Many people ask, “Where are bed bugs found?” Bed bugs are a hitchhiking pest and can be found just about anywhere. They tend to live close to humans in cracks and crevices. Adults and nymphs can be found in carpets, side walls, bedding, clothing, drawers, headboards, light fixtures, baseboards, pillows, backpacks and luggage. They prefer to hide where they feed, but will move to adjacent rooms if necessary. Continue reading →
Uninvited guests at a holiday party. We have all seen them and at one point we might have been one! Some can end up being the life of the party while others turn the party all the way down. A few uninvited guests in particular can REALLY take the party south and these are pests! The main pests to look out for are ants, cockroaches and rodents. During the holidays there are plenty of drinks and food laying around for pests to feast upon and your house also provides them with a nice warm place to live. This is an opportune time for pests to make their way into their home, so making sure your home is sealed up tight will be key to keeping these uninvited guests out!
The basic approach of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is using multiple tactics. Prevention, cultural/sanitation, physical/mechanical, biological, and chemical methods are used in cooperation to prevent and control pests in the most minimally invasive way possible. Sanitation and exclusion seem obvious and simple, preventing pests from coming in and cleaning up food sources and other attractants. Even pesticide use, while used as sparingly as possible, has its place on the IPM pyramid. But what about biological wrung of the ladder? What is it and how does it work in pest prevention and treatment?
Biological IPM is using living organisms to combat pests. This commonly includes predators, parasites, pathogens, and competitors. Methods can range from using birds of prey to scare off other pest species of birds to the Mosquitoes Abatement Courier Team treating San Francisco’s catch basins with bacterial larvacide to reduce local mosquito populations. But there are scientists out there who want to give biological pest management a whole new meaning by altering the biology of the pests themselves.
Researchers at the University of Hawaii have found the gene responsible for the for the waterproof coating in vinegar flies. By isolating this gene, they are able to effectively shut if off. Without this protective coating, survival is difficult and the pests are unable to survive to adulthood and therefore reproduce. This research can be applied to fruit flies, agricultural pests, and potentially mosquitoes.
Researchers have been working to prevent the spread of malaria by genetically altering mosquitoes to kill the very parasite they spread. Scientists at UC Irvine have found a way to bolster the mosquitoes immune system against malaria, preventing them from passing it on to human populations.
A company in Florida, Interexon Corp, has genetically engineered male aegypti mosquitoes that, when bred with female wild mosquitoes, produce offspring unable to survive to adulthood. This could be a huge breakthrough in disease prevention, since the aegypti mosquitoes are notorious for carrying the zika virus, among a host of other diseases.
If these studies and others like them can be implemented in a real-life environment, they will be able to provide widespread, pesticide-free suppression of wild pest populations. But genetic research takes time and money, which often may not be available despite the public health need. Sometimes funding is used as a political bargaining chip, to the detriment of the constituents.
Genetic modification is also still considered widely controversial and met with opposition, even when effective in treating pest populations. The Zika virus, while relatively mild in healthy populations, can cause severe birth defects when pregnant women become infected. Even with a potential method of widespread population suppression at hand (the genetically altered males that would lead to the production of offspring unable to survive), local human populations in areas slated for testing the genetically altered have heavily protested the use of genetically altered mosquitoes, frequently out of fear and misinformation.
While biological methods may not completely solve pest infestations, they are one more tool in the IPM box to help control populations.
The two most common groups of mammals in San Francisco are people and rodents. There are other pages on the Pestec website with information about rodents and of course, there are plenty of ways to learn about people. So this article will focus on those mammals that aren’t quite that familiar but are still fascinating.
Mammals are those animals that have fur or hair, give milk to their young, have three bones in the middle ear and a neocortex (a part of the brain that makes it more developed than the brains of non-mammals) (1).
Mammals fascinate us for several reasons. They look so different yet have much in common with us. Most mammal species have strong family ties; they often display human like emotions and that neocortex makes some of them seem smarter than people (or at least, smarter than our roommates or relatives). They are our favorite pets. (When they’re not being pests, mice are america’s 5th most popular pet; rats are also kept as pets) (2).
And they are the wildest animals. Some species such as grizzly bears, caribou or wolverines live only in wilderness or near wilderness areas.
But many species usually found in forests or mountains have managed to live and even prosper within the city limits of San Francisco and other major cities.
The most common San Francisco carnivore is the raccoon. With their bandit faces, ambling gait and playful nature, raccoons are a comical and familiar – and occasionally bothersome – feature of San Francisco parks, backyards, crawl spaces, alleys, chimneys, basements, dumpsters … and just about anywhere else where they won’t get evicted. With the exception of humans, they are the top predator in the City (3). Although usually harmless unless threatened, raccoons may attack pets, overturn garbage cans and carry rabies. In 2006, of the 6,940 cases of rabies in the USA, 37.7% were raccoons, more than any other animal and 21.5% were skunks (third after bats) (4). For these reasons, pest control services are called in to reduce excessive populations of raccoons and skunks.
Two species of fox live in San Francisco. The gray fox is native while the red fox was introduced into the Bay Area from other parts of the USA (5). The larger red fox is reducing the gray fox populations in San Francisco and elsewhere. Unlike red foxes and other canids (foxes, wolves and others in the dog family), the gray fox can climb trees and uses this skill as a survival tactic. In addition to the silvery gray that gives the gray fox its name, it sports a black tail and black, white and orange markings on its head and throat, all of which make it one of the more handsome animals. Shy and nocturnal, it is rarely seen.
San Francisco’s largest wild animal is the coyote. For eons, coyotes chased jackrabbits across and over the sand dunes of what is now the City’s Sunset District. But as the Sunset was settled and developed, coyotes and jackrabbits were driven into extinction within San Francisco city limits (6). But around the turn of the millennium, coyotes appeared mysteriously in the Presidio and on Bernal Heights (7).
Coyotes are remarkable animals. Like other other members of the dog family, they are intelligent but they not only may be smarter than other canids, they sometimes seem smarter than people. I don’t just mean that some coyotes seem smarter than some humans; I mean that collectively, coyotes seem smarter than us. Consider some evidence. About 100 years ago, after humans had wiped out the wolf from almost all of the USA (except Alaska), we went to work on exterminating coyotes. They were trapped, shot and poisoned. Hunters shot at them from planes and motor vehicles. Federal, state and local governments paid hunters to slaughter them even while many people killed them for free. When that very real war began, coyotes lived in the western parts of Canada and the USA and in northern Mexico. Today their range has expanded throughout Canada, Mexico and the United States (except Hawaii) and into Central America (8). According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, much of their success is due to their “deceptive manor [sic]” and their intelligence and adaptability (9). Unlike most canids, they readily eat fruits such as berries and even prickly pears (10). Coyotes are at home in deserts, mountains, forests, swamps, prairies and jungles. And now cities. In addition to their thriving population in San Francisco, they have been found in New York City and Chicago (11).
In addition to mammals that have never left the City (such as skunks and raccoons) and those that have returned (coyotes), San Francisco has become a rest stop for animals that are “just passing through.”
In 2004 and 2014, deer ran across the Golden Gate Bridge (12). In 2012-13, a river otter wintered in the ruins of Sutro Baths and acquired the nickname “Sutro Sam.” He disappeared as mysteriously as he arrived but is part of an apparent resurgence of river otter populations throughout the Bay Area (13). And last summer, a mountain lion – a mountain lion! – showed up in San Francisco. In addition to being seen near the Presidio and Lake Merced, it was spotted in the very unlikely and densely populated neighborhood of Cathedral Hill, specifically near the corner of Gough and Eddy Streets (14).
These cases of mammals in a major city – whether residing or being transient – require us to adapt to them just as they adapt to us. The fact that they are here show that they are adapting. For us to adapt – to not harm or be harmed by them – means properly responding to them when we encounter them. That means not feeding them, keeping pets, children and adults at a safe distance and, of course, never provoking them. If an animal becomes aggressive, a loud vocal response and assertive but not charging motions work best for most species (including coyotes and mountain lions). Back away slowly but never turn your back. Yelling and appearing larger by extending and waving arms and legs is usually enough to scare away even larger predators (15).
Although I enjoy seeing a coyote or an otter within city limits, I also feel a loss. Until recent years, seeing a wild animal meant that the person was in the wild. To see a mountain lion or even a coyote meant that a person was in or on the edge of a wilderness – a home for animals but only a place to visit for humans. Now to see a mountain lion may only mean that someone is 5 blocks from City Hall. Seeing an animal in a major city is still an interesting experience but it does not compare with the mystery and majesty of seeing such an animal in its beautiful, wild and natural state.
The image above shows a bed area that has been organized to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.
By Brittany Clark
Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, bed bugs still happen. In multi-unit buildings an infestation in one unit can quickly spread into neighboring units. What can you do if you suspect or have found a bed bug infestation ?
Laundry, and lots of it. Wash all bedding in hot water and soap. Items that can’t be laundered, like pillows, should be placed in the dryer on high for 30 to 60 minutes. Stripping down your bed will help determine the level of infestation and let you know exactly what you’re working with. Wash any clothes or soft items that may have been on or around your bed.
Clean your bed area. Remove all clutter, inspect everything, and wash anything you can. Vacuum the area around the bed as well as any cracks and crevices. This will help reduce and bugs that may be hiding. If you have access to a steamer, steam the bed frame to help flush out and kill any bugs. Until you’re sure all bed bugs are gone, keep clutter away from your bed area.
Make your bed an island. Use mattress and box spring encasements to seal away cracks and crevices in your bed area so they have less places to hide. Cloth encasements are ideal, as they are less likely to tear and easily show any signs of bed bugs. Climb-up interceptors, found online or in stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond, trap bed bugs moving to or from the bed, not only monitoring infestations, but help control them.
Know your rights. More and more city and states are enacting legislation regarding bed bugs in apartment and renting situations. Research local laws to know your rights and responsibilities. Check your lease for any additional responsibilities regarding pest prevention and management.