty looks from the rat! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Target Your Pesticides and Protect Beneficials

Pests are defined as organisms in the ‘wrong place’; the ‘wrong place’ as defined by us.


But there is more to what we regard as pests. A single aphid on your rose is not a problem for the rose except that it is likely to become hundreds of aphids if left unchecked. A rat in the bush is not a problem, but thousands of rats in the bush will be sufficient to impact seriously the population of native birds, reptiles and invertebrates. One wilding pine on a hillside is not much of a problem, but if the whole hillside is covered they exclude native plants and change the entire eco-system. So it is often excessive numbers of an organism that make them a pest.

The reason numbers of organisms get out of control is, more often than not, and imbalance caused by we humans altering the environment to our own ends. The aphids on our roses get out of hand because we have bred roses for their brilliant flowers and not always their ability to resist aphids. Rats were accidentally introduced to New Zealand along with our own migration to this new country and we build buildings that suit rats as home almost as much as they suit us. We planted and grow pines for lumber and should not be surprised that they spread to none cultivated areas.
Pest control is our attempt to redress this imbalance. But there is a danger when carrying out pest control of again creating imbalance. When we spray the garden to control the aphids on our rose we may also kill beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hover flies and bees.

There are ways to make your re balancing of the environment using pesticides more effective and reduce the risk of creating a new imbalance.

Be targeted! Only treat the places where pests are a problem. If you have aphids on your rose. Check the other roses in your garden. Aphids are mostly host specific, that is rose aphids only attack roses. You will probably find that some of your roses are unaffected; they may be resistant. Do not spray the unaffected roses and do not spray other plants. Even though spraying them might seem to be a sensible precaution to protect them it is more likely to be a costly waste of insecticide and will kill many beneficial insects you should protect.

Be targeted! Use pesticides that are as specifically targeted at the pest as possible. For example if your pest is caterpillars eating your cabbages you could use a standard insecticide such as pyrethrum. But pyrethrum will kill all sorts of insects. Consider using caterpillar control products such as Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk) which is harmless to insects other than the larvae of moths and butterflies.

Be targeted! Don’t use pesticides at below the recommended rate even in an attempt to reduce the affect on beneficials. Using pesticides at below the recommended rate risks not controlling the pest but still harming beneficials and the need for further treatment will only harm beneficials further. It also risks leaving sub-lethally dosed pests that survive and develop tolerance to the pesticide. A proactive early treatment of pests is better than protracted series ‘half’ treatments of pests that never quite gets control.

In these ways you will re balance the systems in your garden, your home and your environment.

There were three engineers in a car; an electrical engineer, a chemical engineer, and a Microsoft engineer.
Suddenly, the car stops running and they pull off to the side of the road wondering what could be wrong.
  • The electrical engineer suggests stripping down the electronics of the car and trying to trace where a fault may have occurred. 
  • The chemical engineer, not knowing much about cars, suggests maybe the fuel is becoming emulsified and getting blocked somewhere.  
  • The Microsoft engineer, not knowing much about anything, came up with a suggestion. “Why don’t we close all the windows, get out, get back in, and open all the windows and see if it works?”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Autumn – Time to Stop Rats and Mice

This autumn could see a larger than usual influx of rats and mice into our homes, offices, shops, factories and farms. We haven’t had much of a summer in New Zealand but the wetter than usual weather has been good for the growth of plants and their production of fruit, seeds and nuts. The abundance of food this provides for rats and mice means that rodent numbers are likely to be high in the bush, parks and gardens of the country.
At this time each year pest rodents move into our buildings. When autumn gets colder and the fruits, seeds and nuts diminish the rats and mice seek shelter and alternative food sources. When they find a nice dry insulated sheltered attic with food to be found in the kitchen below they will quickly build a nest, and continue breeding. Timely action now to prevent rats and mice getting inside and to deal with them quickly if they gain entry, will save time and effort later during winter.
I have discussed proofing in a previous blog postingHere is my 3 point plan for proofing your building against rats and mice:
  1. Deny rodents entry – Go outside and examine your buildings for possible entry points. A mouse can squeeze beneath a door if there is a gap large enough to fit a pencil a young rat is only a little larger than a mouse! Draft excluding brush strips, are an ideal method of proofing such gaps. You might also consider placing some rodenticide around the exterior of the house to reduce the numbers that might find their way in.
  2. Deny rodents food – Take 10 minutes to look around your kitchen and check that should a mouse or rat get in that there is no food behind the fridge, or spilled down the side of the cooker. Check that dried good such as cereals are in sealed, preferably metal, containers. Make sure butter and even bars of soap are out of the reach of rodents. Remember, rats and mice are excellent climbers and just putting food high on a shelf may not be out of their reach.
  3. Be ready for rodent entry – No matter how carefully you find and seal possible entry points if you can get into a building through and open door so can a rat or mouse. They may also get in carried in a box of goods and there are almost always other possible entry points around any building. So it is always wise to keep fresh rodenticide bait in place in safe places such as the roof void so that any rodents that get in are dealt with before you know about them.
    1. Put bait in safe places NOW. Don’t wait for signs of their entry. Place the bait where rodents might encounter it but where pets and children cannot. Set traps as well.
    2. Rodenticide baits are more effective than traps but once a rodent has taken some bait it is more likely to get caught in a trap and body can then be removed.
    3. Particularly if dealing with roof rats block baits should be fixed in place so that the rats cannot take it away and store it. Some baits have holes so that they can be nailed in place in voids and fixed by use of a wire. Block baits without holes can be put in a plastic bag and the bag fixed in place.
Carry out this rodent proofing now and you give yourself the best chance of staying free from pest rats and mice this winter.

Three rats are sitting at the bar bragging about their bravery and toughness.

The first says, “I’m so tough, once I ate a whole bagful of rat poison!”

The second says, “Well I’m so tough, once I was caught in a rat trap and I gnawed it apart!”

Then the third rat gets up and says, “Later guys, I’m off home to beat up the cat.”

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Ellerslie Awards 2012

    The Awards for the best displays at this year’s Ellerslie Flower Show were announced yesterday evening. Find out who won.

    I was manning the Kiwicare stand at CR1 and answering garden and pest control questions from the hundreds VIP guests invited to the award ceremony. The evening was hot and sunny and this suited the finely dressed ladies and gentlemen. Ladies in their summer frocks and gentlemen in their rolled up sleeves and sunnies wandered the Show with glasses of wine in hand.

    Kiwicare Silver Award Display at Ellerslie 2012
    The Kiwicare stand won a Silver Award, so well done to the team that put it together. At the stand is a demonstration of the Kiwicare Organic weedkiller where you can spray some weeds, take a walk around the show and then return to see how the weeds have fallen over on the way to death. There is also a live link to the Kiwicare garden website problem solver. You can surf and see if your garden problems are listed on the site and find the solutions. You can also enter a draw to win $500 worth of garden products…….it could be well worth a visit.

    I will be there today (Wednesday 7th March) and again on Sunday (11th) to continue answering your questions. Ben Adams will be there with his gardening knowledge on the intervening days.

    A qualified student from the School of Floristry is designing and ‘constructing’ a display to be added to the Kiwicare stand so come along and see it.

    At a marriage guidance session the instructor asks the husbands to name their wives favourite flower.
    A husband leans over to his wife and whispers “It’s self raising, isn’t it?”

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Zoonoses from Pest Rodents

    Rodent droppings and urine can carry serious disease
    Zoonoses are diseases caught from animals. Wild rats and mice carry several diseases that can be passed on to humans. The most famous epidemic caused by close association of rats with people is the Black Death which caused the death of millions in 14th century Europe. The disease was the plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis


    Plague still infects and kills people world wide but thankfully not in New Zealand. But there are other serious diseases that can be caught from wild (and pet) rodents in New Zealand.

    Leptospirosis – Wiel’s Disease

    Leptospirosis, also known as Wiel’s disease, is caused by  the bacteria Leptospira. It is carried by rodents, and other wild animals.  Infection is through contact with water, food, or soil containing urine from an infected animal.  Cuts or breaks in the skin will also allow in infection.     Infected people experience a range of symptoms from mild or no illness to severe or life-threatening meningitis, liver damage and kidney failure.  Infection can be prevented by avoiding contact with water that might be contaminated with animal urine.


    Salmonellosos is commonly associated with poor hygiene or inadequately cooked food, but can also be acquired from rodents.  Salmonella bacteria may be found in the feces of many animals including wild and pet rodents. Infection can be contracted by people who do not wash their hands after contact with rodent droppings or if food, drink or eating utensils are contaminated with rodent droppings.

    Rat Bite Fever (RBF)

    Rat Bite Fever is caused by Streptobacillus bacteria that is found in the mouth of apparently healthy rats and mice.  People are infected through bites or scratches from rodents or may also become ill after eating contaminated food or drink or through close contact with rodents.  In cases of bites and scratches, the wound often has healed before symptoms begin (2-10 days after the bite).  Antibiotic treatment for this disease is very effective.  Illness in those who do not seek medical attention and treatment can be very serious and result in death; therefore it is important to immediately clean and disinfect wounds and promptly seek medical attention after any rodent bite or scratch.

    How to Prevent Infections from Rats and Mice

    • Wear gloves when carrying out pest control against rodents or working in areas where there are signs rats or mice a have been active. Wash hands after handling anything that rats or mice may have urinated on. Rodents continually dribble urine where ever they travel.
    • In roof voids and other enclosed spaces where rodents have been it is sensible to wear a mask as dust may carry disease organisms.
    • Clean up rodent droppings where ever they are found and disinfect surfaces where rodents could have travelled. 
    • Dispose of any food that have been eaten or may have been contaminated by rodents.
    • If biten or scratched by rodents always clean and disinfect wounds and seek medical attention immediately.

    Two rats are in a bar. One turns to the other and in a drunken slurr says “I slept with your mother thats right your mother” the other just looked at him and said “Dad go home your drunk.”

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Dinosaurs had Fleas Too

    It takes a big flea to bite a dinosaur
    There are species of flea evolved to feed on most terrestrial animals: cat fleas feed predominantly on cats, dog fleas feed predominantly on dogs, human fleas feed predominantly on humans and bird fleas feed predominantly on birds.

    It seems that in the Jurassic period, even the dinosaurs had dinosaur fleas. And the dinosaur flea was huge, compared with its tiny modern descendants. Dinosaur bloodsuckers were 2cm long – eight times the size of today’s fleas, researchers report in the journal Nature.

    Flea fossils 125 million to 165 million years old found in China are evidence of the oldest fleas. Their very long proboscis, or hypodermic needle-like mouth, had sharp saw-like serrated edges for cutting through the tough hide of their dinosaur hosts. But the ancient fleas had one big difference from modern ones: They could not jump the way modern fleas do.

    Perhaps today’s fleas seem less of a problem if one thinks of what a dinosaur flea could do to you if they were still around.

    What type of dinosaur always has a word to say?
    A Thesaurus.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Need Gardening Advice?

    The Ellerslie International Flower Show is on this week in Hagley Park Christchurch. Last year’s show was cancelled after the Christchurch quake so it great to see some normality returning to the city and the show will help to raise spirits.

    I will be attending the show for the VIP dinner and awards on Tuesday evening and them all day Tuesday and Sunday. If you are in Christchurch or visiting the show come and speak to me at site CR1 next to the Rendezvous Hotel Corporate Village.

    “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.”
    –  Doug Larson

    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.