Tag Archives: Insect

Some Facts About Mosquitoes

Conjecture: Mosquitoes are probably the most annoying insects on the planet. Fact: They are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet. They’re a source of discomfort, a vector for disease, and they seem to be everywhere we are when enjoying nature, or lately, even just reading the news. Here at Pocket Ranger®, we and our sponsor Thermacell® want to talk about this pest that has brought itself to the forefront of our thoughts as the weather improves and we are drawn outdoors. We’re here to discuss the facts while underlining the importance of mosquito bite prevention.

mosquitoes are the worst.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito enjoying a meal. It’s astonishing the lengths folks will take to photograph these hungry blighters. [Image: www.cdc.gov/]

The Obvious

  • Mosquitoes make up the family Culicidae, approximately 3,500 flying, biting insect species best known for drinking blood from mammals, reptiles, birds, and basically anything else with blood they can sink their proboscises into. They tend to be crepuscular feeders, taking their meals at dawn or dusk.
  • In most mosquito species, female mosquitoes drink blood for protein that is essential to produce eggs before or after mating. Some species are capable of drinking as much as three times their bodyweight.
  • Particularly before they begin mating, female mosquitoes, like their male counterparts, subsist on the sugar from fruit and flower nectar.
  • The mosquito is a food source for birds, bats, amphibians, reptiles, and other animals, despite being a fairly well adapted hunter itself.

Mosquitoes in the U. S. of A.

A map showing mosquito ranges

This map shows the potential ranges of the invasive mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictis in the United States, but does not detail the mosquitoes’ populations or risk of disease transmission. Aedes aegypti is a known carrier of the Zika Virus. Aedes albopictis is not confirmed as a vector here, but could become a viable transmitter of Zika and other diseases. [Image: www.cdc.gov/]

Though West Nile Virus is now endemic in California, mosquito-borne illnesses like Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, Dengue, Malaria, and other dangerous infections are not common in the continental United States. From a historical standpoint, and as a sweeping general rule, the roughly 200 species of mosquitoes in the U.S. tend to be a nuisance to folks spending time outdoors rather than a transmitter of diseases. We’ve been very fortunate in that way.

However, these days, particularly while discussing mosquitoes, we can’t help but talk about the very present context of the Zika Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. Aedes aegypti has been indicated as the primary agent of Zika, largely because it favors living in close proximity to its preferred food source: humans. Aedes aegypti enjoys a comfortable potential range that would extend throughout much of the southern and coastal portions of the U.S. where weather and temperature are a bit more within the mosquito’s varied tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate preferences. And, well, it’s just good practice to prevent or avoid mosquito bites by any reasonable means, regardless of Zika or any other illness, no matter where you live.

Ways to Naturally Prevent Mosquito Bites and Hinder Population Growth

[Image: www.mosquitomagnet.com]

It looks like a great place to clean your feathers, but it’s not a good idea to have one of these hanging around without also having a way to mitigate the mosquito eggs that could hatch from the waters. [Image: www.mosquitomagnet.com/]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on its website, “The best way to prevent Zika and other viruses spread through mosquito bites is to prevent mosquito bites.” Well, when you put it like that, CDC! Thankfully, there are many easy and natural ways to reduce the incidence of mosquito presence and mosquito bites.

  • Wear protective clothing. You can wear long sleeves and pants to reduce the area a mosquito can dig in. Or if it’s just too unbearable to wear that much fabric, you can wear bug spray, DEET, or any number of other topical remedies. Just be sure if you’re wearing sunscreen. too, you apply insect repellent last. Or, as we’ll get to in a minute, there’s an alternative to any of that smelly stuff.
  • If the water’s standing, flip it over. Or use it to water a plant. Birdbaths may be quaint, but they are mosquito nurseries. Rainwater repositories, horse or livestock water troughs, your dog’s outside water bowl, a non-aerated koi pond, and any other number of vestibules and yard items can contribute to your home’s immediate mosquito population. You can mitigate this by simply taking steps to make sure water isn’t sitting or stagnating for days after rain.
  • Herbs and flowers can save your skin. You can plant and grow mosquito repellent plants. Do some research about what grows best in your climate, but trust in the staples like peppermint, lemongrass, basil, garlic, the popular citronella, and even catnip! Most of these plants can be bought already grown, are fairly easy to maintain, and have uses beyond driving bugs away.
  • Choose a repeller you trust. In the spirit of saving the very best for last, you’re probably aware by now that there’s a virtually odorless mosquito repellent with a 98 percent effectiveness rating that requires no oily bodily application. Our favorite way to reduce the chance of mosquito bites is with Thermacell® appliances that wield allethrin, a synthetic copy of the natural mosquito repellent found in chrysanthemums that forms a 15′ by 15′ shield around your outdoor work or hangout space. You can find out how this terrific tool works here.

Thermacell logo.

A combination of all these solutions are the ideal way of reducing incidence of mosquito interaction around your home or campsite, but you’d do well to keep your Thermacell appliance nearby wherever you are. [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

For all the frustration mosquitoes might impose on our lives, the world is just too great and offers too many nature-packed reasons to warrant a life confined to netted spaces or freezing climates. Download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app, gear up with your Thermacell®, get out there, and explore!

How the Thermacell® Mosquito Repellent Works

Hello, outdoors folk! We’re here again to talk about our sponsor Thermacell® and its mosquito repellent devices!

Thermacell mosquito repellant logo

Image: www.thermacell.com/

As you probably remember—or perhaps know from personal experience—the devices create a 15’ x 15’ “mosquito protection zone” that also repels other types of flying, biting insects, like black flies and no-see-ums, while being virtually odorless and leaving none of the usual oily residue or acrid perfume of lotion and spray insect repellents. The lanterns, torches, and repellers are used by hunters, gardeners, campers, hikers, military personnel, and folks who just love hanging out on their porch, patio, or in their backyard. But we’ve hardly scratched the surface of HOW the devices work.

The EPA-approved devices have a 98 percent effectiveness rating and have been tested across the globe in swamps, tropical climates, and across the good ol’ U.S. of A. And perhaps the part that makes it so effective is that it is easy to set up and uncomplicated to operate. You simply screw in the butane cartridge and install a blue allethrin-dipped mat, turn the device switch ON, and press the START button.

Once your device is lit, the science comes in. The butane inside the device heats the grill that overlays the mosquito repellent mat. This, in turn, causes the liquid allethrin in the mat to vaporize and diffuse into the air through a process not unlike that of an aromatherapy candle—but much more helpful in the field:

molecules showing diffusion on how mosquito repellant works

Once vaporized, the particles are able to maneuver about the air like a born-and-bred New Yorker through Grand Central—swiftly and without making any eye contact. [Image: www.bbc.co.uk/]

Once vaporized, the allethrin is able to move freely through the air, and in less than 10 minutes, you’ll be enjoying a force field that repels mosquitos and other biting insects. It might even look this cool to your imagination:

boys camping and using thermacell mosquito repellant

“Good thinking, Jordan! Your DMB covers will definitely also help to keep the mosquitos away.” [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

The butane cartridge lasts for 12 hours and the repellent mat last for four hours, which is plenty of time to settle your poker game or reel a couple of fish in for dinner—or both. And since changing them out is such a breeze, if the poker game runs long, the fish aren’t biting, or you just want to enjoy the sounds of nature at dusk, twilight, midnight, or later, you’ll have the back-up you need.

Negroni, anyone?

“Ha ha, excellent! I haven’t had a mosquito up my nose in over an hour!” “I haven’t, either! These torches are great!” [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

Of course, nature is the boss whenever we step outside. and high winds are a natural deterrent to both mosquitos and the benefit of a device that repels them. When using a Thermacell product, it is best to choose an outdoor location where there is little wind or minimal air movement. When you’ve found a spot of relative calm, the Thermacell product is most effective when placed near the ground. If there is some wind where you are hoping to use the appliance or lantern, you’ll have the best results if you place it upwind of your work or relaxation space so that when the breeze comes, it brings the repellent along with it.

And if you’re like your author here, when someone tells you that a product works great, you definitely want to try it for yourself before you buy into the hype. Thermacell, like all companies that have faith in their products, offers a full refund if you find yourself dissatisfied with the results. So gear up with your Thermacell appliance and Pocket Ranger® mobile app, and get in the field!

Let Thermacell Up Your Mosquito-Repellent Game

As avid outdoors people, who hate being mosquito candy, we at Pocket Ranger® are pleased to announce our new sponsor, Thermacell®!

Thermacell logo.

Image: www.thermacell.com/

Thermacell is, of course, an incredible mosquito-repelling technology that bears a 98 percent effectiveness rating. It is used by governmental agencies, on military bases, and by civilians in their yards and in swamps, meadows, and any outdoor space across the U.S. where mosquitos lurk. The product is vetted and championed by campers, hunters, hikers, boaters, and anyone else who’s used it where flying, biting insects attempt to invade our personal space.

Camper with mosquito-repellent lantern.

This camper, right in the thick of the mosquito’s native habitat, opens his tent flap wide. Why? Because of those awesome Thermacell® mosquito-repelling lanterns he’s using to clearly excellent effect! [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

Thermacell’s Patio and Outdoor Lanterns, Torches, and “Repeller” Appliances all create the same noninvasive and virtually odor-free area of protection for stationary uses and mobile ones. “How does this work?” you might ask. Well, the (easily-researched) secret ingredient in Thermacell’s mosquito repellent is allethrin, a synthetic form of the insecticide that occurs naturally in chrysanthemums. Allethrin is essentially odorless and works in Thermacell devices through butane-operated diffusion. There’s no oily topical application or the usual bug spray scent, and the effect covers anyone within its 15’ x 15’ area of protection.

Hikers that AREN'T itchy!

Look at these guys! Taking a placid, dimly lit walk without worrying about the meal that would no doubt be their exposed arms and calves, were it not for that shining Thermacell lantern! [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

The lanterns and torches have a convenient base or attach easily to a pole while emanating enough light to allow one to rummage through a fishing tackle or play a card game. The repeller devices easily attach to belts, backpacks, or a pocket for portable and hands-free protection against the bugs that pester even the best prepared hikers among us. If you’re changing the oil in your car, relaxing with friends around a bonfire, spending your day as a professional or recreational landscaper/gardener, or are just anyone who enjoys being outside as much as we do, this is the device for you. No more hovering pests looking to make a meal of you!

Grow food, don't BE food!

Here’s a representation (with some graphic embellishment) of how nice it can be to grow food and not BE food. Note: The svelte device working hard to keep the gardener’s hands free to work their green-thumbed magic! [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

Perhaps best of all, each of the repellent devices is designed to be lightweight and portable and are powered by AA batteries. So you don’t have to worry about cords or charging, and least of all, wrangling bulky lighting gear and bug spray out to your favorite campsite, tree stand, or fishing spot. It’s all compact and conveniently located within a single device!

To hunt and not be hunted.

Fun fact: Thermacell’s Earth Scent Mosquito Repeller is the only butane-operated mosquito repellent that doubles as a mask for human scent, which is as good a combination a hunter could hope for to keep the focus on hunting rather than being hunted. [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

If you think we’re stoked about our new sponsor, you’re right! We’re all about getting outside and doing what we love, and this device definitely adds to the quality of outdoor adventure. If you’re curious, you can find out more about this wonderful mosquito-repellent technology by visiting the Thermacell website here. You’ll learn about how the devices work, what they’re guarding against, and how to get your hands on your very own Lantern, Repeller, or Torch! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to use your favorite Pocket Ranger mobile apps to plan a perfect trip to give those mosquito repellers a whirl!

Get the Buzz about Honeybees

There are over 20,000 different types of bees in the world, but today we’re going to concentrate on just one: the honeybee. Although many people are frightened of honeybees (or just stinging insects in general), they’re a crucial part of our continued existence. Here’s some information about these fuzzy, buzzy little cuties that’ll have you admiring their hives rather than running from them. 

The Daily Life of a Honeybee

A honeybee flying over a flower.

A Honeybee. [Image: emfsafetynetwork.org/cell-phone-radiation-disturbs-honey-bees]

Three types of honeybees can be found in the hive: workers, drones, and the queen. Typically the only bees that we encounter are the workers; they are the sexually undeveloped females that keep the hive and bee society running smoothly. The workers clean, build, and protect the hive as well as venture outside to forage for pollen and nectar. Inside the hive, the drones (male bees) and queen can be found. The queen’s main purpose is to lay eggs and continue the growth of the hive while the drones work in accordance with her and fertilize the eggs. The queen also produces chemicals that regulate the behavior of the other bees in the hive. If the queen happens to die, one worker is fed a special diet (called the “royal jelly”) that will develop her into a fertile queen prepared to take the deceased one’s place.

Wintertime in the hive is drastically different as the bees prepare to hunker down and hibernate. Drones are kicked out of the hive, and the workers surround the queen in a cluster where they shiver to keep warm. Cold bees on the outside of the cluster change places with those on the inside, and the group lives off stored honey to survive the harsh winter chills. 

Don’t Swat that Bee! 

Hundreds of bees on a hive.

A honeybee hive. [Image: photoclub.canadiangeographic.ca/mediadetail/8233406?offset=0]

Bees are important to humans, and without them, life would be a whole lot tougher. Honeybees make up about 80% of all insect pollination, playing a huge role in our agriculture and leading to the growth of many of our fruits and vegetables. The Apis mellifera honeybee species is used for the commercial pollination of crops and other plants, and each beehive collects around 66 pounds of pollen annually. Bees use the pollen as food in addition to honey, which is created by the nectar they collect from various nearby flowering trees and plants.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the term given to the unexplainable steady decline of honeybee populations occurring over the last few years. Harsh winters that last longer than ever before, shrinking habitats, increased use of pesticides, and especially mites and viruses found in hives are among the biggest contributors to CCD. Another problem is that industrialized bee farms take all the honey from a hive leaving the bees with none to survive off come wintertime. Instead it’s replaced with high fructose corn syrup, which keeps the bees alive but doesn’t provide the needed natural nutritional advantages that honey supplies. This makes the bees’ immune systems more susceptible to disease and parasites. As farms focus more on growing only one cash crop, there are less natural spaces and wildflower fields for bees to choose from, which also negatively affects them.

Help a Bee Out 

A bee drinking sugar water from a spoon.

Sugar water can help revitalize a tired honeybee. [Image: www.dontletthedaysgoby.co.uk/2014/07/saving-bee.html]

There are many ways for you to get involved and help honeybees out! Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Add plenty of plants to your yard that bees are attracted to such as clover, oregano, lavender, sage, buttercup, and goldenrod.
  • When planting your garden, make sure to avoid using pesticides as they can poison and harm the bees.
  • If a bee is covered in mites and clearly struggling, try brushing them off (gently!) with a paintbrush.
  • You may have seen the picture floating around social media about feeding a tired bee a mixture of water and sugar, but be careful when doing so! Artificial sweeteners shouldn’t be used and definitely do not feed a bee honey—as well-intentioned as it is, honey (even organic brands) may contain traces of viruses that could infect the bee. Bees should only ever eat honey from their own hive.
  • As spring rears its gorgeous, warm head, it’s never been a more perfect opportunity to take a trip out to visit a local beekeeper and learn about what’s involved in keeping a bee colony alive. Even you city-dwellers can be sure to find a spot as urban beekeeping becomes more and more popular across the country. 

Use our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps and head out to a park near you to see how many gorgeous wildflowers, wildlife, and especially honeybees you can spot!

Your State’s Insect

Do you know your state’s insect? While exploring your state park, try spotting one of these insects. Once you find them, snap a photo and post it to our social media sites!

Your State’s Insect

Connecticut

Connecticut's State's insect; Green praying mantis on a green leaf

Image: animals.nationalgeographic.com

This state’s insect is the praying mantis. It’s a green or brown insect that eats aphids, flies, grasshoppers, caterpillars and moths. The praying mantis is beneficial to farmers, and it’s a symbol of stillness and patience.

Florida

A zebra longwing butterfly on a purple flower

Image: www.floridastateparks.org

The beautiful zebra longwing butterfly belongs to the state of Florida. It has long black wings with thin stripes. It makes a creaking noise when it’s alarmed. They feed on nectar and pollen, and their life span is about six months.

Kansas

Honeybees in a hive

Image: www.sciencenutshell.com

It’s the honeybee! Some of us might fear this insect, but bee pollination is crucial to plant and human survival. Honeybees live in hives of up to 80,000 individuals. Young worker bees are called house bees; they construct the hive and maintain the comb. Older workers are field bees where they gather nectar and search for pollen, water and plants.

New York

Nine-dotted red and black ladybug on a green leaf

Image: www.healthbarnusa.com

If you live in New York, your state’s insect is the amazing, nine-dotted ladybug. Ladybugs help gardeners and farmers by eating tiny insect pests that damage plants. They also eat harmful insects, such as scales, leafhoppers and mites. The nine-dotted ladybug continues to persist, but they have become very rare.

Pennsylvania

Firefly beetle lighting up on a green leaf

Image: www.thefeaturedcreature.com

The firefly beetle is Pennsylvania’s state insect. The firefly produces its light through a chemical reaction using special photic organs with very little heat given off as wasted energy. Both sexes use the flash patterns to attract members of the opposite sex.

Washington

Darner Dragonfly on a green leaf

Image: sites.google.com

The insect that belongs to this state is the green darner dragonfly. It is usually seen in the early spring through fall and it has a large body with silvery wings, compound eyes, a green thorax and a blue stripe down its back. Adult darner dragonflies catch and eat insects on the wing and they have powerful jaws that tear and chew up their prey.

Want to spot one of these creatures? Download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to find a park nearest you. And don’t forget about your state’s mammal!

Suggested Gear List:

  • Binoculars
  • Backpacks
  • Camera
  • Insect Repellent

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear store for these items and much more!

Fact or Fiction: Debunking Insect Myths

Image: Image: www.news.filehippo.com

Image: www.news.filehippo.com

Insects, although vital to the ecosystem, can be downright annoying at times, especially when we’re trying to enjoy our the outdoors. Many family picnics have been run afoul with the presence of mosquitoes and flies, and picnics ruined due to ants marching at our feet. You’ve probably seen some of your elders use homemade remedies such as dryer sheets and water to ward off insects. Well, we’re back debunking insect myths.

Ants Will Avoid Areas With Chalk

Chalk is said to be one of ants’ biggest enemies, well, besides Raid. Varying sources provide varying theories on this phenomenon. No one is completely sure why ants tend to avoid walking over chalk – some think it’s a chemical contained in chalk that turns them off. Some say if you’re having an ant problem in your house or around your picnic area, drawing a line will keep them at bay.

Verdict:

Yes and no. Chalk does deter ants, but only for a while. Ants operate by following scent trails of other ants and anything that disrupts that scent (chalk) will daze the ants. Eventually, they will wise up to the situation and forge on. So, this myth can be chalked up to no good.

Dryer Sheets Keep Mosquitoes Away

Image: www.gianteagle.com

Image: www.gianteagle.com

The downturn of any exciting camping trip or family barbecue are those pesky mosquitoes all a-buzzing around. Since mosquitoes are such a nuisance, people have taken extreme measures to keep them away including using mobile apps and bubble machines, but the best mosquito repellent of all is located in your laundry room. Dryer sheets, the myth says, will repel mosquitoes away from you by rubbing the sheets on your skin. Mosquitoes are attracted to the natural human scent, so if you can effectively mask that scent, you’ll be less of a target.

Verdict:

Not really. The results of this experiment have been mixed at best. It was proven that dryer sheets help fend off gnats, but not mosquitoes. Your best bet would be to use mosquito repellent.

Hot Spoon On Bug Bites Relieves Itching

Image: www.lifehacker.com

Image: www.lifehacker.com

How many times have you been outside and not able to enjoy nature because of the constant bug bites. The itching sensation from mosquito bites comes from proteins in its saliva that’s used to clot your blood. People in the old days would place a hot spoon over the area to alleviate the itching sensation.

Verdict:

Yes! Life Hacker says if you heat up a spoon and place it over the itch for about 30 seconds, this will alleviate the sensation. Don’t bother scratching, that further aggravates the area because it increases the body’s histamine response.

Bags of Water Keeps Flies Away

Image: www.http://susiej.com

Image: www.http://susiej.com

It’s an old wives’ tale that no one can seem to debunk. The myth goes that hanging Zip-lock bags full of water (sometimes with pennies on the inside) will keep flies away. The most common theory about why this method works is that flies, with their compound eyes, are confused by the refracted light coming from the bag of water.

Verdict:

Undetermined, but probably not true. Our good friends at Mythbusters put this myth to task by creating two spaces with rotting meat, one with water and one without.The results showed that the number of flies in both rooms were almost equal, thus busting the myth.

Suggested Gear List: 

  • Roxy Musing Backpack – Women’s
  • Zensah Reflect Compression Arm Sleeves
  • Katadyn Combi Microfilter

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and more!