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Archive for May, 2010

Controlling Ticks In Minnesota


The blacklegged tick, I. scapularis, is the vector of Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan encephalitis.

You can generally recognize an unengorged adult female blacklegged tick from its black legs and scutum (the area behind the head) and its orange to reddish body.  It is about 1/10 inch long or generally smaller than the American dog tick (commonly referred to as wood tick), and it has long mouthparts.  An adult male is about 1/16 inch long and dark brown.  Adult males attach but do not feed.  Nymphal deer ticks are a bit larger than a poppy seed and are dark and teardrop-shaped.

Identifying ticks based solely on size and color is often challenging, especially when you encounter immature and/or ticks filled with blood.  It is important to know what species of tick has bitten you as the American dog tick and other ticks are not known to transmit any diseases in Minnesota.  If you ever have any doubt as to which tick you have encountered, contact a pest control expert for identification.

The life cycle of a blacklegged tick generally takes two to three years in Minnesota.  Eggs are deposited by adult females during the spring, which hatch a month later into six-legged, pinhead-sized larvae.  The larvae feed once on the blood of host animals, such as a white-footed mouse, during summer, taking about three to five days to complete their blood meal.  Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, and babesiosis are not passed on to the larvae by infected adult females so they can only acquire any of these diseases by feeding on infected hosts.  Powassan virus, however, can be passed from the female tick to her offspring, and are therefore a potential source of infection..  After feeding, larvae molt to eight-legged nymphs, the second immature stage, which overwinter until the following spring.

During the late spring and early summer, these nymphs feed on host animals, staying attached for about three to five days.  They also prefer white-footed mice, the primary source of disease infection, but will also feed on a variety of animals, including humans and dogs.  Nymphs are very small, about the size of a poppy seed.  The nymphs then molt into adults.  Adult females feed either during the fall or the following spring, staying attached for about five to seven days when taking a blood meal.  Adults are active outdoors even at temperatures as low as the mid to upper 30’so F but tend to be most active in warmer temperatures.

A blacklegged tick can only transmit disease to humans through a bite.  They cannot do so by just crawling on a person.  Even when biting, a blacklegged tick must stay attached for at least 12-24 hours (in the case of human anaplasmosis) or at least 24-48 hours (in the case of Lyme disease) before it is able to transmit disease..  Only nymphal and adult female blacklegged ticks transmit these diseases.  The exception to this rule is Powassan virus which can be transmitted all tick stages (larvae, nymphs and adults) within minutes following tick attachment.

If you ever have any doubt as to which tick you have encountered, contact a pest control expert for identification.

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Controlling Ticks In Minnesota

There are thirteen known species of ticks in Minnesota.  The majority of these species are known as hard ticks, because they have a relatively hard body and possess a plate-like shield, or scutum (fig. 1), behind the head.  Of these, three kinds are commonly encountered by humans:

1) American dog tick, also called wood tick
2) Blacklegged tick, formerly called deer tick, and
3) Brown dog tick

Occasionally, people may encounter soft ticks (fig. 2) which have a more leathery body and lack a scutum behind the head.  When looking at a soft tick from above, the head is typically hidden from view.  In homes, soft ticks are usually associated with bats.

Identification Of Ticks

Minnesota provides suitable habitat for several tick species.  Ticks can be very challenging to identify.  Color is sometimes helpful in distinguishing tick species but you can not rely on this in all situations.  While there are differences in size between ticks, size is also not a reliable method as there is much overlap between species, especially when immature and adult ticks are encountered.  Also remember that adult males are smaller compared to females.  Engorged ticks are particularly challenging to identify as their size and color are greatly altered.  You can distinguish between females and males in the adult stage as females possess a relatively small scutum while this plate-like structure in males covers most of their body (fig. 1).  If there is ever any doubt as to what species of tick you have encountered, contact an expert for identification.

Living in habitats of ticks can mean a higher chance of these pests.  If you live in this type of area, or are noticing an increase in the amount of ticks in your area, it is wise to contact a professional pest control expert.

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Ticks The Season In Minnesota

1282 cases of Lyme Disease (LD) were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health in 2008, a 450% increase in 10 years, ranking Minnesota 8th in terms of total cases in the United States

With the blossoming of spring comes the growing number by the thousands of cases of Lyme disease silently striking down adults, children and pets across the country.

The CDC (in the US) reported over 64,000 cases of Lyme disease in a two year span, but actual cases in the following years continue to climb much higher.  One report recently found that 48% of residents had at least one family member with a current or past history of treatment for Lyme Disease.

Where is Lyme Disease found?

Lyme Disease can occur anywhere, however the states with the highest incidence are:

  • Connecticut (with the highest rate in the nation)
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin

1282 cases of Lyme Disease (LD) were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health in 2008, a 450% increase in 10 years, ranking Minnesota 8th in terms of total cases in the United States

The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) goes through three life stages.  Shown from left to right is the adult female, adult male, nymph and larva on a centimeter scale.

1282 cases of Lyme Disease (LD) were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health in 2008, a 450% increase in 10 years, ranking Minnesota 8th in terms of total cases in the United States

Living in habitats of ticks can mean a higher chance of these pests.  If you live in this type of area, or are noticing an increase in the amount of ticks in your area, it is wise to contact a professional pest control company.

Photo courtesy of Mayo Clinic

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Box Elder Bug Pest Control Minnesota

Late summer and early spring are common times to see these pests in and around your house or office.  What attracts Box Elder Bugs is their search for warmth to survive the winter months. During spring and early summer, these bugs are content living on female box elder trees and mating, which is why you do not often see infestations of them in these months.

A sigh of relief is that they cannot harm you, and they do not carry diseases.  The worst they can do to your property is stain surfaces with their excrement.  Box Elder Bugs are also generally harmless to houseplants which is more good news.

To guarantee absolute elimination of all Box Elder Bugs your best bet is hiring an exterminator.  What you may not realize is that the ones you see are not close to the number you may have.  That is why it is important to hire a professional pest control company.

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Box elder Bugs In Minnesota

The box elder bug (BEB) is a common and well-known insect in Minnesota that is most abundant after summers when the month of May is very warm and July is very dry.  However, the abundance varies greatly from place to place as well as from year to year.  There are some BEB problems even in years when a widespread outbreak does not occur.

During the summer months, BEBs live, feed and reproduce on trees, shrubs and other plants (including box elders, maples, ashes and others).  They feed on sap from their host plants but do not cause significant damage.  BEBs become nuisance pests in the fall when they leave the plants to find hiding places for the winter.  During their random search, they congregate in the sunshine on the south sides of buildings, trees and rocks.  From there they stray into houses through cracks in the foundation and siding, gaps along windows and doors, and other small openings.  BEBs within walls or attics remain inactive while they are cold.  The nuisance occurs when the ones warmed by heat from the furnace or the sun become active during the winter and crawl into the rooms.

BEBs do not reproduce indoors.  They only lay eggs on trees and other plants.  BEBs do not feed indoors.  They are sap feeding insects with a beak that can only suck liquid food (sap) from the twigs and seeds of selected species of trees and shrubs.  BEBs are harmless as they can not damage the house, its furnishings or occupants.  They can be, however, a considerable nuisance.

There is no easy way to determine when and where there will be a problem until it starts.  By then it may be too late for effective treatment.  Bugs could be controlled on the trees in mid summer with insecticides labeled for use against box elder bugs on trees, but the effectiveness is limited.  Spraying large trees is difficult and tree spraying is usually impractical.

The best deterrence against BEBs and similar invaders (e.g., crickets and attic flies) is to prevent entry by caulking and sealing possible entry sites (cracks and gaps).  Secondly, spraying to reduce the number outdoors may limit the number that will get into the house.  A lawn and garden insecticide or soapy water spray (5 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water) can be used outside on masses of bugs perched on and along the foundation in the fall.  Additional insecticides are available to professional pest control company for exterior treatment.

Unfortunately, there is no easy cure for eliminating BEBs already inside the house.  They are generally not killed by the aerosol household insecticide products, and most residual insecticides are not of much benefit.  A sure control for bugs already in the house is to remove them as they appear by vacuuming, sweeping or picking them up and discarding.  Treatment by professional pest control company may be more effective than what homeowners can do using generally available household insecticides.  To guarantee absolute elimination of all Box Elder Bugs, your best bet is hiring an exterminator.  What you may not realize is that the ones you see are not close to the number you may have.

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