The Pests

 
Wasps
The various species of wasps fall into one of two main categories: solitary wasps and social wasps.  Adult solitary wasps generally live and operate alone, and most do not construct nests. All adult solitary wasps are fertile.

 

By contrast, social wasps exist in colonies numbering up to several thousand strong and build nests but in some cases not all of the colony can reproduce. In the more advanced species just the wasp queen and male wasps can mate, whilst the majority of the colony is made up of sterile female workers.

Generally wasps are parasites or parasitoids as larvae, and feed only on nectar as adults. Many wasps are predatory, using other insects (often paralyzed) as food for their larvae. A few social wasps are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of fallen fruit, nectar, and carrion. Some of these social wasps, such as yellowjackets, may scavenge for dead insects to provide for their young. In many social species the larvae provide sweet secretions that are fed to the adults.

 

In parasitic species, the first meals are almost always provided by the animal that the adult wasp used as a host for its young. Adult male wasps sometimes visit flowers to obtain nectar to feed on in much the same manner as honey bees. Occasionally, some species, such as yellowjackets, invade honey bee nests and steal honey and/or brood.

 

The type of nest produced by wasps can depend on the species and location. Many social wasps produce paper pulp nests on trees, in attics, holes in the ground or other such sheltered areas with access to the outdoors. By contrast solitary wasps are generally parasitic or predatory and only the latter build nests at all.

 

Unlike honey bees, wasps have no wax producing glands. Many instead create a paper-like substance primarily from wood pulp. Wood fibers are gathered locally from weathered wood, softened by chewing and mixing with saliva. The pulp is then used to make combs with cells for brood rearing. More commonly, nests are simply burrows excavated in a substrate (usually the soil, but also plant stems), or, if constructed, they are constructed from mud.

Unlike honey bee queens, wasp queens typically live for only one year.

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Moles
A mole's diet primarily consists of earthworms and other small invertebrates found in the soil. The mole may also occasionally catch small mice at the entrance to its burrow. Because their saliva contains a toxin that can paralyze earthworms, moles are able to store their still living prey for later consumption.

 

They construct special underground "larders" for just this purpose; researchers have discovered such larders with over a thousand earthworms in them. Before eating earthworms, moles pull them between their squeezed paws to force the collected earth and dirt out of the worm's gut.

 

Moles are considered to be agricultural pests in some countries, while in others, such as Germany, they are a protected species but may be killed if a permit is received. Problems cited as caused by moles include contamination of silage with soil particles making it unpalatable to livestock, the covering of pasture with fresh soil reducing its size and yield, damage to agricultural machinery by the exposure of stones, damage to young plants through disturbance of the soil, weed invasion of pasture through exposure of fresh tilled soil, and damage to drainage systems and watercourses. Other species such as weasels and voles may use mole tunnels to gain access to enclosed areas or plant roots.

Moles burrow lawns, raising molehills, and killing the lawn, for which they are considered pests. They can undermine plant roots, indirectly causing damage or death. However, contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat plant roots.

However, in many gardens, the damage caused by moles to lawns is mostly visual, and it is also possible to simply remove the earth of the molehills as they appear, leaving their permanent galleries for the moles to continue their existence underground.


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Squirrels
Squirrels are generally clever and persistent animals. In residential neighbourhoods, they are notorious for eating out of bird feeders, digging in planting pots and flower beds to pull out bulbs which they chew on or to either bury or recover seeds and nuts and for inhabiting sheltered areas including attics and basements.

Squirrels use their keen sense of smell to locate buried nuts and can dig extensive holes in the process. Birds, especially crows, often watch a squirrel bury a nut, then dig it up as soon as the squirrel leaves. Although expert climbers, and primarily arboreal, squirrels also thrive in urban environments, where they get used to humans.

 

Squirrels are sometimes considered pests because of their propensity to chew on various edible and inedible objects. This characteristic trait aids in maintaining sharp teeth, and because their teeth grow continuously, prevents over-growth. Homeowners in areas with a heavy squirrel population must keep attics and basements carefully sealed to prevent property damage caused by nesting squirrels. A squirrel nest is called a "drey".

 

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Mice
Although mice may live up to two and a half years in captivity, the average mouse in the wild lives only about four months, primarily owing to heavy predation. Cats, wild dogs, foxes, birds of prey, snakes and even certain kinds of arthropods have been known to prey heavily upon mice. Nevertheless, because of its remarkable adaptability to almost any environment, and its ability to live commensally with humans, the mouse is one of the most successful mammalian genera living on Earth today.

 

Mice can at times be harmful rodents, damaging and eating crops, causing structural damages and spreading diseases through their parasites and feces. In North America, breathing dust that has come in contact with mouse excrements has been linked to hantavirus, which may lead to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). The original motivation for the domestication of cats is thought to have been for their predation of mice and their relatives, the rats.

 

Primarily nocturnal animals, mice compensate for their poor eyesight with a keen sense of hearing, and rely especially on their sense of smell to locate food and avoid predators.

 

Breeding onset is at about 50 days of age in both females and males, although females may become fertile at at 25–40 days. Mice can breed all year round.

In nature, mice are herbivores, consuming any kind of fruit or grain from plants. Due to this, mice adapt well to urban areas and are known for eating most types of food scraps, especially cheese.


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Fleas
Fleas attack a wide variety of warm-blooded vertebrates including dogs, cats, humans, chickens, rabbits, squirrels, rats, ferrets, and mice.

 

Fleas are a nuisance to their hosts, causing an itching sensation which in turn may result in the host attempting to remove the pest by biting, pecking, scratching, etc. the vicinity of the parasite. Fleas are not simply a source of annoyance, however. Some people and animals suffer allergic reactions to flea saliva resulting in rashes. Flea bites generally result in the formation of a slightly-raised swollen itching spot with a single puncture point at the center (similar to a mosquito sting). The bites often appear in clusters or lines of two bites, and can remain itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks afterwards. Fleas can also lead to hair loss as a result of frequent scratching and biting by the animal, and can cause anemia in extreme cases.

Besides the problems posed by the creature itself, fleas can also act as a vector for disease. For example, fleas transmitted the bubonic plague between rodents and humans by carrying Yersinia pestis bacteria. Murine typhus (endemic typhus) fever, and in some cases Hymenolepiasis (tapeworm) can also be transmitted by fleas.

 

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Ants
Some ant species are considered pests and because of the adaptive nature of ant colonies, eliminating the entire colony is nearly impossible. Pest management is therefore a matter of controlling local populations, instead of eliminating an entire colony, and most attempts at control are temporary solutions.

Ants classified as pests include the pavement ant, yellow crazy ant, sugar ants, the Pharaoh ant, carpenter ants, Argentine ant, odorous house ants, red imported fire ant and European fire ant. Populations are controlled using insecticide baits, either in granule or liquid formulations. Bait is gathered by the ants as food and brought back to the nest where the poison is inadvertently spread to other colony members through trophallaxis. Boric acid and borax are often used as insecticides that are relatively safe for humans.

Bait may be broadcast over a large area to control species like the red fire ant that occupy large areas. Nests of red fire ants may be destroyed by following the ants' trails back to the nest and then pouring boiling water into it to kill the queen. This works in about 60% of the mounds and requires about 14 litres per mound


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Cockroaches
Cockroaches are one of the most commonly noted household pest insects. They feed on human and pet food, and can leave an offensive odor. They can also passively transport microbes on their body surfaces including those that are potentially dangerous to humans, particularly in environments such as hospitals.
Cockroaches have been shown to be linked with allergic reactions in humans. One of the proteins that triggers allergic reactions has been identified as tropomyosin. These allergens have also been found to be linked with asthma.

General preventive measures against household pests include keeping all food stored away in sealed containers, using garbage cans with a tight lid, frequent cleaning in the kitchen, and regular vacuuming. Any water leaks, such as dripping taps, should also be repaired. It is also helpful to seal off any entry points, such as holes around skirting boards, in between kitchen cabinets, pipes, doors, and windows with some steel wool or copper mesh and some cement, putty or silicone caulk.

Cockroaches have been known to live up to three months without food and a month without water. Frequently living outdoors, although preferring warm climates and considered "cold intolerant," they are resilient enough to survive occasional freezing temperatures. This makes them difficult to eradicate once they have infested an area.

Bait stations, gels containing hydramethylnon or fipronil, as well as boric acid powder, are toxic to cockroaches. Baits with egg killers are also quite effective at reducing the cockroach population. Additionally, pest control products containing deltamethrin or pyrethrin are very effective.


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Rats
The best-known rat species are the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) and the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus). Male rats are called bucks, unmated females are called does, pregnant or parent females are called dams, and infants are called kittens or pups. A group of rats is either referred to as a pack or a mischief.

In Western countries, many people keep domesticated rats as pets. These are of the species R. norvegicus, which originated in the grasslands of China and spread to Europe and eventually, in 1775, to the New World. Pet rats are Brown Rats descended from those bred for research, and are often called "fancy rats", but are the same species as the common city "sewer" rat. Domesticated rats tend to be both more docile than their wild ancestors and more disease prone, presumably due to inbreeding.

The common species are opportunistic survivors and often live with and near humans, therefore they are known as commensals.

Wild rats can carry many different "zoonotic" pathogens, such as e.g. Leptospira, Toxoplasma gondii and Campylobacter, and may transfer these across species, for example to humans. The Black Death is traditionally believed to have been caused by the micro-organism Yersinia pestis, carried by the Tropical Rat Flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) which preyed on Black Rat living in European cities during the epidemic outbreaks of the Middle Ages; these rats were used as transport hosts. 

Beside transmitting zoonotic pathogens, rats are also linked to the spread of contagious animal pathogens that may result in livestock diseases such as Classical Swine Fever and Foot-and-mouth disease.

The normal lifespan of rats ranges from two to five years, and is typically three years.

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