A Robot that Fights Malaria?

Malaria, as we’ve discussed before, is a terrible mosquito-borne disease that kills over 600,000 people every year, yet it is both preventable and treatable. While health officials and non-profits like Malaria No More are helping to fight the battle against malaria, a Dallas tween is doing the same thing with a new invention.

An underwater army of Culex larvae, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

An underwater army of Culex mosquito larvae, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

David Cohen is a Texas based 12 year old who is a finalist in this year’s Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for a robot that helps fight malaria.

Mosquitoes (whether they are carrying malaria or not) need water to breed. During their larval stage, they sit on the surface of the water to breathe and to continue the maturation process. Cohen’s robot stops them from further maturing by reaching them in this stage. Using a pump-jet system, the robot essentially drowns the mosquito by moving it away from the surface and trapping it under mesh.

Cohen first became aware of health issues that mosquitoes can cause after his sister had a staph infection after itching a mosquito bite.

Matched with his mentor Delong Langer-Anderson, Cohen began to look at how best to stop mosquito-borne illnesses from spreading. As Langer-Anderson explains: he “looked at the problem…in a different way. He asked ‘what if the mosquito was never born?’ …he’s never lost sight of the idea that if he can stop the mosquito from emerging from the larvae stage, he can prevent them from spreading disease.” Source.

Dread Skeeter and the whole Mosquito Squad is happy to support Malaria No More in their fight to end malaria deaths in Africa

Dread Skeeter and the whole Mosquito Squad is happy to support Malaria No More in their fight to end malaria deaths in Africa

While we’re not sure how Cohen’s robot will be used moving forward, we at Mosquito Squad are always happy to see people thinking up unique ways to decrease the spread of malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Congrats David!

Mosquito Squad joined the fight against malaria several years ago through our partnership with Malaria No More. Malaria No More has made great strides in helping to end malaria deaths through its educational, prevention and treatment programs.

If you’d like us to help fight malaria, please donate now at SwatMalaria.net.

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Stink Bugs Looking for a Place to Enter the Home

Stink Bugs

Stink bugs move inside for warmth, and they come with friends.

Last weekend, I was watching a movie with my husband when I heard a loud buzzing, one that I’ve become all too familiar with the last few years: the stink bug. Just like falling leaves and cooler temperatures, seeing stink bugs inside is another sign that fall is coming.

Stink bugs, or brown marmorated stink bugs, have been  active pests in the United States since they were first noticed in Pennsylvania sixteen years ago. Three or four years ago their population boomed, wreaking havoc on some crops they were hungry for.

The stink bug population has grown considerably in the U.S. because it doesn’t have a natural predator here that helps to control the growing numbers. Its largest predator in China, a type of wasp, isn’t currently present in the U.S., but is going through testing to see if it is a viable option for future control.

As the weather turns cooler, and fall crops begin to be harvested, stink bugs start to get sneaky! They can find their way into homes using the smallest of openings. If you live in an area where stink bugs are active, you’ll want to double check that there aren’t openings around your door frame or holes in your screens to ensure they don’t make their way into your home. They will find the smallest of holes! A recent study that we covered in a previous blog pointed out that stink bugs are more attracted to brown and green properties more than light-colored homes.

If stink bugs make it inside your home, you want to make sure you handle it correctly or they will use their defenses. Their main defense you may be able to tell from their name. They stink. They emit an odor when they are threatened. You never want to handle a stink bug with your hand for instance, instead:

  • Use a vacuum to suck up and remove the stink bug. A bag vacuum works better.
  • Using a tissue, pick up the bug and flush it down the toilet. Stink bugs are surprisingly slow moving when they aren’t flying.

There are stink bug treatments available that are applied to the outside of the home that will greatly reduce your pest populations. Call your local Mosquito Squad office to see if they can help you in the battle of the stink bugs.

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Protecting your Dog from the Dangers of Ticks

When you think of ticks, what do you think? Gross? Definitely. Hard to see and detect? You bet. Lyme disease? Absolutely? Paralysis? Probably not. These little buggers can be very dangerous to our beloved pets, and it isn’t just Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, they can cause paralysis too.

IMG_4126My mother and I are dog lovers. That’s my man, Wiley, to the right. I’m a sucker for his ears, but I digress. Recently my mom was telling me about a friend who has a dog. Their dog Buster had always been healthy and active, but in a matter of just 5 weeks had lost nearly 30 pounds and wouldn’t go on walks. After several tests and visits to the vet, they found the culprit. Ticks. The poor pup had 3 or 4 ticks under his armpit, a very difficult spot to see and check. They were causing the issues.

Ticks, when they aren’t noticed and removed quickly can cause paralysis in dogs, and sometimes even humans. Some ticks carry a toxin that is released into their host while feeding. That toxin affects movement control.

It’s important that dog owners thoroughly check their dogs for ticks after spending time in areas where ticks are known to live. The toxin may be released after 3 days of attachment. Luckily, when the tick is removed, the symptoms of paralysis will subside. Buster recovered quickly and is back to his normal self.

Ticks checks are an important piece of protecting your pet from tick-borne disease. To check your dog, pet it slowly while applying more pressure than normal. Many times, you will feel a bump that you can then look closely at. Make sure to check their elbows, inside of their legs and in between toes. Those are often ticks favorite hiding spot on a dog.

At Mosquito Squad, we protect pets with our effective tick control. Our tick services include a combination of our barrier spray treatment and tick tubes. The spray eliminates ticks on contact while the tubes get them earlier in their lifecycle.

If you’d like to discuss reducing the number of ticks on your property, please contact your local Mosquito Squad office.

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New Mosquito Species Enters US

From time to time we see the news of a new animal or bug entering the U.S. Some don’t thrive well in our eco-system and habitat while others, like the stink bug, blossom in the new conditions. When it comes to mosquitoes, we’ve seen that a large number of species can thrive in the states and we’re now watching a new one: the Aussie Mozzie.

mosquito controlThe Aedes notoscriptus is an Australian mosquito species with the nickname the Aussie Mozzie. It was found in the Los Angeles area of California in June, its first ever spotting in the United States. As the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District’s spokesman Jason Farned explains: “in Australia this mosquito is very widespread and capable of transmitting several viruses.” Source.

The Aussie Mozzie is described to have similar characteristics as the Asian tiger mosquito. The Asian tiger mosquito received notable attention a few years ago as its population boomed. Both the Asian tiger and Aussie Mozzie are most likely to bite during the day (most mosquitoes bite around dusk and dawn). They are known city dwellers that lay their eggs in containers.

Like many other mosquito species, the Aussie Mozzie infects humans and animals with disease including the Barmah Forest and Ross River viruses. Both viruses can be serious, but are non-lethal. Their symptoms include joint pain, rashes and fever.

In addition to transmitting mosquito-borne disease to humans, the Aussie Mozzie also infects dogs with heartworm. Heartworm is one of the most serious illnesses a dog can face. Heartworm is a parasite that settles and grows in the heart and lungs of its host, most commonly the dog. Dogs with heartworm may display symptoms through coughing, exhaustion, weight loss and fainting. Once diagnosed, dogs have to through a series of treatments to kill and get rid of the heartworm that could take several months.

Currently only a few Aussie Mozzies have been confirmed in California. Homeowners in the areas have been encouraged to report any day biting mosquitoes so they can be tested. As the mosquito control experts, we at Mosquito Squad will stay on top of the news and let you know everything there is to share.

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Are you ready for Stink Bug season?

I vividly remember last year when I heard that all too familiar sound: a loud buzzing noise to be exact. What was it, you ask? It was a stink bug flying around my new apartment. I was lucky that only few made their way inside my apartment, but some people weren’t as lucky and we’re just weeks away from peak stink bug season.

Stink Bugs

Stink bugs move inside for warmth, and they come with friends.

The brown marmorated stink bug is a Japanese beetle that was accidentally introduced in the United States in 1998. With few natural predators in the US, their populations have grown and grown, with hundreds being noticed on some homes at one time. Last year was the first year the Agriculture Department researched the stink bug through an online survey title “The Great Stink Bug Count.” Home and business owners are invited to provide numbers and details of where stink bugs were sighted.

The Great Stink Bug Count started last year and has already provided some interesting facts. Stink bugs prefer to settle in brown and green homes (possibly because they blend in with the color) over light colored homes. They also like wood, cement and stone structures as opposed to those with aluminum siding.

The numbers associated with the stink bug count are astounding in some instances. One person who participated last year counted over 30,000 bugs!

With the gathered information, the Agriculture Department is looking at ways to kill the stink bug, including using US and Asian enemies (although vast studies have to be done before introducing another foreign pest to the U.S.).

Now is the prime time for stink bugs, with peak numbers expected around October 1. The pests are most noticeable now because they are moving indoors as the weather cools. They get into through small openings and look for dark areas like attics, basements and closets.

At Mosquito Squad, many of our clients, both residential and commercial, have been struggling with stink bugs for years. And when the beetle comes, they come in droves. We’ve been able to help them fight the pest with our stink bug control. Our eliminating product can be applied to the areas of the building where stink bugs are known to hide, like under eaves and gutters. Clients see a huge improvement on the number of bugs.

Before and After a Mosquito Squad stink bug application

Before and After a Mosquito Squad stink bug application

If you have questions regarding the stink bug, please contact your local Mosquito Squad office.

 

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Can Ticks Transmit Disease in Just 10 Minutes?

Ticks, like mosquitoes, are vectors of disease. When feeding, they transmit saliva and bacteria into their host’s skin and bloodstream. While Lyme disease may have received the most news in recent years, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be extremely dangerous and is the most lethal rickettsial disease.

wood-ticks-spotted-fever

The wood tick is known to transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the United States.

When it comes to transmitting Rocky Mountain, a new study out of Brazil is reporting that ticks don’t need as much time as we thought. Current literature states that the disease can be transmitted in 2 to 10 hours, but there are cases when the transmission could take place in just 10 minutes!

Marcelo Labruna of the University of Sao Paulo led the study where ticks were observed feeding on different animals. They found that if ticks had recently fed and then went to feed on another animal, they were able to transmit disease quicker than when they were first feeding.

The study also found that dogs play a primary roll in the spread of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Brazil (know there as Brazilian fever). The majority of cases in the area are diagnosed in children and women who have little contact with tick habitats. It’s most likely that dogs are carrying ticks into the home or yard where they are then attaching to family members, meaning that they have previously fed.

A different type of tick, the wood tick, transmits Rocky Mountain in the US than in Brazil. That could result in different findings when it comes to transmission of the disease. Patrick Leisch, entomologist at the University of Wisconsin, explains that the best way to protect yourself from all tick-borne diseases is to avoid tick habitats, protect yourself properly, and educate yourself on the pest.

At Mosquito Squad, we protect our clients from the nuisance and dangers of ticks with our tick control services. We use a combination of our barrier spray and tick tubes to greatly reduce the tick population on a property. The barrier spray, applied by trained technicians every 2-3 weeks, eliminates adult ticks on contact. Tick tubes are placed on the property twice a year normally and use mice as a vehicle for the tick control product.

If you have questions on how to protect yourself from ticks and the diseases they transmit, please refer to the Centers for Disease control website or call your local Mosquito Squad office.

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Reflecting on a Malaria No More Trip to Africa

For this week’s blog, I’ve asked our chairman and CEO, Chris Grandpre, to reflect on his recent trip with Malaria No More to Kenya. His experience was amazing…

It’s been an odd transition this week back to the normal daily routine. Late last week, I returned from a trip to Kenya where I was able to see firsthand the impact that Mosquito Squad is making in the fight against needless and preventable malaria deaths in Africa.

From left to right, the group included Chris Grandpre, Kelly Fleming, Patrick McKennon, Stevan Miller, Kathy McKennon, Mark Allen, and Martin Edlund

From left to right, the group included Chris Grandpre, Kelly Fleming, Patrick McKennon, Stevan Miller, Kathy McKennon, Mark Allen, and Martin Edlund

I’m still battling being really tired after not sleeping on the 38-hour trip back. In addition, I find myself missing Africa and the incredible camaraderie of our traveling group that included:

  • Patrick & Kathy McKennon, Mosquito Squad of Nashville
  • Martin Edlund, CEO – Malaria No More
  • Mark Allen, Managing Director of Africa Programs – Malaria No More
  • Stevan Miller, Chief Development Officer – Malaria No More
  • Kelly Fleming, Development Associate – Malaria No More

It was phenomenal to see the work of Malaria No More on the ground in a beautiful country, but a country also clearly dealing with a tremendous lack of infrastructure and severe poverty issues. It really helped put into perspective how incredibly fortunate that we all are here in the States.

Our experience included participating in meetings in Nairobi with Malaria No More’s team in Kenya along with staff from the Clinton Health Alliance Initiative, an organization focused on fostering coordination between government and global health organizations. While malaria is a significant problem in Kenya where over 34,000 children die every year, the country is also dealing with other major health risks such as yellow fever, polio, typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis.

Patrick McKennon entertaining children in Chebunyo

Patrick McKennon entertaining children in Chebunyo

We learned how global health organizations work together and in concert with the government to implement programs to educate, prevent, diagnose and treat these major health issues. In countries lacking infrastructure and modern communications systems, it is extremely challenging to implement programs across vast areas dotted by remote villages.

We also had the opportunity to travel across the country and visit some of the remote villages. Our most memorable day was one spent in the village of Chebunyo. After many hours of rough travel on unpaved roads, we spent a day touring the local medical clinic and learning about their efforts to educate the villagers about malaria as well as diagnose and treat cases when necessary.

We delivered bed nets to a number of mothers with newborns in the village and we installed nets in several homes/mud huts. It was an extremely rewarding experience, especially as we watched the kids gleefully dive under the nets as soon as we finished hanging them.

Chris Grandpre hangs nets in Chebunyo

Chris Grandpre hangs nets in Chebunyo

Despite the primitive living conditions, the warmth and happiness of the people in Chebunyo was striking. I will always remember the huge smiles on the kids’ faces as we took their pictures.

I was able to see firsthand the impact that Mosquito Squad and Malaria No More are having in Africa. Malaria deaths have declined nearly 50% over the last five years. We heard this both at the macro level in Nairobi and from the team at the medical clinic in Chebunyo. Fewer children are dying today as a result of increased efforts.

To help us continue to fight malaria, please donate now at SwatMalaria.net.

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