Category Archives: Blog

Homeowners complain freeway work launched scorpion invasion

An uptick in scorpion activity is putting some extra sting in the already controversial construction of the South Mountain Freeway for some nearby homeowners.

Ahwatukee residents near Pecos Road and 27th Avenue are reporting far more scorpions on their property—and even in their homes—after the Arizona Department of Transportation created a temporary nursery a stone’s throw away from their homes.

The nursery is housing thousands of cactuses, bushes and other desert flora that had to be removed from the freeway right of way. Once it is built, they will be transplanted along its path.

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Yuma County confirms first case of Zika virus


Yuma County health officials have confirmed the county’s first Zika virus case.

The patient traveled outside the U.S. to a Zika-affected area before developing symptoms of the illness, Yuma County Public Health Services District said Thursday in a statement posted on the county website.

The finding marks the 14th travel-associated case of Zika virus documented in Arizona.

“As soon as Public health officials were made aware of the suspected case they made contact with the individual to ensure they were aware of prevention measures such as staying indoors, using DEET mosquito repellent, and wearing long sleeves in an effort to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes to prevent further spread of the virus,” the statement said.

Zika virus is a type of flavivirus that is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. A link has been identified between the virus and birth defects among infants of infected mothers. Symptoms include fever, chills, rash, joint or muscle pain, aches, nausea, vomiting and red eyes.

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Giant Insects invade Arizona Science Center – in the best way possible


Insects creep out some people simply by being themselves. Now imagine big versions of them. Massively big, as in up to 600 times larger than their actual size.

That’s the concept behind “The World of Giant Insects,” an exhibit that opens at the Arizona Science Center on Saturday, May 28. And, surprise, the whole ick factor is not one of the selling points.

“Some people think insects are creepy-crawlies, but this is really beautiful,” says Sari Custer, the center’s vice president of exhibitions and collections. “You may think they’re gross, but you’ll change your mind when you see how interesting and amazing they are.”

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Congress struggles to reach deal on funding fight against Zika virus

(Photo: PEDRO PARDO, AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo: PEDRO PARDO, AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. officials are gearing up for the onset of locally transmitted cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus that is spreading rapidly throughout Latin American and the Caribbean.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Zika to be the definitive cause of an epidemic of birth defects in Brazil and other countries with outbreaks of the virus. It also causes Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition in which the body attacks its own nerve cells, causing paralysis. The agency warned the virus is “scarier than we initially thought.”

The virus, largely spread by mosquitoes, can sometimes be transmitted sexually or through blood transfusions. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Here is the latest on what you need to know:

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Arizona’s Zika virus defense takes shape


State and county health leaders say Arizona faces a high risk from travelers who return to the state with Zika virus infections, but the goal is to quickly identify such cases to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease.

“We are at high risk for imported cases,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said Tuesday. Christ’s comments came at the Arizona Zika Action Plan Summit, a gathering of public health, medical and environmental officials.

Christ said Arizona will seek to quickly identify travelers who return with Zika infections and work to prevent the virus from reaching local mosquitoes that can carry the virus.

Arizona has tested 88 cases, but only three have been confirmed. All three involved people who traveled to areas where the mosquito-borne virus is circulating widely.

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Hiker dies after 1,000 bees attack at Usery Mountain


A 23-year-old Louisiana man has died after being attacked by bees Thursday morning as he and a friend were hiking within Usery Mountain Park in Mesa, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said.

A medical exam determined the man had been stung more than 1,000 times, officials said.

Just after 9 a.m., Alex Bestler of Elton, La., and his friend, Sonya, were hiking the Merkle Trail when a large swarm of bees appeared without warning.

Sonya was able to safely make it to a nearby restroom, but Bestler was overtaken by the swarm before he could find shelter, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Another hiker and park employees approached Bestler and found him on the ground covered in bees. They tried to approach him, but the aggressiveness of the bees forced them to stay back, the Sheriff’s Office said.

For the complete story and video visit where this story was originally published. Bee photo by Marke Henle.

Q&A: UA expert talks Zika virus and its threat to Arizona

The Zika virus made headlines again this week as lawmakers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began making announcements that the virus may be more severe than first thought.

U.S. lawmakers approved a bill on Tuesday that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest described as “two months late and $1.9 billion short.”

The bill will provide financial incentives for companies to develop drugs and vaccines against the virus.

Wednesday brought an announcement from the CDC: They deemed the Zika virus responsible for serious birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition where improper brain development results in a baby being born with an abnormally small head.

“Never before in history has there been a situation where a bite from a mosquito can result in a devastating malformation,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director for the CDC, told the New York Times on Wednesday.

Arizona saw its first confirmed case of the virus in March, when a woman from Maricopa County, who had recently traveled abroad, contracted the virus.

By Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun Technician
Ce Zhang gets ready to examine a six-well plate containing pluripotent stem cell colonies under a microscope at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering in Baltimore, Maryland on Tuesday, March 1. The Zika virus has been making headlines again this week, this time in Maricopa County.

“While this is a first, the risk of this virus spreading throughout Arizona is very low,” said Cara Christ, director for the Arizona Department of Health Services. “Arizona’s public health system has a plan in place and we are ready to rapidly respond.”

To gain more insight on the latest information regarding the threat of the Zika virus, the Daily Wildcat interviewed Kacey Ernst, a UA epidemiology professor who is currently in Jamaica working to develop clinical research studies for the Zika virus with the Jamaica Ministry of Health.

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Coping with scorpions, spiders and ants


They’re also more likely to be active at night in the summer when they go out to eat insects and spiders. That’s when you can use an ultraviolet black light, which makes scorpions glow in the dark. Once you can spot them, you can destroy them. You also need to:

  • Install weather stripping around loose-fitting doors and windows.
  • Ensure that door sweeps are tight fitting.
  • Caulk around roof eaves, pipes and other cracks in the exterior of your home.
  • Avoid bringing in boxes from the outside or from the garage without inspecting them first.
  • Don’t stick your hands into holes or boxes without checking for problems.
  • Cut back tree branches and heavy foliage away from the side of your house.
  • Clean off the bottoms of outdoor furniture and the bottoms of barbecue grills.

Many homeowners who have scorpions are advised to spread diatomaceous earth — basically broken-up sea shells — around the exterior of their homes. The tiny shards can pierce the scorpion’s body as they scuttle over it. “People usually don’t get the pest-control grade of diatomaceous earth; they don’t always apply it correctly to get optimal results, and it’s not a silver bullet by itself,” says Curtis Whalen of Blue Sky Pest Control in Phoenix. “It can be a helpful tool, but you have to buy the right formulations and use it in the right places.”

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Beware the bark scorpion: 5 ways to reduce your risk of being stung

Beware the bark scorpion: Ways to reduce your risk of being stung. Video by Nick Oza/

Arizona scorpions are out earlier than usual this year.

It’s not yet peak scorpion season, but already Arizonans are getting stung by the little critters. A wet January and a hot February mean the scorpions are out earlier than usual this year.

Of the 55 types of scorpions in Arizona, there’s only one that’s likely to cause severe medical problems. The problem child is the bark scorpion. It’s one of the smallest varieties, but it packs the biggest punch.

The bad news? The bark scorpion is also the most common type, and is frequently found in people’s homes. According to the National Park Service, the bark scorpion is also the most venomous in all of North America. The Poison and Drug Information Center at Banner-University Medical Center Phoenix has already dealt with 588 calls regarding scorpion stings. That’s a 46 percent increase from last year’s numbers.

By the time peak season rolls around in August, hospital officials say, they’ll be dealing with thousands of calls every month. For reference, the bark scorpion is light brown in color (allowing it to blend in well with the desert), reaches 2 to 3 inches in length at maturity and has long and slender tail segments and pincers. It also glows green under UV light.

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A scorpion glows under black light at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. (Photo: John Aho)
A scorpion glows under black light at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. (Photo: John Aho)

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Recent rains mean more bees in Phoenix, Tucson

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.11.52 AM

Spring rains provided more food this year, so bees won’t take their normal June and July holiday from frenzied activity. They’ll stick around until October.

Honeybees bugging you more than usual?

You can thank the recent rains.

Bees flourish in two seasons in Arizona: between March and May, and from August to October. But the rains yielded more flowers with a bounty of nectar and pollen.

So, with plenty to eat and lots of time to make baby bees, there’s no summer vacation for this current brood.

“We’re seeing an explosion of bees across the Valley,” said Kevin Shannon, a technician with A.S.A.P. Bee Removal. “The colonies are getting increasingly healthier and healthier.”

Despite concerns over the collapse of hives raised commercially, the immune systems of feral bees are robust and they’re procreating quickly, he said.

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