As Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve) approaches, we wanted to share with you some fun (and scary) facts about our top ten scary pests, along with where you might find them lurking in our ‘Haunted House’ or your premises. So, let us take a tour from the creaky rafters in the attic, all the way down through bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen to the ground floor discovering what pests are hiding where.
Cluster flies and Rats – up in the attic (or loft)
Cluster flies (Pollenia rudis) are a species of fly that enter loft voids and attics as cooler autumn weather arrives. The name refers to their habit of clustering together in large numbers (sometimes in the tens of thousands) and hibernating (overwintering) in buildings. Cluster flies are not known to carry diseases, but the sheer volume of them can become a nuisance, especially if they find their way in to lower, inhabited floors of the property.
Rats (Rattus norvegicus) are ground burrowing rodents, but can readily climb in their search for food and shelter. Rats are by nature nocturnal and most active, going bump during the night in attic spaces.
Bed bugs and Fabric pests – hiding in the bedrooms
Bed bugs (Cimex Lectularius) are the vampires of the insect world, feeding on the blood of humans and animals. They hide in small crevices, because of their shape they can fit into spaces as thin as a credit card. Bedframes and bedside furniture are their favourite hiding places, making it easy for them to find, and take, a blood feed at night. They can survive for months without feeding, waiting for a human host, making them very unpleasant guests.
Textile or fabric pests include moths and many beetle species that feed on the natural protein ‘keratin’. This can be found in any textiles of animal origin including wool, silk, animal hair, leather and feathers. It is the larvae of these pests, and not the adults which cause the visible damage. Clothing, upholstered furniture and woolen carpets are all at risk of irreplaceable damage from fabric pests.
Silverfish – lurking in the bathrooms
Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are known for their nocturnal destructive feeding habits, but only really cause serious problems in large numbers. They feed on items containing starch or cellulose – damaging papers, book bindings, photographs, plaster, wallpaper and damp clothing. Silverfish thrive in conditions of high humidity, often be found in dark, damp areas of bathrooms and laundry rooms. They are covered with tiny scales and have a wiggling movement that resembles that of fish, hence the name. They are also known as fish moths or carpet sharks.
Mice and Cockroaches – scurrying around the kitchen
House mice (Mus domesticus) can occupy any area of a property but are often found around easy food sources. They can spread disease in their search for food and shelter, posing health risks particularly in kitchens and food storage areas. Mice are nocturnal, preferring to hide during the day and search for food from dusk till dawn. A single mouse only consumes three grams of food a day, so doesn’t need a lot of food to survive and thrive, but because they nibble on so many foods yet discard partially eaten items, mice contaminate much more food than they consume.
Cockroaches (Blattodea) are known carriers of diseases such as Salmonella, Dysentery & Gastro-enteritis, posing significant health risks. They are nocturnal insects, feeding on a wide range of human foods and organic materials such as cardboard, fabrics, packaging, glue, faeces, dead animals and fellow cockroaches!
Fleas and Crawling Insects – lying in wait on the ground
Fleas (Siphonaptera) can infest your property even if you do not have pets, especially if previous owners did keep cats or dogs. Fleas can also be carried on other (especially hairy) animals like rabbits, foxes, squirrels and rats. As ‘bloodsucking’ parasites, the greatest concern about the presence of fleas comes from bites. Although these are not initially painful, they can result in an uncomfortable itchiness or reactive rash.
There are many insects which are referred to as ‘crawling insects’ including ground beetles, woodlice and earwigs, all of which congregate in dark, sheltered locations, and are mostly active at night. Their presence in a property could be indicative of an underlying damp problem. Although they can appear creepy, with their unwieldy, exaggerated antennae, multiple legs, and skeletons on the outside of their bodies, in small numbers they are not a pest issue.
Spiders (order Araneae) are mostly beneficial to our environment, having a key role to play in our ecosystem, getting rid of unwanted flying pests around your property. Many people do have an inherent fear of spiders (known as Arachnophobia). This causes feelings of uneasiness at the mere sight of spiders. This is thought to be a result of evolutionary psychology. Back in our early evolution, encountering venomous spiders was common. Because of this a fear of spiders developed as a survival instinct!
The most effective way to control spiders in the house is to limit their food, by clearing away dead flies, woodlice, millipedes, centipedes, and other crawling insects.
Bites from UK spiders are uncommon but occasionally species such as the False Widow spider (the common name for a group of species in the genus Steatoda), may become an issue as they have the potential to bite if they feel threatened. Although unlikely, if they do bite the affect is like a bee sting, so anyone with allergies should be cautious.
Thankfully, most species of spiders found in the UK are not considered dangerous and are not pests.