Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bed Bugs: Recognizing an Infestation

The first clue many people have is a mysterious rash.  This rash may appear very differently in members of the same family getting bitten by the same population of this icky insect.  Sometimes it shows as tiny to medium sized spots which can be darker, lighter, or redder than the surrounding skin.  These spots can be raised similar to a mosquito bite or they can even be slightly sunken like a tiny indentation.  They may itch, hurt, or burn.  Some people experience the itching, pain, or burning without any visual rash at all. 

The rash can be much worse for people who are allergic.  Individual bites can appear as large mosquito bites.  They sometimes itch, burn, and hurt all at once.  Small or large raised red areas that resemble welts, hives, a slap mark, or a burn may appear and persist.  They can become infected and they can cause scarring.  

Elderly people and young children may have infected feeding areas that they are not aware of.  Bed bugs inject an anesthetic when they bite.  This anesthetic can be very effective.  It is important to encourage everyone to do full body checks on a weekly basis.  Children and the elderly may need help and encouragement.  Many other health issues can be detected by skin checks, so it is a good habit for everyone to cultivate in any event.

Keeping that anesthetic in mind, some people can be living with a fairly heavy infestation and not have a clue.  This makes it very important to inspect bedding and mattresses for bed bug signs on a regular basis.  Before you start stripping your beds to do your inspection, you want to gather some supplies.  If you disturb bed bug nests and are not prepared to kill them on sight, they are going to head into your walls.  Once they get into your walls they are very hard to kill.  However, if they are already there, do not despair.  If you think you are in this situation, let me know.  I will cover it in a future article.  

Meanwhile, arm yourself with a spray bottle full of isopropyl alcohol (70%); a good sized magnifying glass; and a bright penlight, flashlight, or other movable light to help illuminate the bugs and their eggs.   

Seventy percent isopropyl alcohol is an effective contact poison for bed bugs.  Do not use a higher concentration.  The higher concentrations evaporate too quickly to do the job, they are highly flammable, and they are more toxic to you.  Lower concentrations won’t kill the bugs.  Keep in mind that even the 70% isopropyl alcohol is toxic to human beings.  It is less toxic to us than most insecticides; but you should still take it seriously.  Having a set of goggles close by and a face mask or a bandana is a good idea.  Open the windows as well.  If you find a few large bed bug nests you may be spraying quite a bit of the alcohol.  

Now that we have our supplies we are ready to begin our inspection.  Start by looking very closely at the top of the bedding.  If there has been any bed bug activity, you may notice feces.  Like the rashes bed bugs cause, their feces can take many forms.  They may look like fly specks, tiny gritty grains of ‘dirt,’ small spots of goop, or irregular stains—in shades of black, brown, amber, or red.  In small infestations the stains may be pale in color and tiny.  As the infestations grow, the stains also tend to grow and darken in color.  A new small infestation can be hard to detect.  But a large well established one is not something you want to be faced with. So, look carefully.

While you are inspecting for feces, keep your eye out for the bed bugs themselves.  Adults are about the size and shape of a sesame seed. Add a tiny head to the narrow end, with piercing mouth parts, and legs extending out to the sides slightly back from the head.  Color the creature red and you have the general idea.  The bodies are somewhat translucent, and they are segmented as well, which allows them to swell and elongate as they feed.  Bed bug eggs look a lot like tiny grains of rice.  They vary in size quite a bit, but 2 – 4 of them could sit on top of a sesame seed.  When first laid they glisten and are sticky, allowing them to adhere to many surfaces.  When first hatched, bed bugs are translucent and about half the size of their egg. The hatched egg cases remain attached to the surfaces they are laid on, and will dull and darken in color and collapse over time.  As the immature bed bugs feed, they slowly take on pigment.  Right after a meal the digestive track may appear black. The insect itself will slowly change color as it matures; from cream to yellow, amber, and finally the red of the adult.

If you find bugs or eggs, and you may need the magnifying glass and the flashlight to find them, spray them immediately with the rubbing alcohol.  Soak them well.  Keep an eye on them.  If they try to escape, spray them some more.  They like to hide in tucks, seams, and folds, and by blending in to the patterns on fabric.

After you finish inspecting the top layer of bedding, do not pull it off the bed and inadvertently shake it over the floor or carpet.  This will just spread any of the bugs and eggs around that you missed and help them escape.   Roll each layer up separately, looking for bed bug signs as you go.  If bugs or feces are found, place bedding in a plastic garbage bag and seal tightly with a twist tie or something similar, right away. Repeat your inspection for each layer of the bedding, right down to the mattress(es), and then carefully inspect the mattress(es) as well, spraying any bugs or eggs you find as you go.  Also inspect the bed frame and headboard very carefully.  Bed bugs are known to nest in narrow cracks in wood, recessed screws and bolts, and in hollow metal tubes and fittings.

Hopefully, you won’t find any bed bugs. If you do, or if your friends or family members do, you can find simple tips on killing bed bugs when doing your laundry, as well as tips for helping friends and family members in my previous bed bug article published in the December 21st issue.  If you don’t still have it on hand, you can read it on my blog, where I have added bold subheadings so you can find the specific information easily.  <http://harvestsgardeningsecrets.blogspot.com/2016/12/avoiding-bed-bugs.html>  

If you find bed bugs or feces, repeat the entire inspection process on a weekly or even twice weekly basis.  Every bed in the house needs inspected, as well as any other places that people tend to sit or lounge for long periods of time.  If you continue to get bit, find bugs, or new feces on subsequent inspections, I can share more tips on treating an infestation in a future article.  Please feel free send me an e-mail with your request.  Your personal information will be kept completely confidential, of course.  (You can also leave your questions or tips in comments.)   Harvest McCampbell, harvest95546@yahoo.com.  


 Published by the Willapa Harbor Herald, January 4th, 2017.  Posted here with permission.

Copyright 2017,  Harvest McCampbell.  Please feel free to use the buttons below to share.  All other rights reserved.  

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January in the Garden

January is traditionally the time of day dreaming and planning for gardeners young and old.  Garden catalogs begin trickling in, tantalizing us with rediscovered heirlooms as well as new and improved flowers and foods.  Slowly we work through each catalog revising the list of everything we want, until we can be satisfied with what we really need and what we really have time and space for.  But many a cold, rainy day is cheered with all the possibilities.  

If you aren’t already inundated with gardening catalogs check out this blog post from ‘The Garden Glove’ on the Top 12 Garden Seed Catalogs:   <http://www.thegardenglove.com/top-garden-seed-catalogs/ >.  It contains most of my favorites, many of which are free on request.  When you click on a catalog name you are sent to their web site.  Most seed companies feature a link to a page where you can request a free copy of their catalog right on their home page.  If you don’t have Internet service, stop by one of our local libraries. Most libraries (including ours) have public access computers available, and someone is usually available to give you a hand or help you sign up for a class or a tutor.

Planing for Peppers

Believe it or not, now is the time to plan for peppers.  Peppers do an outstanding job when our summers are hot.  However, our cool spring weather can get them off to a dismal start. They tend to be very slow growing when young; the cooler it is, the slower they grow.  A little planning ahead will help you grow the best pepper crop ever.  Peppers of all kinds can be started inside (in late January or early February) if you can provide a warm location and bright light. Peppers germinate best with soil temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees. You can get a good guestimate of indoor soil temperature by laying a room thermometer down on the surface where you will place your seeded six packs. It may take some experimenting to find the right location. You need the seeded six packs to stay warm at night, but not get over heated during the day when they are under lights. Many people resort to special heating mats made for starting seeds; others skip the seed starting step and purchase young plants ready to harden off and slip into the ground.  If you want to grow your own peppers from seed, it is a good idea to find your spot or shop for a heating mat now. Most nurseries and garden catalogs keep them in stock, especially this time of year. Shop around; prices for exactly the same set up can vary greatly.

In January our minds are on catalogs, even when thinking of peppers. If you are interested in growing organic heirloom peppers, The Seed Savers Exchange has a great catalog.  Seed Savers offers seedlings of eight different heirlooms, three of which are hot, with the rest being mild or sweet.  You can mix and match or order a sampler pack.  And they have an amazing variety, nearly 50 different kinds of peppers, available as seed. (563) 382-5900 / <www.SeedSavers.org>.  If the latest hybrids are what you want; Burpee has in a dazzling variety, many available as seedlings or seeds.  (800) 487-5530 / <www.Burpee.com>.  If you are hoping for peppers even if next summer is cool, then you should visit Territorial Seeds. They have an awesome selection of both seeds and plants that have been proven to do well in the Pacific North West. 800-626-0866 / <http://www.territorialseed.com/>. You can request a catalog on-line or by from any of these companies.

Once you get your seeds growing or your plants delivered, you will want to keep them in containers until all threat of frost has past.  They will enjoy spending warm days outside, at first in the shade.  Each day they should be exposed to more and more sun, until they are ready to stick their feet in the soil and thrive.  Don’t forget to bring them in at night if it might get down close to freezing.  Save your peppers a sunny spot in the garden and they will reward you with a bountiful harvest.


Fresh Produce From the Garden

Winter’s crisp cold nights have an uncanny effect on many root vegetables, turning them sweeter than if they were grown in the summer. If you planted parsnips last spring; carrots, rutabagas, or turnips this fall—you can look forward to a special treat. Get out your shovel next time we get a break from the rain and use it to carefully loosen the soil around these delectable roots.  Dig only as many as you will need for a few days; they will stay sweeter and fresher in the ground than they will in the fridge.  You can use them in most any dish that comes to mind, such as home-made soups, casseroles, stir fries, or grated into salads.  For a real treat try roasting up a batch of mixed veggies. Roasting brings out the flavors of fresh dug winter roots like nothing else can, whether you throw them in next to a pot roast or a nice fat hen; or if you just roast them up on their own. 

Here is a veggie roasting technique that doesn’t require using parchment or any other fancy supplies. You can use a metal cookie sheet or a baking pan--whatever you happen to have on hand (and is safe for use under the broiler). Scrub up your veggies and cut them into pieces about two inches long by an inch wide and a half inch thick. Brush your pan and the veggies with a thin coat of olive oil. (If you don’t have olive oil, use whatever you have on hand.)  You can sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper or other seasoning if you like. Place your veggies in a single layer on your pan, and set your oven rack so the surface of the veggies will be about five inches from the heat.  Turn the oven on to broil, and keep a close eye on the veggies.  After about five minutes, as they begin to brown, you want to move them around on the pan so they don’t stick.  Continue checking them every three to five minutes. As they develop a nice warm color, pull the pan from the oven, brush their tops with oil and flip them over.  They won’t all be ready to flip, nor will they all be ready to remove from the oven at the same time.  But every time you turn or remove some, the rest can be shifted just a bit to keep them from sticking.  If you don’t devour these delectable morsels as soon as they cool, you can serve them as a side dish; arrange them on lettuce or other greens, toss them with pasta, tuck them into a sandwich, or offer them as a finger food with a little dip.  

However you serve them, the results are elegant. And it is so easy to prepare.  It is best to stay in the kitchen while they cook, because you don’t want to let your poor roots get scorched.  You can use the time to toss a salad or set the table.  It’s fun and it’s yum!


Published by the Willapa Harbor Herald, December 4th, 2017.  Posted here with permission.

A previous version was previously published by the Hoopa People News, in 2007.

Copyright 2017,  Harvest McCampbell.  Please feel free to use the buttons below to share.  All other rights reserved.