Categories
Service

House mouse Mus domesticus

History

Originated in the steppes of Central Asia.
Reportedly found in this country as early as the 9th Century, when and how remains unsolved.
Certainly as agricultural practices improved man’s harvests, the need for greater storage facilities were created thus providing more food and nest sites for mice and rats.

Colour. Brown to grey with a lighter underside
Ears: Large
Eyes: Small
Tail: Slightly less than body length
Weight (adult): 10 – 25 g
Litters per year: 5 – 8
Litter size: 4 – 8
Maturity: 6 – 8 weeks
Average life span: 3 – 4 months

Habits

M. domesticus will drink water if available but can survive on food with a moisture content of 15%.
It is omnivorous, feeding from a number of different points.
Whole wheat, which has been partly eaten by mice, has a kibbled appearance whilst whole grain, partly eaten by rats, has a cut or chopped appearance.

Categories
Service

Red fox Vulpes

History

The red fox is a member of the Order Carnivore and Family Canidee. Originating about 45 million years ago in the Eocene period, the first foxes were long-bodied and short-limbed, much like their ancestors. They have become adapted for fast pursuit of prey over open grasslands, so they generally have lithe bodies, long bushy tads, long legs and digitigrade four-toed feet, with non-retractable claws.

The modern fox is a widespread animal, being found throughout Europe (but absent from Iceland) and also in much of Asia, North America, Northern Africa and introduced to Australia.

Key features

The fox measures up to 110 cm, including the tail. It can be up to 40 cm high to the shoulder.
It weighs around 6.5 kg and is reddish brown in coloration with blacks and usually a white tail tip. Many have a white bib on the throat.
Darker varieties are sometimes called a cross fox. Distribution
It is thought to be the most widespread and abundant wild carnivore in the world and seems to have almost limitless adaptability to European habitats. In the countryside, the fox can be found in scrub, woodland, farmland, moors, mountains and even sand dunes. In towns and cities, it is most common in the wealthier parts of the suburbs with detached houses and large gardens.

Mating

The fox tends to be a semi-solitary animal, but family groups of a male (dog) and several females (vixens) are also common.
Mating takes place from December to February and the two sexes can be locked together for up to 90 minutes after copulation. At this time of year, the animals cause many complaints due to their barking and screaming mating calls.
Fox cubs are born in March-May after a gestation period of 52-53 days. The average litter size is 5. Cubs are about 100 g when born and grow quickly, putting on 50 g a day from 4-10 weeks. Weaning begins around the sixth week but they will eat solid food from 4 weeks.
Young cubs may remain with the vixen until they are 3 or 4 months of age.
At weaning, they resemble miniature fluffy taxes but they are virtually indistinguishable from adults in the field after 6 months.

Diet

Both wild and urban foxes have a varied diet, eating everything from earthworms, eggs and beetles to rodents, rabbits and birds. They are also keen scavengers, feeding on windfall fruits, bird table seeds, sheeps’ afterbirths and discarded fast food leftovers to name but a few. A fox will eat 500g or more a day and this can increase when cubs are present.

Habitats

Home ranges vary enormously, from 20 km plus in the Scottish Highlands to 2 km in rural cities. As a rule, there is usually one family per km on farmland. Foxes can run at up to 60 km/h.

Lifespan
Categories
Service

CAT FLEA

Key features

The cat flea is small at around 2 mm long, reddish brown in colour and is flattened laterally, a feature which enables it to move easily amongst the hair of its vertebrate host.
The most distinctive features of the cat flea are the large ;limping legs and the row of black non-sensory spines on the front margin of the head and on the rear of the first thoracic segment. These bristles or combs are a diagnostic feature of the cat flea.The eyes are apparent as are the antennae, and the mouthparts, adapted for piercing and sucking, are typically seen projecting downwards from the head.

Biology

After mating. the female flea lays several hundred eggs in batches after each blood meal in the cat’s fur, bedding. resting site and in areas where the cat is to be found. The eggs are small (0.5 mm) white and oval in shape.
From the egg emerges the larval stage which is again white in colour, legless but covered in large bristles. The larvae are not blood suckers but feed on general organic debris which is to be found in the lair of the cat. When mature, the flea larva is about 5 mm long and it spins a cocoon of silk which very quickly gets covered in a large amount of dust and debris.The pupa develops within the silken cocoon and when triggered by suitable stimuli such as vibration, the adults emerge to feed on the cat.

Distribution
Worldwide. Significance

Although the cat and dog are the preferred hosts far cat fleas, they are capable of feeding an humans, and frequently do.
The distress caused by the bites can be considerable in cats and humans. C. fells fells is an intermediate host for the cestode tapeworm, apylidium caninum, which normally develops in the digestive tract of dogs, cats and some wild carnivores, but also occurs in man and particularly young children.
Vibration as a trigger for the adults to emerge from the pupa, mentioned above, frequently means that humans who go into an empty premises where cats had previously been “in residence” suffer a high level of attack.

Control

Treatment consists of identifying the source of the infestation, i.e. the host animal(s), and if appropriate treating it with a suitable veterinary product. Such a treatment should not be carried out by a pest control technician but by the owner of the animal or a veterinarian
A residual insecticide should then be applied to areas frequented by the animal. A carbamate containing bendiocarb or a residual synthetic pyrethroid would be suitable for this purpose.

Illustration: Ctenocephalides fells fells adult female.
Although the cat flea is the most common there are several types of fleas that can infest our homes work places and other premises.

Categories
Service

PHARAOH’s ANT

Monomorium pharaonis
Key features

The workers of this species of ant are only around 2 mm in length, with the queen being larger between 3 and 4 mm long, while the males are around 3 mm. The colouration of the workers is light yellow with a darkish abdomen. The characteristic of the Pharaoh’s ant appearance is the double “waist” known as the pedicel, which in fact constitutes the first segments of the abdomen.

Biology

One of the significant features of the life cycle of the Pharaoh’s ant is the fact that each colony has many nests and also many queens. Each new queen lays around 300 – 350 eggs during her egg-laying spell and the eggs hatch in about a week. The first batch of larvae are tended by the queen while the subsequent generations are looked after by the workers of the colony. Worker ants are able to form satellite colonies, which lead to the spread of infestation. They remove the developing brood from an existing nest and form a new nest elsewhere. By their behaviour towards and feeding of this brood, they are able to produce worker, queen or male ants as required. Males and females are fully winged but they are rarely seen to fly.

Distribution

Originally a tropical ant but will survive in centrally heated locations in temperate regions. Such exotic ants are known as tramp species.
M. pharaonis is the most commonly encountered tramp species in the UK, being found in domestic premises, hospitals, prisons, zoos, botanical gardens, food manufacturing premises etc.

Significance

The multi-nesting behaviour of this species means that if one area of a building is infested, there is the likelihood of extensive spread throughout the building. Areas of high temperature and humidity are favoured by Pharaoh’s ants where they attack human foods such as fruit, jam, sugar, meat, etc. Because of their small size they can be a considerable nuisance in food preparation premises, hospitals, etc. There is evidence that the ant may be involved in the mechanical transmission of some disease-causing agents.

Control

The use of conventional insecticides against Pharaoh’s ants is not recommended as this will almost certainly cause worker ants to form satellite colonies and thus actively spread an infestation deeper into a building.
Granular or gel baits are available for Pharaoh’s ant control. These should be laid where the ants are actively foraging and, particularly with this ant species, treatment of adjacent properties may be advisable.

Illustration:

Monomoreum pharaonis worker ant.

Categories
Service

MOSQUITOES

 

Key features

The adult mosquito is a slender, long-legged insect with forward-pointing piercing and sucking mouthparts.
The adults are between 7 and 15 mm long with a wingspan much the same as the body length. The wings have well-developed venation and in some cases the wings have a fringed hind margin and the veins also have scales associated with them.

There is sexual dimorphism exhibited in the antennal structure. The male antennae are heavily covered in long hairs, whilst on the female, these hairs are largely absent.

Biology

All mosquitoes are dependent upon water for the survival of the immature stages of the life cycle.
The female mosquitoes lay their eggs on the water, sometimes singly and sometimes in what are known as “egg rafts” – a collection of eggs fixed together.
The larvae that emerge from the eggs are totally aquatic, feeding off biological material in the water. The larvae obtain their oxygen from the air via a breathing tube and therefore continually have to return to the surface of the water to breathe.
The pupae are formed from the final stage larvae and the pupa also obtains oxygen from the air through a breathing tube.
The adult emerges from the pupa and the adult females are invariably blood feeding while the males obtain their food from nectar, if at all.

Distribution

The mosquitoes have worldwide distribution, mainly in warmer regions, with great potential as vectors of disease in many tropical and sub-tropical areas.

Significance

The mosquitoes that are encountered within most of Europe and North America do not transmit any serious diseases, despite the females being blood-feeders. What is significant though is that in some cases there can be a severe reaction to the blood meal having been taken. Secondary infection may result in quite significant wounds.

Control

Treatment of adult flies consists of the use of residual insecticides and space sprays.
The presence of this insect indoors may indicate that attention to proofing is needed. Therefore flyscreening and the use of UV light traps is indicated.
Treatment of the larval development sites is not usually feasible. However, it may be possible to eliminate favourable sites such as water butts, cellar water etc.

Illustration: Culex pipens. culicine mosquito, house gnat.

Categories
Service

DEATH WATCH BEETLE

Key features

The adult beetle is around 6 mm in length; females are usually larger, ranging up to 8 mm.
It is dark greyish-brown in colour, with a pattern of yellow scale-like hair patches on the pronotum and elytra.

Biology

The female lays small clusters of 3 or 4 eggs on the surface of rough wood, in cracks or just inside flight holes. The average number of eggs laid is 40 to 60.

The larvae of these beetles bore into hardwood timbers where fungal decay has occurred. From such situations softwoods may be attacked. The larva grows to a length of approximately 12 mm.

The adult beetle cannot fly and therefore when found indoors it is almost certain that the beetle has been infesting the timber since it was originally hewn.

Adult beetles emerge in infested buildings between mid-March and early June.

Under optimum conditions, the life cycle takes place in one year. However, it is variable depending on conditions, but on average is thought to be around 4 to 5 years.

A tapping noise is made by both sexes knocking their heads against the wood on which they are standing. This tapping constitutes part of the mating behaviour.

Distribution

Xestobium rufovillosum occurs throughout Europe but it is extremely rare in Scotland or Ireland. Significance
Oak is the principal timber attacked but they have also been found in elm, chestnut, alder and walnut.
It is a common insect outdoors, being found in dead wood, branches or trunks of several hardwood trees where fungal decay has arisen.They can be introduced indoors via wood used as logs for fires and emerging beetles could conceivably attack wood that has fungal decay, on which they will lay their eggs.

Control

Treatment is as for the common furniture beetle, Anobium punctatum, which consists of applying a proprietary woodworm fluid to infested timbers.
Treatment must be thorough, as woodwork that does not show flight holes may contain death watch beetle larvae as the length of the larval life may be in excess of five years.

Illustration: Xestobium rufovillosum adult.
Please note the furniture beetle is the major cause of woodworm that can lead to major financial costs if not treated.