Massachusetts is home to approximately 100 species of ants. Most ants common to Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts are harmless, while one in particular can cause damage to your home and other structures. The three most common types of ants in and around your home include Carpenter Ants, Odorous House Ants and Pavement Ants.
Carpenter Ants are typically black in color, some exhibit black and red variations. Carpenter Ants are one of the largest species in the county, with adults growing to ½” long. Carpenter Ants reside outdoors or in your home, preferring moist wood to establish their colonies. Rotting stumps or logs and damp wood inside a wood framed structure provide the perfect nesting site for Carpenter Ants. Carpenter Ants are likely to be found in areas with excessive moisture and potential food sources (insects, sweets and fats). It is not uncommon to find evidence of Carpenter Ants in your bathroom or kitchen. Carpenter Ant activity can also be identified by the presence of saw dust debris as they do not eat wood, but tunnel through it to build their galleries. Carpenter Ants can develop multiple sites in and around your property including parent colonies (with queen and workers) and satellite colonies. Reproductive swarmers (flying ants) may be seen from spring to early summer.
ODOROUS HOUSE ANTS
Odorous House Ants are black or dark brown in color and get their name from their unpleasant odor when crushed (smell of rotten coconut). Smaller than a Carpenter ant, adult Odorous House Ants are typically 1/8” in size but can grow a bit larger. Odorous House Ants are a nuisance pest, are not known to damage wood and will forage day and night. Odorous House Ants create nests near a viable food and water supply, are attracted to sweets if available but will consume other foods including insects, honeydew, fats and decomposing animals. Odorous House Ants have a high rate of reproduction, regularly moving their nests or splitting off into new colonies. Reproductive swarmers (flying ants) may be seen from spring to early summer.
Pavement Ants are black or dark brown in color and get their name from where they are commonly found: cracks in driveways and sidewalks. Pavement ants are fairly small with adults growing to approximately 1/8” in length. Because of their small size, Pavement Ants can easily gain access to your home through cracks or expansion joints in concrete foundations or slabs. Like most ants native to Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts, pavement ants feed on sweets, fats, grease and insects. Pavement ants are a nuisance pest, not known to cause structural damage that nest under patios, sidewalks, driveways and in walls and under floors inside your home. Reproductive swarmers (flying ants) may be seen from spring to summer. Colonies living in heated environments may produce swarmers year round.
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Ticks are tiny, hitchhiking pests transported into your yard or public space by various animals; they do not fly or jump. Ticks can bite and spread disease; they feed on the blood of mammals, birds and reptiles and look to attach themselves to a host by direct contact. Areas with greatest tick population in and around your property include shaded, brushy, wooded or grassy areas.
The three most common types
of ticks on Cape Cod and in
Southeastern Massachusetts include:
LONE STAR TICK
TICK BORNE ILLNESS
The effects of Lyme Disease can be debilitating; you’ve either had it or know someone that has. Early signs of Lyme Disease include rash (Erythema Migrans), fever, chills, fatigue and muscle and joint pain. Prolonged signs include severe headaches, severe joint pain, facial palsy, irregular heart beat (Lyme Carditis), inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain and short term memory loss. Barnstable, Bristol and Plymouth counties have some of the highest rates of Lyme Disease in Massachusetts, the CDC estimates that only 10 percent of cases of Lyme Disease are actually reported.
In addition to Lyme, the CDC confirmed cases of Powassan in Massachusetts, a potentially deadly virus that can infect the nervous system causing encephalitis and meningitis. In 2016, Massachusetts had the fourth highest rate of Powassan in the country. Approximately half of survivors experience permanent neurological symptoms. Other tick borne diseases on Cape Cod and in Southeastern Massachusetts include Babesiosis, Tulameria, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
The culprit behind most tick borne illness on Cape Cod and in Southeastern Massachusetts including Lyme Disease, Powassan, Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis is the blacklegged tick, commonly known as the deer tick.
In January 2015, The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services confirmed cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a potentially deadly disease, and Tularemia; both spread by the bite of an infected dog tick. While incidents are rare, the highest rates of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever were reported from Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.
As recently reported in the Cape Cod Times, the Lone Star Tick has made its way north establishing a foothold at Sandy Neck Beach Park in Barnstable and Cuttyhunk Island. The Lone Star Tick is extremely aggressive, moves much faster than Deer and Dog Ticks, will swarm and bite any animal and has longer mouthparts than Deer or Dog Tick. While the Lone Star Tick is less likely to carry pathogens than Deer Tick, the Lone Star Tick is known to carry many diseases including STARI (Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness), Tulameria and Ehrlichiosis. Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis can include rash, fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, diarrhea and vomiting. Ehrlichiosis can be fatal if severe symptoms go untreated
BEES / WASPS / HORNETS / STINGING INSECTS ON CAPE COD AND IN SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS
It is estimated over 200 species of bees, wasps and hornets reside in Massachusetts. Yellow Jackets, Paper Wasps and Bald Face Hornets are three of the most common. Large populations of Honey Bees, Bumble Bees and Carpenter Bees also exist throughout Cape Cod, Southeastern Massachusetts and New England.
Contrary to popular belief the Yellow Jacket is actually a wasp, not a bee. Yellow Jackets have smooth outer bodies approximately ½” long, are black and yellow in color and lack the amount of consistent hair normally found on Honey Bees or Bumble Bees. Yellow Jackets enter your LifeSpace by smelling food or other plant and flower lures. Grilled food and caramelized sugars often attract these pests to your backyard cook out, trash barrels and other containers collecting decomposing matter or syrup like substances will also attract Yellow Jackets. Yellow Jackets typically do not cause damage to homes and will nest underground, in trees or on the underside of eaves or building structures. Yellow Jackets are typically not aggressive unless disturbed when foraging, while protecting their nest or colony or in fall when brood sizes reach their peak. Yellow Jackets have small barbed stingers allowing them to sting multiple times, stings can be painful and may induce severe allergic reactions.
Paper Wasps closely resemble Yellow Jackets and get their name from the paper-like substance used to build their nests. Nests are attached to the underside of undisturbed horizontal surfaces in and around your home and resemble upside-down honey comb like structures. Queens begin constructing nests starting in early spring; most nests are not enclosed with visible cells. Paper Wasps are typically black and yellow in color, averaging 3/4” in length. Unlike bees, Paper Wasps have smooth, slender bodies with legs that typically dangle beneath the body when flying. Paper Wasps are typically not aggressive unless disturbed of when their colony is threatened. Stings can be painful and may induce severe allergic reactions.
BALD FACED HORNETS
Bald Faced Hornets are black and white in color and approximately 5/8” long. Bald Faced Hornets build paper nests at least 3-4’ off the ground, colonies can grow to hundreds of workers. Nests can reach the size of a basketball, often seen in trees or structural overhangs. Bald Faced Hornets are aggressive and will attack and sting when disturbed or threatened. Bald Faced Hornets have small stingers capable of stinging quickly and repeatedly. Stings can be painful and may induce severe allergic reactions.
MOSQUITOES ON CAPE COD AND IN SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS
Massachusetts is home to approximately 50 different species of mosquitoes, the existence of a particular type is dependent on available habitat or wetland. Mosquitoes require water to breed but not much, something as small as a child’s sand bucket can provide a home for thousands of mosquito larvae. Most mosquitoes lay their eggs directly in water, larvae and pupae cannot survive without it. Breeding areas can be natural like ponds and marshes or man-made like gutters and flower pots that collect water around your property. Many mosquitoes common to Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts survive through the winter as dormant eggs in moist areas surrounding temporary pools. Those mosquitoes hatch when temperatures rise and areas experience increased tides, rains, irrigation or rising rivers.
Male mosquitoes feed exclusively on plant nectar while females feed on blood and nectar. Only females bite and need blood in order to lay their eggs. Most mosquitoes are active at night or at dusk and dawn, typically resting during the day in sheltered places such as under the leaves of bushes, trees and shrubs.
MOSQUITO BORNE ILLNESS
In addition to being a back yard nuisance, mosquitoes are the deadliest animal on the planet; responsible for over one million deaths annually. Two of the most prevalent mosquito borne illnesses in Massachusetts are Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a rare, but serious disease transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms can include stiff neck, headache, fever and weakness. The most serious complication is swelling of the brain (encephalitis). According to the Massachusetts Department Public Health EEE factsheet, the most recent EEE outbreak from 2004-2006 resulted in 6 fatalities.
West Nile Virus (WNV) is a rare disease transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito; most infected people will have no symptoms. Symptoms may include fever, headache, body aches, nausea and a skin rash on chest, stomach or back. A very small percentage develop severe illness such as Encephalitis or Meningitis, persons over the age of 50 are at higher risk.
Other travel based mosquito borne illnesses to be aware of include Malaria, Zika, Dengue, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main type of mosquito that carries these diseases. Originating in Africa, the Aedes aegypti is now found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. The CDC reports many areas in the United States with types of mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue.
MICE AND RATS ON CAPE COD AND SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS
New England is home to approximately 10 different types of Mice, the two most likely to infest homes on Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts are the House Mouse and Deer Mouse. Voles or Meadow Mice are prolific breeders but prefer to remain in outdoor habitats.
Rats are hardy, opportunistic rodents found everywhere in the world except Antarctica. The most common rat species invading Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts is the Norway Rat.
In addition to being nuisance pests, mice and rats are carriers of many diseases including Hantavirus, Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCM), Plague, Tularemia, Hemorrhagic Fever, Leptospirosis, Rat Bite Fever and Salmonellosis.
The House Mouse typically lives outside during warmer months and begins to seek shelter in the fall and winter when temperatures begin to drop. With their ability to slip through the smallest of cracks and holes (approximately ¼”), the House Mouse is recognized for its proficiency infesting homes. Scientists have called the House Mouse the “second most successful mammal on earth” due to its incredible adaptability.
The House Mouse ranges from light brown to black in color, adults grow to 2 ½ - 3 ¾” long. The House Mouse gestation period is 18-21 days and reaches sexual maturity at 6 – 10 weeks. Females average 6 – 10 litters in their lifetime with an average litter of 5-6 pups. Average lifespan of the House Mouse in ideal conditions is up to 2 years. In the proper environment and gone untreated, a House Mouse population can explode.
Deer Mice get their name from the similarity of coloration to the white-tailed deer, with brown back fur and a white underbelly. The Deer Mouse is slightly larger than the House Mouse, averaging 3 – 4” in length. Deer Mice also possess the ability to fit through the smallest of cracks and holes when seeking shelter in your home.
Deer Mice breed throughout the year, with highest numbers in warmer months. Gestation period for the Deer Mouse is approximately 24 days, sexual maturity reached in 7 – 8 weeks. In the right conditions, average lifespan for a Deer Mouse is up to 2 years. Like the Hose Mouse, Deer Mouse populations can grow quickly if left untreated.
The Deer Mouse is the primary species involved in the transmission of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) to humans.
Norway Rats are primarily ground dwelling creatures, constructing their homes in underground burrows. Norway Rats will nest indoors if conditions permit. Norway Rats are both feral and commensal, living independent of people or in well-established human environments. However, Norway Rats typically live among humans where food, water and shelter are plentiful.
The Norway Rat is much larger than a House Mouse or Deer Mouse, averaging 7-8” in body length with a 6-8” tail. Norway Rats are typically grayish-brown in color but can vary from pure gray to reddish-brown. The gestation period is approximately 3 weeks; sexual maturity is reached at 3 months. Females produce an average of 4-7 litters per year with 8-12 pups per litter, average life expectancy of a Norway Rat is 1 year in the wild. Home range is approximately 25 – 100 feet from the nest. If you’re seeing signs of Norway Rats near your home, their nest is most likely nearby.
FLEAS AND HOUSEHOLD PESTS ON CAPE COD AND IN SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS
Fleas are small (1/16” – 1/8”), reddish-brown parasitic insects primarily feeding on the blood of mammals, the Cat Flea is the most common species in the North America. The adult flea detects a host animal by sensing body heat, movement and carbon dioxide. Fleas are wingless and do not fly, they move by jumping and attaching themselves to host animals including cats, dogs, and common wildlife surrounding your home. As an additional means of transportation, fleas can attach themselves to socks and pant legs of humans.
Once a host is established, female fleas will lay eggs directly on the animal, eventually falling off and potentially landing on carpets, blankets, furniture or pet bedding. The life cycle of a flea (egg, larva, pupa, adult) ranges from several weeks to a few months depending on environmental conditions. Adult female fleas begin laying eggs within 48 hours of their first blood meal and continue for their entire life. Female fleas can lay up to 1000 eggs in their lifetime.
Flea borne illness includes bubonic plague, murine typhus through infected rats, bartonellosis (cat scratch disease), dermatitis and the transfer of tapeworm.
Most occasional invaders found in and around your home are nuisance pests and enter structures due to weather conditions. Pests such as Wood Roaches, Sow/Pill Bugs, Centipedes, Millipedes, Ground Beetles, Silverfish, Crickets and Earwigs are common pests found on Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts.
COCKROACHES ON CAPE COD AND SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS
The three most prevalent cockroaches in New England are the German cockroach, American cockroach and Pennsylvania Wood cockroach.
German cockroaches are common indoor insects found worldwide. German cockroaches are approximately 1/2 - 5/8” long, tan to light brown in color with two black horizontal stripes directly behind the head. German cockroach bodies are flat enabling them to hide and travel in small spaces, often hitchhiking in bags, boxes and packaging material. German cockroach pathogens contaminate food and utensils causing food poisoning, dysentery, rashes and asthmatic reactions in children. In commercial settings, German cockroaches are most often found in “tropical” conditions with high humidity and temperatures. Starches, sugary products, grease and meat are often their meal of choice.
American cockroaches normally live outdoors, in warmer climates they are often referred to as “palmetto bugs” because they can live in trees. American cockroaches are much larger than German cockroaches, growing to 3 inches in length with an average size of approximately 2 inches. This cockroach is reddish-brown in color with a yellow band directly behind the head. American cockroaches like warm, damp/wet areas; often found in sewer systems and drain lines.
PENNSYLVANIA WOOD COCKROACHES
Pennsylvania Wood cockroaches are typically found living outdoors. Males grow up to 1 inch in length, females slightly smaller. Males have fully developed wings, can fly short distances and are attracted to light. Pennsylvania Wood cockroaches vary from light brown to dark brown in color; to the untrained eye they may be mistaken as German cockroaches. Pennsylvania Wood cockroaches feed on decaying organic matter, sweets and starchy materials and are commonly found in woodpiles, stumps and leaf litter. In most cases Pennsylvania Wood cockroaches enter properties unintentionally, as males follow wandering females during mating season (May-June) or accidentally brought in from outdoors.
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TERMITES ON CAPE COD AND SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS
In New England we contend with the Eastern Subterranean Termite, other species of termites are typically not found in the northeast. Eastern Subterranean Termites are social insects living in large organized colonies. Colonies consist of Workers, Soldiers and Reproductives. Workers are responsible for consuming cellulose (wood, paper, etc.) to feed the colony. Soldiers, as their name implies, are responsible for protecting the colony. Reproductives, comprised of alates (or swarmers) leave the colony to establish new colonies (typically in spring as weather warms) and primary Queens and males which stay in a colony for life.
Eastern Subterranean Termite colonies live in the ground for shelter from light and cold. They infest damp wood as a food source and prefer damp soil as they need moisture to survive. Worker termites constantly forage for food, communicating success to other workers through complex secretions called pheromones. Termites build shelter tubes or mud tubes to protect workers as they deliver cellulose from a food source to the colony.
Typically a termite infestation is first noticed as winged termite swarmers leave the colony to establish new residences. Swarms of small flying insects are seen in spring as the weather warms, a natural indicator of a nearby termite infestation. Additional signs of a termite infestation include shed termite wings or the presence of mud tubes typically found on the foundation of homes or buildings. Conveniently, the color of mud tubes is almost identical to the color of cement foundations making them extremely hard to detect to the untrained eye.
Eastern Subterranean Termites are one of the most destructive insects in America causing billions of dollars in damage annually. One colony of Eastern Subterranean Termites may contain anywhere from tens of thousands to one million individuals.
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BED BUGS ON CAPE COD AND SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTS
Bed bugs have exploded in recent years due in part to increased international travel and lack of proper treatments and preparation for such treatments. Bed bug are found throughout the world, most commonly in densely populated areas and human habitats. Bed bugs are parasitic insects feeding on the blood of humans and other animals and are primarily nocturnal. The presence of bed bugs can be detected in many ways such as blood spots on sheets and mattresses, bites on the body of humans (often clustered), feces and cast skins.
An adult bed bug is reddish-brown in color with a flat oval shaped body growing to almost 1/4 inch in size. Bed bugs expand in size as they consume blood, turning a reddish color with visible signs of blood within their bodies. Bed bugs do not fly but can move rapidly within wall voids and across floors, ceilings furniture and bedding. Their small flat bodies and ability to live for one year on a single feeding, add to the complexities of proper elimination.
A fully developed female bed bug is capable of producing hundreds of eggs over their lifetime. Once hatched, nymphs develop by molting their skin several times before full maturity. Bed bug nymphs must have a blood meal between molts in order to survive, reaching adulthood in as little as one month.
As with all well designed pest management programs, proper identification and a thorough inspection are necessary to develop the appropriate course of action. Prior to treatment, infested properties may require a fair amount of preparation. Due to the resilience, physical characteristics and hitch hiking nature of the common bed bug, extensive treatment methods are required for proper results. Vacuums, over the counter products and home remedies will not control or eliminate a bed bug infestation.
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