You have probably heard of the term “Flight or Fight Response” and not only associated with cockroaches. It is when an animal in a dangerous situation will either flee or stay to fight in order to survive. In both cases that animal is normally flooded with adrenaline after a perceived threat is assessed.
Perception of threats. That is what it comes down to. The interesting fact is that not all threats are perceived in the same way, or in the same manner. Many mammals use sight and smell to sense danger. In the world of cockroaches, they have evolved a different approach for that same tactic at survival.
When you normally see a cockroach, it’s when you turn on a light or move something they were hiding under. You would assume that it’s the light that makes them scurry away, as they are normally nocturnal in nature. That assumption is a bit incorrect; one, even I had made.
Cockroaches have a very stimulus based sense of perception when it comes to threats and a flight response; I haven’t seen any cases of a fight response, yet.
Along the legs of cockroaches are many different downwards pointing hairs, at the base of each hair on the leg there is a mechanoreceptor running next to a nerve. A mechanoreceptor sounds exactly like what it is. It’s a receptor that is activated by movement, which triggers a mechanical reaction. So when that hair is moved, it activates the mechanoreceptor to send a signal along the nerve; for the cockroach to run.
That hair can be moved by as little as the vibrations in a footstep across a room, or the air displaced by a foot coming down to stomp the cockroach. It is a very handy survival mechanism and has helped the cockroach to survive millions of years and many extinctions (think the dinosaurs). It appears that when that hair is moved by the appropriate stimuli, the response to flee is very fast, and somewhat not up to the cockroach. That’s why they move so fast when you see them, it’s like a knee-jerk reaction. Almost literally.
The really interesting part to me is that it’s not just you turning on the light when you walk into a room that makes a cockroach run. It is more based on that they sense you by the vibrations of your steps, which is what makes them run.
I would like to explain this best with an example of how amazing this tactic works for them.
Let’s say that you have a cockroach that lives in a very loud place such as around the bars on N Colleges Street in Uptown Charlotte. It’s has a ton of foot traffic, is most active at night when cockroaches are active, and is so loud that the air literally is vibrating with music and people. You would think that this little cockroach would be frantically scurrying everywhere under the constant stimuli moving their little leg hairs and making them run non-stop. That assumption would be a bit wrong as well.
Nerves and sense work a bit the same in both of us. If something is constantly stimulating a nerve signal, that nerve becomes less sensitive to activate to that stimuli over time. It’s why we can’t constantly feel the clothes on our skin. Think about it. Remember when you were little and you hated putting clothes on because you were constantly aware of them and their sensation? (I myself hated those little ends of the socks with the seam). Your body learned to stop being so sensitive to that stimuli and now’s it just background noise which you don’t process, otherwise you would go crazy.
It’s a bit the same for that cockroach on N College Street. He had to get used to his living space or he wouldn’t survive long because he was reacting to the wrong stimulus. If he constantly runs from everything, he’s not eating. He dies. If he runs from one wrongly perceived threat into an actual one. He dies.
This concept is important. You need to understand how a cockroach perceives an environment it lives in. The sense of perception which allows a cockroach to survive in such a place as your home is knowledge which can be used against it. This is just a facet of its life cycle. A professional pest control agent uses every bit of that knowledge for an insect that is a pest in a home; to effectively combat it.
If you are experiencing issues with roaches in your home, do yourself a favor, hire a professional with the knowledge to help you best.
It’s freezing outside, but it’s cozy in the house. Many people are in that winter mode of cranking up the central heating and refusing to leave the comfort of their warm beds in the morning, at this time of year. Human beings are one of the few species in the world that can change the climate of their living environments. I know that you are probably thinking “Wait a minute? One of?”.
There are some truly fascinating creatures out there who regulate their own internal body temps or can regulate the outside temps. Nature has been doing things better for millions of years before we came along, you just have to look. I digress, this article isn’t about kick ass bugs in the desert, or how hummingbirds go into a functional coma on cold nights.
What I am writing about today, is the illusion we create of that warm house in the middle of winter; being pest free.
Think about it for a second. In a dreary winter landscape, there are entire islands of neighborhoods out there each cocooning a little world of heat inside. Your house, on a given street, an oasis of heat surrounded by cold. Of course, you are going to see pests. We have created the perfect environment for pests in Winter, because on the inside of your home…Winter never happened.
Many insect pest species lay their eggs in the Winter or go into dormancy. Some even specialize in Winter time, while others make do all year long. This is not even including the warm-blooded pests such as rodents.
For today I will focus on just insects. You may have read the article on Firebrats, those guys are a little on the extreme end themselves. It would be too convoluted for the sake of a blog article to go through the many types of egg-laying cycles, seasonal ability, and other various aspects of life cycles in detail for just even one classification of insect type.
What I am going to talk about is purely conceptual in explanation, and explain how what may be a negative situation for you at the moment, is, in fact, a perfect opportunity.
Many people have insects in the home at low numbers which they normally don’t encounter. Many times you will see insects start to transfer into the home as the days grow shorter and colder.
The likelihood of pests getting into your home in the middle of Winter is low, but the likelihood of them already being in there before Winter goes into full swing as you start to barricade the house from the ravages of Winter? Pretty good actually.
The issue people have in Winter with pests in the home usually lies with the fact that there were ones in the house, to begin with. It gets a little complicated depending on the type and its lifecycle. You can have one species be problematic all Winter inside the home, or you can have an explosive boom occur right before spring as the eggs hatch from being dormant.
On the temperature side of things, you have created an internal environment where it is warm in a Winter landscape. It’s possible that any insects present in your home before Winter, may very well carry on unhindered by the normal temp drop, thereby making your home an incubator or sorts for a variety pest species unbeknownst to you. They will most likely still be less active than they normally are, but they will make their presence known in abundance at the slightest hint of Spring.
I mentioned this being a perfect opportunity; because it is. The fact that it’s Winter outside is a great tool. Winter is a great time to treat the home, even if you are not seeing anything at the moment. It re-enforces a barrier and eliminates any insects in the home which might pop up in Spring. The best part is that since it is Winter, you are a lot less likely to have any issues of more insects coming in from the outside at this time, especially after a treatment. Think of it as a pre-Spring cleaning.
If you don’t already have a normal pest control technician visiting your home on a scheduled basis, this is the time to start. In my opinion, the pest control New Year starts in Mid-Winter. It is the best time to be pro-active with pest control before Spring comes along, especially if you are indeed noticing any pests. If you already have a service, ask them for a refresher at this time. If they try and talk you out of the need, maybe think of finding a new pest control company within the Charlotte area.
Pheromones. Many insects use pheromones to leave markers where food is located or to lay down a path to food. You usually see this trait in social insects like ants and other very successful insect species. When I say successful, I mean abundant. Ants are abundant worldwide, as are most social insects like bees, termites, and some wasp species. Another group of insects which are not actually social like the bees in a hive, but come together all the same. Is that of the cockroach. Many species of cockroach are known to aggregate. Once the presence food is announced, they generally appear. Aggregation is the term that describes when individuals form together into a group or cluster. To use an analogy, it’s like if you were to post a “FREE BEER” sign in the center of a college campus. One student would show up and then tell his friends. Soon enough many would all start coming in droves out of the woodwork. Like the college student with the promise of free beer, cockroaches too will come together drawn towards the promise of free food.
Sometimes just one species, sometimes many different ones. You may see generations of the same ones, or they may appear all at once. Depending on the species you will see different forms of aggregation. A very strong example of this is the German Cockroach, who are well known to aggregate as well as using pheromones. Insects that use pheromones to advertise food to other individuals of their same species are generally very successful. This is even more true for the German cockroach, who is not a social insect, but when aggregate together gains many of the same benefits of those that are social. These benefits range from protection in numbers from predators; an individual is less likely to be eaten in a large group; to that of ease in finding a mate.
The last one is the real issue with German cockroaches, you don’t want them to find a mate. They can reach explosive population growth starting at very low numbers. Their ability to reproduce and mature is insanely fast even by cockroach standards and is absolutely terrifying by human standards. So having a bunch in a large group, spells disaster for any unlucky homeowner as they soon will see their home become a giant breeding ground, starting just from a handful of these little guys (and I do mean little).
Insects have a hugely beneficial service to humans, ranking in billions of dollars annually in agriculture stemming from free pollination to actual pest control of crops. This doesn’t even include the billions invested into the economy for the pest control industry itself, in urban environments. Our need for insects and our need to get rid of them is a huge and integral part of the American economy and is largely dependent on the scale of how you see them.
For instance, in the home; many insect species are indeed pests and need to be treated. On the other hand; at a larger scale; many insects have huge beneficial services they give to humanity free of charge. These include agriculture services (everything pollinates from Flies, Wasps, Butterflies, and Bees), to pest control, disease prevention, and huge advances in medicine/military technologies/computing/etc.
In fact, many military techs, computer systems, models, and medicines have been based on studying many social insects and their anatomies and biology.
Some things truly terrify me. One of them is the thought of something like one day all the spiders dying out. I know that is the dream of many Arachnophobes in the world, but the resulting nightmare in a world without spiders is much more terrifying. There is a lot of great literature and studies on the impact spiders have. For instance, the number of flies and other winged insects one spider can consume in its lifetime matched with how many spiders there are in the world (a crazy number), is far outmatched by the numbers of what they eat. You would see disease and petulance pop up in the resulting effects of the biblical numbers of flies that would appear within weeks of all Spiders disappearing.
So when you groan every time you see a spider, have to load up on Citronella candles in Spring, and buy DEET by the gallon in Summer. Know that a lot of things you enjoy come from many of the insects which may be pests at the scale of your house, but on the nationwide level are integral to how we and the economy function on many levels. The fruit you eat, the social media you use, and even some medicines, all partly came from insects in one way or another.
You should still treat your home when the need arises. While insects on a larger scale are amazing, the ones in your home in the greater scheme of things are not AS beneficial. A spider in your children’s room, ants in the pantry, and wasps in the eves; are much less appreciated.
Many suburban residential areas in Charlotte reside near a forest edge. When you have neighborhoods placed in among these cleared out areas creating patchworks in the forest that creates habitat fragmentation. Populations normally residing in the forest will rearrange themselves due to the disturbance and eventually settle and encroach upon such neighborhoods. This particularly true for insect populations, especially more mobile species like the wasps who will monopolize on human structures such as a wall of a house or under a porch to build a nest with less competition for space and ease of access due to the openness of the new environment of your backyard.
If you’re especially unlucky, nests may even be made on the insides of your walls or even in your home itself. Such insects love getting into laundry air vents, crawl spaces, attics, and underneath floors to build a nest.
Reducing the ability for these insects to build nests in or on your home depends largely on preventative measures. These include treating the eaves under the edge of the roof as well as laying down a protective and comprehensive barrier around the perimeter of your home. If a wasp is deterred from landing, then a nest cannot be built. The added bonus is that such treatments have an all-encompassing pest control management effect across a multitude of home pest species. Such treatments should be carried out by a competent pest control company who utilizes safe treatment protocols. I know there are a lot of pest control companies out there in Charlotte particularly. Pest agencies that don’t know the basics of the biology, behaviors, and movement patterns for the pest they are treating, are not effectively providing a service which will help to ensure a preventative treatment from such insect pests such as the wasp from making their home your home.
A wasp starts their range from their nest outwards. You are far more likely to encounter them the closer you are to their home. If that home happens to be in your home, all the more likely. It is important to be able to differentiate between the types of nests both insects use. For instance, Paper Wasps generally create their nests in the corners of walls usually under the roof in suburban areas. These nests are generally open comb-like structures adhered to a wall. Yellow Jackets are a different example whom generally makes underground nests that are enclosed by an outer layer protecting the inner nest. These nests can be commonly found underneath porches, homes, and in dead trees. Yellow Jackets are generally the more aggressive of the wasp species to protect their nests, with increased activity in the Spring/Summer.
Wasps are generally solitary. The wasp species that are considered pests are usually the social wasps under the family Vespidae, with the exception of Mud Daubers. These wasps build large nests, sting, chew on wood from surrounding areas to build nests (like your deck), and usually have a hierarchy similar to ants and bees where there is a Queen. A lot of people confuse the fact that yellow-jackets, hornets, and paper wasps are all actually considered Wasps under the family Hymenoptera which includes bees and ants as relatives. It gets a little complicated how wasps are separated among even their own family, but in general it’s a cool thing to know.
The most common wasp you may encounter in your area is that of the European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula). This wasp is an invasive species to the United States (most recently the South) and has established itself in great numbers due to the species ability to avoid predation because their nests are extremely hard to knock down (much to the annoyance of homeowners), they look similar to the much more aggressive Yellow Jacket species, and they reproduce fast and with large numbers successfully. This species is smaller than the larger native species to North America called the Northern Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus). Studies have shown that the European Paper Wasp actually has larger poison glands in correlation with how much brighter it’s warning coloration are.
There are many species to the genus Polistes, many of which with similar characteristics, behavior, and markings. If you can properly identify, know the behavior, and the biology of a pest species. Then you can properly treat for them. Many wasp species use wood to chew on as source in making their nests; this includes backyard decks and the trim of roofs. If you notice some of these telltale signs then you know you have a nest nearby, even if you don’t see them.
Yellow Jacket nests are usually the ones you do not see, which can be a danger since many Yellow Jacket species tend to be highly aggressive and protective of their nests. So when you do find one near or even under your home, you probably will wish you hadn’t. Yellow jacket nest removal depending on the location and size can be quite difficult. I would generally recommend hiring a competent pest control service in the safe treatment and removal of a Yellow Jacket nest.
A common species of Yellow Jacket you may encounter is an invasive species to North America. This species is called the German Yellow Jacket (Vespula germanica). It has managed to become the dominant species replacing the Eastern Yellow Jacket for the area. Instead of underground or under enclosed areas in which they build their nest, this species of Yellow Jackets is often found to make nests in the spaces between walls and in attics. This makes what would be a usually difficult treatment for normal Yellow Jacket nests usually seen, even more problematic for removal and treatment. This species is very aggressive, is known to chase threats to its nest far away, and it’s stings are very painful and carry the potential for an allergic reaction if stung in excess. Again I must stress hiring a good pest control company if you are in the Charlotte area and encounter a Yellow Jacket nest.
Lastly, but not at the least. Mud Daubers. One of the solitary wasp species widely considered a pest as much (if not more) than their close social relatives previously just mentioned.
Mud Daubers are a solitary wasp. They as the name suggests; use mud to make their nests. You will most likely encounter one of two species in the Charlotte area, each having their own nest structural differences. Both species utilize mud to make multi-chambered nests which are used to store insects they have captured to feed the pupae form of their offspring when they emerge. As time progresses these structures generally grow in size and become more elaborate as the Mud Dauber repeats its lifecycle over and over again on, in, or under your home. While either species rarely stings, it can happen if the nest is disturbed (One of the most common reasons for stings). The Mud Dauber itself is not a pest for the same general reasons as its close social relatives of wasp species like the Yellow Jacket, Paper Wasp, and etc. The Mud Dauber actually creates its nest in certain areas because of what it eats. What it eats generally being Spiders. The reason it’s considered a household pest in my opinion is due to the nests it makes. These nests are generally an eyesore, appear all over the outside and back deck of a home, and can damage exterior surfaces upon removal which may require repainting certain sections of the home. It’s a pest because it’s an expensive problem for some homeowner’s. You may not be in great danger from stings like other pests, but it may hurt the resale value a bit. Some would say a financial sting is much more offensive to a homeowner than an actual one.
I myself have had the pleasure of encountering and removing large numbers of organ pipe nests from under the deck of the same home. The owners having never usually gone underneath their back deck; had no idea how large in number those nests had reached. It was laborious, time consuming, and very difficult to completely remove all the cached mud from the nests on the structure. Such nests if made on the side walls or on the eaves of a house, may actually damage the paint if at the very least any weather sealant coating upon removal in entirety. The best measure is preventative treatment of those areas before a nest can be made.
One of the two common species of Mud Dauber is the Organ Pipe Mud Dauber (Trypoxylon politum). As the name suggests this species is responsible for those long mud nests side-by-side that resemble the pipes of an organ piano seen in older churches. The other common species of Mud Dauber you are likely to encounter is that of the Black and Yellow Mud Dauber, so named for its black body and bright yellow legs. This species builds nest in a more cylindrical fashion cell by cell, filled with dead spiders captured by the female and one egg per each cell of the nest. The young then hatch, feed on the spider, and continues the life cycle.
Wasps are a highly mobile species. The key to handling them as a pest species for your home, is to eliminate the chances from them building their nest/home on yours. Even if you don’t want to admit it, we both operate in the same fashion when it comes to our “nests”. We come in and out, and a large part of our lives revolves around where we sleep, eat, and have kids. The same is true for wasps, except it’s usually a paper nest stuck to the side of your house made from the chewed pulp of your backyard deck.
My point is if that you eliminate the nest for both these social and solitary wasp species, you then eliminate their presence from your own home. Preventive measure is the key. Have those problems areas where most wasp species may or have previously occurred be assessed by a professional pest control technician. Have those areas pre-treated so you won’t even have to deal with nest removal in the first place. If you don’t have a good pest control company yet, find one that want’s to remove that nest if you have one. That show’s they understand the biology and behavior of the insect pest they are treating for, and that they know to cease the life cycle in order to cease it being a problem for you, your home, and your family (Dogs Count).
A pest problem can occur in any kind of home.
Insect populations can fluctuate due too many reasons including seasonality, precipitation, and even construction in the area of your home. The life cycles of insects are different and vast, and they all generally co-inhabit the same space. A little disturbance such as abnormal temperatures and clearing land can both combine to a major change in the movement and activity of many insect populations for an affected area. What happens is that these insect populations will move and re-establish themselves elsewhere; many times upon an entire neighborhood area. You will suddenly see an entire small ecosystem of bugs appears in your area, and you haven’t encountered in such numbers before.
If you are suddenly seeing cockroaches, silverfish, spiders, beetles, and etc. in your home, chances are your neighbors are as well. The problem is most people aren’t going to advertise the fact that they are having a pest problem. It has an unsaid connotation that your home is unclean. You may openly complain about your spouse to your neighbors, but you aren’t going to talk about the silverfish in the bathroom.
A lot of time this sense of “shame” associated with having pests in the home also makes a person wait on getting a treatment done for the house. Sometimes not even bother seeking treatment at all. Pests aren’t going to wait for you to pick up a phone, they will continue reproducing in greater numbers. This is especially true of many insect populations when introduced into a new area without competition for space and greater access to the resources areas of human development provide, these bug populations will explode as they increase almost exponentially to a point unhindered before hitting their stride. Trust me, if a stray cockroach is going to bug you, you don’t want to see that explosive growth peak.
Believe it or not when your neighbors get around to getting treatment to their houses done on a service call, it makes it worse for those who haven’t.
Remember when I had spoken earlier about when a disturbance moves insect populations to settle into new areas. When these insect populations settle into your neighborhood and began reproducing, you generally start getting service calls for treatment of homes in that area. Then all those homes that get their houses treated first become micro-disturbances in a newly settled area. Those insects will then be pushed and move to houses that haven’t had a recent treatment or that are not protected at all. If that’s you, then be prepared. If you are late to the game, you are going to have a longer time and a harder problem getting rid of those pests for your home even after treatment. Insect populations cycle in waves, and this cycle timing changes depending on the species you are dealing with.
A good pest control company knows the treatment protocol based on an insect-to-insect basis. Still even they will tell you that it will take a couple weeks as the product they use eliminates the first generation, and then the offspring. Different stages of an insect’s life cycle require different treatment measures. Your best bet is to be proactive, be that first neighbor in your neighborhood to get treated when insects settle into it.
Pests are not always inherently pests. Insects have both beneficial and unbeneficial aspects to them. Certain species actually eat other unwanted pest species, while others can decimate crops or invade your home to biblical levels. As is with everything in life, there are two sides to a coin and exceptions to a rule.
That said, most insects found inside a home or business are inherently seen as pests. They can damage properly, harm the residents, and even hurt resale value. These are all considerations taken into account when dealing with an invasive insect species inside a dwelling, but inherently at the end of the day… bugs just bug people.
Pro’s & Con’s
Now you are probably thinking “Why would an insect blog talk pro’s/con’s of insects… aren’t they all bad?”. As with all species on this planet, insects play a vital role in many aspects to the health of entire ecosystems. We live, and benefit off of such ecosystems. So inherently to some degree we are dependent of insects. Some ecosystem’s would entirely collapse without insect populations. Now that doesn’t mean you need to go all “Save the insects” for the creepy crawlies in your home. It is just important to understand the importance of insects. The better you understand something, the better you are equipped in managing it appropriately.
Mismanagement of treatment of pests inside a home or even for a large area can have disastrous and often unseen consequences. Depending on the species of insect, misusing or mistreating in a residence for pests can actually have the opposite effect for the particular nuisance species of bug in question. If you don’t understand the biology of the pest, life cycles, and characteristics then you may actually cause the household or residence to experience more of a problem then they originally had.
Even on a larger scale there are examples of how it is best to understand insects and their importance, as well as utilizing safe and informed practices in pest control. For example in the early 1950’s widespread use of powerful DDT agents sprayed haphazardly over large townships and cities without any control or thought led to many ecological disruptions and health hazards for an entire generation. We have learned since then to use safe pest control agents, and have also taken notes from natural chemicals used in nature to combat unwanted pests. To think that a chemical agent used back then could decimate populations of entire species of birds would have been unthinkable back then, but now we know better. America almost lost the Bald Eagle, a symbol for this country and a symbol for freedom due to uncareful regulation of pest control agents.
Thankfully in the United States we have learned from past mistakes. Today laws, regulations, and safety standards are implemented on National and by State level to ensure that pest control companies are utilizing safe and responsible treatment protocols for your home or business. The best companies often taking a personal initiative to educating themselves, and their customers so pest can be safely eliminated from the home.