Argentine Ants

The Argentine ant is a dark ant native to northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. It is an invasive species that has been established in many Mediterranean climate areas,[1] inadvertently introduced by humans to many places, including South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Easter Island, Australia, Hawaii, Europe, and the United States.

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[edit] Description

The worker ants are about 3 millimetres (0.12 in) long and can easily squeeze through cracks and holes no more than 1 millimetre (0.039 in) in size. Queens are two to four times the length of workers. These ants will set up quarters in the ground, in cracks in concrete walls, in spaces between boards and timbers, even among belongings in human dwellings. In natural areas, they generally nest shallowly in loose leaf litter or beneath small stones, due to their poor ability to dig deeper nests. However, if a deeper nesting ant species abandons their nest, Argentine ant colonies will readily take over the space.

German entomologist Dr. Gustav L. Mayr identified the first specimens of Hypoclinea humilis in the vicinity of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1866. This species was shortly transferred to the genus Iridomyrmex, and finally to Linepithema in the early 1990s.

[edit] Distribution

The native range of Argentine ants is limited to around major waterways in the lowland areas of the Paraná River drainage; They have recently spread into parts of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.[2] The species has become established in at least 15 countries throughout the world, on six continents as well as many oceanic islands.[3]

Rats Cause Costly Damage to Homes-Even Cars!

Have you heard the sounds of rodents scurrying within your walls or gnawing in your home or business? Then you may have a rodent problem and it is very important to begin rodent control immediately. Rats gestation period is around 24 days and they are in heat 4 days after pregnancy. This means they produce even faster than rabbits. Rodents chewing through wiring is one of the leading cause of house fires.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, worldwide, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases. These diseases can be spread to humans directly, through handling of rodents, through contact with rodent feces, urine, or saliva, or through rodent bites. Diseases carried by rodents can also be spread to humans indirectly, through ticks, mites or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent. Inhaling dust from dried rodent urine, feces and nesting material can also result in illness.  Pregnant women, children, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised should be particularly careful to protect themselves from rodent carried illnesses.

In California, the most common diseases caused by rodents are Typhoid, Rat Bite Fever, Lymphonocytic Choriomeningitis, Salmonellosis, Hantavirus, and Rabies. If you think you have come into contact with rodents and are having symptoms contact your health care professional immediately.

Wild rodents can cause home damage, contaminate food and cause illness in people and pets. To avoid rodent infestation remove potential rodent food and water sources, and store food for people and pets in sealed containers. Clear debris that rodents can hide in.  Safely clean up rodent droppings, urine and nesting areas, always wearing gloves and spraying material with disinfectant until thoroughly soaked before attempting to remove or clean.

The best way to prevent rodents from living space is by sealing up holes inside and outside your home or business to prevent entry. Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime, and rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter!

We specialize in rodent extermination and sanitization. Please contact us anytime for questions.

Gopher

Gophers are heavily built, and most are moderately large, ranging from 12 to 30 cm (4.7 to 12 in) in length, and weighing a few hundred grams. A few species reach weights approaching 1 kg (2.2 lb). Males are always larger than the females and can be nearly double their weight.[1] Most gophers have brown fur which often closely matches the color of the soil in which they live. Their most characteristic feature is their large cheek pouches, from which the word “pocket” in their name derives. These pouches are fur-lined, and can be turned inside out. They extend from the side of the mouth well back onto the shoulders. They have small eyes and a short, hairy tail which they use to feel around tunnels when they walk backwards.

[edit] Behavior

All pocket gophers are burrowers. They are larder hoarders, and their cheek pouches are used for transporting food back to their burrows. Gophers can collect large hoards. Their presence is unambiguously announced by the appearance of mounds of fresh dirt about 20 cm (7.9 in) in diameter. These mounds will often appear in vegetable gardens, lawns, or farms, as gophers like moist soil. They also enjoy feeding on vegetables. For this reason, some species are considered agricultural pests. They may also damage trees in forests. Although they will attempt to flee when threatened, they may attack other animals, including cats and humans, and can inflict serious bites with their long, sharp teeth.

Pocket gophers are solitary outside of the breeding season, aggressively maintaining territories that vary in size depending on the resources available. Males and females may share some burrows and nesting chambers if their territories border each other, but in general, each pocket gopher inhabits its own individual tunnel system.

Depending on the species and local conditions, pocket gophers may have a specific annual breeding season, or may breed repeatedly through the year. Each litter typically consists of two to five young, although this may be much higher in some species. The young are born blind and helpless, and are weaned at around forty days[2].

[edit] Classification

There has been much debate among taxonomists about which races of pocket gopher should be recognised as full species, and the following list cannot be regarded as definitive.

Some sources also list a genus Hypogeomys, with one species, but this genus name is normally used for the Malagasy Giant Rat, which belongs to the family Nesomyidae.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Macdonald (Ed), Professor David W. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-920608-2.
  2. ^ Patton, James (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 628–631. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.

Mole

A mole’s diet primarily consists of earthworms and other small invertebrates found in the soil and also a variety of nuts. Because their saliva contains a toxin that can paralyze earthworms, moles are able to store their still living prey for later consumption. They construct special underground “larders” for just this purpose; researchers have discovered such larders with over a thousand earthworms in them. Before eating earthworms, moles pull them between their squeezed paws to force the collected earth and dirt out of the worm’s gut.[7]

The Star-nosed Mole can detect, catch and eat food faster than the human eye can follow (under 300 milliseconds).[8]

Although the mole can be eaten, the taste is said to be deeply unpleasant.[9]

[edit] Evolution

Darwin cites moles as an example of mammals that have organs that have become vestigial and are being phased out by natural selection:

The eyes of moles and of some burrowing rodents are rudimentary in size, and in some cases are quite covered by skin and fur. This state of the eyes is probably due to gradual reduction from disuse, but aided perhaps by natural selection. In South America, a burrowing rodent, the tuco-tuco, or Ctenomys, is even more subterranean in its habits than the mole; and I was assured by a Spaniard, who had often caught them, that they were frequently blind. One which I kept alive was certainly in this condition, the cause, as appeared on dissection, having been inflammation of the nictitating membrane. As frequent inflammation of the eyes must be injurious to any animal, and as eyes are certainly not necessary to animals having subterranean habits, a reduction in their size, with the adhesion of the eyelids and growth of fur over them, might in such case be an advantage; and if so, natural selection would aid the effects of disuse. (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, Laws of Variation)

Since the modern synthesis, Darwin’s suggestion that the mole’s eye became small “probably due to gradual reduction from disuse…” is no longer fully accepted by modern biologists. The Lamarckian mechanism by which increased or decreased use of an organ could influence its reproduction, which was accepted by Darwin, has been replaced by an appreciation that natural selection and random genetic variation (genetic drift) are the primary drivers.[citation needed]

Vole

Voles are small rodents that grow to 4–8 inches depending on species. They can have 5–10 litters per year. Gestation lasts for 3 weeks and the young voles reach sexual maturity in a month. As a result of this exponential growth, vole populations can grow very large within a very short period of time. Since litters average 5–10 young, a single pregnant vole in a yard can result in a hundred or more active voles in less than a year.

Voles are commonly mistaken for other small animals. Moles, gophers, mice, rats and even shrews have similar characteristics and behavioral tendencies. Since voles will commonly use burrows with many exit holes, they can be mistaken for gophers or some kind of ground squirrel. Voles can create and will oftentimes utilize old abandoned mole tunnels thus confusing the land owner into thinking that moles are active. When voles find their way into the home, they are readily misidentified as mice or young rats. In fact, voles are unique and best described as being a little bit like all the other animals they are so commonly thought to be.

They will readily thrive on small plants. Like shrews they will eat dead animals and like mice or rats, they can live on most any nut or fruit. Additionally, voles will target plants more than most other small animals. It is here where their presence is mostly evident. Voles will readily “girdle” or eat the bark of small trees and ground cover much like a porcupine. This girdling can easily kill young plants and is not healthy for trees or other shrubs.

Voles love to eat succulent root systems and will burrow under plants or ground cover they are particularly fond of and eat away until the plant is dead. Bulbs in the ground are another favorite target for voles; their excellent burrowing and tunnelling gives them access to sensitive areas without clear or early warning. A vole problem is often only identifiable after they have destroyed a number of plants.[1]

Fleas

Flea is the common name for insects of the order Siphonaptera which are wingless insects with mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood. Fleas are external parasites, living by hematophagy off the blood of mammals (including humans) and birds.

In the past, it was most commonly supposed that fleas had evolved from the flies (Diptera), based on similarities of the larvae. (Some authorities use the name Aphaniptera because it is older, but names above family rank need not follow the ICZN rules of priority, so most taxonomists use the more familiar name). Genetic and morphological evidence indicates that they are descendants of the Scorpionfly family Boreidae, which are also flightless; accordingly it is possible that they will eventually be reclassified as a suborder within the Mecoptera. In any case, all these groups seem to represent a clade of closely related insect lineages, for which the names Mecopteroidea and Antliophora have been proposed.

Some flea species include:

Black Widow Spider

Latrodectus hesperus, the Western black widow spider or Western widow, is a venomous spider species found in western regions of the United States of America. The female’s body is 14–16 millimeters in length and is black, often with an hourglass shaped red mark on the lower abdomen. This “hourglass” mark can be yellow, and on rare occasions, white. The male of the species is around half this size and generally a tan color with lighter striping on the abdomen. The population was previously described as a subspecies of Latrodectus mactans and it is closely related to the northern species Latrodectus variolus. The species, as with others of the genus, build irregular webs.

The female’s consumption of the male after courtship, a cannibalistic and suicidal behaviour observed in Latrodectus hasseltii (Australia’s redback),[2] is rare in this species. Male Western widows may breed several times during their relatively short lifespans.[3]

The ultimate strength and other physical properties of Latrodectus hesperus silk were found to be similar to the properties of silk from orb weaving spiders that had been tested in other studies. The ultimate strength for the three kinds of silk measured in the Blackledge study was about 1000 MPa. The ultimate strength reported in a previous study for Nephila edulis was 1290 MPa ± 160 MPa[4]

Cellar Spider

The cellar spider or daddy longlegs (Pholcus phalangioides), also known as the skull spider due to its cephalothorax looking like a human skull, is a spider of the family Pholcidae. Females have a body length of about 9 mm; males are slightly smaller. Its legs are about 5 or 6 times the length of its body (reaching up to 7 cm of leg span in females). Its habit of living on the ceilings of rooms, caves, garages or cellars gives rise to one of its common names. In Australian homes, they are considered beneficial because it is sometimes believed they will kill and eat the venomous Redback spider.[1][2]

This is the only spider species described by the Swiss entomologist Johann Kaspar Füssli who first recorded it for science in 1775. Confusion often arises over its common name, because “daddy longlegs” is also applied to two other unrelated arthropods: the harvestman and the crane fly.

Pholcus phalangioides has the habit of shaking its web violently when disturbed as a defence mechanism against predators. They can easily catch and eat other spiders (even those much larger than itself, such as Tegenaria duellica), mosquitoes and other insects, and woodlice. When food is scarce, they will prey on their own kind.

Because they originally came from the tropics, these spiders do not seem to be aware of seasonal changes and breed at any time of the year. The female holds the 20 to 30 eggs in her pedipalps. Spiderlings are transparent with short legs and change their skin about 5 or 6 times as they mature.

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[edit] Venom

Female with egg sac

An urban legend states that Pholcidae are the most venomous spiders in the world, but because their fangs are unable to penetrate human skin, they are harmless to humans. However, recent research has shown that pholcid venom has a relatively weak effect on insects.[3] In the MythBusters episode “Daddy Long-Legs” it was shown that the spider’s fangs (0.25mm) could penetrate human skin (0.1mm) but that only a very mild burning feeling was felt for a few seconds.[4]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Daddy Long Legs – Queensland Museum
  2. ^ FAMILY PHOLCIDAE – Daddy long-leg Spiders
  3. ^ Spider Myths – If it could only bite
  4. ^ “Buried in Concrete, Daddy-Longlegs, Jet Taxi”, MythBusters, Episode 13, Discovery Channel, Original airing: February 15, 2004 [1]

Brown Widow Spider

Spiders

The orb-web

Orb weaver resting in web

Argiope sp. sitting on the stabilimentum at the center of the web

Spiderlings in the web near where they hatched

Generally, orb-weaving spiders are three-clawed builders of flat webs with sticky spiral capture silk. The building of a web is an engineering feat, begun when the spider floats a line on the wind to another surface. The spider secures the line and then drops another line from the center, making a “Y”. The rest of the scaffolding follows with many radii of non-sticky silk being constructed before a final spiral of sticky capture silk. The third claw is used to walk on the non-sticky part of the web. Characteristically, the prey insect that blunders into the sticky lines is stunned by a quick bite and then wrapped in silk. If the prey is a venomous insect, such as a wasp, wrapping may precede biting.

Many orb-weavers build a new web each day. Generally, towards evening, the spider will consume the old web, rest for approximately an hour, then spin a new web in the same general location. Thus, the webs of orb-weavers are generally free of the accumulation of detritus common to other species such as black widow spiders.

Some orb-weavers do not build webs at all. Members of the genera Mastophora in the Americas, Cladomelea in Africa and Ordgarius in Australia produce sticky globules, which contain a pheromone analog. The globule is hung from a silken thread dangled by the spider from its front legs. The pheromone analog attracts male moths of only a few species. These get stuck on the globule and are reeled in to be eaten. Interestingly, both types of bolas spiders are highly camouflaged and difficult to locate.

The spiny orb-weaving spiders in the genera Gasteracantha and Micrathena look like plant seeds or thorns hanging in their orb-webs. Some species of Gasteracantha have very long horn-like spines protruding from their abdomens.

One feature of the webs of some orb-weavers is the stabilimentum, a crisscross band of silk through the center of the web. It is found in a number of genera, but Argiope, which includes the common garden spider of Europe as well as the yellow and banded garden spiders of North America, is a prime example. The band has been hypothesized to be a lure for prey, a marker to warn birds away from the web and a camouflage for the spider when it sits in the center of the web. However, recent research suggests that the stabilimentum actually decreases the of the silk to insects, thus making it harder for prey to avoid the web [1]

Most arachnid webs are vertical and the spiders usually hang with their head downward. A few webs, such as those of orb-weaver in the genus Metepiera have the orb hidden within a tangled space of web. Some Metepiera are semi-social and live in communal webs. In Mexico such communal webs have been cut out of trees or bushes and used for living fly paper. [citation needed]

[edit] Natural history

The oldest known true orb-weaver is Mesozygiella dunlopi, from the Lower Cretaceous. Several fossils provide direct evidence that the three major orb weaving families, namely Araneidae, Tetragnathidae and Uloboridae, had evolved by this time, about 140 million years ago[2]. They probably originated during the Jurassic (200-140 million years ago). All three families very likely have a common origin