Weird But True: Strange Facts About Occasional Invader Pests Dr. Jim Fredericks
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Most homeowners are familiar with the most common
household pests - your cockroaches, ants, rodents and such.
However, there is an exclusive group of insect intruders the
professional pest management industry refers to as occasional
invaders. Think of these pests as the drop-in guests.
And just like many of their insect brethren, these pests come
with their own set of bizarre but true facts. Here is a quick
Boxelder bugs get their common name from the fact that they are
often found on and around boxelder trees. This species is native to
the western states, but can be found from eastern Canada throughout
the eastern United States, and west to eastern Nevada, wherever
boxelder trees are found. These bugs are nuisance pests in and
around homes from fall through early spring.
Weird but true: Entomologists have observed
that these bugs prefer to develop on and feed on the leaves,
flowers and seeds of female boxelder trees. Although these bugs
tend to enter homes in droves and can be alarming to homeowners,
rest assured they do not reproduce while they over-winter in your
Many homeowners have undoubtedly seen these scurrying in and out
of shower and bathroom sink drains, their numerous legs making them
look more menacing than they are. Centipedes are sometimes called
"hundred-leggers" because of their many pairs of legs, but they can
actually have anywhere from 15-177 pairs of legs, depending on the
species. Interestingly, centipedes always have an odd number of
pairs of legs.
Weird but true: A centipede's front legs aren't
made for walking, instead they actually form into venomous fangs,
which they then use to inject venom and paralyze their prey. These
specialized "leg fangs," or forcipules are unique to
Earwigs got their name from the myth that they crawl into
sleeping people's ears and tunnel into their brains; a myth that is
still sometimes perpetuated today. Earwigs are not dangerous to
humans, but their appearance can be alarming. These pests mainly
live off dead plant and animal matter while some species will eat
living plants and fruit. There are 25 types of earwig species in
Weird but true: Male earwigs find mates using
their sense of smell. Once coupled with a female, the male
uses their long cerci, which look like pincers, on their backsides
to attach himself to her. Undisturbed, the earwigs can stay in this
mating position for hours.
House crickets are active at night and usually hide in dark warm
places during the day. If homeowners don't see them, they
will definitely hear their loud chirping, which is caused by
rubbing their front wings together to attract females. Clothing and
carpets can become damaged when house crickets enter homes. They
typically feed on the surface, leaving the area roughened from
pulling the fibers loose while eating.
Weird but true: Many cultures have incorporated
crickets into their folklore and mythology. For example, Brazilians
believe that cricket songs are signs of impending rains, while some
Asian countries believe crickets bring good luck and are kept as
house pets in cages.
Many ladybug species are considered important beneficial insects
because they voraciously consume plant-feeding insects, such as
aphids, mealybugs, mites, and scale insects, which harm crops and
plants in gardens. Only three out of 475 ladybug species in the
U.S. are not beneficial and are considered destructive because they
feed on plants.
Weird but true: They may look cute, but
ladybugs can become vicious if food is scarce resorting to
cannibalism. If stronger, a hungry ladybug may turn on weaker
(soft-bodied) members of its species. Newly emerged adults or
recently molted larvae are most at risk.
Millipedes are sometimes called "thousand-leggers" because of
their many pairs of legs, but they can actually have anywhere from
30-90+ pairs of legs, depending on the species. The leggiest
species boasts 333 pairs of legs. Some millipedes excrete a smelly
fluid that can be toxic to small animals and pets and can cause
blistering on humans. They can't survive indoors for long,
but are found under trash, in piles of grass clippings, flower-bed
mulches, piles of leaves, etc.
Weird but true: According to fossil evidence,
millipedes may have been the first animals to breathe air and make
the move from water to land. In fact a fossil of a millipede found
in Scotland dates back 428 million years!
Commonly referred to as "rollie-pollies," these nuisance pests
are the only crustaceans that have become completely adapted to
living on land. Pillbugs prefer moist locations, eat decaying
vegetable material and are most active at night.
Weird but true: As moisture is very important
to a pillbug's survival, Mother Nature has ensured that the bug can
take in water from both ends. Although they tend to drink water
through their mouthparts, pillbugs can also drink through their
rear ends using special tube-shaped structures called uropods.
(Source: Colorado State University Department of
Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management)
Silverfish are so named due to its silvery, metallic appearance
and fish-like shape and quick movements. They tend to hide their
presence from humans, which means any damage they have caused could
go unnoticed as well. Silverfish tend to feed on paper items, glue,
clothing and food items, such as flour and rolled oats, which make
them more than a mere nuisance pest.
Weird but true: The courting and mating ritual
of the silverfish is quite prolonged as it consists of three
phases. During phase one, the male and female face each
other, touch antennae, back off and repeat. During phase two, the
male runs away while the female chases him. Finally, during the
third and final phase, they line up side-by-side, head to tail and
complete their mating ritual.
These pests common name comes from the fact that most species
have a spring-like structure that allows them to jump several
inches. Springtails are nuisance pests that are attracted to areas
of high moisture. Springtails are found year round, but because of
a special protein that acts like anti-freeze, most springtails are
able to survive in cold winter temperatures.
Weird but true: Springtails are very dependent
on temperatures and moisture and may experience periodic population
explosions, alarming anyone who sees a large swarm of these pests.
Sometimes springtails may be seen on the surface of puddled water
in such large numbers resembling a raft of floating bug bodies.
This insect, notorious for its "smelly" reputation, earned its
name from its tendency to release an odor when disturbed or when
crushed. Stinkbugs pose no threats to humans, although their
presence in the home can be unnerving. These pests are mostly
problematic for farmers as they attack a variety of crops.
Weird but true: The brown marmorated stink bug,
native to Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea, was first
discovered in the U.S. in eastern Pennsylvania in 1998. It's
believed these invasive species smuggled themselves into the
country in shipping crates.