GUEST POST from Don: Helpful Pests


[Note: This is NOT the usual Guest Post.  Unlike my other works, this is mostly a re-telling (like a book report) from the mentioned podcasts (below).  I found this fascinating and thought one or two others would, too.  However, I have included a few thoughts of my own at the end.]

  Rob Dunn, PhD. is Senior Vice Provost for University Interdisciplinary Programs at North Carolina State University.  He is also an ecologist who spends lots of time studying rare tropical insects and the impact of human activities on them.  Often he would give talks after returning from the field and he found that many listeners wanted to know what is important … closer to home.  That is, the wanted to know how to deal with the ants in their own kitchens.

  In an “Unexplainable” podcast by Vox he talked about “What’s Living in our Homes” (I listened to the podcast twice, but now I can’t find it anywhere!!!)  So, I found several other interviews and have linked them here for your amusement.  The one closest to this subject is found HERE.  Secondary interviews, also interesting are more about species of critters ON or IN our own bodies and they are found HERE, HERE, and HERE.  After several years of making people frustrated because his talks were not about their issues, he teamed up with some other scientists in the Raleigh, NC area and took a look at homes in that city.  First, he looked at his own.  He had thought he only had 2 types of spiders:  A fat one and a skinny one.  But when he did a deep dive into studying his own house he found he had 11 types, including one that only came out at night which spat small balls of web on a multitude of items.

  He and a colleague chose 50 ordinary homes and spent an entire day in each one collecting samples of critters.  They were surprised at their findings.  A home is not a sterile arena where only humans and pets live.  In fact, no matter how often or deeply homes were cleaned and no matter how often they treated with pesticides, there were scores of insects, spiders, mites, and even centipedes living in the same space.  Nothing seemed to make much of a difference.  It seems that homes create several small, but strong, eco-systems for critters.  The average home had over 100 species of insects, spiders, centipedes, etc.

  The bedroom has lots of hair and dead skin cells which invites dust mites.  The dust mites attract a larger mite which feeds on the dust mites.  The larger mites attract house centipedes.

  The kitchen has lots of food, water, and food scraps which invite pantry pests and small flies (fruit flies, etc).

  The bathroom has lots of humidity and grunge.  This attracts spring-tails and spiders.

  The basement or crawlspace lends itself to a large host of insects, spiders, and creepy crawlies.

  The study turned up an insect no one knew was in the U.S.  It had spread across the Eastern U.S. and no one had noticed.  It was an Asian camel cricket.  (We have our own varieties of camel cricket, too).  But the interesting thing about THESE crickets is what they fed on.  They ate things other insects could not digest, like cockroach legs and shoe leather.  That means that they have something in their guts which other insects don’t have.

  Rob took some samples of this cricket to another scientist who was trying to find an enzyme that would break down “black liquor.”  “Black liquor” is a “tar-like waste product from the paper-making process.”  Paper mills were shipping this thick waste product to electrical generating plants where they would burn it to produce electricity.  The problem was that it was as bad as burning coal.  It has many compounds, like sulfur and heavy metals.  It turned out that the invasive cricket did have an enzyme which could break down “black liquor.”  It may take years to make it an effective solution.

a tiny helpful wasp, Tychogramma

  Dr Dunn explained that if we HAVE TO have insects in our homes, maybe we could encourage BETTER insects to stay.  For example, there are tiny wasps (perhaps Trichogramma) which lay eggs on cockroach babies (yes, the babies die).  Tachinid flies, usually thought of as a good garden insect, can be invited indoors if you have a small window-sill garden.  They also lay eggs on bad bugs.  Then there is a variety of spider which controls fruit flies and another which eats mosquitoes which have recently fed (to help reduce the spread of mosquito-borne pathogens).

  You are going to have insects and their friends living inside your home.  You should invite the best ones so you get a benefit from their presence, right?

  Unfortunately, there is not much information about beneficial insects for INSIDE your home.  Yet, I know many who have a “Do not disturb” attitude toward Daddy Long Leg spiders and Harvestman insects (some confuse them with each other).

  My emphasis in the past has been to reduce the environments which attract the bad bugs.  Remove garbage often, do dishes regularly, rotate pantry products (and check for infestations), vacuum mattresses and clean the floor under the bed every 3 months, reduce humidity in basements and crawl spaces to 55% or lower since many invaders prefer a much higher humidity.

  I’m thinking that fewer will invite pests into their homes than followed my previous advice.  In that case, learn to enjoy the creatures you have.  Think of them as pets.  I remember one customer who had a huge porch spider (the creature had beautiful vibrant blue legs).  The customer daily caught flies for his “pet” and tossed them into the web.  He was proud of his monster porch spider.

Copyright 2023 Donald Whelpley

[PLEASE NOTE that Don is always open to discussing the thoughts and opinions he shares here and welcomes comments as shared in the comment section. He doesn’t use other social media platforms, as I do, and won’t see whatever you’d like to share with him if you post it elsewhere. ~ Sherry]


~ Giving Up Your Seat ~ Obedience ~ Good Mental Habits ~ Winning The Lottery ~ Why Sarcasm Does Not Translate ~
~ OOPS! That’s How I Write ~ The RE-COLONIZATION of America, pt. II ~ Laws The U.S. Should Enact ~ The Re-Colonization Of America, pt. I ~
~ How To Retire On Less ~ State Song ~ The “Holier Than Thou” Attitude of “The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf’” ~ THE TRUTH ~
~ H.A.L.T ~ Where’s The Clamor? ~ Parents Who Lie ~ Odd Places ~ Internet Is Fragile ~ Shopping ~ Student Loans ~ A Government ~
~ Going To Church ~ Anheuser-Busch ~ Hans Van Doorn ~ he Wrong Problem ~ Talking About Money ~ Trustworthy ~
~ A Life More Beautiful ~ TECH with ATTITUDE! ~ Black Drink ~ ~ Public Schools III ~ Public Schools II ~ Public Schools I ~
~ 5-Star Reviews ~ Fractions Matter! ~ Small Spoons ~ Dumpster ~ Weird Forgiveness III ~ Weird Forgiveness II ~
~ Weird Forgiveness I ~ Classified Documents ~ Future You Needs A Friend ~ Feeling Understood ~
~ Starting The New Year Right ~ Awe! Aah! Ooh! ~ Christmas As A Poor (Rich) Child ~ Bigger Problems ~ Blessing ~
~ Climate Change – 2 ~ Medical Science Too Far? ~ Gravity and Light ~ Travel Fun ~ Fascinating People: Gloria Hartman Doughty ~
~ Sadly Magic Words ~ Mulberries ~ Climate Change? ~ SPURIOUS UBIQUITOUS NOISE ~ TEW ~ Credit Card Debt ~
~ Insect Oddities ~ DATA ~ Cities Got Name? ~ The Bible Does Not Say That! ~ Too Old?? ~ Be My Guest ~
~ IN-CRE-MEN-TAL-ISM ~ Bad Friends & Broken Tools ~ Pools Are For The Birds?? ~
~ Animals Hindering Your Financial Freedom ~ The Chicken ~ Finding The Exit ~ Allegheny Blackberries ~
~ Romantic Sunset At The Beach ~ Fun Facts About Carpenter Ants ~ Bad Habits ~
~ Doing Faith Wrong ~ Quirky! ~ Ten-Foot Trestle ~ Settling Estates ~ Living In High Horse Country ~ The Dying Generation ~


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *