Rats, mice, bats and even the eternally popular arachnids (spiders) are always used as scary creatures for Halloween festivities. To be honest, I do find this a little harsh on the bats and spiders.
Bats in the UK (all 18 species) don’t feed on blood at all, but they do eat an amazing amount of insects. A tiny Pipistrelle bat can eat over 3,000 insects in just one night. Different species have their own favourites when it comes to dinner – midges, moths and beetles for example. Most of these are caught and eaten in mid-air. It certainly gives a whole new meaning to ‘dinner on the go’.
Spiders are just as maligned if not more so. In the UK there are approximately 650 species. Yet there are just a handful of these that you might encounter in your home. The vast majority of spiders found in the UK are harmless and not considered to be pests. In fact, there are many that are beneficial, eating midges, gnats, flies, mosquitoes and other insects in and around our homes. Spiders actually eat the equivalent of the UK human population in flies and other insects every year!
Really we should be giving our UK bats and spiders a break as they are a great source of ‘natural pest control’ when it comes to getting rid of insects. However if you are still looking for some unusual Halloween creatures here are a couple that might just surprise you.
Deaths head cockroach
Adult cockroaches are particularly large in cockroach terms reaching 4-6 cm in length and up to 3 cm wide. The spooky name is derived from the dark markings on the back of the head (pronotum) which with some imagination looks like a human skull. The Deaths head cockroach like most others is an omnivore, eating anything even wood and faeces.
You might not even notice these tiny invaders at first as they are tiny (1.5 – 2mm). The ghost name comes from their translucent legs and abdomens, which seem to disappear when they are foraging on light surfaces. Their bodies are so transparent that you can actually see the colour of the food they are eating. They are sometimes also referred to a ‘corpse ants’ as they emit an acrid coconut like odour if crushed.
Not native to the UK, they need warmth and protection, so are found in our heated, cosy buildings. They are highly adaptable, nesting in wall cavities, small cracks and voids, cupboards and even soil in potted plants. If disturbed or the nest is threatened the ants scatter and set up smaller satellite colonies. Ghost ants have a preference for sweet, sugary foods but will also feed on grease deposits. Not only do they need food, ghost ants require a lot of moisture, so are often found in kitchens and bathrooms. This need for moisture brings them into constant contact with drains, sinks, rubbish bins etc… which mean they transfer germs easily through a property which can spread disease.
What creepy insects for a ghoulish Halloween!