(520) 886-4146 or (800) 887-4146
(520) 886-4146 or (800) 887-4146
(520) 886-4146
(800) 887-4146

Archive for the ‘The Bug Blog’ Category

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Formosan TermiteIntroduce a foreign dish or person into your home and watch your family react.  Drop them or it right in the middle of the living room or the dinner table and watch the fireworks fly. This is a theme that has been tackled in movies, plays and television for years.  Sidney Portier depicts this guest of honor in a 1967 classic, and (no pun intended) ‘brought the issue home’ for many Americans. Coincidentally, it was also during the 1960’s that the Formosan Termite was first discovered within the Continental United States.  Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina were the first unfortunate recipients, and later this same species was discovered thriving in Florida.  Formosan termites were then, and continue to be, the most aggressive and destructive timber pests in the United States. Unlike the gracious Mr. Portier, these guests are never welcome at anybody’s table or in any home.

The Formosan Termite cultivates a massive nest containing millions of insects.  They relentlessly and aggressively seek out and consume anything with cellulose, or fiber, almost seeming to target the crucial supports in most structures.  Any type of wood, including utility poles, docks and other vital wooden structures are at risk.  Very few things are impervious to infestation from this pest, including living trees. Formosan termites have been found in everything from Oak and Cypress to Pine and Maple trees, even while the trees were still alive.  More troubling still is the electrical cabling and lead shielded wiring that does not remain untouched during their foraging activities.  From power cables to wires in cable boxes, all have come under attack and suffered failure with this insect around. This termite is indeed a force to be reckoned with! (more…)

Wood You Like To Be My Neighbor?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Next time, instead of checking your phone while stopped at a stoplight, take a look around. The desert Southwest is full of wonder and mystery. Notice anything unusual at the bottom of the buildings around you? Look closer at the tiny dirt trails snaking up the sides of their concrete bases.  Have you ever wondered what those are or how they got there?  These are the tell tale signs of subterranean termites.  Living underground, these busy termites travel back and forth within these dirt highways from their homes to the wood source they are currently using as food, doing incredible amounts of unseen damage. (more…)

Oh Mickey You’re So Fine…..

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

We love to adore the mouse.  Whether you call them “Mickey”, “Minnie” or even “Mighty” the house mouse (Mus musculus) is one of the single most adaptable and prolific animals on this planet.

Mice are specialists at using our food, water, and shelter, and adapting it to their needs.  More problematic, however, is the fact that mice are also well known for transmitting disease.  They cause damage to our buildings. They wreak havoc with electronics and utility systems with their nesting and gnawing activity. Their highly adaptable behavior lets them adjust to virtually any environment, and they can go without water for extended periods of time if necessary. Mice have been known to consume virtually every kind of food, and due to their nocturnal foraging,  many times we don’t notice them until there are so many, the problem is huge. The first signs of mouse activity are usually droppings. They will inhabit buildings the entire year, but usually make their entrance to a building during the fall, as the weather turns from cool to cold. Once inside, if food is readily available the mouse becomes a permanent resident. The best way to prevent mice from gaining a foothold in your property is to prevent access and to keep all food properly stored at all times.  This will include keeping the property clean and minimizing clutter.

A good rule of thumb on pest proofing a structure is this: if you can get a pencil into a gap, a mouse can get inside. (more…)

I’m Ready for My Close-up: Meet the Arizona Brown Spider

Monday, January 19th, 2015

The Desert Southwest, or more specifically, Arizona, does not have the famous Brown Recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) spider, but if you are getting your information from certain medical professionals, the internet (current source aside) or a “know it all” neighbor, you may believe otherwise.

We do, however, have a very close relative.  The Arizona Brown Spider (Loxosceles arizonica) makes its home here and is nearly identical in appearance to its cousin. The Arizona Brown’s markings are much less striking.  The main difference between the two is very subtle…think of our spider as being a less Hollywood than its more celebrated relative.

This family of spiders (Loxosceles) occurs throughout the southern United States, their range stretches as far down as Mexico and Central America. Not all are desert dwellers, but Arizona is home to several species of Loxosceles.  Recently, in conjunction with concerns regarding climate change, issues have been raised regarding the possibility of recluses spreading farther due to warmer air carrying them faster. This however, cannot be true.  “Ballooning”, or travelling via small web generated parachutes, does not occur within any recluse species.  Populations are remaining in the same spaces where they have always dwelt.  Migratory patterns cannot be associated with recluse spiders.

Recluses are secretive spiders.  They prefer to secrete themselves in desert debris, around dwellings or in other areas not frequently disturbed. The recluse spider relies on its web to trap its prey, catching insects in uneven and sticky weavings left created under rocks, cacti and other native debris. The spider is usually found in the middle of its web, which usually contains the leftover remains of previous meals. The Arizona Brown prefers to dine on ants (especially those active at night) such as carpenter ants. Because it waits for its prey however, the recluse will eat whatever comes into its web, and is not particularly discriminatory in its tastes.

Female Arizona Brown spiders lay their eggs in cases and once hatched, the young may live, depending on conditions for two or three years.

The Dangers of the Arizona Brown Spider

The spiders themselves are rarely seen, but their bites can be a distinguishing factor by which they are identified.

Many types of skin wounds are mistaken for or assumed to be the result of a recluse spider bite. Many times a month our office takes calls from customers claiming that Doctors, EMT’s or some other knowledgeable source has told them with authority that they have a recluse bite.  Many different things can mimic the lesions of a bite of the recluse spider, including Lyme disease, various fungal and bacterial infections, just to name a few. It is critical to associate the spider directly with the bite to begin appropriate treatment.  The biggest mistake is the failure to consider alternative diagnoses if no spider was seen in association with a wound or lesion. (more…)

The Big Sneeze

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Many of us have heard the old stories of families moving here to Arizona to escape the humidity, pollen, and pollution found in other parts of the country—all in an effort to find relief from allergies.  We either have first-hand knowledge of this great escape, growing up as one of the “transplants,” or have friends who ended up in the Desert Southwest hoping to find an allergy-free haven.

What exactly were the “triggers” of those allergy attacks– the triggers that could cause such desperation?  In the past, we often focused placing blame on plant pollens, dust, animals and stinging insects (wasps, bees, hornets).  A closer look at the science, however, reveals that cockroaches, in fact, are shown to be major triggers of allergies and asthma attacks, too.


As far back as 1943, allergies linked to cockroaches were identified. Tests were confirming the link between irritations of the skin and the roaches that had just crawled over test subjects’ hands and arms.  (more…)

Rocky Mountain High

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Few things will bring terror to a dog lover’s life like ticks and the specter of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF).  In Arizona, this is not just an academic study, but a very real concern. A great deal of effort has gone into developing a plan to protect not just your dog, but also the owners and their yards from becoming habitats of the ticks that carry this insidious disease.

What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?  Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a tick borne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. This organism can be the cause of a potentially fatal human illness and is transmitted directly to humans from the bite of an infected tick species. Once bitten, the typical symptoms include: fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. A rash may also develop, often after the first few days, although in some patients, the rash never develops at all.  Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be a severe or even fatal illness if not treated in the first few days the symptoms are evident or a diagnosis is made. The most positive aspect to RMSF and other tick borne diseases is that they are all preventable.

The most effective strategy to prevent/control ticks is a multi-phase approach. This approach includes: (more…)

Stored Food Product Pests in Your Pantry and in Other Stuff, Too!

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Many people are familiar with the groan that comes in the morning    ”Mom…There are bugs in my cereal!”  Once again you are the victim of a Stored Food Product Pest.  The question you immediately ask yourself is “How did this happen?” 

Most often it is the result of bugs getting in the packaging during food production, or even more likely transportation or storage.  Somewhere between the manufacturer and your grocer, the product you purchased with the confidence that nothing was wrong, then placed into your pantry, and forgot about….  A moth, or a beetle began to develop.  The egg or larvae inside of the cereal or the nuts was already developing and days or weeks later you open the package to discover that not only are Rolled Oats no good, but the Pasta is infested, the Split Peas are bad, The Honey, Wheat and Oats are ruined and just about everything else in the pantry is bound for the garbage bin.

We asked the professionals at University Termite & Pest Control about this and they boiled it all down for us “There are weevils, moths, beetles, bugs, worms and so many more… We could spend a lot of time here discussing the life cycles, the where’s and whys of how these bugs get into your food, how they mate and how they spread….but in the end what you really want to know is this.”

How do I keep them out of my food (and my other stuff too)?

  • When you get home, immediately take things out of the boxes they are in and place them into airtight, individual plastic containers.  This will contain anything that might be inside that package.  You may group like things, with like things at your own risk…but be warned.  If you place a package of infested pasta in with all of your good pasta, all your pasta may become bug ridden.  You may have to toss the entire container.
  • Do the same for your pet food.  “Yes I said pet food.  Pet food is just as vulnerable as our food to infestation as people food.  Keep it sealed and segregated.  I have seen entire sections of national pet stores decimated by stored food product pests in dog biscuits.” Said Rick Rupkey Sr.  many people overlook pet food when they look to protect their food supply.  Don’t forget to protect Fido too!
  • Be careful where you shop.  We all love specialty our stores, but not all cultures embrace the same levels of cleanliness that Western culture does.  Insects are tolerated and considered a beneficial part of the food in many parts of the world.  Isolating your foods will keep you from contaminating your entire food supply.
  • Be aware where you get your craft supplies from and where you store them.  Stored Food Product Pests will attack any number of things that are not traditionally considered food.  Cotton, Dried Flowers, Silk, Tobacco, Wool, Naturally derived fibers and glues, Animal Hides and the like.  These should be also stored in airtight containers so they do not become infested with these bugs.  Museums spend massive amounts of money protecting rugs and hides from insect damage…do the same for your dried flowers.

I Know Something’s Going On…In My House

Thursday, October 30th, 2014


One of the best parts of living in the Desert Southwest is being able to find not just authentic Mexican food, but also living in and around the actual Mexican culture. Many of us have chosen to decorate our homes, even construct our homes in the local style using materials straight out of Mexico. The lodge poles crossing our living rooms and the saguaro ribs forming the ceilings give an old Mexico feeling to a home. Others choose the furniture, finding imported armoires or Arches. I have seen ornate doorways that have been brought all the way from Mexico City or other parts of Central America all the way here to Arizona. While all of these do lend an air of the old Southwest to our homes, the unintended consequence can also be the introduction of wood destroying pests that are native to not just Mexico but also here in the Desert Southwest right into our homes.

So how do we know when something like this is going on?

I asked Rick Rupkey, Sr., owner of University Termite & Pest Control, what he looks for around a home. (more…)

Kissing Bugs or Cone Nosed Bugs

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014


The cone nosed bug, or kissing bug, is usually not a stand-alone problem in the Southwestern United States. It is associated with the nests of nearby rodents–most often those of pack rats or other feral rodents known to live in and around the Arizona Desert. Beginning in spring, these bugs will be attracted by external light sources around dusk. They will take advantage of small gaps around doors and windows, entering through openings in flooring from crawlspaces and then into homes. From there, they will migrate to dark, quiet areas like closets or  between mattresses and box springs to wait. (more…)

How Much Damage Do Termites Cause?

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Termite Tunnels?According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause an estimated $5 billion in property damage every year. Regardless of the type of home you live in – stucco, brick, block…even on those concrete slabs – none are immune to an invasion by termites and the damage they cause. Worse, termite damage can remain hidden for years, going undetected until the costs for repair are gigantic. Most homeowners are unaware that their homeowners insurance does not cover termite damage, leaving them on the hook for the entire repair bill!

What’s a homeowner to do? Here in the Desert Southwest that problem is even trickier than in many other places around the United States.

Why? We asked Rick Rupkey, Sr., owner of University Termite & Pest Control, to look at some of the Q&A forums on his competitor’s websites, and here is what he had to say:

“Termite swarms are common in many places around the country. In areas such as Texas, the South, Florida, and even California, operators can point their customers to look for termite wings around their homes, particularly in basements and on window sills. In Arizona, this indicator is simply not a reliable one. Termites don’t swarm here with any regularity, and we cannot count on that as a sign that termites are in a customer’s home. If we waited for that as a sign, it would be entirely too late.” (more…)

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