The Rentokil Blog UK

Unbelievable Truths

The word “pest” seems to evoke a reaction from most people.

Here is our top ten list of unbelievable truths about the pests you love to hate! Number ten being the most interesting in our eyes at least.

Top 10 urban pest myths busted may interest you too…. click here to read more. A full pest glossary can be found here.

1. Ants enjoy fine dining:

ant
There is one particularly talented type of ant that likes its dinner well prepared. To this end the Dalmatie ant will chew the meal of choice into teeny tiny patties and then lay them out on a hot surface so they can bake in the sun.

2. Mole rats immune to pain:

mole-ratDespite appearances, mole rats are not actually moles (as per the image) but they do have a few tricks up their sleeves. As well as being the only cold-blooded mammal, recent research has revealed that they are immune to the pain associated with acid.

3. Regenerating ‘roaches:

german_cockroach
As with other insects, many tissues of the cockroach can be regenerated, including eyes, antennae, cerci, and exoskeletal features, all of which regenerate over a number of moulting cycles. The cockroach has specially hinged legs which, like a lizard’s tail, are designed to break off if needed as a form of defence. The cockroach can then withhold its moulting cycle to allow optimal leg regrowth.

4. Super-rats:

brown_rat
Rats are incredibly resourceful. They can swim up a u-bend with a diameter of between 1-1/2 to 4 inches, travel on foot for hundreds of miles, jump 3 feet in the air and 4 feet horizontally (from standing), burrow 3 feet straight down, chew through glass (albeit glass that may have been weakened in some way), cinder block and some metals and swim half a mile in open water. They have a similar reproduction cycle to mice, but are much tougher. As well as this, they have continuously growing incisors which, if they weren’t eroded down by gnawing, would actually grow through the rat and lead to its death.

5. Wow – possibly 3,000 mice offspring in a year:

house_mouse
Mice have an extremely efficient reproduction cycle. Females have an estrous cycle of 4-6 days (becomes a lot shorter when exposed to males), and a gestation period of about 3 weeks. The 3-14 offspring that are produced will then be able to breed by 5 weeks. This means that populations can reach extraordinary levels very quickly. One breeding pair of mice could lead to 3,000 breeding offspring in just one year although in the wild, this population growth is restricted by prey and food shortages. But in your home, these restrictions are rarely in place, leading to massive infestations in a very short space of time.

6. World’s deadliest spider also most aggressive:

brazilian-wandering-spiderSpiders have a fearsome reputation in many cultures and, in some countries, this is well deserved. The Brazilian Wandering Spider is the world’s most deadliest spider and one of the most aggressive. In other words, if it wants to, it wouldn’t think twice about attacking and killing you. BOO! Jump? A regular sized glass of its venom would be enough to kill more than 57 million mice.

7. Parasitic wasp also deals in mind control:

parasitic-waspWe all think wasps are evil, right? Well, take the Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga wasp. It paralyses a spider for long enough to inject its eggs onto its abdomen. The egg hatches into a larva which then sucks blood from the spider through tiny holes. The spider doesn’t notice and goes on about its daily business, probably wondering why it’s feeling a bit faint in the afternoon. This carries on for the next one to two weeks. When the larva is ready, it injects the spider with a chemical that makes it build a web that’s completely different from any it’s ever designed before. The spider then sits eerily motionless in the centre of its web until the wasp kills it. The wasp sucks the spider dry then builds a cocoon to hang from the special web whereupon it pupates and emerges to mate. Rinse, repeat for maximum evil points.

8. Moth uses veil of poison for mating:

scarlet-bodied-waspMoths are at their most vulnerable when mating. The Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth hascome up with an ingenious way of protecting himself and his partner while they are ‘otherwise engaged’. He covers his mate with a ‘bridal veil’ of poison which keeps predators away. The poison is collected from a plant on the big night, and then carried in a special pouch. Just before the couple begin mating for up to nine hours, he sprays the poison like confetti so it forms the equivalent of a force-field around them. The female then uses the same technique to protect the eggs once they are hatched.

9. Fleas jump 150 times own length:

dog_flea
You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth reiterating what an incredible athlete the common flea is. It can jump over 17 cm high and 33 cm long- which is approximately 150 times its own length. It’s the equivalent of us humans jumping over the 21st Century Tower in Dubai. The jump is accomplished by an astronomical acceleration that’s more than 50 times faster than a space shuttle. If you could jump this high, you’d have to have a special hard shell like the flea to survive the impact of your landing.

10. Bed bugs are coming home:

bed_bugThe bedbug insect (Cimex lectularius) is making a strong comeback in the world, particularly in developed countries where it has been absent for half a century. The rise in population has not been fully explained; all the experts are sure of is that a problem which has been around since Ancient Greece, and which was nearly eradicated in the last century, has come back with a vengeance. The surge in population is more dramatic in the US, but the UK is mirroring the growth.

Take a look at our next top 10 – pest urban myths busted!

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20 Comments

  1. Posted February 17, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    These truths really are unbelievable but fascinating. Especially the one about Wasps- it sounds like something out of Aliens! These certainly are a very cunning group of pests.

  2. Neil
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I agree, really interesting. Its amazing how far rats can travel.

  3. Jackie
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Brigitta about Wasps, Aliens eat your heart out! Maybe they should consider researching pests for the next horror film script!

  4. Matt Green
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    The virus-like particles parasitic wasps use to control the behaviour of insects they inject their eggs into were the subject of a recent New Scientist article

    Imagine harnessing something like that…? Spray a house with a virus and make the cockroaches walk into traps all by themselves!

  5. Posted February 19, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Darwin was freaked out by parasitic wasps too:

    I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.

  6. Barbara
    Posted April 3, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Enjoyed reading some of this to my class of students. Particularly the one about the rat!
    Good idea to have comparisons to the equivalent of what we could do if we were a flea! My sixth form found these facts interesting.

  7. Tom
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    So really Rats are like vermin superheros? Chewing through metal!? That’s pretty awesome.

  8. Posted April 6, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Well, this explains how mice manage to be so plentiful, when every one eats them for dinner.

  9. Posted April 7, 2009 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    @Dinara: I am not really sure what you mean by “everyone eats them for dinner” but yes, if an infestation is left untreated it can take hold very quickly!

    @Tom: Vermin superheroes, interesting idea.

    @bG: So on deBugged we can claim to have a similar opinion to Darwin? Brilliant. If you think about it, its pretty amazing that despite being born 200 years ago, Darwin’s work can still lend valuable comments to a current pest control blog.

  10. Yoshimi
    Posted April 28, 2009 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I just have to point out (as the owner of 9 fancy rats) that while their teeth do continually grow, they don’t need to gnaw to keep their teeth down. With the exception of medical issues (such as misaligned teeth, which are relatively uncommon) rats are able to keep their own teeth short by bruxing, essentially they grind their teeth together to keep them maintained.

    They do have an amazing instinct for chewing through the things you least want chewed though, in my case it’s carpets and floorboards :)

  11. Andy
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Good point Yoshimi – I think the original facts about the teeth kept it simple for communication, and ‘gnawing’ essentially included grinding their own teeth together.

    Do your rats do this a lot? I guess an average pest rat gets so many opportunities to gnaw it should wear down its teeth without too much trouble!

    One of the reasons we recommend stainless steel metal bait boxes (rather than plastic) for baiting in public areas is because stainless is (just) too strong for them to gnaw through.

    Does anyone out there have any instances where rats have gnawed their way through the most surprising things?

  12. Andy
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I’ve just been pondering over one of the facts – about rats gnawing through glass. I have seen plenty of examples of rats gnawing through wood, breeze blocks, lead, aluminium and if they are motivated they can certaily chew through milder forms of steel. I’d never come across an example with glass, so I thought I’d investigate.

    There’s certainly nothing published about glass, but there is plenty about the other materials in this academic paper

    This reminded me of something called ‘Mohs Scale of Hardness’ which is a scale going from 1 (talc) to 10 (diamond) where given the number for a material you will know it can cut or scratch any materials with a lower score. Pretty useful of you are drilling or cutting something – check out this link for more information:

    This does make me wonder what they cut diamonds with?

    That’s obviously not important here – what matters is that a rodent’s incisors represent the hardest known biological material at 5.5 on this scale. So you can see how they can gnaw through some materials, but not others like hardened steel – and glass is listed as 5.5 or 6 depending where you get the information. The hardness of glass probably depends on its particular composition and manufacture, but I’d say that this goes a long way to proving that rats can’t gnaw through glass – unless it is flawed in some way……

    Possibly someone has seen some gnawed perspex or clear plastic and mistaken it for glass – or perhaps rats have been eating the glass they use in the movies for breaking windows – it’s made of sugar I believe and I think they would love that!

    Andy

  13. loke
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    Andy,

    any idea how we can obtain the full text of the cited academic paper?

  14. Posted September 24, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    We surveyed a domestic dwelling once following report of rats on site. Apart from a variety of evidece in this house of horrors (I’ll post the full story soon)
    We discovered that the rats were coming up from a basement and into the kitchen. No great suprise there, until it was realised that the only way up was through a hole in the floor….
    a CONCRETE Floor, A 3.5 inch thick CONCRETE floor!
    It was also estimated that this happened over a 2 – 3 week period! There were a lot of rats so I presume team work was used.

    Though I would be interested to see some data on normal timescales involved in a brown rat gnawing through various materials.

  15. Posted January 11, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I did not think a rat could could chew through glass, cyder block and metal. that’s insane.

  16. Posted March 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Here in Pennsylvania we have been getting a lot of calls about bed bugs. It doesn’t make sense to say you don’t need pest control if you have bed bugs. That’s the only thing that will help get them out of your home. And by all means, don’t get a used mattress from someone you don’t know! It could be bed bug infested which would be the reason they are getting rid of that mattress.

  17. bed bug pest control
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    a pair of breeding mice can have 3000 offspring a year- WOW I would never have guessed that and I work in pest control. some great facts here thanks.

  18. NC Pest Control
    Posted December 21, 2010 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve experienced the flea factoid for myself. I didn’t realize that they had hard shells, though. Hard to tell when you squeeze them between your fingers.

  19. Posted February 24, 2011 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    Pest control refers to the regulation or management of a species ie. rats, mice which are defined as a pest, and usually because it is seen to be detrimental to the ecology, a persons health or even to the economy.

  20. Posted July 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know that.

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