DEAR JOAN: I recently discovered bedbugs and my girlfriend has been told by everybody that our cat caused this.
This cat never goes outside so how is this possible? But if it's true, do I get rid of the cat, which I love very much, or can I do something else to prevent this from happening?
Confused cat lover
DEAR CONFUSED: Keep the cat, ditch the bedbugs. Rest assured that your cat did not create the problem and likely has nothing to do with the bugs now.
Bedbugs will feed on any warm-blooded animal, but they prefer humans. A bug might hop on your cat and hitch a ride to another part of the house, but you and your girlfriend are more likely to spread them around and are probably the source of the bedbugs in the first place (they like to hitch rides in the folds and seams of clothing).
Bedbugs don't live on their hosts, like fleas do. They prefer to nest in dark, tight places and come out at night to feed.
Getting rid of bedbugs can be difficult and will require a full-out and lengthy assault. Once that's accomplished, give the cat a bath if only to make your girlfriend feel better. Use regular pet shampoo -- no insecticides or pesticides.
DEAR JOAN: I have a yellow jacket nest in the ground in my garden. I have been stung three times -- very painful -- and have a trap near the nest. But I am wondering if I can fill in that hole this winter without stirring them up. Aren't they rather inactive in the cold weather?
Will filling the hole kill the queen?
DEAR MARY: Yellow jacket nests are usually so deep underground that they are protected from anything we attempt to do to them. Sealing up the hole will only make them mad, and although they may not be as active now as they are in the spring and summer, they are out and about, scavenging for food. The lack of their usual food supply can make them even more aggressive when it comes to finding something to eat.
The queen is in the nest and will stay there until late winter when she will emerge to create a new nest. You may want to put out a fresh trap now, and add a few more to your arsenal. Put them all around the nest.
You also can make a water trap by filling a 5-gallon bucket with soapy water, and suspending the bait (a piece of meat or poultry) on a string, 1 to 2 inches above the surface of the water. When the wasp eats the meat, it will fly downward into the water and drown.
The safest option, however, is to hire a professional. Vector control in some areas will come out to help with nest removal, free of charge. To see if you live in an area that offers this service, call the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California at 916-440-0826 or go to http://mvcac.org.
Wild is always wild
I recently received a letter from Norma Campbell, president of Injured and Orphaned Wildlife in Campbell. She asked that I remind folks that wild animals are wild no matter how cute or tame they might appear.
"I had two calls within the last week," Campbell says, to pick up a wild animal someone had attempted to tame. "These animals cannot be released back into the wild. They live in two worlds, not knowing if they are a pet or a wild animal. The wild ones will reject them as they do not act like a wild animal; they may even kill them. And it's not fair to the wild animal to make them live in captivity."
So if it's a pet you want, there are plenty of cats and dogs that need good homes.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.