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.
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.
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.
Household pests don’t normally make a point of properly introducing themselves before moving in. Like most problematic and unwanted houseguests; Stepmothers notwithstanding; the more they make their intrusive presence known, the more they bug you. [Pun absolutely intended]
The real issue here is those pests which make a habit of having their presence remain unknown. Realistically most insects go out of their way to stay out of the way. In a world where everything is bigger than you and out to eat you, that seems like the logical course of action. This line of reasoning remains true inside your home as much as in the outside world. Many a critter in a home will go out of the way to stay out of sight. Many insects avoid light, sense vibrations to alert them, and remain active at night to avoid such encounters. These factors help ensure that it’s the pests that you don’t see which cause the biggest issues for homeowners.
Termites, fire ants, and a plethora of venomous bugs are all cases of common household pest species that you’d probably wish you had known were present earlier, rather than any unpleasant encounters later. Termites cause home damage, fire ants can harm small pets, and venomous bugs can be a threat to yourself as well as children.
Be proactive anytime you have the unhappy encounter of coming across a problematic pest inside your home. Once you know there is a problem, then you can treat that problem. The steps of identification, assessment, and proper treatment are a homeowner’s best tools. These steps are also a pest control technician‘s mantra.
I know many of you, myself included, do not have the time to deal with or even properly treat for many household pests. You have to be on top of it, buy dangerous chemicals, and then find the time after what I assume was a hectic workday to then actually treat the home. It’s honestly a bit of a hassle and generally more expensive to do on your own then if you hire a professional. The nice thing about professional pest control services is that even if you’re calling for an initial pest problem, the continued services become preventative treatments ensuring any future home invasions. It’s guaranteed, safe, and effective. That over-the-counter bug bomb in comparison to that? Maybe not so much.
Don’t hide from your pest problem. Seek it out! If you don’t I can almost guarantee there’s a few creepy crawlies winning at a game you may not be playing, but are definitely losing at.
Fleas transmit Bubonic Plague, you avoid Yosemite National Park. It’s a bit of a one sided relationship.
Fleas are a parasitic species that pierce the skin of warm blooded hosts, and use blood as a requirement to reproduce for their life cycle. They are flightless, amazing jumpers, and you are not likely to see them due to their minute size (<4mm long). Fleas are also exceptionally hardy and are not crushed easily. The biggest sign of this pest is the telltale itch and bite. Much like a mosquito bite, flea bites generally have one bite made in the center. The reaction from the body is also similar with a raised irritated bump at the site of the bite.
Many flea species can live for up to 3 months, and one female depending on the species can produce upwards of 5000 eggs in her lifetime. There is a reason that fleas produce an aversion in almost every media representation. Historically fleas are hard to treat for because of how their populations can explosively grow/spread in a home, in a neighborhood, and in a city. The best basis for this aversion besides the general annoyance of having fleas is that of disease. Fleas of rodents species such as the oriental rat can carry the bacterium yersinia pestis, aka the Plague.
Many children are taught about the European Black Death in primary school; otherwise known as the Bubonic Plague. Of a span of less than 10 years in the 14th century, upwards of 200 million people died in a European outbreak of the disease. This estimate does not include other outbreaks around the same time both in China and the Middle East, which were both in the millions as well. 200 million people. That number is around the entire population of the United States in 1960’s alone, and only about 100 million less than the country’s current population. The crazy thing being that most of modern antibiotics which can be used to successfully treat plague victims, are a recent occurrence as of the 1970’s and onwards.
You might wonder how the Europeans almost 670 years ago in the middle ages combatted such a scourge, especially after losing upwards of 60% of their entire population.
In the 14th century modern antibiotics did not exist. A combination of self-quarantine, reduction of travel, and the disease killing a critical portion of both rat and human populations are all theories as to why the disease declined. This outbreak could have been subdued through pest control. The best course of action would have been extermination and removal of rats whose population had grown to large proportions in the crowded and unsanitary congested cities of 14th century Europe. Once rats are taken out of the equation, the fleas that carry the bacteria which cause the plague are also removed.
Now the bubonic plague is an outbreak of the past, however cases are reported in the U.S. on a yearly basis. The fleas that carry the plague bacterium still exist and are present in nature. The main reason you no longer see such cases in cities is due to pest control of rodents and modern sanitation practices. So the cases that do occur are generally outdoors. For instance, recently you may have heard of the little girl that contracted the bubonic plague in Yosemite last year. She had encountered a dead chipmunk, was bitten by the fleas still on it, and contracted the plague. Squirrels and chipmunks are actually rodents. Most of modern cases these days for the plague follow around these lines, people encountering wild animals that should best be left alone.
Fleas are a great lesson in the worth and importance of modern pest control practices. You wouldn’t think controlling rodents could save the world, but a bite from a flea could prove you wrong.