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.
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.
Despite 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.
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.
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.
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.
Spiders 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.
We 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.
Moths 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.
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.
The 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!