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Fascinating Facts About Pests

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 24 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Fascinating Facts About Pests

If you’ve got a pest problem, then being told what a fascinating creature the cause of your misfortune is, surely must be the last thing you want to hear! That said, some of the biggest nuisances that you’re ever likely to encounter really are quite remarkable, though admittedly, often chiefly in ways that help them to be a more effective pest!

With that in mind, here are 15 interesting facts about three of our least favourite unwelcome guests – fleas, rats and wasps. It probably won’t make you like them any better, but it might make you see them in a slightly different light.

Fleas

We all know fleas can make prodigiously high jumps – over 150 times their own length, in fact, which would take a human jumping about 900ft to match – but there are plenty of other fascinating aspects to these itchy, scratchy pests. Here are just a few:

  • A single flea can jump up to 30,000 times before it needs to stop for a breather!
  • Cat Fleas are the most common kind of flea to infest dogs.
  • A female Cat Flea can drink up to 15 times its own body weight in blood.
  • Fleas have no ears and are almost completely blind; they find their victims by sensing the heat they give off and the carbon dioxide in their breath.
  • Most fleas are only about 2mm long; the world’s largest – the Beaver Flea – grows to more than 1cm in length.

Rats

Much as we loathe them, you have to admire the sheer survivalist skills of rats. Cunning and clever, they’re always ready to find new ways to make their living and thanks to their remarkable success as stow-aways on ships, the skinny agile Black Rat (Rattus rattus) and its commoner, and dumpier, relative the Brown Rat (R. norvegicus) they’ve made their presence felt just about everywhere.

  • A rat’s teeth grow at a rate of around 5 inches a year – which explains all that gnawing to keep them in check.
  • Rats become sexually mature at about 14 weeks old and live for two to three years.
  • A female rat is able to breed roughly every three-and-a-half weeks; left to their own devices, a single pair of rats could grow to a colony 2,000-strong if each generation’s descendents are left to breed freely!
  • According to a recent survey, there are about as many rats living in the UK as there are people.
  • Although they normally live in a fairly small home territory, if food is in short supply, rats will travel up to two or three miles a night to find a square meal.

Wasps

If you’ve ever been bothered by wasps at a barbeque, you’ve probably asked the immortal question “what are wasps for?” Well, that’s a hard one to answer, but here are a few facts anyway that you might not have known:

  • You know that wasps like sugary drinks, but did you also know that if they take to drinking the likes of fermenting fruit juices or sweet cider, they can get drunk and have been seen to pass out?
  • Only female wasps can sting – and they will do even for a short while after their death, so be careful!
  • We’ve always been on the lookout for ways to take the pain of that sting away, but in the 15th century, they came up with some wonderfully ingenious ones, including goose dung and a poultice made from the leaves of wild mallow. How successful they were doesn’t appear to have been recorded!
  • Although we tend to think that all wasps look the same, there are actually seven species of social wasps found in the UK – and over 15,000 kinds to be found worldwide.
  • So, what are they for? Well perhaps part of the answer is that they are, despite everything, surprisingly beneficial insects, eating a large number of caterpillars and other insects, helping clean up carrion and even doing a spot of pollination in their search for sweet nectar. OK – they’re never going to be seen with the same affection as bees – but that counts for something, surely?
Wasps, rats and fleas – three of the most successful and least welcome creatures that occasionally muscle-in on our lives. They are really very good at what they do. Does that make them fascinating? Probably – but just not in my house, thanks!

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