“Don’t let the bedbugs bite” used to be just a cute expression to say before saying goodnight. Today, it’s an actual warning. Bedbugs are back and they continue to attack a variety of businesses, from clothing retailers to hotels to movie theaters. According to a new study by the National Pest Management Association, 95 percent of pest-control companies nationwide have had run-ins with bedbug infestations in the past year.
While bedbugs get all the attention, plenty of other interesting, rather ominous insects are out there wreaking havoc on consumers and costing companies millions. So if you feel like being unnerved by bedbugs isn’t enough and you’re wondering what other creepy, crawling critters your business should be scared of, check out this list.
What they threaten: California’s $1.3 billion citrus industry.
Modus operandi: The Asian citrus psyllid isn’t such a bad bug on its own, but it can carry the devious and deadly Huanglongbing (HLB) bacteria, which kills all varieties of citrus trees. And what’s truly sneaky is that it’s often not evident for years that a citrus tree has been infected, so if the owner of the trees isn’t aware of what’s going on, the psyllids continue to eat away at the tree, allowing HLB to continue to spread.
Fun fact: “The adult psyllid tilts its rear end up in the air when it feeds — a unique posture among citrus pests,” Grafton-Cardwell says.
Modus operandi: This metallic-green, beautiful-but-devastating insect is attempting to destroy 7.5 billion ash trees in the United States. They were first discovered in Michigan in 2002. How they got here is anyone’s guess, but most international insects travel to America for a better life as stowaways in luggage or on humans traveling on planes, or they burrow in cargo on ships or in packages sent through the mail. The emerald ash borer is now found in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Maryland. Pennsylvania’s trees, meanwhile, are the source for the Major League Baseball bats manufactured by the famed company Louisville Slugger, and the state has been girding itself for the emerald ash borer’s arrival but has so far kept them at bay.
Fun fact: Minnesota is introducing stingless wasps into the state to combat the emerald ash borer.
What they threaten: California’s $320 million avocado industry, where 90 percent of the nation’s avocados are grown, as well as the peach and apricot industries.
Modus operandi: They like to feed on avocados, which causes the plant’s leaves to fall prematurely. As the leaves fall too soon, the bark becomes sunburned, the fruit doesn’t grow properly and the avocado trees in general get stressed out.
Fun fact: The average persea mite only lives 15 to 40 days. The warmer the weather, the shorter the life. Sixty-seven degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the sweet spot.
Modus operandi: Crazy rasberry ants are named for exterminator Tom Rasberry, who first identified the critters in Houston in 2002. These ants bite humans and are oddly attracted to electrical equipment — they enjoy nesting in it and chewing it up. In fact, the NASA Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake City, Texas, had some crazy rasberry ant sightings and brought in Rasberry to exterminate them.
Modus operandi: Basically, this is the Asian version of the ladybug, and mostly, they’re harmless. But during the winter, they fly into buildings and crawl into windows, walls and attics. Before dying, they’ll often release an annoying stench and a yellow fluid that stains. But if you’re a fruit grower, you’ll be much more than annoyed. This is war. After all, these Asian lady beetles like to munch on peaches, apples and grapes, among other fruit, and as wine growers have found, if even just a small number of these beetles are accidentally processed along with the grapes, it can taint the wine’s flavor.
Fun fact:The Asian lady beetle’s stench, which you’ll discover if you try squashing them, Harrison says, “is their way of discouraging things from eating them.”Varroa Destructor
What businesses they threaten: The beekeeping industry — a $12 billion industry in the United States alone.
Modus operandi: The varroa destructor is a blood-sucking parasite, attacking both adults and kids. The juvenile honeybees born under the influence of a varroa destructor often are deformed, missing legs or wings. It’s a very bad situation for the bees and not a great one for the honeybee industry, and considering how we depend on bees to pollinate flowers and crops, it’s a bad situation for the world at large.
Fun fact:The varroa destructor was first discovered in Southeast Asia in 1904. They first turned up in the United States in 1987.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
What they threaten: Farmers, and they could embarrass some business owners in their own stores.
Modus operandi: Although the United States has plenty of stink bugs, this one first showed up in Pennsylvania in 1998. Since then, they’ve been attacking farmers’ crops, including apples, figs, peaches, citrus and mulberries. On the plus side, “Often, they just do cosmetic damage rather than actually destroying the fruit,” says Ron Harrison. Of course, try telling a potential customer the apple he’s eying isn’t as disgusting as it looks. As for getting into a place of business, they won’t — unless you have cracks around your windows or doors, or if they can find a way through the utility pipes or by invading your siding.
Fun fact: Once stink bugs move into your storefront, they will come year after year. They return because they can smell the odor they left behind. It’s kind of like leaving out a sign to other stink bugs that your establishment is a fun vacationspot.Coffee Borer Beetle
What they threaten: Hawaii’s coffee growers, an estimated $60 million industry.
Modus operandi: These insects, which are well-known in Central America and South America, were recently discovered in Hawaii by a University of Hawaii graduate student. The bug bores into the coffee cherry and lays its eggs. As soon as the larvae, the juvenile coffee borers, arrive on the scene, they instantly feeding on the coffee bean. Borers typically ruin about 20 percent of a crop and do an estimated $500 million in damage every year.
Fun fact: The coffee cherry borer is a small beetle, about the size of a sesame seed.
By Alex Wild
While science journalists’ attention remains focused on the Nobel prizes, another set of awards- rather diminutive in scope- were also released this morning.
Nikon has announced the 2011 winners of its prestigious Small World Photomicrography Competition. The contest, now in its 37th year, received over 2,000 entries. And I must say, the galleries are simply gorgeous. Go visit:
This year’s 1st place was taken by Igor Siwanowicz, whose sublime insect portraiture I’ve admired for years. Siwanowicz’s winning image is a cross section of a lacewing larva. These common insects consume prey by piercing their skin with hollow, needle-like jaws and sucking their juices. It’s a fascinating image.
Even though Small World is the grandaddy of microscopy contests, they’ve remained remarkably current with social media. You can follow @NikonSmallWorld on twitter. And, for those who differ with the judges’ picks, Nikon is also holding a popular vote.
For those of you with something small to share, next year’s deadline is April 30, 2012.
Checkout some of our archived posts below!
Photo via Lost Ladybug Project’s Facebook
Way back in the 1960s and ’70s, the nine-spotted ladybug was the most common ladybug in the northeastern US. So beloved was this particular ladybug that it was designated as the official state insect of New York in the late ’80s. But even as it received this honor, the bug had already begun to disappear, pushed out by the dastardly seven-spotted ladybug instead. By 1999, scientists believed the nine-spotter had sadly gone extinct. But dry your tears, insect-lovers! Because the nine-spotted ladybug has just been spotted-alive and well-on an Amagansett farm.
It’s the first time the ladybug has been seen on the east coast in 29 years, said Cornell University professor John Losey, who runs the Lost Ladybug Project, which enlists citizen scientists to survey ladybug populations. One eagle-eyed project participant discovered a nine-spotter in a sunflower on the organic farm earlier this summer, and Losey and his team uncovered more than 20 other ladybugs in the area. “Everyone is really excited about this,” Losey told The Post. “To find a ladybug that we really thought was completely gone from New York in such numbers is just wonderful.”
The farm that the bugs were found on is on government-protected land, which Losey described as the “perfect” place for “these insects to be safe and to thrive.” Here’s a look at the ladybugs in action. Sort of.
By LAURA CAROE
Pest controllers in the Florida city have launched a huge fight back against the creatures — that will eat almost any type of plant and can cause structural damage to plaster and stucco.
Officials have said the African land snails — which have both male and female reproductive systems — are among the most dangerous in the world.
The slimy critters sometimes carry a parasite that can infect humans with a non-lethal strain of meningitis, they eat at least 500 different types of plants, and are prolific breeders who lay around 1,200 eggs a year.
Thousands of them have infested at least five neighbourhoods in the Miami area.
Homeowners who have discovered the creatures described them as disgusting.
The snails’ engorged bodies extend far from their shells, and they eat so ravenously that they leave trails of excrement on walls and the ground.
The pests are now being hunted house by house in the affected areas.
Since the snails were first detected last month, around 10,000 have been collected from just 114 properties.
It is not the first time they have plagued Miami — in 1996 a boy bought three home from a trip to Hawaii.
His grandmother released them into the garden and it took authorities almost a decade to wipe their offspring out — costing more than £649,100.
Officials snared up to 18,000 snails.
The creatures are originally from East Africa and can now be found in the Pacific Rim, Hawaii and on several Caribbean islands.
CAIRNS, Australia – An American spider known for its flesh-eating venom could help Australian scientists find a cure for chronic pain, The Courier-Mail reported Tuesday.
University of Queensland scientist Mehdi Mobli was Tuesday presenting findings of his research into the American hobo spider at Australia’s peak annual conference for biochemists and molecular biologists in Cairns.
The hobo spider, a distant cousin of the Australian funnelweb spider, is often blamed for a bite that turns necrotic and eats away human cells, tissue and flesh.
“Spiders have evolved a biochemically complex venom that is designed to rapidly subdue prey,” Mobli said.
His research found the potent insecticidal neurotoxin, linked to an ancestral gene, had evolved over 200 million years.
“Because it targets the nervous system, it may have benefits for treating nervous system disorders like chronic pain,” he said.
Mobli and his colleagues have been working to harvest venom from spiders, snakes, scorpions and box jellyfish for bio-medical research.
They believe some spiders and their highly toxic venom have emerged as the latest, albeit unlikely, ally in the fight against human illness, inflammation and even erectile dysfunction.They are also investigating spider venom for its potential as a potent bio-insecticide to protect valuable food crops.
“The American hobo spider is the first toxin in spiders that we have been able to track down the ancestral gene,” Mobli said.