pests

When in Bear Country, Stay Bear Aware

By Marcia Anderson

As a former Scout leader I’ve spent a lot of time in places visited by black bears. I often taught bear-safe practices. As Scouts, my daughter and sons learned about bears at an early age and continue to put into practice prevention lessons they learned.

Adult black bear Photo: Pam McIlhenny, fws.gov

Adult black bear
Photo: Pam McIlhenny, fws.gov

Today, I educate schools and communities about preventing pests through Integrated Pest Management, a sensible and sustainable approach to controlling pests. The main principle is prevention. Every pest needs food, water and a safe harbor to survive. If one of these is denied, the pest will no longer thrive and will move on. So yes, just think of bears as very big pests.

As bear populations increase and more people live and recreate in areas occupied by bears, human-bear conflicts also increase. Most of these conflicts are caused by our lack of knowledge.

Bears have made a comeback throughout New England. although Maine has the largest bear population, the American black bear, the largest predator in the Northeast, rose more dramatically in Massachusetts, where the numbers of native bears grew nine-fold since 1980s, from a few hundred to more than 4,500.

If you live in, or visit bear country here are a few things you should keep in mind.

As I said, pest management includes removing whatever attract pests – in this case, food for bears. Garbage is the biggest offender Bears can smell food from more than a mile away. They travel great distances to track down smells, crossing roads and bridges and placing themselves and people at risk.

Bears will eat just about anything they deem to be nutritious. The calories a bear can consume by picking through garbage can surpass the forage they can find in nature. Problems arise when bears have access to food sources such as garbage, barbecue grills, pet food, or bird seed. Normally, black bears are too shy to risk contact with humans, but their need to find food can overwhelm this fear.

Once a bear finds a food source, such as school dumpsters or neighborhood garbage cans, it will continue to forage until the food is removed. It may take weeks for the bear to understand the food source is no longer available. Once a bear is dependent on human food, its chances of survival are reduced.

If your school, home, or business is in an area that attracts bears, build a shed to protect your garbage cans or secure garbage in a bear-resistant containers. Tightly tie all bagged garbage and keep lids closed to reduce odors.

Teach your children to respect, not fear bears. Black bears are typically not aggressive and usually flee when confronted. Make a plan identifying safe areas, noting clear escape routes for the bear, and collecting noise-making items to scare off the bear.

After a bear visit, look around to see what might have attracted it.

BearBlog2If you live in or work in bear country, encourage surrounding neighbors and your local government, to pass ordinances to keep potential bear food sources secure. It is illegal in many states to place food or garbage out that attracts bears and causes conflicts.

Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding. Remove bird feeders from late spring through early fall and when they are up, empty them nightly. Keep outdoor grills clean and stored securely. Keep areas under fruit trees clean. Better yet, if you don’t want bears, don’t plant fruit trees! Compost also attracts bears so don’t keep compost in unsecured areas.

If you live in bear country, adopt preventative measures that will help you and the bears avoid unwanted encounters. For more visit the National Park Service bear safety webpage.

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Marcia Anderson, who has a doctorate in environmental management, works with EPA’s headquarters on issues related to pest management in schools. She formerly worked in pesticides for EPA Region 2 and has a home in Lyman, Maine.

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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Fighting Bed Bugs, Mosquitos and other Pests

By Lina Younes

As the temperature warms up, we enjoy watching the revival of nature. Flowering trees, shrubs and wildlife come to life. While we welcome the return of butterflies and bees to our gardens, we definitely don’t rejoice with the arrival of other bugs, such as ants and mosquitos.

What can you do to prevent pests from taking over your living space? Well, make your home and yard as unwelcoming to pests as possible. How?  Start by removing sources of food, water and shelter. Don’t let those food crumbs and spills become pest magnets! Reduce clutter around your home and fix leaky faucets. Set up barriers so pests can’t invade your home through cracks and holes.

If in spite of your best efforts you still find these unwanted critters, you may need to take additional actions. EPA has tips for many of the most common pests.

With warmer temperatures, we’re starting to see mosquitoes earlier every year.  An important way to control mosquitos around your home is by eliminating their habitat. Mosquitoes only need a small amount of water to lay their eggs. So get rid of things in your yard like old tires, buckets and other containers where standing water will accumulate. Prevent mosquitos from entering your home with screens on your windows and doors. Also, use EPA-registered insect repellents safely to protect yourself against diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.

Being aware of potential pest problems and taking action to control these pests safely will help you and your family enjoy your environment at home and the great outdoors during the warmer months and year round.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison in EPA’s Office of Web Communications. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several federal and state government agencies over the years.

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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Fruit Orchard Growers Find that Disrupting Apple Pest Mating Leads to Better Fruit

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

By Marcia Anderson

Taking a drive in the country, I pass numerous apple orchards, the trees in full bloom, with petals falling across my windshield, like giant snowflakes when a cool spring wind blows. I am reminded of a time, a generation ago, when people were spraying pesticides by the calendar in orchards and on farms throughout the country. For instance, they would spray for a certain pest before the trees’ buds broke in the spring, then every 7–10 days thereafter. The spraying occurred whether the pests were there or not because people were not scouting their crops to assess pest levels. Growers finally realized that pests don’t carry calendars and that their emergence varies from year to year. This validated the need for pest monitoring.

Today’s growers monitor certain pests with the aid of traps designed to include a chemical to attract only one certain pest. Such traps utilize chemical lures. The lures are synthetic copies of the chemicals (pheromones) the females emit to attract the males for mating. In apple orchards, traps, such as the one pictured here, are hung in the trees. The bottom of the trap is coated with an adhesive to capture the male insects. It is very effective control tactic for San Jose scale, codling moth, and oblique banded leafroller in lieu of pesticide applications.

With regular trap monitoring, growers know exactly how many moths are out in the orchard, which is the pest pressure, which in turn, helps them to determine if and when further treatment is necessary. When a moth is caught, growers know that first generation (the overwintering generation) has flown. Then, they can calculate degree days for the first generation eggs to hatch. At that point growers make a decisions for action. Northeast apple orchard growers discuss implementing pest-specific pheromone control strategies in their second video.

2.Apple maggot damage to an apple (Photo: E.H. Glass, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Bugwood.org)

Apple maggot damage to an apple
(Photo: E.H. Glass, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Bugwood.org)

An effective use of pheromones is in conjunction with a small dose of pesticides. This is an extremely effective and low cost cultural control to disrupt insect mating of apple maggots. The apple maggot is a small fly that lays its eggs in a fruit. The maggots hatch and eat the fruit. Sometimes you do not see them until you bite into the fruit finding half a worm. UGH. Pheromone traps can trap apple maggot flies. A red plastic ball with an apple odor in the center resembles an apple hung on a tree and will visually and chemically attract the apple maggot fly. Orchard growers also use an organic insecticide on top of the fake apple. When an apple maggot lands on it, it licks the insecticide, which will cause the females to cease laying eggs and they will eventually die. In this way, the rate of insecticide needed is drastically reduced. A grower’s last resort is the application of chemicals.

Pheromone trap (Bugwood.org)

Pheromone trap (Bugwood.org)

Apple growers have now found the most effective way to control their pests is by using scientifically-based practices like Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, that have positive long-term effects on their orchard. IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common sense practices. IPM programs in apple orchards use current comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment. IPM takes advantage of all pest management options including inspection and monitoring for apple pests, the sanitation and maintenance of the orchard and trees, cultural practices like traps, and the judicious use of less risky pesticides, such as pheromone traps, first. IPM dictates that sprays are used only when needed for effective and long term control.

With IPM, you have to get to a certain pest population level, or threshold, before treatment is recommended. So, determining how to deal with pests based on thresholds is a primary step. How many of a certain kind of pest do you have? The threshold depends on the specific insect, weed, or disease.

There are a few challenges to IPM, not only in apple orchards, but with regard to controlling any pests. It is very important to rotate the modes of action of the chemicals that are used. Because with any pest population, if you use the same mode of action repeatedly, there are always a few pests that survive, creating future generations of pests who have developed pesticide resistance. The end result of resistance is that the overused pesticides lose their efficacy for pest control.

For more on apple IPM read: Apples for the Big Apple…Managing Pests to Produce Quality Apples. So the next time you eat an apple, think about your local apple growers and how they are using IPM to provide you with quality produce at reasonable prices.

 

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

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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Cockroaches in the School Kitchen

By Marcia Anderson

Cockroaches can be major pests in restaurants, hospitals, warehouses, offices and buildings with food-handling areas. Cockroaches are known to carry human pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can result in human diseases, such as food poisoning or diarrhea.cockroaches on the floor

This message came from the state of Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Really, it could come from nearly any state, any country or any continent. Cockroaches are one of the most common animals on earth.

Late last summer, I visited a school in the Northeast that was overrun with cockroaches. A custodian led us to classrooms, restrooms, storage areas and, finally, the cafeteria and kitchen. Most of it was cleaned during summer break. But when we entered the cafeteria, we found the floor littered with debris – food wrappers, papers, plastic drink bottles, and food.

We flicked on the lights and the floor moved. Thousands of cockroaches were scurrying from the light. We did a dance to avoid the mass of moving bodies.

Custodians had been directed to clean the building from the top down and the kitchen and cafeteria were on the ground floor. They were told not to clean the kitchen – that was up to kitchen staff. As the end of the year approaches, this results could be instructive for this year’s summer cleaners.

The kitchen staff had only a few days at the end of the school year to clean. Countertops, stovetops and sinks appeared clean, but ovens were caked with grease, as were pipes coming from the stoves, and floors under appliances.

Amer Cockroach  Clemson Univ  USDA Coop ex  Bugwood  1233111Large indoor cockroach populations are a leading cause of allergies, asthma and other bronchial disorders. In fact, cockroaches are one of the main triggers for asthma attacks for children in inner cities..

The presence of cockroaches is an indication that food, moisture and save havens for the roaches are present. Conditions in this school kitchen allowed the cockroach population to explode.

We advised the school to reduce the cockroach infestation by incorporating Integrated Pest Management practices. EPA recommends all schools manage pests using this approach.

Cockroach control is best accomplished through prevention, exclusion, sanitation and monitoring. Not only would these measures help prevent an infestation, they would reduce cockroach-related allergens.

Because of the severity of the infestation, we recommended the school get professional advice and service.

Here are some IPM-based actions your school can take to help reduce and prevent cockroaches and other pests. These tips can also work in your home if you have a problem with unwanted insects.

Sanitation. Eliminate sources of food and moisture, as well as hiding places for pests. Every day, sweep and mop areas that could attract cockroaches. Empty trash containers frequently, and line them with plastic bags. Kitchen appliances and areas around appliances should also be kept clean.

Exclusion. Cockroaches easily move through plumbing and electrical connections. Gaps around plumbing, electrical outlets, and switch plates should be sealed. Kitchen staff should scan grocery items for evidence of cockroaches before putting items away. Remove cardboard as cockroaches love to dine on the glue that holds boxes together.

Eliminate Water Sources. The single most important factor in determining cockroach survival is the availability of water. German cockroaches live less than two weeks without water.

Eliminate Harborage. By nature, cockroaches prefer dark, warm cracks and crevices. Any small gap or hole (1/16” or larger) that leads to a void is a prime cockroach living area. These cracks and crevices should be sealed.

Following these simple steps in your school will result in fewer pest problems.

EPA offers information about cockroaches and asthma along with a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. We also recommend exploring the EPA-sponsored Asthma Community Network website and visiting our school IPM website.

Marcia Anderson, who has a doctorate in environmental management, works with EPA’s headquarters on issues related to pest management in schools. She formerly worked in pesticides for EPA Region 2 and has a home in Lyman, Maine

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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Management of Much Maligned, Often Misunderstood Bats

By Marcia Anderson

During summer evenings in Maine, I often sit outside and watch the bats flying to and fro, devouring insects near the edge of a lake. Bats have a reputation for being spooky or even dangerous, but they are some of the most beneficial animals to people. Bats are misunderstood and needlessly feared. Bats actually do humans a great service, as each one can consume hundreds of crop-destroying insects and other pests every night.

Bats do not encounter people by choice and very few bats consume blood. Of the more than 1,100 bat species worldwide, only three feed on blood and none of those live in the United States.

New England is home to many species of bats including the big brown, little brown, red, hoary, batatnightEastern small-footed myotis, and Indiana bat. A single little brown bat can eat 3,000 mosquito-sized insects a night. Most North American bats have small teeth for eating insects including corn earworms, cucumber beetles, leafhoppers, stink bugs, mosquitoes, moths, termites, ants and cockroaches.

Bats are essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems and economies, yet their populations are declining worldwide from habitat loss and disease. Some bats are primary pollinators for fruits and other produce and help disperse seeds of plants that restore forests. Bats prefer roosting near open bodies of water, parks and fields where they can catch the most insects during their nighttime forays.

During the day, bats prefer to roost in tight crevices such as cracks in rocks, and in awnings of buildings where they are protected from predators. They may also roost in attics, soffits, louvers, chimneys and porches; under siding, eaves, roof tiles or shingles; and behind shutters. Still, bats need to be treated with respect and care if they enter a house. Usually they enter through an open door or window, but can fit through openings as small as one-half inch in diameter. Without doubt, the bat’s primary goal is to escape back outside.

If you encounter a bat, don’t panic. Bats are rarely aggressive, even if they’re being chased, but they bats in cagemay bite in self-defense if handled. It is true that bats can carry rabies and should never be touched with bare hands.

If bats begin to roost in your attic or somewhere you don’t want them, your best bet to solve this problem is with is integrated pest management. First, do not simply wait for bats to fly out at night. Not all bats leave the roost at the same time and some may stay inside for the night, especially the young. To properly seal holes, you can use caulking, flashing, screening or heavy-duty mesh. Ask a professional the best way to evict the roosting bats. Often the answer is a one-way door. In any event, get rid of your bats before mid-May or after mid-September to avoid trapping young.

Every state has unique laws related to bat protection, and it may be illegal for anyone, including animal control officers and exterminators, to kill certain bat species. No pesticides are licensed for use against bats and it is a violation of federal law to use a pesticide in a way not described on the label.

When you decide to get rid of bats you should provide a near-by shelter, such as a bat house. Install the bat house a few weeks before you eliminate their indoor roost, to allow the bats time to find the new shelter. Trees are generally not good places for bat houses since they are accessible to bat predators like raccoons and cats. However, if you do use a tree, add a metal protector guard. A pole mount in a garden or field is the preferred bat house location.

Community bat houses can be educational. Families, like ours, can sit outside at sunset and watch the bats on their nightly fly-out. It seems that there really were fewer mosquitoes this past summer, perhaps because of the presence of more bats.

More information on bats from the Smithsonian Institution (http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/batfacts.htm)

More information on Integrated Pest Management: http://www.epa.gov/managing-pests-schools/introduction-integrated-pest-management

More information on Safe methods of pest control: http://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol

Marcia Anderson, who has a doctorate in environmental management, works with EPA’s headquarters on issues related to pest management in schools. She formerly worked in pesticides for EPA Region 2 and has a home in Lyman, Maine.

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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When in Florida, Use Integrated Pest Management

As part of the Office of Pesticide Programs’ annual tour of South Central Florida agriculture, several coworkers and I recently visited several farms and beekeeping facilities. We also observed pest control efforts. While every stop taught me something new about agriculture, food production, and pest management, I found myself most intrigued by the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques used by farmers and local governments.

Integrated Pest Management can be used in any situation where pest control is needed – from growing crops to controlling bedbugs. Simply put, IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices.

How are Floridians using IPM?  Here are some examples from our trip:

  • Barn owls control rodents: The University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center
    A University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center owl box ready to be stationed at a farm.

    A University of Florida Everglades Research and Education Center owl box ready to be stationed at a farm.

    encourages the use of barn owls to control rodent populations in farm fields.  By constructing owl boxes near farms, owls move in to feed on the rodents that frequent farms.  This effort has allowed farmers to reduce the use of rodenticides.

  • Release of grass carp to control invasive plants.  Photo courtesy of the Lee County Hyacinth Control District

    Release of grass carp to control invasive plants. Photo courtesy of the Lee County Hyacinth Control District

    Fish to control weeds: The Lee County Hyacinth Control District’s biological program utilizes grass carp in some of the county’s storm water canals and ponds in a controlled fashion to deal with invasive aquatic vegetation. The carp are used in conjunction with chemical and mechanical techniques to keep excessive plant growth from taking over public waterways, disrupting the ecosystem and making boat navigation difficult.

  • The pesky mosquito: The Lee County Mosquito Control District uses a variety of techniques to control mosquito populations and prevent the spread of disease. Community outreach and education programs are an important part of LCMCD’s work.  By teaching the community simple ways to make their homes and yards less mosquito-friendly, the county as a whole is taking part in IPM.  LCMCD’s tips include: irrigate lawns to prevent standing water, stock ornamental ponds with fish so they can eat mosquito eggs, and change outdoor pet water bowls regularly to prevent mosquitos from laying eggs.

Prior to visiting these sites, I was most familiar with IPM when it came to schools, thanks to our IPM in Schools webinar series.  But, as you can see, IPM opportunities are everywhere, from farms to waterways.  It’s likely that your community, and mine, are benefiting from common sense IPM approaches to pest management, whether we realize it or not!

About the author: Colleen Keltz is new to the world of pesticides at EPA, but not new to EPA.  After spending some time working on the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), she’s now focused on increasing her pesticide knowledge as part of the Office of Pesticide Programs’ communications team.

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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Want Kids to Do Better in School? This Environmental Approach Can Help

Schools are busy places, with bustling schoolyards, kitchens full of lunchboxes and trays, and kids and adults who constantly come and go. These busy environments can sometimes have pest problems that need to be addressed – like flies, spiders, yellow jackets, roaches and ants, for example.

As a parent, I know how important it is to me that my kids and their classmates have a healthy environment to learn, thrive and grow. Unhealthy school environments – including poor air quality — can affect children’s health, attendance, concentration and performance. Pest exposure can also trigger asthma, which can cause kids to miss class and a chance to learn.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Fix-a-leak to Keep Pests Out!

By Marcia Anderson

While on an inspection of a school, I walked into a kitchen, flicked on the light switch, and  several cockroaches went scurrying back to their hiding places. We discovered that the cockroaches were flourishing due to water collecting under the refrigerator, a valve leak under the sink, and grease that had collected under the oven.

Did you know that water leaks can cause pest problems in homes, schools, and businesses? Most people are unaware of the association between plumbing problems and pests, but the fact is that the two are intertwined. If you have a leak, it will attract pests.  To get rid of pests, and keep them from coming back, you have to deprive them their basic survival needs: food, water, shelter. Did you know that German cockroaches can survive a couple of weeks without food, but they will die within a few days if they do not have access to moisture?

Where do pests get their water? Take a close look around your home for plumbing leaks in the laundry room, under the kitchen sink, below the dishwasher, and around all your bathroom fixtures. If you notice rust around your drain, fixtures, or valves, that is a clue that moisture is going where it shouldn’t be.  Cockroaches and other pests find drinking water in leaky pipes, dripping faucets, and gaps around pipes.  Fix leaky faucets by replacing worn washers in the kitchen sink and bathroom areas, and ventilate moist areas.  Remember that pests, such as cockroaches, like it damp. A leaky sink trap can create a moist pest paradise under your kitchen cabinets.

Sometimes plumbing leaks are due to old shut-off valves that are located under and behind the sink. Those need to be replaced because if the problem is ignored, what could have been a simple repair could develop into a bug oasis.

In the bathroom, make sure that there is a good seal around the water pipes where they enter the room from the wall. A good caulk seal assures that even the smallest insects can’t enter. Check grout around bathtubs and toilets. A poor seal around a bathtub can allow water into the surrounding floor and walls, and if the wax ring around the bottom of a toilet isn’t sealing properly, you could create a watering hole for critters every time you flush.

Be PestWise! Regular maintenance such as fixing leaks, are key components of a smart, sensible, and sustainable pest management program. Recognizing the value of pest prevention is an important first step. Drip, drip, drip goes the faucet … stopping those drips saves water, helps the environment, and protects you from pests. For more information on controlling pests in your home, school, or business visit: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/controlling/dosanddonts.htm

About the author: Marcia Anderson is with the Center of Expertise for School Integrated Pest Management in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs and a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Management at Montclair State University. Marcia supports the Center’s efforts to promote a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control in the Nation’s schools.

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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Are We Planet-Friendly?

By Lina Younes

During the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, everywhere we look we find messages and merchandise

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urging us to share our love with family, friends, significant others and even with our pets. But, on this special day and other days of the year, are we truly showing our appreciation to the Planet? Are we making sure that we don’t litter and that we conserve Mother Earth’s precious natural resources?

How about some simple things that we can do at home, at work, or in our community to protect our earthly home? Here are some suggestions:

  • Are you planning to buy a Valentine’s Day card today? Make sure it was made with recycled materials or even save more resources by sending an electronic card instead!
  • Reduce wastes and recycle the 365 days of the year.
  • We can’t live without water so don’t waste it! Close the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth. Take shorter showers instead of baths. Use WaterSense products to use water more efficiently.
  • Save energy in the home by using a programmable thermostat. Use EnergyStar appliances. These energy-efficient appliances save you energy and money and protect the Planet, too.
  • Combine your daily errands to save gas. Give your car a break and take public transportation.
  • In the spring, how about planting a tree? Planting trees will improve air quality and give you shade in the summer months.
  • Want to avoid problems with pests at home? Don’t give them anything to eat, drink, or shelter. These integrated pest management techniques will go a long way to create a healthier home environment for you and your family.
  • We’ve all heard the expression “cleanliness is next to godliness.” A clean home is essential for good health. So why don’t we use the greenest chemicals that are safer for us AND the Planet? Check out those with the Design for the Environment label. They perform well, they are cost-effective, and safer for the environment, too.
  • Do you want more additional Planet-Friendly tips to show your appreciation of Mother Earth? Visit our website .

Would you like to send us your green tips? We look forward to your comments on this blog or through our social media pages at Facebook and Twitter.  Looking forward to hearing from you.

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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