Insects: Disease, Pests & Control

( Survival manual/6. Medical/b) Disease/Insects, disease & pest control)

      Many invertebrates are responsible for transmitting diseases. Mosquitoes are perhaps the best known invertebrate vector and transmit a wide range of tropical diseases including malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever. Another large group of vectors are flies. Sandfly species transmit the disease leishmaniasis, by acting as vectors for protozoan Leishmania species, and tsetse flies transmit protozoan trypansomes (Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and Trypansoma brucei rhodesiense) which cause African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness). Ticks and lice form another large group of invertebrate vectors. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme Disease, is transmitted by ticks and members of the bacterial genus Rickettsia are transmitted by lice. For example, the human body louse transmits the bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii which causes epidemic typhus.

Although invertebrate-transmitted diseases pose a particular threat on the continents of Africa, Asia and South America, there is one way of controlling invertebrate-borne diseases, which is by controlling the invertebrate vector. For example, one way of controlling malaria is to control the mosquito vector through the use of mosquito nets, which prevent mosquitoes from coming into contact with humans.

 A.  List of diseases spread by invertebrates
US diseases below, see global list at:
(If the disease is encountered in North America during an emergency survival situation where medical help is not available, see Survival Manual/6. Medical/b) Disease/  for home medical treatment details; otherwise consult your doctor.)

Disease Vector Causative organism Symptoms Treatment
Chagas disease (American
Various assassin bugs of subfamily Triatominae Trypanosoma cruzi (protozoan) Mild symptoms, then chronic heart or brain inflammation Antiparasitic drugs; treatment of symptoms
Dengue fever Mosquito Flavivirus (virus) Fever then arthritis Observation/supportive treatment
Tick Tick-borne encephalitis virus Ill with flu then meningitis prevention and vaccination
Leishmaniasis Sandfly Leishmania (protozoan) Fever, damage to the spleen and liver,   and anaemia Treatment of infected
Lyme disease Tick Borrelia burgdorferi (bacterium) Skin rash then paralysis Prevention and antibiotics
Malaria Mosquito Plasmodium (protist) Headache then heavy fever Prevention and anti-malaria
Plague Flea Prevention and Antibiotics
Rickettsial diseases:Typhusrickettsial poxBoutonneuse
African tick bite feverRocky Mountain spotted fever
Tick, lice Rickettsia species (bacteria) Fever with bleeding around the bite Prevention and antibiotics
West Nile disease Mosquito West Nile virus Fever then meningitis None

B.  Bug Proof Your Home 

In addition to the information provided in this section, I recommend you visit:

(under construction) ….more to come

C.  Ants
“How can I get rid of ants in my house?” . . . . .is one of the most common homeowner complaints heard by insect pest control specialists. Ants invade the home to forage for food or seek shelter or both. This Web site explains ant behavior and provides control tips so you, the homeowner, are better equipped to deal with this pest.

 Ant behavior
All ants live in colonies, consisting of an egg-laying female (queen), short-lived males, and workers (sterile females). The ants you see foraging in your garden or kitchen are workers. Workers that find food communicate with other workers by depositing a chemical message on the substrate as they crawl back to the nest.
Although we cannot smell it, this “trail pheromone” sticks to the substrate for long periods of time and helps other ants find the food at the end of the trail.

Ants that live outside will travel inside the home to search for food. Some species may ultimately reside in houses, discussed later in this fact sheet. To prevent both of these scenarios, follow these procedures:
•  First, cracks and crevices should be sealed to eliminate passages into the home. If you do not seal entry points, ants will probably find their way into your house at some later time.
•  Second, scrub around entry points with a detergent (to remove the trail pheromone) and spray a residual insecticide around entry points.
•  Bait treatments and insecticides can be used to control ants in the outside nest. To be effective
baits must be placed in areas where ants frequent, eaten and be taken back to the nest. There are several different kinds of baits available, and you may have to do a little trial-and-error to find the proper bait. Because the ants must get back to the nest for satisfactory control this strategy may be incompatible with insecticide sprays which may kill worker ants before they can get back to the nest with the bait. The successful use of a bait may take several weeks or more.
•  Insecticide dilutions can be used outside to successfully drench ant nests. Be sure to follow label recommendations for correct procedures when applying the insecticide.

Fire Ants
Even a single fire ant bite is immensely painful and can leave a red welt on your skin for days. Trouble is, if you’ve disturbed one it’s almost certain that more are on the way.  Fire ants get their name for their sting, which feels like being burned alive. The ant latches on with its jaws and injects an alkaloid venom that causes pain and, in sufficient quantities, death. Fire ants are known to kill small animals regularly. Very few humans, however, are killed by the ants. Those who have been killed were almost all allergic to the insects’ venom.  In an interesting side note, global warming effects seem to be helping fire ants thrive like never before. With warmer winters and longer summers, the ants are able to move and stay farther north rather than return south in the winter.

Treating Fire Ant stings
Symptoms of fire ant stings may include redness, itchiness and pain around the site of the bites. Pus-filled blisters may last 3-10 days and scabs over the bite site may follow as well. Some people are allergic to the venom and may have difficulty breathing, a rapid heart rate and throat swelling.
Treating these stings at home, assuming there is not an allergic reaction, could include washing the area with soap and water, do not use alcohol. Sometimes ice wrapped in a wash cloth on the bite area for 10 minutes and then off for 10 minutes will relieve the pain.
If the person stung has an allergic reaction, immediately seek medical help by calling 9-1-1 or poison control. There are bee sting kits that require a doctor’s prescription for those who know they are allergic. Be sure to know how to use the kit if you get one.

Killing Fire Ants – Two steps to success
The two-step process for fire ant elimination is advocated by Texas A&M University as the best method of killing fire ants and maintaining fire ant control over the long-term. The method includes two steps: wide area fire ant bait broadcasting plus individual fire ant hill treatment. This method can include organic and non-organic pesticides as desired.

 Step one – Fire Ant Bait
__Fire ant bait: broadcasting is best done in the spring and again in the fall. Bait broadcasting involves the use of a spreader and your choice of fire ant bait. Worker ants will pick up the bait and take it back to the colony, where it will be eaten by the fire ant queen. When the queen dies the colony dies.
We recommend the organic bait from Green Light called Fire Ant Control.

Please follow the directions on the packaging for specific instructions:
•  Use fresh bait from an unopened container.
•  Rain will wash the bait away. Make sure to check the  forecast and spread the bait when it will be sure to have a few days exposure.
•  Fire ants generally look for food in the late afternoon or evening. Spread the bait then to assure the most effective distribution amongst the colony.
•  Use a fire ant bait  spreader.
•  Apply baits twice a year, in early summer and early fall.

Step two – Fire ant hill treatments
__a)  Non-organic treatment – There are a number of highly effective products like the Over n’ Out Fire Ant Killer Granules that  will do the job nicely.
Organic treatment – Some people advocate pouring boiling water  on fire ant hills as an effective method of fire ant control. While this may seem like a good way of killing fire ants, it will usually only partially affect them. They will quickly find a new home in a separate part of the yard.  Perhaps, this time, closer to the house.

D.  Wasps
Unless you’re allergic to them yellow jackets aren’t particularly dangerous on their own, although they’re extremely unpleasant to be stung by. Get a group of them together, though, and you could find yourself dying an agonizingly painful death. Yellow jackets are often mistaken for bees, but they’re actually a species of wasp. This means they can sting repeatedly without dying, unlike most bee species.  They’ll also aggressively defend their nests, which can hold huge numbers of the wasps. Although it is estimated to take around 1500 stings from the insects to kill an adult male, it still happens.

Controlling Wasps
What kind of wasp is it? If the nest is big and papery, it is probably a social wasp like a hornet or
yellow jacket. Social wasps are the most dangerous and aggressive kind of wasp.
They have a queen who lays eggs, which are usually sterile females; upon hatching they form the workforce of the hive. It is important that you do not confuse bees and wasps; it is easy to tell the difference. The most obvious difference is that bees are hairy; the hair is used to collect pollen, something social wasps do not do. Solitary wasps are longer and skinnier and tend to live a “solitary” life, building little mud or paper nests, not bothering anybody—that is unless you bother them.
•  Remove  all food sources. Depending on the season, social wasps will be attracted to different kinds of foods. In the spring and early summer they are going to be looking for protein; this means your kitchen waste, manure, and dead animals. You can keep this to a minimum by making sure your garbage can is sealed. If you are composting your kitchen waste, keep turning it over, thereby burying the newer additions. This will not only reduce wasp populations, but also many other annoying pests—such as flies. Later in the summer, they will be looking for more carbohydrate-based foods; this means sugars, fruits, soft drinks, hummingbird feeders, and fruit trees.
•  Use barriers to keep wasps away. If wasps are getting into your house, you need to figure out their entrance point and seal it up. Check around your screened windows for holes, or separated wood framing. They could just as well be sitting by your door waiting for you to open it and slip inside. Is your picnic table being haunted by hornets? Consider buying a screened tent or picnic canopy that will fit around your eating area. There is a product I have seen available for lining areas of concern, such as your eaves or soffits which is called insect mesh. It will deter wasps from building their nests there, and keep them (and other insects) from entering your house through exposed wood.
•  Control wasps with wasp traps. They work in a similar fashion to most insect traps, i.e., there is bait and a funnel-like structure that leads to a death chamber. There is a pretty simple DIY version out there, and building it just involves cutting off the top one-third of a lidless two-liter soda bottle and inverting it into the bottom of the bottle. You can  use staples or string to join the two halves together, but aside from that, the construction is done. Bait with something sweet and sticky or a stinky protein
source (decomposing meat) in the spring season. Add water mixed with a dash of dish soap to the bottom of the bottle and place in the wasp problem area.
•  Use  poison sprays to kill wasps dead. Nests in trees or in the eaves of houses will require a projectile spray that can reach 20 feet or so. It is best to wait until the air is cool. Stand a safe distance back and start spraying the nest, aiming for the entrance on the bottom. Leave once the nest is saturated. Check back after a day to ensure that all activity has ceased in the nest. If not, reapply. When dealing with wasps inside walls, professionals will use an air duster with a powder like Sevin. It will stick around in the air and make its way up into the nest or settle on the surfaces between the nest and the exit.


Filed under __6. Medical, ___b) Disease

2 responses to “Insects: Disease, Pests & Control

  1. This comment serves as my official request for you to remove the portions of this page which you plagiarized from my article, “15 Ways to Bug Proof Your Home,” hosted here:

    Your use of my article is a violation of the terms of service of, and is in violation of my copyright of this content. This article is licensed exclusively to, a New York Times Company.

    If this content is not removed immediately, I will file a formal DCMA complaint with and notify the legal department.

    Thank you for your immediate action.

    • Hi Debbie,
      I certainly want credit to go you for the excellent work you have done with ’15 Ways…’ When I was editing the article, I missed the fact that credit was not given to you with a link to your website. I’ve removed your contents from the page in question and recommended that my readers visit your website for further information on the topic:

      “B. Bug Proof Your Home [reworking aggregation]
      In addition to the information provided in this section, I recommend you visit:
      ….more to come”

      May I repost “15 Ways…” in the article, but this time WITH proper credits?

      Again, sorry, it was not my intention to claim personal credit for your work.
      Best wishes,

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