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Venomous black widow spiders now range farther north than scientists expected, into an area including the most-inhabited parts of Canada. And there's good reason to suggest that warming temperatures are driving the fatal biters north.
That's one conclusion of a new study, published online Wednesday (Aug. 8) in the journal PLOS One. The researchers in this study were trying to identify the geographical ranges of animals using citizen science and other spotty data sources. They focused on two spider species: the northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus) and the black purse-web spider (Sphodros niger). The scientists found that data taken between 1990 and 2016 showed a black widow range extending 58 miles (94 kilometers) farther north than the northernmost observation from the period between 1960 and 1989. They suggested that black widows might already range another 30 miles (50 km) north to the Montreal area, though none have yet been reported in that region. [Creepy, Crawly & Incredible: Photos of Spiders]
The team could not conclusively demonstrate that climate change has pushed the spiders north. But a number of their findings strongly suggest that's the case, the wrote:
Reports from 1990 to 2016 suggest a much more northerly black widow range than reports from 1960 to 1989.
Since 2012, individual black widows have started turning up in regions of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and southern Quebec where they'd never before been reported.
Across all 46 years studied, both spider species were more likely to turn up during warm weather than cold weather.
The period from 1990 to 2016 has also been much warmer than the period from 1960 to 1989, as the Earth has consistently warmed in recent decades.
Black widows are particularly able to move into new areas as the world warms, the researchers wrote in the study, because these spiders are "habitat and prey generalist[s]."
In other words, the dangerous critters can comfortably live in a whole range of sufficiently warm environments and eat whatever prey happens to already be there. Plus, the researchers noted, black widows tend to lay lots of eggs at once. So, once the first black widow arrives in a new spot, many more will likely soon appear.
Black widows might also be more capable of moving north, the researchers wrote, because unlike black purse-web spiders, they're perfectly happy nesting in human dwellings — which can allow them to ride out cold winters.
The researchers noted that even in areas where black widows are present, the odds of getting bitten by one are low. But a black widow bite is sufficiently dangerous, they wrote, that the threat is worth taking seriously.
For that reason, they called for a focused citizen-science project to track the creatures and document their potential northern migration. Black widows make particularly good candidates for data from citizen researchers, the study's authors wrote, because the bulbous, inky females with red spots on their bellies are so readily identifiable and unusual-looking.
To learn more about spiders and how to get rid of them safe, contact EHS Pest.
It was just another day at the office for employees at a New Hampshire town hall on Tuesday until an unusual visitor dropped in from the ceiling to hang out for a spell.
Mary Jo McCullough, the town clerk and tax collector in Newton, New Hampshire, shared a video of the rodent hanging — head first — out of a ceiling tile in the town hall’s drop ceiling.
Shrieks and laughter can be heard as the women in the office urge for a bucket to be placed underneath the dangling mouse.
“It’s coming out!” one woman yells.
The mouse appears to slowly slip through until it is just holding on by its back legs. Then, as if it realized its gone too far, it starts to reach back with its front legs to the hole.
Only to plunge into the waiting waste basket.
“We didn’t know, was it dead? Was it alive? Is it a mouse? Is it a rat? Is it a mole?” McCullough told the New Hampshire Union Leader of when the rodent’s head was first spotted poking out of the tile.
Her deputy, Cheryl Sanders, told the newspaper that at one point she tried banging on the ceiling with a broom to make the mouse fall out, but it didn’t work.
Once the mouse was in the trash can, the bin was taken outside, tipped over, and the mouse scurried out with the encouragement of a broom, according to the Union Leader.
“Never a dull day at Town Hall,” McCullough wrote on Facebook of the incident.
To properly get rid of mouse and rats, contact EHS Pest.
For the first time in 50 years, a new tick species has arrived in the United States — one that in its Asian home range carries fearsome diseases.
The Asian long-horned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, is spreading rapidly along the Eastern Seaboard. It has been found in seven states and in the heavily populated suburbs of New York City.
At the moment, public health experts say they are concerned, but not alarmed.
Although domestic American ticks are a growing menace and transmit a dozen pathogens, no long-horned ticks here have yet been found with any human diseases. In Asia, however, the species carries a virus that kills 15 percent of its victims.
For now, the new arrivals are considered a greater threat to livestock.
Known in Australia as bush ticks and in New Zealand as cattle ticks, long-horned ticks can multiply rapidly and suck so much blood from a young animal that it dies. The ticks bloat up like fat raisins until their tiny legs are barely able to support them.
After a blood meal, females can lay hundreds of fertile eggs without mating.
“One tick can crank out females in fairly large numbers,” said Thomas Yuill, a retired pathobiologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who was one of the first to raise alarms about the invaders.
The first long-horned tick was found last summer in western New Jersey. This summer they were collected in public parks and a golf course in Bergen, Essex and Middlesex counties in New Jersey, and in wooded and grassy areas of New York’s Westchester County.
They were reported in Pennsylvania for the first time last week, and have been sighted in Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
They were found feeding on horses, dogs, deer, a calf, a sheep and an opossum. They do bite humans, but it is not clear how often.
People should use the same precautions they do against domestic ticks, experts said, such as using repellents and checking for ticks after walking through woods or tall grass.
The ear of a sheep in New Jersey covered with long-horned ticks. This infestation was the first confirmed appearance of the new tick species in the U.S.CreditTadhgh Rainey
Tadhgh Rainey, an entomologist at the public health department of Hunterdon County, N.J., found the first long-horned ticks in the country last August, when a woman who had been shearing her pet Icelandic sheep came to his department with ticks on her hands and wrists.
“I thought she’d have a few,” Mr. Rainey said in an interview. “But she was covered in them, easily over 1,000 on her pants alone.”
Most were young nymphs about the size of dust specks. “She had a change of clothes in her car, so we put her clothes in the freezer to kill them,” Mr. Rainey recalled.
The ticks didn’t match any North American pests, and initially he could not identify them. The woman’s 12-year-old sheep was penned alone and had never traveled, so where they came from remained a mystery.
A month later the woman called again to see if he had figured out what they were, and Mr. Rainey drove out to see the animal for himself. “A minute after we entered the paddock, even before I touched the sheep, I was covered in ticks,” he said.
The sheep was weak from blood loss, so he gave the owner some insecticidal livestock wash. The grass around the paddock was later cut and the area sprayed in an effort to eliminate the outbreak.
Andrea Egizi, an entomologist at Rutgers University, finally identified the longhorns by DNA analysis. Her lab has now tested more than 100 specimens found in New York and New Jersey.
Thus far, Dr. Egizi said, none have any of the pathogens causing the six diseases she screens for: Lyme disease, relapsing fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and two varieties of erlichiosis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Fort Collins, Colo., has screened about 100 long-horned ticks for three dangerous viruses — Powassan, Heartland and Bourbon — and all came up negative, said Ben Beard, the agency’s deputy director of vector-borne diseases.
The lab now has 10 live long-horned ticks and is feeding them to create a colony, Dr. Beard said. That will take about a year, and then researchers can determine whether they can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other diseases.
In East Asia, long-horned ticks do carry pathogens related to Lyme and others found in North America. But the biggest threat is a phlebovirus that causes S.F.T.S., for severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome. (Thrombocytopenia means abnormally low levels of platelets, which help the blood clot; a severe drop triggers internal bleeding and organ failure.)
The syndrome has an overall fatality rate of about 15 percent, said Terry A. Klein, an entomologist working with the American military in South Korea. But S.F.T.S. is more lethal to people aged 60 or older, killing half of them.
However, the syndrome is not found in Australia or New Zealand, earlier stops for the long-horned ticks as they spread from Asia. In those countries, they cause babesiosis and theileriosis in cattle but are mostly “of nuisance value” to humans, said Dr. David Thomson, a veterinarian in Queensland, Australia.
It’s not clear that the S.F.T.S. virus, which is related to the Heartland virus found in a number of American states, could get established in this country, because its transmission cycle is unknown — it may need more than one host.
(Although West Nile virus, for example, is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, they first get it from birds, because humans do not build up enough of the virus to pass on.)
It’s not known when or how long-horned ticks reached the United States, nor why the species is spreading so fast now.
They bite birds, but Mr. Rainey said he suspected they originally arrived on a large animal. As far back as 1960, he said, the ticks were found on a horse held in quarantine.
One collected in 2013, Dr. Beard said, was misidentified until recently as a rabbit tick, which is also in the Haemaphysalis genus.
In theory, just one female could have produced all the long-horned ticks spreading in the country through asexual reproduction. But Dr. Egizi said she has found three mitochondrial DNA lineages, meaning at least three females arrived.
Although experts said having a new invader is unsettling, they worry more about deer ticks, lone star ticks and other established species whose ranges are growing as winters get warmer.
Cases of the illnesses they transmit — everything from Lyme disease to alpha-gal syndrome, an allergy to red meat — are rapidly increasing. Even in Asia, only about 1 percent of long-horned ticks have the S.F.T.S. virus; in parts of this country, 25 percent of deer ticks carry Lyme disease.
“The jury’s still out on how big a threat this is,” Dr. Beard said. “But we think it’s a very important question to address.”
To find out how to control ticks, contact EHS Pest.
Using Dry Ice To Keep Down Boston's Rat Population
It’s a steamy summer day and John Stellberger is standing in a parking lot next to a reeking, oversized dumpster. He's staring at a series of fist-sized holes in the ground: rat burrows.
The dumpster is, in theory, closed — but barely; it's easy to see how an intrepid rat would gain access to the bounty inside. And for a rat, it's a bounty indeed.
"So they come out, they climb up, it smells of food," Stellberger says. "There's plenty of fresh stuff in here. They like fresh stuff, they don't like putrified stuff. Look at all the droppings."
Stellberger is founder and president of Environmental Health Services, a pest control company. He's an environmental health specialist — he does not use the word exterminator. He respects the animals he works with.
"They'll actually pull in plastic bags sometimes as a wind block in the winter, believe it or not, they make kind of a shield," says Stellberger. "I admire rats. They're complex, they're intelligent."
But part of Stelleberger's job is, indeed, to kill rats. A few years ago, he stumbled on an innovative way to do that — one that's effective but also, he says, humane and environmentally safe.
Stellberger kneels over a rat burrow and starts pouring white chalk-shaped pellets into the hole from a plastic carton he took out of the back of his truck.
He's using dry ice — the same kind you might find in a a party supply store, or chilling a fancy cocktail.
Dry ice is just carbon dioxide in a solid form. Exposed to air it becomes CO2 gas, which is harmless on its own. But concentrated in a tiny confined space — like a rat burrow — it becomes lethal.
In other words, the rats asphyxiate.
Dry ice has been used for years as a means to humanely euthanize rodents used in laboratory research, and the American Veterinary Association endorses the method as being a more humane way to, if necessary, kill rodents.
Stellberger was an early pioneer in experimenting with using dry ice for wild, urban rats.
His work earned the blessing of self-described urban rodentologist extraordinaire Bobby Corrigan — probably the closest thing there is to a guru in the larger world of urban rodent control techniques.
"[It] basically replaces all the oxygen in the burrow," Corrigan explains. "The rats simply go into a kind of a sleep and they simply don't wake up."
Corrigan advises cities from Boston to Washington, D.C. to New York on rodent control techniques and is famous for his days-long rodent control "academies," in which he will instruct entire rodent and pest control divisions the best practices in smart rodent control techniques.
A couple of years ago, the city of Boston started employing dry ice to fight rats.
William Christopher heads the city's health and sanitation division and early on touted dry ice as a valuable tool in the city's efforts to control rat populations.
"We were actually one of the first to really start trying it and it got really good notoriety," Christopher says. "We promoted it, the concept of it, [and] other cities tarted using it."
Cities like Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. began using dry ice too.
But then, in 2016, Christopher ran into a problem.
"One day we get a letter saying that we cannot use it," Christopher recalls, "because it does not exist on the insecticidal lists per the EPA."
The federal Environmental Protection Agency said that dry ice, despite being non-toxic and safe enough to put in a cocktail, was not an EPA-approved pesticide. So Boston and other cities had to stop using it.
That changed earlier this year, when a major scientific research company, Bell Labs, secured the first EPA-approved dry ice product — they call it "http://ehspest.com/rats.htmRat Ice" — and now it's the only dry ice that's legal for cities like Boston to use on rodents.
Dry ice is, again, just solid carbon dioxide. And Rat Ice is, well, just dry ice with an EPA-approved label.
"Basically it's not different than anything else," Stellberger says. "Just now, this layer of complications has been added ... we need to buy it from a local place that has become a recognized EPA establishment."
Stellberger had been purchasing his dry ice from a local vendor — now, he says the only distributor selling EPA-approved dry ice is in Rockland, Massachusetts — about 20 miles away. And it costs about three times as much, he says.
Boston officials, meanwhile, have held off on using dry ice (or Rat Ice), hoping to negotiate an easier, less-expensive way of obtaining the material.
"It's a bit of a hassle. So I see where the city of Boston is coming from," Stellberger says. "But, you know, I'm just happy we can use it."
He's happy because, remember, he likes rats — if he has to kill them he wants to do it humanely. And he'd rather focus on teaching humans to be more responsible.
That is John Stellberger's larger mission.
As we pack up and Stellberger heads off to another site, he gets emotional as he talks about that mission, one he shares with rat expert Corrigan.
"I'd like to see some of this industry change to become kind of more preventive and more solution-based," Stellberger says, his voice catching a little.
"Our mission isn't to become pesticide sprayers, or just bait box checkers. ... Why do we have to kill things that we don't have to, you know?" he says. "We're better than that."
This is one superlative no one wants their city to win. Pest control company Orkin recently released its Top 50 Bed Bug Cities list, compiled with data of the places where Orkin performed the most treatments for bed bugs from December of 2016 to November of 2017.
The reality is that bed bugs have shown up in cities and towns all across America, from mansions to cramped apartments. They’ve been increasing in number in the United States since the turn of the century due to increased travel and limitations on certain insecticides, but numbers have been especially high in these cities.
There’s not too much you can do to stop them; early detection is critical since there is no foolproof way to keep them out of your home. Here are the warning signs you’re about to have a bed bug problem.
Taking first place on the list for the second year in a row was Baltimore, followed closely by neighboring Washington, D.C. Chicago, Los Angeles, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, and Dallas all made the top ten.
New York, infamous for bed bugs, dropped four spots to eighth place, while Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Dallas all rose in the ranking, as well as Atlanta, where Orkin is based. New Orleans and Flint, Michigan made the list for the first time.
So if you live in or are visiting any of these cities, it’s wise to be a little more vigilant about your susceptibility to bed bugs. According to the CDC, bed bugs often come into contact with people by way of luggage, bags, clothes, bedding, furniture, or anywhere they can easily hide and hitch a ride.
Always inspect hotel rooms or any place you might be staying—here’s a guide to how to do so properly. Now, check out these secrets that bed bugs don’t want you to know.
To learn more about how to prevent bed bug infestation, contact EHS Pest.
A woman from Oregon died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, several days after contracting the rare disease that is spread by rodent droppings.
Health officials have previously issued a warning on hantavirus infections, which requires immediate medical attention to improve the chances of survival. What are the hantavirus signs and symptoms, and how can people protect themselves from it?
Woman Dies From Hantavirus Infection
Lindy Farr, a woman from Deschutes County, Oregon, recently passed away due to the rare and incurable disease named hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The Deschutes County Health Department confirmed that the sickness was Farr's cause of death.
According to a report by The Bend Bulletin, Farr went to Culver, Oregon before Memorial Day, May 28, to prepare their other home for a family visit. She took with her a vacuum cleaner to clean a loft in the barn, but Farr did not wear protective gear.
Sheila Hunt, Farr's neighbor and friend, said that on June 4, she came down with what they thought was just the flu. However, by June 7, Farr was finding it difficult to stay awake, prompting her husband to call 911.
Farr was confined at the intensive care unit at the St. Charles Redmond hospital in Oregon, and was placed on a ventilator by June 9. She was transported by air to the Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland the following day.
On June 13, Farr passed away. She was 67 years old.
"She was in good health," said Hunt. "You would have never in a million years thought she would have been gone in a week."
What Is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, one of the many diseases from rats and rodents, shows signs and symptoms similar to the flu after one week to eight weeks from inhaling dust contaminated by rat and rodent droppings.
Fever will be accompanied by muscle pain, headache, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue, before escalating into breathing problems. It should be noted that a third of people who contract hantavirus pulmonary syndrome die from it.
To prevent infection, people who are entering areas that possibly contain rodent droppings should be very careful, and wear protective gear if necessary. Instead of sweeping rodent droppings and opening up the risk of getting them in the air, the recommendation is to spray the droppings first with a 1:10 bleach and water solution.
Hantavirus is rare, and Farr's case was identified as just the 23rd infection of the disease in Oregon since 1993 and the seventh in Deschutes County.
Other reports of deaths caused by hantavirus infections this year involve a 9-year-old boy from Colorado and a 27-year-old woman from New Mexico. While the fatalities are tragic, hopefully they raise awareness regarding hantavirus pulmonary syndrome so that people may protect themselves from the disease.
To get rid of rats and rodents safely, contact EHS Pest
Health Department workers placing dry ice into rat burrows in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, on June 7, 2018, in New York.PHOTO: AFP
NEW YORK (AFP) - A snout and two little black eyes pop out from the hole, too late: A foot already covers them and the hole will be quickly filled with dry ice.
This new weapon in the hands of New York's sanitation service spells certain death for the rat.
Mr Rick Simeone's team is at work in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side, one of Manhattan's oldest districts.
he day before, they spent more than three hours locating all the entrances to the burrows, 67 in all. That means there could be more than 250 "rattus norvegicus", the scientific name for common brown rats, living there.
Burrow by burrow, the team drops into each hole several small pellets resembling ice cubes but which are actually dry ice, carbon dioxide in solid form.
The surrounding air temperature ensures that the carbon dioxide reverts to gaseous form and asphyxiates the rats, which are usually asleep at this time of the day.
Normally, 90 to 100 per cent of the rodents are exterminated.
"It's a method that's very effective in mostly green spaces, parks," said Mr Simeone, director of pest control for the New York City Health Department.
"You always hear that rats are winning the battle. But this turns it around."
Rats have made their home in New York since the middle of the 18th Century and are responsible for the transmission of numerous diseases.
A 2014 study published by a PhD candidate at Columbia University estimated about 2 million rats in the US financial capital, which has a human population of more than 8.5 million.
The rats are most often seen scurrying in the street or in the subway. A celebrated video posted on YouTube in 2015 showed a rat dragging a slice of pizza on the subway stairs.
They live an average of only six or seven months in the port city, but a female can give birth to as many as 100 baby rats each year.
In 2012, Mr John Stellberger became the first to use dry ice against rats
in the United States, based on an idea from one of his employees.
The head of EHS Pest Control company, Mr Stellberger recalled that he spoke of the idea with sanitation officials in Boston, who conducted a brief trial in 2016.
That pilot was suspended after several months pending an approval by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which came in June 2017.
At the beginning of this year after several months of tests, New York officially adopted the dry ice technique, joining Boston, Chicago and Washington.
Dry ice is only used in open spaces including parks and green areas, Mr Simeone explained, because it would be too complicated to identify rat tunnels in the streets or residential areas where concrete is everywhere.
Aside from its effectiveness, dry ice presents no risk to wildlife in parks and public gardens, unlike rodenticide which had previously been the only weapon deployed against rats.
The newer method, which costs about the same as poison, corresponds to the times, Mr Stellberger said. Many of his customers ask him to get rid of rats without cruelty.
Mr Simeone said the rodents "sort of go to sleep" as they asphyxiate.
But dry ice alone will not resolve New York's rat problem, warned Mr Simeone, as well as Mr Robert Corrigan, the president of RMC Pest Management Consulting who is sometimes called the "Rat Czar" for his expertise in ridding the world of rodents.
In July last year, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio presented a major US$32 million (S$43 million) plan targeting rats and focused on the three most infected districts of the city.
The plan did not put dry ice in the forefront but rather the rats' access to food, which is the heart of the problem. Each pest needs about 80g of food a day to survive.
Intelligent garbage cans, closed containers, greater frequency of garbage collection, and collaboration among different city services - the programme aims to put an end to the permanent pantry which New York streets have become for rats.
Mr Corrigan, who worked with the Department of Health for 12 years, is pleased that authorities have finally chosen to tackle the question from a scientific rather than an empirical way.
"When I see a lot of rats on a block, instead of asking where should I put my poison, I ask, 'Who's feeding these rats?'" he said to illustrate this change in philosophy.
As Mr Simeone put it, "eliminate the garbage" and you no longer need poison.
To learn more about this dry ice against rats technique, contact EHS Pest.
While assessing a Norway Rat and House Mouse infestation
at a beautiful old home, I observed this rather ugly
application of insulating foam. After some research I learned
it was applied to exclude mice and rats!
The fact is this foam was developed as structural insulation
product, not for pest proofing. Rodents will easily breach this product and use it to insulate their nests!
Please use permanent products for permanent solutions.
Applying Bell Labs Rat Ice for a Norway Rat infestation in 7 flower boxes. The carbon dioxide seemed to place several of them into a slumber like state after several minutes. It’s a humane and green method of protecting public health.
Today we will bring the EHS Dump truck and empty the boxes and return the flower boxes to the grounds
Peekaboo! A client tried a wad of steel wool into a very large opening. Good intention, but not effective. Mouse-proofing isn’t always easy, we will finish with a permanent mat of T304 stainless steel and make it removable for future investigations. If you can’t remove the food first, exclusion of structural flaws is the solution to protect and prevent.
EHS proudly services all of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including but not limited to Newton, Brookline, Cambridge, Wellesley, Boston,
Milton, Sharon, Needham, Dedham, Watertown, Waltham, Wayland, Westwood, Canton, Stoughton, Walpole, Medfield, Mansfield, Carlisle,
Weston, Sherbourne, Scituate, Cohasset, Easton, Somerville, Arlington, Dover, Franklin, Wrentham, Hopkinton, Framingham, Marlboro,
Foxboro, and Norwood, MA plus Cumberland, Warwick, Cranston, Providence, East Providence, Scituate and Lincoln, RI.
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