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Other vermin

Bedbug (Cimex lectularius)

Biology:

Bedbugs are flattened insects up to 8 mm long with a rusty brown colouration. Young bugs are very similar to the adults aside from the difference in size. During the day, these animals remain hidden, e.g. under loose wallpaper, pictures or skirting boards and in the cracks in beds and furniture. At night they seek out humans and domestic animals to feed on their blood. Bedbugs can, however, survive starvation periods of up to 6 months. The characteristic sweetish bedbug smell in infested rooms comes from a secretion of their so-called stink gland.

Damage:

Bedbug bites can result in severe itching and urticaria and may elicit allergic reactions in sensitive persons. Bedbugs have become rare due to improved cleaning methods and modern building construction. Bedbugs may in some cases be unintentionally imported in the baggage of returning travellers.

Tip:
Bedbug infestation control should be left up to professional pest controllers.
House cricket (Acheta domesticus)

Biology:

The adult house cricket grows to a length of 20 mm with wings. This insect has long feelers and a yellowish body with dark brown markings. They are very thermophilic and are therefore often found in kitchens, heating cellars, bakeries, breweries, etc. Outdoors they are often found on garbage dumps. Crickets are reclusive by day and seek their food at night. They are omnivorous, but do prefer vegetable foods. When moving quickly they can hop for short distances. The characteristic chirping heard in the dark is emitted by the males to attract female mates.

Damage:

The habitus and diet of the house cricket are very similar to those of cockroaches, so the damage they cause is also similar. They contaminate food and may transmit disease germs. The constant chirping of the males can be very bothersome.

Rough woodlouse (Porcellio scaber)

Biology:

Rough woodlice are crustaceans that have adapted to life on land. Their bodies are flat, up to 16 mm long, slate-grey to yellow-grey, with 7 pairs of legs. They feed on vegetable matter and require generous amounts of moisture and are therefore found mainly in cellars among moist materials. Woodlice are characterized by a special form of brood care: The females carry the fertilized eggs and young with them in a brood pouch on the underside between their legs.

Damage:

Woodlice (sowbugs, pillbugs) do not generally cause extensive damage. Small signs of feeding  are sometimes found on stored fruit, vegetables or potatoes. These animals are mainly considered to be a disgusting nuisance. In gardens and on compost heaps, woodlice contribute to the decomposition of organic materials. Under certain circumstances they may cause damage to seedlings and young plants.

Tip:
Since woodlice require high humidity levels, they can be eliminated relatively easily by drying out the infested rooms.

 

Maggots (larvae of various fly species)

Biology:

Maggot is the common term for the larval stage of various fly species. The larvae of house and marbled grey flesh flies in particular are frequently observed in the vicinity of human populations. The white, legless, worm-like maggots hatch out of eggs laid on the nutrient substrate by the adult flies. They are found in wastes, cadavers, faeces, compost bins, garbage cans, meat, cheese, fish, etc.

Damage:

Damage of a direct nature is caused by maggots feeding on foodstuffs, which are rendered inedible. Fly larvae present a significant hygienic threat. Infested products serve as breeding substrates and thus contribute to mass reproduction of the fly species.

 

Common earwig (Forficula auricularia)

Biology:

The common earwig is red to chestnut brown and its long, slender body is approx. 10 to 16 mm long. The characteristic pincers at the posterior end are larger in males than in females. These animals normally live outdoors, but they do enter buildings during massive outbreaks. They are mainly active at night and retire to dark hiding places during the day. Earwigs are omnivorous and feed on both vegetable and animal matter. Outdoors they are highly beneficial predators that feed on plant lice and other pests.

Damage:

The common earwig may present a hygienic problem in food processing operations when it uses packaging, for instance, as a hiding place. Various materials and plant parts may show feeding damage. Many people are upset and afraid when they encounter an earwig indoors.

Tip, control:
Earwigs can be controlled by offering hiding places (e.g. flower pots filled with straw) where they then collect and can be dealt with all at once. Such methods are also suitable for attracting large numbers of earwigs for use as plant lice predators in fruit cultures.

Snails (Gastropoda)

Biology:

Snails are molluscs that carry calcareous shells on their backs. The shells can take on a variety of forms or even be lacking entirely in some species (slugs). These animals have a broad foot on which they crawl along using the slime it secretes. Snails have both a short and long pair of tentacles on their heads with eyes at the tips. They can withdraw the tentacles. Land snails are hermaphroditic and require a moist environment. For this reason, they are only active when the weather is moist, usually at night. They spends the daylight hours and dry periods in moist hiding places in the ground, under rocks, in high grass, etc.

Damage:

Snails feed on a wide variety of plant parts. Some require large volumes of food and cause significant feeding damage in crop fields, on ornamental plants and in vegetable gardens, sometimes stripping away all accessible greenery. Snail plagues can develop in moist, warm years and in wet locations.

 

Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina)

Biology:

Silverfish are flat, silver-grey, completely wingless insects that can grow to a length of approx. 12 mm. They are light-shy, agile and moisture-dependent, which explains why they are found in bathrooms, kitchens, cellars, washhouses, etc. The long feelers and approx. 3 mm long tail bristles are characteristic. These animals can live for up to two years. They are not very selective when it comes to feeding, prefer carbohydrate-rich substances, especially sweets, but can also live from skin flakes and soil particles.

Damage:

Silverfish are actually harmless. They only cause problems in mass outbreaks, when they may damage foodstuffs, wallpaper, bookbindings, pictures, leather goods or textiles by scraping food off these surfaces or eating holes in them.

Springtail (Collembola)

Biology:

Springtails are apterygotes (wingless insects of the subclass Apterygota). They are normally 1 to 2 mm long and often possess a so-called furcula, a tail-like appendage that is folded against the abdomen at rest. Using this appendage, the animal can make small leaps.
The springtails live in the soil, require a moist environment and generally feed on decomposing animal and vegetable matter. They are therefore highly beneficial humus-forming animals.

Damage:

In massive outbreaks, springtails can be seen jumping about on the surface of potting soil. Some species can cause damage to living plant material in periods of mass reproduction. Generally speaking, however, springtails are harmless and direct control measures are not necessary.

Tip:
Springtails have thin skin and must remain in very moist surroundings, so that massive outbreaks, for instance on plant pots, can be quickly controlled by allowing the soil to dry out several times. If springtails are found in other parts of the flat, the air must be too humid. Here as well, drying out the area will bring the situation under control.

Mosquitoes (Culex pipiens und Aedes sp.)

Biology:

Mosquitoes are found all over the world. The species occurring in our latitudes are about 5 to 10 mm long with a subdued brownish-grey colouring. The larvae develop in water. Mosquito brooding places therefore include, for example, open rainbarrels, gutters, pools, puddles, old river beds and flooded areas. The female requires blood meals from biting humans and animals in order to reproduce.

Damage:

Mosquito bites result in very unpleasant itching. The way they fly around and hum can also be very bothersome. Dangerous diseases can be transmitted by way of mosquito bites, which is mainly a problem in tropical countries.

Tip, control:
Prevention of open water surfaces (e.g. open rainbarrels) that serve as mosquito breeding grounds may reduce infestation levels. Biological larvae control methods using bacteria-based preparations are now in widespread use and have proved successful (see control).
Special skin protection agents should be used during the periods of main mosquito activity (evening hours) to prevent bites.

Sciarid flies (Sciaridae)

Biology:

Sciarid flies are small, delicate, usually black insects approx. 1 to 6 mm long. They are very active and are often seen swarming on potting soil and around flowerpots. The females lay their eggs in the soil. The long, slender larvae are whitish and translucent with a black head. They live in potting soil and rotting substrates and feed mainly on decomposing plant parts.

Damage:

In mass outbreaks, the larvae of sciarid flies may also damage living plant material of the roots and stems. The adult mosquitoes may also become bothersome when they fly around rooms, around flowerpots and windows with flowerboxes.

Tip, control:
Avoid watering plants excessively, as this encourages the development of sciarid flies. The yellow insect strips (adhesive insect traps) available from specialist outlets can be used for effective control and reduction of infestations.

Wasps (Paravespula germanica und Paravespula vulgaris)

Biology:

Of the many different wasp species, the only potentially bothersome ones are the brightly coloured yellow-black German wasp, 13 to 20 mm long, and the very similar common wasp. Laymen can hardly differentiate between these two species. They live in annual colonies, i.e. the female workers die off in the autumn and only the fertilized queens survive the winter to found a new nesting colony in the following year. Wasp nests are normally in the ground, although wasp nests artfully crafted out of a paper-like mass are also found in shutter boxes, attics and similar places. Wasps are primarily insect predators and are therefore beneficial. Since they also like to feed on sugar, they sometimes encounter humans while looking for something to eat. Wasps normally only sting humans when threatened.

Damage:

Wasps can be a real nuisance when they appear in large numbers to eat fruit, juices, cake, meat, etc. Their stings are very painful and may even be quite dangerous to persons with insect sting allergies.

Tip, control:
To avoid being bothered by wasps, it is important first of all to remove and keep covered the substances that attract them (fruit, fruit wastes, jam, etc). If a wasp nest is discovered near human habitations, it is advisable to engage a professional pest controller to eradicate, or possibly relocate, the wasps.

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