Steve Tvedten's "The Bug Stops Here"
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Blood feeding arthropod pests are of great concern not only because of their annoying and often painful bites, but more importantly because many can also be vectors (carriers) of pathogenic (disease) organisms, that seriously injure or kill humans and domestic animals, e.g., encephalitis, tularema, Lyme disease, malaria, yellow fever, Chaga's disease, bubonic plague, murine typhus, tapeworms, Rocky Mountain fever, etc. Specific identification is particularly critical in these dangerous pests because members of each group are very similar in appearance, but differ in their choice of hosts, habits and potential as disease vectors.

Every blood feeder needs a blood meal at some point to complete its life cycle. The only exception are some of the males of this group, e.g., male mosquitoes, male horse flies, etc., who don't need blood. Some blood feeders will feed on only one host species. However, most blood feeders have not only a preferred host, but also will feed on a wide range of substitute hosts. When multiple host species are involved, there is a greater possibility of disease transmission, e.g., the malarial parasite, yellow fever virus, rickettsiae of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the bubonic plague bacillus, etc. Many wild animals can serve as reservoirs of disease organisms and still suffer only a few or no ill effects themselves, e.g., roof rats are reservoirs for human plague and typhus with fleas serving as the vectors of these diseases. Some of these blood feeders remind us we are not always on the top of every food chain.

  1. First, properly locate and identify the blood-feeding pest(s) involved.

  2. Second, practice exclusion and prevention. This consists of denying access into the structure of the hosts and the insects themselves. Access to any crawl spaces or attics must be denied so wild animals such as opossums, feral cats and dogs, skunks, birds, bats, commensal rodents, squirrels and raccoons cannot enter. Exclusion consists of reducing openings into the building so that wild animals and/or insects cannot gain entrance. This is done by carefully plugging or sealing holes with concrete, caulk or other appropriate material; carefully screening windows, doors and vents; reducing door threshold gaps, installing doorsweeps, installing negative ion plates, spraying enzyme cleaners, mopping with borax, etc.

  3. Indoor control and sanitation. Mechanically reduce pests by vacuuming or steam cleaning or rinse- and-vacuuming all rugs, floors and fabric-covered furniture along with routine cleaning or properly disposing of all infested pet bedding. Remove and clean up all harborage debris; vacuum or steam all insects, spiders and/or mites; remove all rodent nests; caulk all cracks and crevices; vent and cover all crawls; routinely and thoroughly clean with Kleen'em Away Naturally® or Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaners or Peppermint Soap and/or borax.

  4. Outdoor control. Begin with sanitation, e.g., debris removal; keep the grass and weeds mowed; trim all branches that touch or overhang the building; remove all old bird nests from the structure, and eliminate any alternate hosts and their harborage within 100 yards of the structure. Sanitation is followed by the application of diluted Kleen'em Away Naturally® or Safe Solutions, Inc. ((protease) enzyme cleaners or peppermint soap or other Pestisafes®, e.g., talcum powder, food-grade diatomaeous earth (DE), pepper- mint soap, Vaseline, freshly ground pepper, menthol rub and/or Tide® soap. Application may range from spot application along the exterior foundation wall and adjacent perimeter band treatment to whole yard treatment depending on the imminent danger to humans. Wettable powder and microencapsulated pesticide formulations can be effective, if absolutely necessary, but as in the case of all volatile, synthetic pesticide poison poisons there is an obvious risk of contamination of wells, air, pets and people whenever they are used. Be sure there is no other alternative and all Pestisafes® have been tried first!

  5. The best treatment for insect bites and stings is to avoid them in the first place. If practical, wear 2 layers of clothing, avoid floral prints, hair spray, perfumes and shiny jewelry. The color blue is the preferred color of mosquitoes; wear white, tan and/or light green clothing. Routinely shower with pepper mint soap. Try orally taking 3 - 4 garlic capsules and vitamin B and nutritional yeast daily. Avoid eating sugars, alcohol, tropical fruits and juices. Thread a sprig of elder through your hair. To create a mosquito-free environment, boil willow in water, burn artemesia in a campfire or diffuse various combinations of the oils of citronella, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, grape seed, almond, lavender, rosemary, tea tree, basil, geranium and/or sage into the areas. You can also make a room spray with water and a few drops of these essential oils or with enzymes. Essential oils, e.g., geraniol or geranium oil and coconut oil, diluted in olive oil or aloe vera nectar or jojoba can be applied topically to pulse points on your body every hour or so to repel insects (e.g., fire ants, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, lice and gnats), but can be irritating to some people, so always test them on a small area of your skin first! As the odor lessens, so does the effectiveness. Try chamomile tea, thyme, sweet basil, yarrow, vanilla extract or try dilutions of camphor, tea tree, bergamot, patchouli, sandalwood, peppermint oil, Guatemalan lemon grass, lavender, cedar wood and pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) individually or as blends. Pennyroyal's Latin name means mint and flea and the plant and smoke from its burning leaves help control these pests, but avoid mint plants if you are pregnant or sensitive. Other essential oils that can be made and used as repellents include menthol, citronella, eucalyptus, geranium and okra but they can stain clothing; do not drink them and be careful around your eyes and mouth when applying them.

  6. If bitten, leave the area immediately, and if the bite is considered serious, go to a physician immediately, but first remove the stinger and cleanse the area as soon as possible. If you are not sensitive, you can ingest homeopathic Apis mellifica and rub an apis-based cream or a little epsom salt water or enzyme cleaner on the wound every 15 minutes until relief arrives. You can also apply echinacea tincture to the sting area and take it internally to help reduce allergic reactions and other immunologyical disturbances. If the bite/sting feels better when cold is applied or the area is already cold and/or numb, use homeo- pathic ledum. Ice alleviates pain and swelling and mud or clay, fresh garlic, onion juice, witch hazel, baking soda or meat tenderizer paste eases itching and aching. (Baking soda is an alkali that neutralizes acid. Applied to the skin it acts to reduce pain and swelling, draws out toxins and helps neutralize some of the inflammatory agents in the toxins.) Meat tenderizer is made from papain, a protease enzyme derived from papaya and helps break down the inflammatory properties of venom. (That is why protease enzyme cleaners and shampoos also work.) Various herbs rubbed into insect bites may also accelerate healing: ground-up comfey, sweet basil, tea tree oil (a powerful wound healer and germicide), olive oil, marigold, yellow dock, wild marjoram, leek bulbs, crushed parsley or plaintain and/or the leaves of rue, St. John's wort, plantain, house leek, aloe and pennyroyal. Apply calendula petals on a bee sting. Wasp stings are best treated with any wild mallow flower or freshly chewed or crushed plaintain leaves, slices of onion or garlic or vinegar applied topically, accompanied by an internal dose of homeopathic vespa. Taking vitamin C and panthothenic acid over a period of 3 - 4 hours helps create a natural antihistamine effect, thus reducing swelling. The enzymes bromelain and quercitin also help reduce inflammation. If you are upset try taking a calming flower remedy under the tongue every 10 minutes until you settle down. If you are allergic to bee stings, get medical attention immediately. Your own urine on a cloth has antibodies that can neutralize an insect's venom. Apply pulped or crushed leaves of wormwood, rue or sage to alleviate the pain of scorpions, spiders or jellyfish, but some people may be sensitive, especially to wormwood or rue. Increase your intake of vitamin C and you receive anti-inflammatory effects and boost your liver's ability to filter out the toxins. Take chlorophyll supplements to boost your immune system and help detoxify your blood. Take shiitake or reishi mushroom supplements to help you detoxify. Try spraying a mix of 1000 mg. of vitamin C in a cup of warm water (a 1% - 3% solution) or diluted Kleen'em Away Naturally® or Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner from a small "spritzer" bottle on the bite/sting as a sting reliever. Seek medical attention.

  7. Bend the arm and note where it forms a crease at the elbow. Put your thumb at the point at the end of the crease, away from the body and press slowly into the joint. This acupressure point helps alleviate the redness and swelling of bites and stings.

  8. Remember, the emotional reaction to a sting or bite is often more severe than the actual hazard from the venom.

Just a few alternatives to synthetic pesticide poisons:

1.    Neem - One of the best natural or botanical pesticides for controlling bloodfeeding arthropods and other pests is Neem. What is Neem? Neem, a member of the Meliaceae family and a botanical cousin of mahogany, is a tall, fast-growing, evergreen tree which has an attractive crown of deep-green leaves and masses of honey-scented flowers and thrives even in nutrient-poor, dry soil. It tolerates high temperatures, low rainfall, long spells of drought and salinity, and can be propagated by seed. Because of its many benefits, neem has been worshipped as a goddess in India. Neem is bitter in taste. The bitterness is due to the presence of an array of complex compounds called "triterpenes" or more specifically "liminoids". The most important bioactive principle is a terpenoid known as azadirachtin; however, at least 10 other neem limonoids also possess insect growth regulating activity. The tree's scientific name is Azadiractita indica. Neem has been used for centuries primarily against household and storage pests, and to a limited extent against crop pests. Neem trees were the only green thing left standing during a ravaging locust plague in Sudan in 1959. Neem does not kill pests but affects their behavior and physiology and reduces the risk of exposing the pests' natural enemies to poisoned food sources or starvation. Neem derivatives affect more than 200 insect species belonging to Coleoptera, Diptera, Heteroptera, Homoptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Orthoptera, Thysanoptera, several species of mites and nematodes, and even noxious snails and fungi. Although neem oil can be used directly for pest control, semi-purified "bitters" and "neem rich" fractions can easily be standardized for biological properties and could satisfy even stringent quality requirements. Being water soluble, they also can be applied as systemic compounds which render them more photostable and nonphytotoxic. A garlic odor often present in other neem products is absent in "bitters". Neem products are effective and relatively hazard-free. An added benefit of using semi-purified neem fractions, rather than pure compounds, is that pests will be less likely to develop resistance. Neem compounds act together on several different behavioral and physiological processes which also helps prevent insects from evolving resistance to the compound. Their effects include repellence, feeding deterrence, reduced ingestion and digestion of food, poor growth and development, reduced longevity and fecundity, mating disruption, oviposition deterrence, inhibition of egg hatchability, molting failures and direct toxicity. Reports suggest that by paralyzing the muscles in the insects' mandibles neem induces starvation. At lower than lethal dozes, azadirachtin also mimics juvenile hormone, preventing insects from maturing. Neem-based insecticides can be further fortified against dynamic pests by optimizing their use with microbials or other botanicals. Neem fruits, seeds, oil, leaves, bark and roots can be used as general antiseptics, antimicrobials for the treatment of urinary disorders, diarrhea, fever, bronchitis, skin diseases, septic sores, infected burns, hypertension and inflammatory diseases. Neem oil and its isolates - nimbidin, nimbidol and nimbin - inhibit fungal growth on humans and animals. Neem leaf extracts and teas are used to treat malaria; ioquin tablets and injections containing neem extract are currently being formulated for treating chronic malaria. Exposing kissing bugs (Rhodnius prolixus), the major vector of Chagas disease in Latin America, to neem extracts or to azadirachtin "immunizes" them against their internal protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. We are trying it on termites. Cattle leaf supplements containing neem leaf powder are used as worm killers. Creams containing neem oil are used for animal wound dressing and also act as fly and mosquito repellents. Neem oil in human bathing and laundry soap kills lice and neem in dog soaps and shampoos controls ticks and fleas. Neem twigs are used daily by millions in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan as disposable toothbrushes; extracts of neem bark are used in some toothpastes and mouthwashes. Neem plantings also serve as a refuge for honeybees, wasps, spiders, birds, bats and other beneficial organisms, and the litter of falling leaves can improve soil fertility. Neem overall as a relatively safe, natural (botanical) pesticide poison with numerous benefits. Neem nectar does not kill pollinating bees.

2.   Noxema® - We have found that Noxema® or Ben-Gay® applied to the exposed skin of children and people repels mosquitoes and other pests. (Always check to see if you are sensitive before using any product.)

3.   Invincible Herbal Insect Repellent from Great Garden Formulas by Joan Benjamin and Deborah L. Martin: "...before heading outdoors, I douse myself with an incredible repellent that my friend Marion Spear and I concocted, Tina Wilcox, head gardener at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas says. "It renders me almost invincible to both insects and poison ivy!"

Ingredients and Supplies:

1 large handful fresh jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
1 large glass jar with plastic lid (vinegar corrodes metal)
1 strainer
1 quart apple cider vinegar
teaspoon pennyroyal oil
1 teaspoon eucalyptus oil
1 teaspoon orange oil
1 teaspoon citronella oil
1 plastic spray bottle


  1. Crush jewelweed in the jar and cover with vinegar.

  2. Let steep for several days.

  3. Strain out the jewelweed and mix essential oils into the vinegar.

  4. Before applying all over, spray a small amount on the inside of your arm and monitor for 15 minutes for any allergic reaction.

  5. To use, spray thoroughly on clothing and lightly on any exposed skin except your face. Reapply every ½ hour or so. (To keep insects away from your face, spray your hat or bandanna.)

Yield: About 1 quart of invincible spray. Note: This formula will keep indefinitely. Caution: If you are pregnant, don't use pennyroyal, even topically, as it may increase the risk of miscarriage. Note: Citronella oil has been known to attract female black bears.

4. Common Sense and Knowledge - Never approach bees during a thunderstorm. The electricity in the air makes them more aggressive. There are over 700 species of venomous arthropods with those in the order Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, hornets and bees) accounting for the greatest percentage of deaths, usually from an allergic reaction. Usually the only result is an unpleasant experience; even so, BEE CAREFUL! If you feel an insect crawling on you, it should be brushed away and not crushed, slapped or pinched. Remember to use mosquito netting, talcum powder, double-sided tape, duct tape (sticky side up), glueboards, Vaseline (petroleum jelly), screens, caulk and vacuums; the best control is to avoid and/or exclude them.

NOTE: Not Nice to Lice® and Not Nice to Fleas® shampoos and/or Safe Solutions, Inc. protease enzyme cleaners remove itching and irritations caused by poison ivy and/or insect bites and stings.



CAUTION: Remember, people may be allergic to numerous things, e.g., aspirin, zinc, thiamine chloride, milk and/or peanuts, so always treat a small area before using any product, herb, soap, cleaner or material on your body. When in doubt, always see your health care professional!

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