bugs

Timing Is Key

By Lina Younes

Lately, I’ve noticed increased mosquito activity in my neighborhood. While I’m not actually seeing these pesky bugs, I have definitely been the victim of their bites. I’ve always been a virtual mosquito magnet.  And I was happy that for most of the summer I had been spared because I was taking preventive steps.  So I wondered, what was I doing wrong now? What was different?

I couldn’t confirm scientifically that my mosquito bites were directly related to a larger mosquito population in my area. Nonetheless, I think I found the likely cause of these attacks. What was my conclusion? Well, it was an issue of timing: when did I suffer more bites? Early in the evening while I was walking the dogs.

The fact is that many kinds of mosquitoes tend to be most active at sunset and early in the evening. The time that I have to take the dogs out is basically after our family dinner. Since days are starting to get shorter as we transition into fall, , that’s right after sunset. Unfortunately that is exactly when mosquitoes are most active. In other words, my dog-walking activity becomes the mosquitoes’ dinnertime. Boy, have they been having a feast! Since I can’t really delay the time I have to take the dogs for their walk, the best thing I can do is to wear clothing that will cover my skin and apply insect repellent adequately (according to the instructions on the label, of course).

Mosquito bites shouldn’t be taken lightly. In fact, diseases caused by mosquitoes are among the leading causes of illness and death in the world today. Some of these diseases include the West Nile virus, viral encephalitis, dengue, yellow fever and malaria, to name a few. Just because you might not live in a tropical area doesn’t mean that mosquitoes won’t affect you. With changes in climate patterns,  including warming trends in certain areas and increased rainfall, mosquitoes that carry some of these deadly diseases are thriving in areas that go well beyond their traditional habitats.

So, at minimum, get rid of standing water around your home to interrupt the life cycle of the mosquito. And don’t forget about the timing!

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Keep Bad Bugs At Bay

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By Lina Younes
During the summer months, we enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends. We actively seek opportunities to have fun in open areas. Whether it’s gardening in our backyard, swimming at the local pool, or taking a stroll at a nearby park, we will likely encounter some small creatures that are even more active than us during this time of year. What creatures am I referring to exactly? Bad bugs, those that feast on humans and animals and may spread diseases. Whether they are ticks, fleas, or mosquitoes, you should take simple steps to keep these bugs at a distance to avoid getting bitten.

In the case of mosquitoes, there is one thing you should do around the home to eliminate mosquito habitats. Get rid of standing water!  Mosquitoes need still water to lay their eggs and develop. In fact three stages of their live cycle occur in water! So without water, they cannot grow and multiply! Look around your home to find objects where water can accumulate, such as buckets, plastic toys, bird baths, wading pools even potted plant trays. If you have a bird bath in your back yard, clean it frequently. Don’t let the water rest for more than 3 days. Remember, mosquitoes only need a very small quantity of water to lay their eggs and thrive.

As a virtual “mosquito magnet,” I know that during the summer I have to stock up on insect repellents as much as sunscreen! Given the fact that mosquitoes find me anywhere I go, I have to apply insect repellents  frequently to avoid being bitten. As with any type of pesticide and insect repellent, you should read the label first and follow the instructions carefully to protect your family and stay safe.

If you are travelling in the U.S. or abroad, visit the CDC website for any travel advisories with destination-specific information for any outbreaks or other health-related issues. And especially if you are traveling, don’t bring some unwanted hitchhiking guests like bedbugs back home! While bed bugs do not transmit diseases, they are definitely an annoyance. So follow some tips to keep them at bay.

Do you have any tips you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Spring Brings Many Things

By Lina Younes

As temperatures start to warm up during the early spring months, we begin to see flowers blooming and animals awakening from their winter slumber. Yet, there are some things that spring often brings that we don’t eagerly welcome. Bugs. No, I’m not talking about beneficial bugs like lady bugs, bees or butterflies, but household pests.

Recently, I had an ant infestation on the kitchen floor. I resisted the temptation of getting a can of bug spray and emptying it in my kitchen. I searched for the source of the infestation. Voila! I had left some dog food overnight in the dog’s bowl and the ants were having a party! So, I clean the bowls and the entire area and the ants decided to party somewhere else. It was simple.

The basic principles of integrated pest management consist of not providing any food, water or shelter to pests. If the pests don’t find anything that attracts them to your home or creates a cozy environment for them, they will essentially search for more inviting surroundings. So, what are some basic tips to prevent bugs and household pests for setting up shop in your home? Here are some suggestions:

  • Cleanliness is a great bug and pest deterrent.
  • Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink over night.
  • Don’t leave crumbs and spills on the table or floor. They only serve as bug magnets while you are away.
  • Repair leaks. Don’t let water accumulate around the kitchen, bathroom or flower pots.
  • Clear the clutter of newspapers, bags, and boxes. Clutter becomes a very cozy surrounding for unwanted pests.

If in spite of your best efforts household pests get into your home, select pesticides for the right pest and follow the instructions on the label closely. By following integrated pest management techniques, you’ll be able to have a healthier home for you and your family. Don’t send pests an open invitation unknowingly.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Even in Winter

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By Lina Younes

Recently, my youngest daughter went to Great Falls Park, VA with her fifth grade science class. Since the weather forecast called for a cold day, the teacher recommended that the children bundle up in several layers of clothing to fully enjoy their time outdoors. As part of the field trip preparations, the teacher also warned the children about the possibility of ticks in the park. She suggested using insect repellents safely.

Personally, I was puzzled. I didn’t think that ticks and other insects could survive cold temperatures. I always associated bugs like ticks and mosquitoes with the summer months. Outdoor bugs and winter didn’t make sense to me. I asked the experts in our Office of Pesticide Programs for the facts and was even more surprised with the results. Thus, I decided to share the information with you.

How cold does it have to be in order not to risk get bitten by mosquitoes and ticks when you go outside? The answer: Below 4 degrees Celsius (about 39 degrees Fahrenheit) for mosquitoes.

And, how about ticks? “For ticks—they can bite year round. It is less likely below freezing temperatures due to lack of movement, but they can attach if you come in contact with them.”

In my case, I confess, that I will be more vigilant when I hear about outbreaks of tick and mosquito-borne diseases such as lyme disease, West Nile Virus,  and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, when I go outdoors. And, when traveling to subtropical and tropical areas, such as U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and Guam) we need to be careful with mosquito transmitted diseases, such as dengue fever, too.

Furthermore, do you have pets? Do you take your dog for a walk outside? Make sure your pet doesn’t bring any ticks home with him even during winter. Ask the veterinarian for tick control products that will help prevent ticks from attaching to your pet so everyone can stay healthy.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Black Flies on Mountaintops

By Amy Miller

I might as well move to Alaska where you have to walk around with a net over your head all summer. The little black flies were so bad at the top of Blueberry Mountain in the White Mountain National Forest of Maine (that’s right! The Whites Mountains cross into Maine) that I couldn’t even sit at the summit long enough to eat my brownie.

No gloating at the top for us. Down we rushed from the 1,780-foot peak in the Caribou Speckled Mountain Wilderness Area. And although I didn’t notice it during the three-mile loop, come to find out the bugs were not just buzzing in and out of my mouth and eyes, but had taken enough tiny chunks to leave more bumps and welts than I could scratch with two hands.

Why was I surprised? Do I normally stay inside in May and June? According to Maine Humorist Tim Sample, Black Flies are the unofficial Maine State bird. And the Maine Outdoors website said black flies are most common in wooded, wet areas with lots of standing water. And they especially like hot calm days with little wind. AHA!

So what is a hiker to do? Wear long sleeves or pants, is one idea. At least it’s a good idea if you like to hike around in summer in long sleeves and pants. But then you are probably already doing that to protect against ticks. Not me. I like my shortie shorts and tank top.

A little research and I learned black flies are about 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch long. While mosquitoes breed in still water, black flies breed in running water. Like with mosquitoes, bites come only from the adult females.

Repellents can help: anything from a popular moisturizer to 90 percent DEET to little hunks of garlic cloves, depending on who you ask.

Since the bugs tend to leave you alone when you are hiking, I cringe to think what I would look and feel like if I had stopped for more than 30 seconds at the summit. But let me tell you, the hike was well worth it. We came to a pool at the bottom of a waterfall that would have been worth the $500 airfare to Costa Rica. But next time I head up to the White Mountains of Maine (really, they exist), I will remember zip-on legs and a neck bandana.

About the author:  Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Early Blooms and Bugs

By Lina Younes

Due to the mild spring, many bulbs and flowering plants have been blooming early.

In our area, forsythia and bulbs were the first to make their appearance. Azalea bushes that normally bloom around Mother’s Day already peaked several weeks ago. Even rose bushes have some breathtaking flowers earlier than usual. As I was taking a walk, I couldn’t resist capturing the moment through some pictures which I’m sharing with you.

Unseasonably mild temperatures have also ushered the early arrival of other living creatures to our neighborhoods: bugs. While we welcome beneficial insects, especially pollinators such as butterflies and bees, we will not be putting out the welcoming mat for pests such as ants, termites, ticks and mosquitoes. Special measures will be needed to control biting insects that can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Our web pages indicate which insect repellents are most effective in controlling specific biting insects. When using insect repellents or any pesticide products, always remember to read the label first.

So, as you’re getting your garden ready for the planting season, adopt greenscaping practices to attract beneficial insects. By planting the right native trees, plants and shrubs you’ll create an inviting environment for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Any gardening projects in the making? Please share your ideas with us.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

By Lina Younes

I love the arrival of the smells, sounds, and sights of spring. New blooms, birds chirping, fresh smell of grass and early flowers, all beckon an awakening. However, there are some things that I am not particularly fond during the new season. I’ve never been one to like bugs. I know that bugs serve a function in the ecosystem. However, with the exception of pollinators like butterflies and bees, I wish bugs simply didn’t exist. I let them be in nature, but I definitely don’t like to see them anywhere inside my house!

No, I don’t believe in using pesticides as a preventive measure to keep bugs away. What is the best non-chemical way to keep your home bug-free? Integrated pest management! It’s easier than you think. Basically, don’t create an environment in your home that will be “friendly” towards bugs and other pests. Don’t give them anything to eat nor drink. Dirty dishes in the sink, soda spills left to dry on the table, or leftovers and crumbs left out in the open only serve as magnets to these unwanted creatures. Also, don’t provide them with plenty of shelter. Well, bugs and other pests just love messy stacks of papers and boxes because they offer plenty of hiding places. If you have pets, don’t leave food or water in their feeding bowls at night. This just attracts the attention of pests while you are fast asleep.

So, if you have created a non-friendly environment for these pests and they still decide to pay you a visit, please use pesticides appropriately by reading the label first. Simple steps will help you reduce your child’s chances of pesticide poisoning. Play it safe!

As always, will love to hear from you regarding the steps you’ve taken to keep your home bug-free.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.