Pest management needed as summer heat brings out bugs
Summer is synonymous with hot weather, snow cones, swimming — and bugs.
Yep, those creepy, crawly insects enjoy the outdoors this time of year as much as we do.
Just ask those who work at Prairie Park Nature Center in east Lawrence. They have a love-hate relationship with bugs.
“Most of the time we talk about how wonderful the bugs are,” Rachel Kilian, a camp counselor, said. “But, at the same time, we spray the kids down with bug spray every day.”
She said chiggers have been particularly bad.
“All of us are covered,” she said. “It’s been intense.”
Other common pests this time of year are mosquitoes, ticks and spiders, said Holly Davis, an insect diagnostician with Kansas State University.
“This is pretty much what I’ve been seeing that’s causing misery for humans,” Davis said.
Here are some tips about these summer pests from Davis and other health sources:
These microscopic creatures thrive in hot, humid conditions. They lurk in grasses — any time of day — just waiting to feed on skin. They don’t fly or drop out of trees; they are climbers.
Chiggers will feed for about one day and then drop off. They are not dangerous and do not transmit diseases. But they can leave a nasty bite and it’s usually in dark, sweaty areas where it’s inappropriate to scratch publicly.
• Prevention: Use a DEET-based repellent, avoid lying in grassy areas, keep the lawn mowed, and use a lawn spray if needed. Once inside, wash with hot, soapy water.
• Treatment: Symptoms typically begin in one to three hours, but are usually most intense within one to two days. If bitten, use creams with antihistamines and Calamine lotion.
They often feed at dawn and dusk and thrive in standing water. They can spread diseases, with West Nile virus being the most common in Kansas; however, less than 1 percent of the population carries it.
They will leave a bite anywhere on the body, often where the skin is exposed.
• Prevention: Use a DEET-based repellent, avoid being outside in the early morning or late evenings. Eliminate standing water. Buckets, bird baths, or even toys can serve as breeding areas.
• Treatment: Mosquito-bite symptoms typically occur hours or days later. Redness and itching on and around bites is common. If bitten, use creams with antihistamines and Calamine lotion.
These blood suckers lurk in tall grasses and bushy areas. In Kansas, they are prone to carry four diseases: Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichiosis and Tularemia.
The most common in Kansas is the brown dog tick, which is known to transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Symptoms occur within two weeks of the bite and include a high fever lasting for about two to three weeks, severe headaches, vomiting, fatigue, muscle pain and chills.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department has investigated six cases of tick-related illnesses in May and June, including one for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
• Prevention: Use a DEET-based repellent and wear long pants tucked into socks and long-sleeve shirt if in a wooded area. Once inside, do a tick check.
• Treatment: Use tweezers to grasp the tick near its head or mouth and pull gently to remove the whole tick without crushing it. Put tick in a vial of alcohol in case you develop a reaction to the bite. Once the tick has been removed, wash the skin, surrounding areas and your hands with soap and water.
Watch for symptoms of diseases in the weeks following a tick bite. Symptoms include muscle or joint aches, stiff neck, headache, weakness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and other flu-like symptoms. Watch for a red spot or rash starting at the location of the bite.
There are two spiders in Kansas that are considered poisonous to humans: black widow and brown recluse. It is rare to run into a black widow, but the brown recluse is fairly common in homes.
They live in homes throughout the year but are more active in the summer. They tend to hide in clothing and shoes and will defend themselves by biting. If bitten by a spider, there will be two puncture wounds from the fangs versus one from a chigger or mosquito.
• Prevention: Set out sticky traps in places where the spiders might be traveling, like along the walls behind the bed or couch.
• Treatment: Wash the bite with soap and water, apply a cool compress. If necessary, take over-the-counter medication to control pain or itching. Monitor the bite for redness, swelling, pain or signs of infections.