Monday, November 29, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

Kiwicare production flat out to meet demand
Kiwicare is heading into the peak production and sales season as insect problems rise with rising temperatures. The La Nina weather pattern that we are experiencing this year is predicted to cause hot dry conditions in New Zealand and farmers have been warned to prepare for drought. Such weather is also likely to increase insect numbers including pests. Sales of Kiwicare insect control products is already showing a large trend upwards, above and beyond the usual rise at this time of year. This means that there is pressure within the factory to increase production to fulfill demand. I even found myself working on the production line on Saturday to help out. Many thanks to all the staff that are working so hard and so many long hours to ensure our retailers and the New Zealand public have the Kiwicare products they need.

The prospect of a bad year for insect pests means that I suggest you carry out a general insect and spider proofing of your house now, before you have to.

A normally busy bee,
is lazing under a tree.
When a wasp flies by,
and shouts "Hi!"
"Your usually busier than me."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Zealand Biosecurity

As a member of the national executive of the New Zealand Biosecurty Institute I had a meeting with the executive on Tuesday. Much was discussed, including the core focus of the members of the institute, namely the preservation of New Zealand's unique flora, fauna and habitats. These unique natural aspects of New Zealand's biodiversity are constantly at risk from pests and diseases being brought in from overseas. The recent discovery of a bacterial infection (PSA) on kiwi fruit vines across the country has highlighted the vulnerability of industry as well as natural ecosystems to organisms imported accidentally.

An incident today at work also shows how easily pests can be brought into the country. A container arrived at Kiwicare which had recently been offloaded from a ship in Lyttelton harbour having come from China through Hong Kong. Our ever vigilant store man and manager of our transitional facility (John Forrest) recognised signs of spider webbing and nests on the exterior of the container and immediately quarantined it before calling MAF Biosecurity New Zealand. MAF asked what was in the container and John had to explain that it was full of (irony of ironies) insecticide products.

John quckly sprayed the offending webbing nests with a dual action insecticide approved for the purpose to prevent any insects or spiders hopping off before MAF arrive.

The container has of course already been driven from Lyttelton through the Lyttelton tunnel and through a section of Christchurch. It is not inconceivable that anything on the container could have fallen off before getting here.

Within a couple of hours a MAF representative arrived to check the container and deal with any threats that it might pose.

The incident several things; firstly how vigilance and rapid reaction can reduce the risk of pest being imported and secondly how difficult a job protecting our unique natural environment and primary industry is. Many container are checked and treated with fumigants such as methyl bromide before being released from ports but insects and spiders, seeds and diseases can be on the exterior of containers as well.

Join us in the NZBI and learn how you can help prevent pests and diseases reaching New Zealand and deal with them if they gain entry. Membership is as little as NZ$30 per year.

A Red Imported Fire Ant walks into a bar in Auckland. The bartender says "How did you get in?"
"Oh. It was easy. I hitched a lift on an Acacia mearnsii."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New York, London..... Now Paris. Where Next for Bed Bugs?

Paris has recently been added to the list of the world's major cities to have bed bug infestations hit the headlines. See here.

I don't believe that the bed bugs have been transported there from New York or London, any more than they have been transported in the other direction. Bed bugs have been in Paris, London, New York, Auckland, Christchurch, Wanganui ...........and everywhere people have lived in numbers for many years, probably millions. What the increasing media frenzy is due to is increasing numbers of infestations and the consequent increasing transport of bed bugs from one place to another. This is a world wide phenomena.

While we should be vigilant and protect ourselves from being unwitting vectors of infestation, bed bugs are still rare. The New Zealand accommodation industry is pro-active in preventing bed bugs and dealing with a problem quickly when it arises. We, the travellers, can help by ensuring we take care to treat our luggage before travelling and to check rooms where we sleep both here and abroad. Don't lay luggage on beds or floors, and use the luggage racks where the bugs are less able to 'hitch a ride' in your case.

New York, Paris, London, Auckland, .....bed bugs are coming to a hotel/motel near you. Are you safe? No one is.

There are two bed-bugs in Paris. One says to the other "Let's go to the Hilton. I hear the drink is tasty but non-fattening there."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Old New Zealand Housing at Risk

Are you finding more of those little holes in the wood around your home?

Spring sees the beginning of the borer flight season when the adult beetles emerge from their wooden food source to mate and start the cycle of destruction all over again. Homes in cooler and damper parts of New Zealand such Otago and Southland are most affected by these destructive insect pests but no part of the country is immune. Each year, as more damage is accumulated, our homes and other affected buildings become weaker.

It might take more than 50 years for damage to accumulate to the point of failure but the number of homes reaching such a venerable and vulnerable age is increasing. It is estimated that over six hundred thousand New Zealand homes are now over 50 years old.

Thankfully borer do not damage timbers as quickly as termites. If the slow increase in holes is noticed at all, the progress of the damage is often ignored for years. Each year the floor boards might creak a little more and the weatherboards might take a little more filling before painting; but until a floor board fails and you fall through, or the weatherboards start to rot because of water penetrating the holes, you may not be aware that your home is in danger.

Borer tend to attack softer timbers, so the older houses with structural timbers made of good quality heartwood are likely to be structurally safe, but even these houses often have decorative or non-structural timbers of softer sapwood. We often see weatherboards or floorboards riddled with borer holes next to undamaged boards. Even the same board may be heavily damaged in one area and undamaged elsewhere.
Floor board showing borer damage in lower two thirds

In the 1950s preservative timber treatment was introduced to new buildings and this has protected many timber homes of less than 60 years of age, but not all later houses used treated timbers and treatment loses effectiveness over time; it should not be expected the treatment will give protection for more than 50 years. There are many homes older than 50 years with susceptible timbers and the slow chewing of borer beetle larvae is now making more and more timbers fail. It might be too late for some parts of older houses but the borer damage can be stopped or at least slowed greatly by the use of protective borer products.

The larvae of the common wood boring beetles (Anobium punctatum and Leanobium flavomaculatum) are slow eaters; they chew through the interior of untreated timbers for 2-4 years before emerging from the wood between October and March. As they emerge they open the small (2-3mm) holes in the surface of the wood that we identify as borer infestation. When we see these holes in our weatherboards, architraves, skirting, floorboards and furniture we only see the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ The vast majority of the damage is within the timber where a labyrinth of tunnels has weakened the wood.
Borer control can be carried out effectively by the use of borer fluids that penetrate deep into the affected timbers and provide protection for many years. Even the timbers that are hard to reach such as roof timbers and floor timbers can be given protection by the use of borer bombs during the flight season. These kill the adult beetles that have emerged from the flight holes and stop them mating and laying their eggs back on the timbers. There are also aerosol injectors that can be used to treat individual flight holes in damaged painted or varnished wood. This will kill larvae deep within the wood and prevent eggs being laid in the holes.

Spring is a good time to examine your home for sign of borer infestation. I suggest looking for fresh flight holes. These will have a clean appearance inside the hole. It may take examining the holes with a magnifying lens. Sand like dust known as frass may also fall out of the flight holes when the wood is given a tap. So check your home and protect it from damage now before you fall through the floor.

A borer beetle walks into a bar. 
The bar says to the bartender. "I'm bored."

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Show's Over for Another Year

The Canterbury A&P Show ended yesterday after three scorching days in the Christchurch sunshine. The quake and the economic climate didn't stop an estimated crowd of over 100,000 visiting New Zealand's biggest agricultural and pastoral show. The meteorological climate of three days of almost unbroken sunshine and temperatures well into and above the mid 20's brought people from the city to join the out of towners that make the pilgrimage to the show.

Kiwicare at Canterbury A&P Show 2010
Kiwicare supports the A&P Show each year as the company is one of the major manufactures in Christchurch. The Kiwicare display in the trade pavilion was visited by hundreds of people searching for advice on their garden and home. The stand was manned with me in the heat of the pavilion by a combination of volunteers from the office, factory, lab and sales team. Thank you to all those who came along to visit us.

We look forward to seeing you there again next year.

What do you get if you cross a hen with a brick?
A brick-layer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bed Bugs at the Canterbury A&P Show

Bed Bugs
I will be at the Kiwicare stand at the Canterbury A&P Show this week (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). Come and visit us in the Trade Pavilion where we will answer your questions on pest control and garden care. I will also have some live bed bugs (safely sealed to prevent escape) to show those that want to know what to look out for.

See me deal with a bed bug infestation on TV3 Campbell Live

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Bed Bug Eradication on Campbell Live

Apologies to those that tuned in to TV3's Campbell Live tonight to see me dealing with bed bugs. The piece was Outrageously bumped until tomorrow (10th Movember) by a piece on the last episode of Outrageous Fortune. Perhaps the Fortune will come my way tomorrow.

See the program on bed bugs here.

Why did the bed bug drive on the motorway?
Someone told him it was a main artery!



Saturday, November 6, 2010

More Mo for Your Money

My Mo on Morning of
7th Movember
For those that see me on Campbell Live talking about bed bugs I think I better explain the strange appearance of a 'smudge' on my top lip. I have not forgotten to wash or been attacked by some large hairy caterpillar. I am instead taking part in Movember and growing a mustache to help raise awareness of men's health issues.

This is me today and the state of the mo. If you wish to donate to my mo or to the Kiwicare mo team "The Mo No Team" you can visit the official Movember site and donate online. I have, perhaps foolishly, promised to dye my mo red should donations to it reach $100.

Click here to donate to my mo.

Click here to donate The Mo No Team.

Thank you. And Good Health.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Jetstar (Mis) Management

I had flown up to Auckland from Christchurch early yesterday and was booked on the 7.35pm Jetstar flight back to Christchurch. I was at the airport with plenty of time and having booked in found the departure lounge quiet enough to catch up on some calls and work. By 6.30pm the departure lounge was full and I realised the Wellington flight was delayed due to technical difficulties with the plane. The Christchurch plane was at the gate and I watched our luggage being loaded. Then about 7.15pm I watched as luggage was being unloaded from the Christchurch plane. ‘Funny’ I thought. Could they have loaded the wrong luggage? Then there was an announcement (note the order of these things) that the Christchurch flight JT255 was almost ready and passengers in rows 16-32 would be called to board shortly. At this, many passengers got up and stood in a queue to board. I didn’t as I was in a row 12.

At about 7.25pm there was another announcement and the penny dropped. The Christchurch plane was to be used for the Wellington flight and the Christchurch flight might be cancelled. There was and audible ‘Oh no’ from the Christchurch passengers and a silent ‘Yippee’ from the Wellington passengers.

I can understand the economics of the Jetstar decision. The Wellington bound plane was to fly back to Auckland for a further flight to Wellington but the Christchurch flight ended in Christchurch. So it was a decision on cancelling one Christchurch flight versus cancelling two Wellington and one Auckland bound flights. What annoys me, as will become clear, is the manner of the management of the handling of the situation from the point of the decision to cancel on.

First, it is clear that the decision to switch planes and cancel Christchurch was made maybe as early as 7.00pm as I saw our luggage being removed shortly after this time. But the departure lounge staff were obviously not told this, leaving them to make false announcements. It is likely the possibility of the need to cancel a flight was known much earlier as the damaged plane had been sitting on the tarmac for sometime already and the Wellington flight had already been delayed for some time.

Secondly, the announcement of the cancellation was made and then immediately the announcer said it was maybe not cancelled and they were working on ‘a plan.’ After the Wellington plane was loaded and the gate closed it was finally confirmed the Christchurch flight was cancelled. We should all go to the luggage carousel to collect our bags before going to check in points 1 and 2. At the check in desks we would be booked on the next available flight the next day and get accommodation vouchers. Fair enough; until you think about 120 plus passenger being handled by two check in desks.

Perhaps more intelligent passengers went straight to the check in desks. I, like many other did as instructed and went to collect my bag. There wasn’t space in the check in area for the queue so it wound its way up the stairs and a second stream started building towards the baggage claim.

Thirdly, and most annoyingly, for most of the next FOUR HOURS it took for Jetstar to process the passengers flights and accommodation for the night there were at no point more than 3 check in desks working, and one very hassled supervisor. I quickly realised that being towards the end of the queue I was going to be there for some time. Each passenger was taking on average 5-10 minutes to process. During this period some Jetstar staff, obviously coming to the end of their shift, left to go home.Leaving the queue of ever more disgruntled passengers to their long stand. At no time did I see a manger from Jetstar. I suspect they knew what they had let their meagre overworked few young girls to handle. Could Jetstar management not foresee the difficulties such a small team were going to face?

I n my opinion the management, or should that be, mis-management team, of Jetstar should be either forced to stand in a queue at their counters for four hours, or better, be forced to handle the 120 plus passengers from a cancelled flight. I think there would be a lot more action in finding staff to help out the next time a flight is cancelled.

On the positive side, I applaud the young Jetstar girls left to try and sort out the mess, but more than this I applaud the passengers who were in the most part stoic and almost endlessly patient. I know those that ended up at the Grand Chancellor with me at 11.45pm are now all members of the 255 club. We have found a group of new friends. One lady of Indian origin named Angie who had been going to Christchurch for weekend, on her first visit and first flight within New Zealand, said she enjoyed the company so much she thought we should do it again. I think she might have meant the get together and chat and not the standing in the queue for four hours.

Perhaps this could be a story for another Campbell Live?

You'll know it's Jetstar if:
  1. You cannot board the plane unless you have the exact change.
  2. Before you took off, the stewardess tells you to fasten your Velcro.
  3. The Captain asks all the passengers to chip in a little for gas.
  4. When they pull the steps away, the plane starts rocking.
  5. The Captain yells at the ground crew to get the cows off the runway.
  6. You ask the Captain how often their planes crash and he says, "Just once."
  7. Your life keeps flashing before your eyes.
  8. You see a man with a gun, but he's demanding to be let off the plane.
  9. All the planes have both a bathroom and a chapel.

Bed Bugs on TV3 Campbell Live

Yesterday I was in Auckland for the day and today I am still here. The reason I am still here will become clear later.

I came to Auckland to help in the making of a piece for TV3’s Campbell Live program. The reports I have made regarding the increase in bed bug problems tweaked the interest of the program makers and I was contacted to ask if I would help. What they wanted was some film of someone who was suffering a bed bug infestation and was willing to talk about the experience. And allow filming of the bed bugs in their home. A tall order.

Earlier in the week I was contacted by a lovely lady, named Jenny, who recounted a story of picking up bed bugs during her and her family’s travels sometime at the beginning of the year. As I listened to the story I realised how articulate Jenny was in telling of her experiences and how she wanted to educate people on what to look out for, what to do about them and to dispel the stigma surrounding bed bugs.

Once I had answered Jenny’s questions and had given her my advice I asked if she would be prepared to help in the making of the piece for Campbell Live. Jenny happily said yes, saying it would be a great way to get more understanding of these pests out to the public. When I contacted the Campbell Live office to say that I thought I had found a very good example of the problem with a very articulate lady to talk about it, they were also very excited.

There was one hitch. When I contacted Jenny again to arrange the filming; her husband and one of her daughters, when told, had been less enthusiastic and felt that there might be some risk to their workplace reputations. This was exactly the problem with the incorrect perception of linkage between bed bugs and cleanliness that we hoped the program would help to dispel. Jenny managed to convince her family that it would be a message worth helping to get across that bed bugs are coming and they will live in homes and hotels of the highest standards of hygiene; like Jenny’s.

The Campbell Live reporter Tristram Clayton, Jenny, Dave the cameraman and myself filmed the piece in Jenny’s lovely home over a period of nearly four hours yesterday and the piece will be shown on TV3 sometime early next week. I will let you know which day as soon as I know myself.

Who bit the big bold bald bear on the boulder on the shoulder and made the big bold bald bear on the boulder bawl?
A big bed bug bit a bold bald bear and the bold bald bear bled blood badly.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Flea Season Starting Already

The flea season traditionally follows Christmas. But this year I am already handling enquiries from people having difficulty dealing with fleas on their pets and in their houses. I have also noticed an increase in traffic on the internet and sales of Flea products are already soaring.

There are adverts been shown on national TV at the moment from the major pet flea control products. Interestingly the ads mention that the eggs, larvae and pupa of fleas are not affected by their products. Products that are dropped on the skin of cats and dogs make the blood of those animals toxic to the adult fleas that then feed on them. The larvae of fleas do not feed on the blood from your pets. the larvae feed on dust largely comprised of the dead skin cells of the pets and people in the house. So the products used to treat pets only kill adult fleas and only when they have sucked the blood of the treated pet.

Treatment of pets alone can control fleas once all the eggs, larvae and pupae have become adults, fed on the pets and died before laying more eggs.

Best control can be achieved by a combination of treating the pets and treating the areas where the eggs, larvae and pupae are living.

How to Get Rid of Fleas
Almost all flea infestations are associated with pets, birds or other animals. Cat fleas are the most likely to bite humans but all will feed on a host other than their favoured when it is all that is available. Getting rid of fleas requires a multi pronged approach:
    Flea Bites
  1. Vacuum? Vacuuming before treatment is advised by some pest control experts as it will 'activate' pupae so that the adults can be treated. However, the adults first action will be to try and find a food source. The food source is likely to be you. To prevent bites we recommend leaving the vacuuming stage until 5-7 days after treatment.
  2. Treat your pets – Flea control products can be obtained from your veterinarian or from pet supplies stores. If you have no pets check for other animals living around your house, such as birds in the eaves or cats under the floor. Animal flea treatments normally kill and/or sterilise the adult fleas when the fleas suck the blood of the treated animal.
  3. For a quick knockdown of flea numbers use NO Bugs Bug Bombs (Flea Bomb).
  4. Spray pet bedding areas and places where fleas have been detected with NO Fleas Total. This product will kill adult fleas and larvae that contact the treated areas. It also contains a growth regulator that stops development of fleas and terminating their life cycle.
  5. Following treatment carefully collect all bedding from the room and place in a plastic bag for transport to your washing machine, being careful to make sure no insects are dropped on the way. If possible wash the clothes in a hot wash.
  6. After 5-7 days – Vacuum – Thoroughly vacuum dust and other detritus from all areas. This will remove dead fleas, larvae and eggs and also remove the food that the larvae need to develop. It will also 'activate' remaining pupae and the hatched adults will contact the treated surfaces to be killed. Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag immediately afterwards, by sealing in a plastic bag and placing in the waste bin outside.
  7. Spray again with NO Fleas Total to protect from further infestation. NO Fleas Total will remain effective for at least three months in most situations.
  8. Be sure to keep your pet's flea control up to date. This will help to prevent re-infestation. Regular vacuuming removes the detritus that flea larvae would feed on and help to reduce the risk of future infestation.
Be pro-active and protect yourself, your family and your pets from fleas now.

Shortest ever poem about fleas.

Adam had'em.