Most insects have wings in their adult stages and move around mainly by flying. Some insects, such as cockroaches, have wings but are reluctant flyers, preferring to crawl to find food and shelter. And termites and ants are mainly wingless, so most of their behavior involves crawling, and produce juveniles that are temporarily winged during a short breeding season. Other insects, such as the flea and louse, are wingless and can only crawl or jump to move around. For this blog, we’ll focus on the less common crawling insects regarded as pests mainly due to their crawling behavior.
Crawling insects (6 legged) and arachnids (8 legged; they are not classified as insects) are regarded as pests for a number of reasons:
- Their bites cause pain and swelling from the body’s immune reaction to the ‘foreign material’ from the insect/arachnid mouth injected with the bite
- Their stings cause pain and often an allergic reaction from the venom injected into the skin
- Various insect bites can transmit a large number of serious diseases (bacterial, viral and parasitic) to both humans and domestic animals
- During an infestation, they produce allergens that can cause or worsen asthma
- Often, they contaminate food, water and surfaces by transmission of diseases
- Many consume and/or damage stored food products
- They may damage fabric products such as clothing and furniture, some wooden structures and products
We’re going to look at some of the less common but nonetheless potentially frequent visitors to homes. While ants, bed bugs and termites are frequently highlighted as nuisance and/or destructive pests, they’ve been covered in previous blogs.
Cockroaches carry a large number of disease-causing organisms that can contaminate food and surfaces, including Salmonella. They also produce particles (allergens) that produce allergic reactions, causing or worsening asthma. They are one of the most serious pests of homes, food processing factories, restaurants, and healthcare facilities worldwide.
Fleas are usually brought into contact with humans by pets, including cats, dogs, birds, and rabbits. There are several species, each preferring a particular animal host, but will attempt to feed on other hosts, including humans before dropping off. Fleas can also transmit serious bacterial diseases such as murine typhus and plague.
There are three types of human louse, the head louse, body louse and crab louse. Head lice can be passed from person to person by close contact and infest anyone with hair. Routinely, they most commonly affect children.
The body louse is the same species as the head louse but lives mainly in clothing and is spread by close contact with someone infested, or infested clothing and bedding. These are generally more of an irritant, causing itching and distress.
Both head and body lice can carry the serious diseases including various forms of typhus and relapsing fever.
The crab louse is a distinct species from the other types and is spread by close contact. It is usually found in coarser body hair, such as pubic hair and eye lashes. This is also more of an irritant than a danger.
All lice are generally associated with a social stigma regardless of the manner it was transmitted.
Stored product insects
A wide variety of insect species can infest food. Crawling insects that affect stored food include many species of weevil and other beetles (which have thousands of species), and a few species of mites (which are arachnids).
Silverfish are small wingless insects that feed on starch and sugars. Named for their fish-like movements, they can damage products such as paper, glues, carpets, cotton and linen products. They are frequently found in moist areas, including basements, attics, kitchens and bathrooms.
Textile pests can be found in products of animal origin including wool, silk, animal hair, leather and feathers. They can damage products such as clothing, carpets, upholstered furniture and tapestries. The pests include moths and many beetle species that feed on a specific protein known as keratin, found in animal products.
The arachnids (spiders, ticks, mites, scorpions) and the Myriapods (centipedes) are all wingless so they only move around by crawling. They are characterized by having two body sections, a fused head and thorax, and an abdomen with eight legs. Ticks and mites have a similar life cycle to insects, with egg, larva, nymph and adult stages. Spiders and scorpions produce eggs and progress through larval stages in the egg, hatching as small immature adults that go through several molts to grow to the adult size.
Mites are a highly diverse group with many species that are parasites of plants and animals. A relatively small number are regarded as pests for causing diseases in humans and domestic animals, and for infesting food products.
Grain or flour mites are important pests of cereals, dried fruits and vegetables. Diseases caused or worsened by mites (most often dust mites) include scabies and asthma, which is caused by the excrement they produce.
Of the many thousands of spider species worldwide very few cause problems for humans. The main problem is unsightly cobwebs that are considered unacceptable around homes and businesses, as well as people’s fear of spiders. In temperate climates they may seek shelter in houses in autumn as the temperature drops.
Ticks are picked up by pets and people from walking in infected areas outdoors, especially where there is long grass and vegetation. They carry several diseases, the most common of which is Lyme disease. Many small mammals and deer are hosts of ticks and maintain them and the diseases they carry in the environment.
While there is an array of less than common pests you may encounter when in doubt, the professionals here at EcoChoice can help. We can provide inspection, treatment and strategies to make your home less conducive to these pests.