Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Cold-Resistant Cockroach Found in NYC, But Does It Live Up To The Hype?

A group of exterminators working on the High Line Park in Manhattan recently uncovered a strange species of cockroach that was unknown to them. After sending it to an Entomologists for analysis it was confirmed that they had discovered an Asian species of roach that was never before found in the United States. Following this news came a torrent of reports with a slew of sensationalized headlines about the new “invaders”. Most of the articles are focused on the fact that this new species of cockroach is far more resistant to cold temperatures than other roaches native to New York, and they are capable of living both indoors and outdoors even in the winter. Some articles even suggest that these new roaches may breed with other species, creating some kind of “super roach”. In this situation scare tactics such as these are used to drum up publicity around the story. In many cases misinformation about “bugs” can feed into unnecessary worries or paranoia that has been known to endanger the welfare of perfectly harmless species of insects. It is a shame that so many species that are actually beneficial to both humans and the environment are demonized and targeted for destruction. It is doubtful that the threat of this roach will be nearly as severe as the headlines suggest.

The Facts About The New Asian Roach Species (Periplaneta Japonica):

  • It is believed that they may have arrived in New York hidden in the soil of potted plants used in the construction of the High Line urban park (on Manhattan’s West Side)
  • The cockroaches are unique in their ability to survive outdoors in the snow and in temperatures as low as 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • These roaches are able to adapt to freezing temperatures using a natural antifreeze chemical known as Trehalose that is found throughout their bodies. As the temperature drops, they have a natural survival mechanism which dehydrates them enough that the fluid in their bodies will not freeze. After the cold has subsided they re-hydrate and are again filled with fluid.
  • Although never before encountered in the United States, these roaches are common throughout Asia. This is why their ability to withstand cold is well known and documented.

Ways That The Impact of These Roaches May Have Been Overstated

Here are some claims (and myths) that have been made about the potential threat of the new Asian cockroaches, along with some quotes from other articles and headlines around the web:

  • Myth: These new Asian roaches are an invasive species. “Invasive cockroach found in NYC” Fact: There is not yet evidence that this roach even fits the definition of an invasive species. So many species exist outside of their native environments that at this point defining all non-native species as invasive is just too broad a distinction. To be truly invasive, a species must “adversely affect or disrupt their habitat” In other words when a species is introduced that has no natural predators, it can multiply out of control and cause damage to an ecosystem by throwing off the natural balance. Since this new roach will be in direct competition with other well-established roach species already in New York, it is highly unlikely that it will be able to gain dominance over all the other species. Although  it is difficult to fully predict their impact, it is likely that this species will remain small in number or live alongside other roaches in direct competition, not throw off the whole ecosystem the way an invasive species would. 
  • Myth: The ability of these roaches to resist the cold makes them more of a threat. “A winter-proof cockroach… it’s just New York’s latest invader” Fact: The ability of these roaches to survive a New York winter is untested. Asian studies that examined the cold resistance of these roaches used fresh, undisturbed snow. It is still unclear whether the roaches would be able to survive in the adverse conditions of New York. According to Michael Scharf, a professor of Urban Entomology at Purdue University, “There has been some confirmation that it does very well in cold climates, so it is very conceivable that it could live outdoors during winter in New York. I could imagine japonica being outside and walking around, though I don’t know how well it would do in the dirty New York snow.”
  • Myth: The japonica roach species could breed with other roach species creating a super roach. Fact: Cockroach genitalia are highly specialized and complex. Similar looking species often have very different genitalia, which fit together “like lock and key”. Some entomologists will even use a roach’s genitalia to identify it because it may be one of the few characteristics that distinguish it from other species. This makes it highly unlikely that the new species of roach will be able to interbreed with other species.
  • These roaches will have a huge disadvantage in that they have never been exposed to the types of pesticide that are used in New York. Other species have survived many attempts to exterminate them and adapted to a wide variety of chemical pesticides. This means that they have developed a crucial resistance that the new japonica species will not have

Cave Crickets: What They Are and What You Can Do About Them

PMS_-_jamska_kobilica

Camel crickets, or “cave crickets” as they are commonly known, are a type of pest insect that begin to move indoors during the winter months to get out of the cold. As their name suggests, in nature these crickets live in caves. For this reason, cave crickets seek out cool, damp environments. When they enter a house, they will usually be found in the basement, crawl spaces, garages, sheds, or lower levels. Many people find these crickets to be particularly creepy in their appearance, perhaps due to their erratic behavior and disturbing tendency to jump closer when threatened instead of scurrying away.

Cave Cricket Detailed Description:

  • Cave crickets have a distinct appearance different from that of other crickets. They are wingless, have brown and black patterns, and are dark in color. They have a “hunched over” appearance with a slightly rounded body and long antennae.
  • Although their bodies are usually no longer than an inch and a half in length, with their long limbs they can appear as long as 4 inches. That’s roughly the length of a computer mouse.
  • Since they are naturally adapted to live in harsh environments, cave crickets can go for long periods of time without eating, and are can eat things that are normally considered inedible. When no other food is available they have been known to eat fabric, paper, or even their own legs.
  • It is rare for crickets to reproduce inside of a house, although their natural resilience means that once they gain entrance they can linger for a long time.
  • Although they may appear menacing, cave crickets do not bite, they are not poisonous, and do they not typically cause any kind of property damage,
  • Cave crickets are nocturnal, although they may be active during the day if disturbed

What You Can Do About Them

  • Cave crickets rarely breed inside a home, which means that a good prevention strategy is to exclude them from the house though methods similar to those described in this article about stink bug prevention. This means sealing up any cracks that could allow the crickets to enter a house, maintaining a buffer zone around the house that is free of debris or thick mulch, installing screens around basement windows, etc.
  • Cave crickets thrive off of moisture. One solution is to eliminate moisture from crawl spaces, garages, basements, or other affected areas whenever possible.
  • Unlike stink bugs, cave crickets respond well to conventional extermination methods. Treating the outside foundation and/or setting glue board traps in the right places is a guaranteed method of getting rid of the crickets for good.
Cave_Cricket_on_Ground

By gunthercox (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Get Rid of Mice in the Home: DIY Tips

Knowing When to Do it Yourself and When to Call an Exterminator

When it comes to dealing with mice in the home, many people are a bit squeamish to tackle the problem on their own. However, there are also many people out there who are DIY enthusiasts and would be willing to tackle the problem themselves. If it is evident that there are a lot of mice present is would be best to call an exterminator, but if one or two mice are seen and it is not a large scale infestation then all that may be needed is a trip to the hardware store and a little know-how. I interviewed several technicians with decades of experience between them to put together a list of some handy tips and tricks from the professionals at Arrow Exterminating.

  • One way to tell how many mice are around is to hone in on areas where you have seen their activity and look for their droppings. They will be small black pellets approximately the size of a grain of rice. If there are a lot of droppings, there are probably multiple mice on the scene
  • Do you have children or pets? If so, this makes taking care of the problem on your own a little more tricky
  • Are the mice entering food or causing property damage? Mice are, by their nature, filthy. Any food that they have contact with should be considered contaminated and discarded. This means that if they enter a box of cereal the whole box should be tossed out. They can also gnaw through electrical wires and insulation, which can cause fires. If you are worried that mice are posing a serious threat you your health or property, it is time to call in an exterminator

Choosing a Pest Control Method

  1. Poison- Also known as rodenticide, poison is widely available as a method for controlling the populations of mice and rats. We do not recommend using poison for several reasons. Although it is the easiest and most straightforward method to administer, it can pose a serious hazard to children and pets. Also, once the mice eat it they do not die instantaneously, which means that they may perish somewhere inaccessible and begin to smell as they decompose. Although the poison is deadly to rodents, it does not have the same effect on insects. The poison has been known to actually attract other pest insects into the home.
  2. Glue Boards- We do not generally recommend glue boards because they are considered inhumane. Although they are effective and may catch several mice at once, the mice are not killed immediately and instead suffer from shock or starvation. Depending on where glue boards are set, they may also pose a hazard to children and pets. Remember, even when on a glue board mice can still bite. Here is a link to an article describing in depth how to remove an animal from a glue trap. This method will work for a mouse, domesticated animal, or anyone that accidentally gets their digits stuck on the trap.
  3. Live Traps- Although they may seem like the most humane option, consider that mice are social animals that live their lives within a small territory. Assuming that the mice survive being captured and left in a trap without water, depositing them into a strange and hostile environment leaves them extremely vulnerable to predators. Keep in mind that instead of liberating the mice, capturing and releasing them may cause more suffering than a snap trap. If mice are released too close to where they were captured there is a good chance they will use their homing instincts to seek out and re enter the property, or simply invade someone else’s home. This is why it is best to go at least a couple of miles away and/or cross a major road or highway before releasing rodents. House mice are not likely to survive in the wilderness away from human habitation. Keep in mind that mice can carry diseases, and care should be taken to only handle them when necessary and always wash your hands after contact with mice. Here is a list compiled by the US Government Center for Disease Control, demonstrating all of the diseases that can be carried by rodents and transmitted to humans. Mice may also grow wise to the live traps and figure out ways to get around them.
  4. Traditional Snap Traps- These are an excellent choice for trapping mice. Although they are lethal, they are also humane and are designed to dispatch the mice as quickly as possible without causing unnecessary pain or injury.

Tips and Tricks From The Experts

A lot of people out there choose another type of trap over the snap trap because they are worried about setting the snap trap. Setting the trap will not cause any serious injury, and when used properly it will not snap onto your hand. Knowing how to set the trap right may lead to more confidence in using this method

  • Some of our technicians use sandpaper, a nail file, or other coarse material to “rough up” the end of the trigger. The extra texture at the end of the trigger gives it more grip. This makes the trap a little less sensitive and easier to set without affecting its ability to trap mice.
  • Always handle the snap trap from the side opposite the bait. If you never touch the side of the trap that is snapped down on, then there is no chance you will get your finger caught in the crossfire.
  • Don’t forget to apply the bait before the trap is set. Our technicians recommend a combination of peanut butter and birdseed.
  • When using viscous bait (such as chocolate and peanut butter), try to avoid spreading it in a big glob across the whole bait station. The yellow rectangular pad where the bait is placed has a hole in the middle of it, and if the bait seeps through the hole it may prevent the pad from compressing when the mouse hits it.
  • The traps are most effective when the mice dont have access to any other food sources in the house besides the bait. Be sure to clean up any stray crumbs or scraps of food, and keep lids on the garbage cans.
  • It may be worthwhile to leave the trap unset the first day and allow the mice to eat the bait off the trap. This will get the mice accustomed to feeding off the trap so that when it is set they will already be used to going for the bait
  • Another similar tactic that is a little quicker is to bait and set the trap, and also leave some bait around the outside of the trap
  • Set the traps near to where you see droppings or mouse activity. Set them against the wall with the triggers facing the wall. Set several traps in the same spot. Mice do not have good vision and instead rely on an acute sense of smell and hearing. Perhaps because of their poor vision, they are known to scurry along the same pathways over and over, usually near the wall.
  • Be prepared that even in a kill trap it is possible for the mouse to become trapped while still alive. In these situations you would need to finish the job yourself. Also, if the traps are not checked frequently, dead mice could produce an offensive odor. If all this proves to be overwhelming, or if the tactics described here are not working for you, it may be time to call an exterminator.