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Friday, January 27, 2017

Benefits of Cockroach Control

Dr. Mike Merchant, Agrilife Entomology Specialist in Dallas, wrote the post below on the benefits of cockroach control for his blog, Insects in the City. It's full of great information!

Benefits of cockroach control

Before starting graduate school in entomology I worked as a pest control technician out of college. My accounts included a sprawling, multi-story public housing complex in Seattle, WA. These visits were frustrating to me, because of the difficulty (impossibility) of putting much of a dent in the well entrenched German cockroach population that scurried back and forth among these apartments.

One of my visits, however, was the home of a single mom. It was a short encounter, and I'm not sure I ever saw her again; but I'll never forget the mother's gratitude for my efforts to battle the cockroaches plaguing her and her daughter.  The woman's apartment, unlike many in the community, was uncluttered and very clean. It was obvious she was doing her part to keep cockroaches at bay, something that made my job a lot easier and more effective. Despite the feeling that I wasn't putting much of a dent in the overall cockroach problem in those apartments, I went home that night feeling a little better about my job in pest control.

Improved technology

Two major changes have occurred in cockroach control since the early 1980s.  First, we've learned a lot more about the health impacts of cockroaches over the past 25 years. Besides being unsanitary and capable of spreading disease pathogens, we now have solid evidence to show that cockroaches are major contributors to asthma morbidity, especially among children living in infested homes.  Indeed, the feces and shed exoskeletons of cockroaches have proved to be among the most important indoor asthma causes we know of.  Children who grow up in cockroach infested apartments have higher rates of asthma, more missed school days, and more doctor visits than do their more affluent classmates from cockroach-free homes.

Second, with the discovery of effective baits, we have much better tools for cockroach control today. The insecticides available to me in 1980 were mostly residual sprays and dusts that had to be applied directly to cockroach hiding places.  If counter-tops were not cleared and covered, or cupboards not emptied before I arrived, there was little I could safely do with my Ficam®, diazinon and malathion sprays and dusts.  In addition, many of these sprays were repellent to cockroaches, something that I learned later in grad school greatly reduces their effectiveness against insecticide-avoiding cockroaches.

Today pest management professionals and even homeowners have access to technologies that are safer and vastly superior to the old insecticides.  Containerized and gel baits, in particular, have revolutionized our industry's ability to manage cockroaches.  Although sanitation is still important for cockroach IPM, baits have shown an ability to suppress cockroach numbers even in cluttered and poorly maintained living quarters.

A number of studies have shown over the past 20 years that cockroach control and sanitation efforts could significantly reduce the quantity of cockroach allergens in apartments.  Indeed, the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program recommends reducing cockroach exposure as a critical step to take in reducing asthma risk.

Research news

new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology out this week is the first to show that cockroach baiting by itself can result in measurable improvements in the health of children. The researchers looked at the apartments of 102 children (aged 5-17 years), all of whose homes had some level of cockroach infestation.  Half of the children were assigned to homes that would be treated by researchers with cockroach baits, and half of the homes were left untreated by researchers.  All of the homes were sampled for cockroaches using Victor® Roach Pheromone Traps, and health indicators were measured for all the children (such as number of school days missed, medication used, days of wheezing, number of nights where children woke up, etc.).

Treatment of homes consisted of placing either Maxforce® FC Magnum, or Advion® cockroach bait gels in areas with evidence of active cockroach infestation.  Those who put out the bait were not trained PMPs, but were research staffers instructed to place baits in the back corners of kitchen cabinets, behind kitchen appliances, and inside bathroom vanities.  No other control methods were used.

The median cockroach numbers were significantly lower in treated homes vs. untreated. By the end of the study none of the baited homes had evidence of cockroach activity, compared to a 20% infestation rate of the untreated homes.

Interesting to me was that after the study began cockroach numbers in the untreated homes went from 100% infested to only 20% infested.  The authors of the study attributed the drop in untreated homes to "study effects".  People whose homes did not get treated, but were being monitored for cockroaches, took extra pains to clean up before the research team arrived, and they conducted additional cockroach control on their own, apart from insecticide baits applied by the researchers. This lead to an almost 85% reduction in trapped cockroach numbers in the control homes.

So it's even more remarkable that, despite the cockroach reductions in homes not receiving bait treatment, researchers still noted significantly better cockroach suppression with bait-treated homes and significant improvements in children's health.  In treated homes, for example, children had 47 fewer days a year with asthma symptoms compared to homes that were not treated with baits. Children in treated homes also had improved lung function and significantly fewer doctor visits compared to untreated homes, despite the relatively small sample size and relatively low cockroach levels in untreated homes.

These results should be carefully noted by the pest control industry.  With readily available, high-quality cockroach baits, and relatively easily taught skills, pest control technicians today can make a significant impact on the health and well-being of customers. In fact, I'm sure that the benefits of a highly skilled technician applying baits would accrue even faster and be more significant compared to untrained applicators.

When I consider how far cockroach control has come since my days with a B&G sprayer, these results are truly amazing.

I've said it before, and will say it again: the work you do as a PMP is very important.  Cockroach management in multifamily housing may not be very glamorous, but few other accounts provide the opportunity to better your customers' lives more.  And that's something that should make you feel even better when you go home at night.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Spread of Fever Tick Spooks Texas Cattle Industry

Fever ticks can spread parasites to animals such as cattle, horses, or deer causing illness and sometimes death. A recent find in a previously quarantined area has raised some concerns. Here is some more information on the fever tick from the Texas Animal Heath Commission as well as some FAQ

Spread of fever tick spooks Texas cattle industry

Fever ticks are turning up farther north of the border, alarming inspectors

January 14, 2017

The dreaded cattle fever tick, carrier of a blood disease that once nearly wiped out the U.S. cattle herd, has landed farther north in the Texas interior, worrying state and federal inspectors that the once-eradicated pest is no longer under control.

Texas animal health inspectors recently found new fever ticks Nov. 30 on a bull on a Live Oak County farm, about 110 miles north from the Mexico border where they were thought to have been permanently quarantined. Since then, the ticks have been found on seven neighboring premises, prompting the Texas Animal Health Commission to set up a temporary "Control Purpose Quarantine Area." It's the fourth such quarantine zone, following ones set up in Willacy, Kleberg and Jim Wells counties.

There are more than 450,000 acres in Texas under various types of fever tick quarantines that have been set outside of the permanent quarantine zone since the ticks started showing up farther inside U.S. territory in 2014. The most recent quarantine zone has grown by nearly 45,000 acres in the past six weeks as more fever ticks have been found, and now covers 57,541 acres.

Inspectors are using genetic tests and epidemiological investigations to try to pinpoint how the ticks ended up in Live Oak - from transporting animals from quarantine areas near the border or from wildlife such as white-tailed deer and nilgai antelope carrying them farther into Texas. The latter is the biggest concern, indicating that previously successful efforts to contain the ticks to the border region are failing.

The ticks are carriers for bovine babesiosis, a blood disease that in the 1800s wiped out much of the U.S. cattle herd and caused Kansas and other states to shun or restrict cattle from Texas.
In 1943, the ticks were declared eradicated from the U.S. save for a permanent quarantine zone along the Rio Grande established to control ticks that find their way across the river from Mexico. But during the past few years, the ticks have increasingly been found outside that zone, prompting expanded quarantine zones in border counties and temporary quarantine zones in three counties farther north.

"I don't want to jump to conclusions," Schwartz said of the possibility the ticks are migrating north on the backs of wildlife such as nilgai, a non-native antelope that's become a nuisance carrier of the tick. "The concerning thing is we haven't determined the source of those ticks yet."

While cattle owners in quarantine areas are required to round up, inspect and treat cattle for ticks, the Live Oak County discovery was unexpected. A veterinarian called to examine the sickly bull called a state livestock inspector to check some of the ticks he found on the animal's skin.

"That day she tentatively identified those as fever ticks, that's the day we sprang into action there," Schwartz said of the inspector.
The bull likely was anemic from all the ticks drawing his blood, Schwartz said, but did not suffer from babesiosis.

While babesiosis is still an issue for cattle south of the border, it has not shown up in U.S. cattle for decades, he said.

"I think it's a tribute to the success of the program to have kept the fever ticks, the hot fever ticks with babesiois, out of the country," Schwartz said. "We've had some fever tick incursions, but none of them have been carrying babebiosis."

As in other quarantine zones, cattle in the Live Oak area must be "dipped" in a treatment solution every 10 to 14 days or injected with a vaccine every 25 to 28 days, which in either case usually involves costly helicopter roundups that are stressful to cattle. Hunters also are required to call inspectors to check any harvested deer for the ticks.

Once hunting season is over, state and federal officials also plan to set up feeders full of deer corn treated with a poison that kills the ticks and is aimed at preventing them from spreading from the infested ranches. Nilgai, which aren't native to the U.S., have become particularly worrisome in South Texas as they travel long distances and can easily jump fences, but they are not believed to have strayed as far north as Live Oak County.

Ron Gill, head cattle extension specialist at Texas A&M University, said the Live Oak County discovery worried ranchers who thought that as long as they followed protocol the fever tick wouldn't spread.

"It periodically jumps out of the quarantine zone but not that far out," he said. "Normally it will be one of the adjacent counties and they'll fight it back into the quarantine zone. So I think the thing that's got everybody more vocal about it now is it jumped a little further than usual."

Coleman Locke, who runs cattle in affected areas in Kleberg and Willacy counties, fears the tick could once again threaten the entire Texas cattle industry.

"It concerns me as a cattleman," he said. "We've got to get it under control. … A lot of Texas cattle go to feed yards in Kansas and Nebraska to feed out. We need our Texas cattle to be able to go anywhere."

Friday, January 13, 2017

Enlist Duo Now Registered for Use in 34 States on Enlist Cotton, Corn, and Soybeans

The EPA federally registered the Enlist Duo herbicide for use on Enlist cotton, corn, and soybeans for an additional 19 states bringing the total to 34 states. This will allow use of the full Enlist technology for the 2017 growing season to control weeds.

Texas is included in the 34 states to receive registration for the use of Enlist Duo, so once all of the necessary state registrations are in place, cotton growers can utilize this technology.