Tag Archives: entomology

Bats: Friend Or Foe? The Myths Vs Facts Of A Misunderstood Species

"Golden crowned fruit bat" by Original uploader was Latorilla at en.wikipedia - Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Golden_crowned_fruit_bat.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Golden_crowned_fruit_bat.jpg

An unfortunate reality of pest control is the need to trap and remove nuisance wildlife. Often there is a delicate balance between satisfying the needs of the customer and also protecting the environment and supporting animal welfare. We have found that bats in particular are often misunderstood. We believe that if people understood how bats actually behave and what their impact really is, they might look at their pest situation in a whole new light.

Bat Myth: Bats are a pest that should always be removed and eliminated

Bat Fact: In some situations bats can be beneficial. Since bats feed entirely on insects there are studies showing that bats can reduce the population of mosquitoes and other flying pests. A single bat can consume around 1,000 mosquitoes or other flying critters in a single hour! It is not uncommon for one bat to consume between 6,000 and 8,000 insects per night.

Did You Know: Bats are beginning to be used in agriculture as a natural alternative to pesticides. The concept is simple: the farmer simply creates and maintains a “bat cave” habitat on the premises. In exchange for “room and board” the bats go to work patrolling the fields and plucking out of the air any insect that might potentially threaten the farmer’s crops. This harmonious partnership between farmer and bat is one scenario where the bats are far from pests.

Bat Myth: Bats commonly spread rabies

Bat Fact: While it is true that bats are among the many species of mammal that can become infected with rabies, within the United States they rarely pass this disease on to humans. Although caution and good judgment should always be used, being in the presence of bats under normal circumstances does not mean imminent danger. For one thing, it is not possible for bats to carry rabies without becoming sick themselves. This means that any affected bats are sure to die off and cannot harbor rabies over the course of their natural lifespan. The disease changes the behavior of the bat as it becomes sick, so if a bat is acting abnormally such as flying erratically, being out during the daytime, or lying incapacitated by the roadside this should be seen as a red flag. Many cases of rabies transmission between humans and bats involve a sick bat being picked up off the ground and handled without gloves.

Based on statistics it is extremely unlikely to contract rabies from a bat. Although many people are afraid of bats and use rabies to justify this, the statistical facts tell a different story. According to the U.S. Goverment Department of Natural Resources, more people are killed by lightning strikes and dog attacks than rabid bats. In the past 50 years there have been only 40 documented deaths in the US from rabies transmitted by bats. Other mammals such as raccoon, foxes, and skunks all generally have higher rates of rabies prevalence than bats although they do not usually inspire as much fear.

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Did You Know: Rabies is a disease that affects the nervous system of it’s victims and can be passed through a variety of bodily fluids. After infection there is an incubation period during which it is possible to cure the disease, but by the time symptoms develop it is almost always fatal. Among people that handle bats closely through their work or hobbies (such as caving) extra precautions are taken. Seek immediate medical attention if a bat dropping enters the eye or an open wound, there is a scratch, bite, or any exchange of fluids of any kind between a bat and human even if the bat appears healthy.

Myth: Bats Are Typically Aggressive Towards Humans

Fact: By their nature bats are not generally aggressive towards people. it is extremely rare for a North American bat to attack a human under any normal circumstances. At the 29th Annual North American Symposium on Bat Research, one spokesman was quoted as saying “In our collective experience, bats seldom are aggressive, even when sick”

Did You Know: In the tropical rain forests of South America there is a bat species called the vampire bat. They latch onto their prey and feed off of their blood

Myth: Calling a Pest Control Company Will Only lead To the Destruction Of The Bat Population

Fact: At Arrow Exterminating we strive to safely remove and relocate any bats that are considered pests. We are animal lovers ourselves and never kill or mistreat bats during the course of the job. Bats may be considered a pest if they roost inside a residence or another unwelcome location. Their droppings will begin to accumulate in and around the nesting site, which can give off a musky odor. This is not only unsanitary, but also potentially unsafe. Bat droppings could contain a fungus that is harmful to inhale, especially in unventilated areas. Bats can also be noisy, and their high pitch squealing is especially irritating to dogs because they are more sensitive to sounds in that range. 

Did You Know: Since all bat species in North America feed exclusively on insects, bat droppings (also known as guano) have a powdery, ashy texture because their made up of any bits of insect that bat’s can’t digest.

Insects May Hold Key To Understanding Amazon Rainforest Biodiversity

To the biologists who study the ecology of The Amazon, it is no secret that the region is home to a tremendous variety and volume of plants and trees in incredible proportions. According to some estimates, The Amazon has over 2 million square miles of tropical rainforest which is home to an estimated 390 billion individual trees comprised of at least 16,000 known species. In every 2.47 acres of Amazonia, there are 1500 plant species, 750 tree species, and 900 tons of living plants, and roughly a third of the world’s oxygen is produced there. When combined with the astounding variety of insects, mammals, and other life forms this makes The Amazon Rainforest the most bio-diverse region on the planet. What has puzzled researchers and scientists about this is exactly what causes all of this diversity. Although there have been many theories on the subject, a new idea is emerging to explain why this particular region of the world is home to so many more types of trees in such a dense area than anywhere else. Surprisingly this new theory centers on insects as a major contributor to this diversity.

Throughout the Amazon, there is a silent battle being waged between a hoard of insects and their major food source- plants and trees. Insects are known to consume the leaves, stems, and seeds of all varieties of plants. To avoid destruction, plants have evolved an array of defenses, some of which can get elaborate. Plants with leaves that appear simply a little fuzzy to the human eye are more like little barbed hooks to the insects that feed on them, tearing at the underbellies of caterpillars. Some plants have even developed little pots of nectar that draw in a select group of ants to prey on other insects on the plant.

One of the most common defenses that plants and trees in the rainforest use against insects is to produce their own natural pesticide residues through their leaves. Since the weather is warm in the tropics year round most insect species can reproduce faster than in temperate climates, so they have more generations in a faster time. Since the bugs regenerate faster, they can actually develop resistance to some of the pesticides of the plants. This leads to a sort of arms race between the plants and insects.

Scientists now believe that as the plants evolve new pesticide defenses, they may also be attracting different pollinating insects that the plants need to reproduce. The ants are constantly shifting the focus of their feeding on different plants as the plant’s pesticide and their resistance to it changes rapidly. As this happens, the insects that are pollinating the plants also change. Some pollinators may only select one specific group of trees due to slight differences in that tree’s chemicals. Those same pollinators may avoid another group of trees that are nearby even if the two groups of trees are of same species. This isolates the gene pools of plants that are of the same species in a way that is unique, and this isolation may allow plants and trees of The Amazon to evolve into new species faster than elsewhere. At least that is the theory. Whatever the case, it is interesting to discover the different ways that jungle life interacts, and the important role that tiny insects play in it all.

Other Recommended Articles About The Amazon Rainforest:

Image Gallery: New Species of the Amazon

Brazilian Beauty: The Threatened Atlantic Forest

8 of the World’s Most Endangered Places

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

Old Oak Tree Harbors Smokey Brown Cockroaches on Long Island, New York.

A homeowner from Garden City, N.Y. recently noticed some strange insects living inside a decaying hole in an old Oak tree on his property.  The homeowner sprayed something into the hole in an attempt to kill these “bugs”.   He then collected some samples and brought them to our office for identification.  I examined the samples and determined that they were cockroaches of a species which I am unfamiliar with. Using the Mallis Handbook to identify them, I was surprised when the key led me to the Smokey Brown cockroach. This type of roach is not typically found in the Northeastern United States, making the discovery a significant entomological find. I sent samples to the University of Florida which confirmed that the samples were indeed adult Smokey Brown cockroaches (Periplaneta fuliginosa).   I notified the homeowner that the “bugs” in his tree were actually of the quite unusual “Smokey Brown” cockroach species.  He described a population of hundreds of these cockroaches living on his property for the past two years.

Within the United States these cockroaches are normally found exclusively in the southeastern region.   They are, however, native to the temperate regions of Asia. Interestingly we now know of a sizable population in the Garden City area, and by my estimation their numbers seem to be on the rise on Long Island.  We can speculate these cockroaches were transported to Long Island in boxes from Japan and in plant mulch from the southern United States.

Smoky-brown cockroaches require high humidity for survival.  Once in structures, they are commonly found in attics or near fireplaces attracted by a leaky roof.  They are good flyers and easily travel from trees to homes.  They also tend to congregate around lights.  Smoky Brown cockroaches are scavengers and will eat any kind of organic matter. They may even grow to large numbers simply by feeding on dog droppings left in a yard. The roaches’ bodies range from 1¼ to 1½ inch long.  They are dark brown to black.  The pronotum is a solid dark color.  Both sexes have wings longer than their bodies with antennae that are as long as, or longer than their bodies.  Early nymphs have a white stripe on the back.  They attach their egg capsules to surfaces. Only time will tell what kind of impact the introduction of this new species will have on the homeowners of Long Island and the local ecology.

M. Deutsch M.S., BCE. July 31, 2013

Arrow Exterminating Company, Inc. Lynbrook, NY 11563

Adult Smokey Brown Cockroach

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