Bats, Bugs, and Rats Rank High on the List of Scary Pests Halloween Highlights Our Fears
Ghosts and goblins, witches and other scary fictional characters are favorite Halloween creatures, but pests, too, are high on the list. Homes are often decorated by featuring insect and rodent pests. Bats, spiders and their webs, share holiday honors.
“A lot of pest-related Halloween items have to do with the historic role they have played in spreading plagues,” said Leonard Douglen, the Executive director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association. “The most famous combination were the fleas and rats that spread the bubonic plague that was also known as the Black Death. It killed a quarter of Europe’s population in the 14th century.”
“With the exception of rabid bats, the bat population gets a bum rap,” said Douglen. “They play an important role in keeping the insect population in check, but they are famously associated with castles, vampires, and dark caves.”
Douglen notes that bats are protected by law in most states. As a result, if homeowners discover that bats have taken up residence in their homes, they must call on the services of pest management professionals. “Homeowners should not undertake do-it-yourself efforts because bat droppings can cause histoplasmosis, a lung infection.”
“There are two pests that have always cause fear,” said Douglen, “and they are spiders and rats. There’s even a term, arachnophobia, for the fear of spiders. Two species of spider in particular pose a threat to humans, the brown recluse and the black widow. They will bite humans when disturbed and the bites are painful, are known to cause allergic reactions, and occasionally can even be fatal for small children.”
“Rats, of course, have been reviled throughout history,” said Douglen. “In fact, the pest control profession got its beginning when eliminating a rat or mouse infestation meant hiring rat catchers. Early British royalty would appoint an official rat catcher to keep their castles rodent-free. In modern times, everyone can call pest management professionals.”
The Pied Piper entered popular culture with a story of how, after offering to rid Hamelin of its rats, the Piper was rebuffed and turned his musical skills to luring all the children out of town.
“Rodents were despised even in ancient times for the way they contaminate food and spread disease,” said Douglen. “They also do a great deal of property damage. Wherever you find large concentrations of humans, you will find rodents,” adding that the same is true for cockroaches.
“An old bug species has made a dramatic comeback,” said Douglen. “Bed bugs that had been virtually eliminated following World War II and the use of DDT, but after it was banned pest management professionals have developed alternative means to get rid of them.”
“As the weather turns cooler mice and rats look for harborage inside structures and it is a time when many homeowners discover they have unwanted guests,” says Douglen. “What they often do not discover for years is that their home has been playing host to a termite infestation.”
The fall is a good time to invest in an inspection of one’s home, says Douglen. “It can save the cost of the damage a termite infestation can generate if not eliminated. A pest control expert can identify the many areas of a home where either insects or rodents can gain access and, of course, one wants to avoid giving larger creatures such as raccoons and opossums and opportunity to gain entry.”