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Friday December 19, 2014
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Pests in California

Wintertime Pests in Southern California.

In Southern California, one of the ways you can tell its wintertime is when you see Californians remove their sunglasses! Otherwise, we natives (and those from afar) enjoy sunshine all year round, (wildlife and insects included).

Winter in sunny Southern California is so mild that insects and wildlife enjoy not only the weather but the abundance of resources California has to offer, including our pantries. Plus, when the weather does turn cold and rainy (at least for California standards), insects and rodents are not shy about making your home their home during our short winter months.

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Thursday December 4, 2014
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Winter has arrived in sunny California, just in time for the House mouse to find a warm and cozy place to build a nest. …

There’s a Mouse in the House!

Mice and humans have lived together for eons in a “commensal” relationship, meaning they live on the same premises and eat at the same table (sometimes, literally!).

People are often afraid of mice and given their propensity to carry disease, they probably should be but others have a love of mice and keep them as pets.

For decades, mice in literature have captured the imagination of both children and adults. Mice figures in anthropomorphic drawings depict them with human characteristics in stories about these tiny-tailed creatures.

One of the reasons mice are used in literature may be because we find story tales that represent these timorous critters who act so brave and bold (despite their small size) and we think, “If a little mouse can do it, so can I!”

Three mice and cheese

Three mice discussing how to get a very large
hunk of cheese back to their “living quarters.”

The History of Mice

The word “mouse” has been traced to the Sanskrit verb “musha” which means “to steal.”

The House mouse lived in Israel 12,000 years ago and was found in the first agricultural settlements in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

This adaptable creature followed the earliest migrations of people around the world as a stowaway in grain supplies.

Today, the mouse still prefers grains but will eat just about anything. And eat it does, 15 to 20 times per day!

Mice eating agricultural crops.

Mice were present in the first agricultural settlements of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

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Friday November 21, 2014
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Your Majesty the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Bird poop larva of swallowtail

The mature caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail is so disguised as to deter predators into thinking its just a piece of bird poop.

Once Upon a Time . . .

This is a story about an ugly caterpillar that turns into a beautiful majestic butterfly; but before this sad-looking caterpillar grows up, it goes through an unsightly, humiliating stage that resembles bird poop!

Larva from the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly is a greenish-brown with white blotches that look like bird poop; therefore, it is often referred to as the Bird Poop Worm or Bird Poop Caterpillar.

In the Beginning

The bird poop caterpillar started out as an orangey-yellow egg carefully placed atop a leaf by its lovely mother, a big beautiful black and yellow butterfly.

Mother butterfly chose the perfect leaf amongst the branches of a lemon tree.

Gradually, the pretty orange egg darkened in color then opened and out squeezed the caterpillar.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Egg

The egg of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly is orange in color.

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Wednesday October 29, 2014
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Butterfly or Moth?

These little butterfly-looking moths are the merriest of creatures. Skippers are considered butterfies but have traits of both moth and butterfly. Like moths, skipper bodies are a bit on the bulky side when compared to the slender butterfly. Who would have thought insects could have body types? The skipper is very alert and despite his or her plus-size frame, appears to skip through the air from flower to flower at a rapid pace!

Fiery Skipper close up

The Fiery Skipper has short antennae with clubs and a little hook on the end.

Dancing Skippers

Male and female Fiery skippers doing their courtship dance.

♪♫ Come Skip Through the Tulips with Me ♪♫♪

Skippers are in the family Hesperiidae, with over 3000 skipper species throughout the New and Old World but its the Fiery skipper that is most often spotted skipping through the air of California landscapes. Read more

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Wednesday October 22, 2014
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The Red Bugs are Coming! The Red Bugs are Coming!

There´s a New Bug in Town -

What is this “Red Bug” that´s been in the news lately?
Is it harmful to the landscape?
Does it bite?

Southern California has a new bug in town . . .

This one looks similar to the Red-shouldered and
Box Elder bug, except it is very, very, tiny in comparison.

Close up of Red Bug

Red Bug found in Ramona, CA
by Hearts Pest Management Supervisor, John Newkirk.

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Thursday October 2, 2014
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White Velvet Ants and the Creosote Bush

Did I just see a piece of fuzz run across the desert? What´s white with 2 puffs of fuzz, 6 legs, 2 antennae, and squeaks when disturbed? Did I mention the powerful and painful sting?

White Velvet Ant

Thistledown Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla gloriosa) Female

White Velvet Ants

This female White Velvet Ant isn´t an ant at all…..she´s a wasp! Velvet ants look like big hairy ants but they´re actually solitary living wasps.

The female has no wings and so, sad to say, she cannot fly but she sure can move fast.

Thistledown Velvet Ants blend in with the creosote bush because of their white hair which mimics the fuzzy “fruits” of the creosote.

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Friday August 15, 2014
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Stinking Stinkbugs

The Invasive Brown Marmorated Stinkbug

Here in America, we have our own native stinkbugs: of which, as kids I’m sure there isn’t a one of us that hasn’t harassed a stink bug long enough into rearing its hindquarters – just for the fun of watching it do so.

But, there´s a new bug in town – the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug (Halyomorpha halys) .

The brown marmorated stinkbug is believed to have arrived in the country by accident via cargo ships from Asia.

brown marmorated stinkbug

The brown marmorated stinkbug has ruined many an apple.

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Monday July 14, 2014
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Invasive Asian Lady Beetles

Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away . . .”
Invasive or Invited? The Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle looks like our North American ladybug but it’s really an invasive species.

The Asian Lady beetle, however, could make an argument that rather than have invaded the country, it was invited – by our government.

It seems we didn´t have enough ladybugs so the Asian Lady Beetle was introduced into the states during the 1970´s to perform chemical-free pest control, for both our agricultural crops and our national forests.

Asian Lady Beetle

Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)

Today, there are very few native ladybugs; so much so, that there´s an actual website dedicated to “lost” ladybugs! The “Lost Ladybug Project” petitions help from the public to photograph native ladybugs found throughout the country, such as the Nine-Spotted ladybug (very rare) or the Parenthesis ladybug, as well as the European Seven-Spotted ladybird.

Native ladybugs are all gentle species that have been displaced by the Asian Lady Beetle. The most common native ladybug in North America is the Convergent ladybug but it too has dropped in numbers because of the invasive Asian beetle.

Nine-spotted ladybug

The native Nine-Spotted ladybug is a threatened and endangered species. It has four spots on each wing and one spot that is split in the middle.

Parenthesis Ladybug

North American Native – Parenthesis ladybug
(Hippodamia parenthesis)

Easy Asian Lady Beetle Identification

If a ladybug lands on you and then flies away on her own (without blowing on her), it´s supposed to be good luck. But before you start singing the “Ladybug Song” to make her fly . . . check out her pronotum, the area behind her head.

An Asian Lady Beetle has two large oval white markings. Besides the oval white spots on the Asian Lady Beetle´s pronotum, there´s usually a white area in the middle, giving the black area of the pronotum the appearance of an `M.´

Asian Lady Beetle Identification

Asian Lady Beetles have a distinguishing “M” on their pronotums and up to 22 spots.

Count the spots – she either has none or up to twenty-two and her coloring is pale orange to dark red. Young beetles tend to be black with irregular red spots. The Asian Lady Beetle is also a bit larger than most native ladybugs.

Young Asian Ladybug

Young Asian Lady Beetle

Map of Asian Lady Beetle Origins

Map of Asian Lady Beetle Origins

Helpful and Harmful Lady Beetles

For farmers, the Asian Lady Beetle has been a big help and quite useful in controlling insect populations for our agricultural crops, reducing the need for pesticides. All ladybugs feed on aphids, scale insects, and mites. However, because of the Asian Lady Beetle, several North American ladybug species have declined in numbers.

Not only are native and invasive ladybug species competing for the same food source, the Asian Lady Beetle is hardier, and stronger. It also has an arsenal of a parasitic fungus that kills other ladybug species, especially when native ladybugs find and feed off Asian Lady Beetle eggs and larvae. Evidently, all ladybugs will eat each other´s young if and when they come in contact.

Asian Lady Beetle larva

Asian Lady Beetle larva rearing up her head.

Asian Lady Beetle on leaf

Notice the “M” on her pronotum.

Ladybugs as Pests, Really?

Twenty years ago, across North America, one could find thousands of ladybugs. Now it´s a rare treat to spot (pardon the pun) native ladybugs. Although native ladybugs are gentle and beneficial to one’s garden, the Asian Lady Beetle can actually become a pest.

Asian Lady Beetles are also known as “Harlequin Ladybirds” due to variations in their coloring. Today, these beetles have become a statewide pest.  One may ask, “What could be so pesky about a ladybug? Well, read on . . .

In October, Asian Lady Beetles invade homes in preparation for overwintering. They congregate in attics, ceilings, and walls while seeking protection and warmth for  the winter.

English Ladybird

Ladybugs or Ladybirds as in this English Ladybird are called the Seven-Spotted Ladybird with three spots on each wing and one in the middle.

Convergent Ladybug

Most common native ladybug in North America -Convergent Ladybug (Hippodamia convergens)

Believe it or not, homeowners have reported sinus problems due to infestations of Asian Lady Beetles. The beetle´s defensive tactic, when disturbed, is to emit a yellow, foul-smelling chemical – which can stain walls and other surfaces. Asian Lady Beetles may look cute but they can and will bite!

The Future of Ladybugs

When one species becomes dominate, and environmental conditions change, that species runs the risk of becoming threatened or even extinct.  This can cause problems in the ecosystem.

In regards to ladybugs, if we lost all ladybugs, including the invasive ones, it would be detrimental to the health of our agricultural crops and increase the need for pesticides.

On the home front, ladybugs can often be seen wherever there is an abundance of water, especially near ponds. Ladybugs are beneficial beetles that are important in controlling garden pests such as aphids and scale insects.

Asian Lady Beetle on White Sage

The Asian Lady Beetle is also called the Harlequin Ladybird.  It comes in a variety of colors from pale orange to deep red.

Asian Lady Beetle on Impatiens

Asian Ladybird Beetle on Impatiens

The Lost Ladybug Project is working closely with the public to determine just where all the native ladybugs have gone to, and – try to figure out how and what we can do to protect them.

The next time I´m out hiking with my camera, I will be “hunting” for Nine-Spotted, Convergent, and Parenthesis Ladybug-Ladybirds!

In the meantime, a special thanks to all ladybugs for keeping our food free from pests and our flowering plants beautiful.

small asian ladybug

Article by Donna M. Walker

References

Mallis, A. 2011. Handbook of Pest Control, Tenth Edition, Saunders College Publishing. Lost Ladybug.org (2014). The Lost Ladybug Project. Wikipedia. (2014). The Free Encyclopedia: Harmonia axyridis. National Geographic.com (2013). News Watch – Invasive Lady Beetle Kills Off Competition Using Parasites. Natural History Museum.org (2014). Los Angeles. Lost Ladybug Project – Identifying Ladybugs. Penn State University Entomology (2013). Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle Factsheets.

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Friday June 27, 2014
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My name is Marco A. Ramos and I am a part time landscape technician who just recently started working for Hearts Pest Management. So far, my experience has been great. This job has lots of similarities with my recent landscaping job but it also has many differences, many of which I am still learning about.

Marco Ramos

Marco Ramos – Hearts Pest Management Landscape Technician / Specialist

My training so far has been great and thanks to John Chi and Duke Phan, I have been able to learn, laugh, and enjoy helping customers with their pest problems. These two individuals along with my employer, Gerry Weitz, have helped me on my journey to success in the pest management business.

Garden Butterfly on flower

Hearts Pest Management Service Professionals are EcoWise Certifiedproviding IPM (Integrated Pest Management) solutions for pest control in gardens and landscapes.

Riding in the car with these technicians and getting hands on experience has been very interesting and at the same time very motivating. Knowing that all of my simple questions could be answered if I only ask made me feel very comfortable in the environment I was working in.

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Tuesday April 15, 2014
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Signs of Spring

Sweat Bee on Native San Diego Sunflower

Sweat Bee on Native San Diego Sunflower

♪♫ Spring is in the air ♫ ♪

In Southern California, one can always tell spring is on the way right about mid-March. The honey bees are buzzing between new blossoms, native California chaparral flowers are in bloom, Black Phoebes and other birds are courting each other, new nests are under construction or last years are being remodeled. Oh, and the ants begin to appear, marching one by one . . .

Birds in Spring Black Phoebe

(Sayornis nigricans) Every year for the last four years, I know spring has definitely arrived when I hear little tiny chirps above my studio window.

Before I moved in, a pair of Black Phoebes had already established themselves under the eaves. How many years has this same nest been rearing new generations of phoebes? I have no idea but I am happy they let me share my humble abode with them.Black Phoebes are the sweetest of birds.All dressed up in their tuxedos, both parents take turns sitting on the eggs until the nestlings hatch. Father and mother phoebe may leave the nest to catch flies, gnats, and other flying insects but they are always nearby to watch over and guard their nestlings.When relocating, the male Black Phoebe searches out nest sites to show to his female phoebe.He hovers over an area for a few seconds to see if the new neighborhood suits her. If not, he keeps flying to new locations until he has found one she likes.
Black Phoebe

Black Phoebes are flycatchers natural pest control agents!

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