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Can Urban Mosquito Species In Louisiana Transmit The Deadly EEE Virus To Humans?

Due to several non-native disease-carrying mosquito species that have established an invasive habitat in urban and suburban areas of the US during the past 20 years, mosquito-borne disease has become a major public health threat in the country. Just three years ago, a number of Americans in Florida and Texas contracted the Zika virus, and the rate of West Nile infections has been steadily increasing in the US since the disease was introduced into the country two decades ago. This year, the mosquito-borne disease known as eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has infected and killed an unprecedented number of people in the country. While no human EEE cases have occured in Louisiana this year, it should be known that urban-dwelling mosquito species in the state are capable of transmitting the disease to humans and certain animals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US sees seven EEE cases per year on average, but 2019 has already seen well over 30 EEE cases, and EEE season has not yet ended. In fact, the latest victim of EEE succumbed to the disease two days ago, which marked the 13th death to result from EEE infection this year in the US. So far, EEE has been reported in the northeast, around the Great Lakes and in Florida, but most states are home to mosquito species that are capable of transmitting the disease to humans. In many states, including Louisiana, mosquitoes frequently transmit EEE to dogs, cats and horses. In Louisiana, 16 horses were recently found to be infected with EEE, which public health officials in the state claim is an unusually high number of EEE infections. 

Mosquitoes acquire the microorganisms that cause EEE by consuming the blood of certain bird species. After feeding on infected birds, mosquitoes can then transmit the disease to humans through their bites. Uninfected mosquitoes can also acquire the disease by feeding on the blood of infected animals. This is why mosquitoes that can carry EEE are often referred to as “bridge vectors,” as they are solely responsible for exposing the bird-virus to healthy humans. Around 30 percent of those who contract EEE will die from the disease, and no vaccines exist for EEE. Also, no medical treatments have been demonstrated to slow the progression of EEE infection, and most people who contact the disease die from consequent brain swelling within a month or two following infection. Since EEE poses a serious public health threat in Louisiana during most of the year, residents should never leave home without first applying DEET repellent. Unfortunately, experts state that EEE cannot be eradicated from an area once local mosquitoes begin carrying the disease.

Do you worry about the possibility of contracting EEE from mosquito bites?

How Homeowners Can Discourage Termite Activity On Their Property

Louisiana is home to eight major termite pest species, and the entire state is located within a geographic region where termite pest activity is exceptionally high. The high-rate of termite infestations in Louisiana is due to the abundance and diversity of termite species in the state, as well as the fact that the invasive Formosan subterranean termite is now widespread throughout the entirety of Louisiana. This highly destructive termite species can only be found in California and the southeastern Gulf Coast states. The annual cost of damage inflicted by these termites in the US is around one billion dollars, and half of this annual cost can be attributed to Formosan subterranean termite property damage in Louisiana. All homeowners in Louisiana should have their property inspected for termite infestations at least twice per year, but there are many easy ways in which homeowners can help to keep their home protected from these excessively destructive insect pests.

The manner in which homes are constructed has a major influence on their vulnerability to termite infestations. Modern housing codes require that homes be built with structural features that make termite infestations less likely to occur, but many of the homes in Louisiana pre-date these housing codes. This is why having a termiticide barrier applied to the soil surrounding homes is a particularly important method of preventing termite infestations in Louisiana. Many older homes contain cosmetic or structural wood sources that make contact with the ground soil, which provides subterranean termites with a direct pathway into a home’s timber-frame. Any wood sources like this should be removed, and a space of six inches should always exist between wood and the ground surface. Also, firewood should be stacked at least five feet away from a house, and never stacked against a house.

Ideally, decks and patios should be made of pressure-treated wood that repels termite pests, but under no circumstances should any part of a wood patio, including the steps, make contact with the ground soil; instead, concrete blocks should be used to elevate the base of decks at least 6 inches above the ground surface. Subterranean termites only infest wood sources that are high in moisture content, so making sure that a home is free of plumbing and rainwater leaks is a must, and lawn-irrigation should be kept to a minimum. Clogged gutters can cause rainwater to drain into the wall-voids in homes where structural wood can become compromised by moisture and made attractive to termite pests. Making sure that rainwater drains away from foundations and not into foundations is tremendously important, as all structural wood sources within a home can become damp overtime by water slowly evaporating from wet foundations. Around 90 percent of all termite infestations in homes start after subterranean termite workers access a source of structural or cosmetic wood that makes contact with the ground surface, so removing all natural and finished wood sources that make contact with soil in yards, including dead roots and tree stumps, will go a long way toward preventing a termite infestation from occurring in a home.

Have you ever found termite damaged wood siding on your home?

The Three Most Economically Significant Invasive Ant Species In Louisiana

Some insect pests pose nothing more than a nuisance within homes, while others can damage property or pose a health threat to humans. Most insect pests are a nuisance to residents when they infest homes, but a small number of insect pests, like termites, cause slow and gradual forms of property damage while going unnoticed by homeowners. While termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees cause damage to structural and ornamental wood sources, other insect pests damage clothing, carpenting, curtains and other textiles. The most common household pests that damage textile goods are commonly known as carpet beetles and clothes moths, but cockroaches and termites have also been known to eat holes through clothing.

Numerous insect pests, mainly ants, are most destructive outdoors where they may inflict damage to lawn-grass, garden plants and concrete slabs. Red-imported fire ants are well known for building numerous unsightly nesting mounds that damage turf, and leaf-cutter ants damage both garden plants and turf. Some ant pests, like Pharaoh ants can worsen cracks in concrete slabs and foundations while excavating soil and nesting. According to researchers, ants are the most economically costly insect pests in the United States, and annual ant control and damage repair costs in Louisiana are particularly high due to the relatively high number of highly destructive non-native ant species that have established an invasive population in the state.

Well over 14,000 ant species have been documented worldwide, 150 of which have established non-native habitats around the world. A 2007 research study saw researchers collect 132 ant species in Louisiana, and 19 of them were invasive. The most economically significant of these invasive ant species in the state include red-imported fire ants, Argentine ants and Tawny crazy ants. All three of these ant species are frequent pests in and around homes in Louisiana, but red-imported fire ants prefer to remain in gardens, in lawn grass, and in the soil beneath concrete slabs rather than invading homes.

Have you ever found red-imported fire ant mounds in your yard?





Multiple Arthropod Pest Species Have Long Been An Issue For Students Living In LSU Dormitories

Not long ago, graduate students with Louisiana State University’s College Of Agriculture and Entomology armed themselves with flashlights, vials of alcohol and magnifying glasses in order to search campus dormitories for insect specimens. For more than two decades, the residence halls on the LSU campus have been overrun with a number of insect pests, including cockroaches, bed bugs, crickets, mosquitoes, ants, and spiders. Obviously, graduate students need hands-on experience in their field, so department administrators figured the entomology students would benefit from exploring the vast insect pest community within the conveniently located LSU dorms. This move saved the University money on pest control efforts in the dorms and on the costs of sending the entomology students into the field.

LSU residence halls house more than 6,000 students, many of whom experience regular arthropod pest disturbances in their rooms, and there is little that administrative officials believe can be done to eradicate the pests from the old pre-code campus buildings. In a seemingly economical, or perhaps, cheap decision among department heads, the department of entomology partnered with the LSU Residence Life organization in order to combat arthropod pests within campus dorms. According to Gregg Henderson, an urban entomologist with the LSU AgCenter, entomology graduate students report to the dorms after residents lodge insect pest complaints.

Apparently, penny pinching administrative officials are not the only ones who benefited from these free pest inspections, as one entomology student claimed that his experience in the dorms allowed him to observe the indoor behaviors of a variety of arthropod pest species that will be invaluable to his future work in urban arthropod pest control. Although this student specializes in wasps, he receives about 20 calls per week about many different types of arthropod pests, including fleas, bed bugs, cockroaches and ants. When visiting rooms that are suspected of being infested with bed bugs, the students follow a strict protocol in order to avoid spreading bed bugs beyond the infested area. One survey conducted by researchers a little more than a decade ago found that mosquitoes, cockroaches, longhorned crazy ants, gnats, bees and wasps are the most commonly reported insect pests in LSU dormitories. Today, bed bugs are reported more often in LSU dorms than in the past due to the steady growth in annual bed bug infestations in the US during the past two decades.

Has your home ever been infested by multiple arthropod pest species?

Now That Lovebug Season Has Arrived In Louisiana Homeowners Should Know Where In A Home These Pests Often Congregate

Lovebugs are insect pests that belong to the Bibionidae family in the Diptera order of flies, making lovebugs closely related to many other fly pests, such as mosquitoes, gnats and houseflies. Lovebugs are also commonly known as March flies and they can be recognized by their 4 to 10 mm black slender bodies and orange-colored thorax. Lovebugs become serious areawide pests in Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states when massive mating swarms emerge during the late spring and early fall seasons. Females place their eggs anywhere where an abundance of living and dead plant matter can be found, including residential lawns and gardens. Larvae develop within leaf-litter and grass thatch where they feed on dead vegetation and nectar before taking flight for a short time to mate as adults. Residents living on properties where eggs have become abundant may become pestered by overwhelmingly large lovebug swarms that sometimes make their way indoors where they congregate in certain areas.

Two lovebug species have been documented in Louisiana, one of which, Plecia nearctica, is an invasive species. P. nearctica was first discovered in the US when specimens were recovered from an international trade vessel that had docked at a port on the coast of Louisiana during the 1920s. Luckily, adult lovebugs are poor fliers and can easily be killed with fly swatters, but their sheer numbers make eradicating lovebug infestations from homes a difficult undertaking. Also, only adult lovebugs are capable of flight, and adults live for only a very short time in order to mate. Adult lovebugs are attracted to dark, humid and wet habitats, making storage areas, basements, cellars and crawl spaces ideal indoor habitats for these airborne pests. Within homes and buildings, lovebugs can stain fabrics. Lovebugs are also a common nuisance on home construction sites, and incidents have seen construction workers refuse to work due to bothersome lovebug swarms. Perhaps worst of all, lovebugs congregate on highways where they become splattered on fast moving vehicles. This causes the insects’ corrosive internal fluids to damage cosmetic paint on cars. Since lovebugs are weak and slow fliers, they can be controlled with a vacuum and bug spray.

Have you ever encountered a swarm of lovebugs during the fall season?




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