Home Coffee making ‘Bug boom’ as warmer weather boosts cockroach and ant populations

‘Bug boom’ as warmer weather boosts cockroach and ant populations

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Debug Nelson’s Shane Warland struggles to keep up with demand.

“Everything is booming,” Warland said. By “everything” he means cockroaches, ants, rodents and wasps.

Calls have increased noticeably over the past three years or so, Warland said.

New Zealand has around 40 species of ants, 12 of which are native. Of the 30 species of cockroaches that reside here, about half are native.

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In Nelson, the main intruders in the home were Argentine ants, white-legged house ants and German cockroaches, Warland said.

People have often spotted Gisborne cockroaches (native to Australia), he said. “He will come in if there is an open window or door. People see them and think they have an infestation.

However, this species tended to live outdoors, eat rotting vegetation, and only venture indoors in cold weather.

It’s the German cockroaches that can really take hold, Warland said.

“There was a lady who salvaged a coffee machine from a cockroach infested operations store. Once they spread they went everywhere, they breed so fast.

They will also establish themselves behind dishwashers and refrigerators, in microwave motors and behind electrical outlets.

Native to Australia, the Gisborne cockroach typically lives under the mulch in your garden, feeding on vegetation.

Things

Native to Australia, the Gisborne cockroach typically lives under the mulch in your garden, feeding on vegetation.

“Where it’s warm and cozy and dark and no one bothers them,” Warland said.

Keeping a clean home helps deter these insects, but he has also seen tidy homes affected.

“I have seen clean houses where ants enter because they are passing through. You may be clean, but once you have white-footed house ants, they get into your walls and ceilings.

The solution of choice for many people was to attack the ants with fly spray or bug spray. But that could make the problem worse, Warland said.

“They’ll think they’re under attack, so they’ll split their nest and breed like crazy.”

This will often be in hard-to-reach areas: inside walls or ceilings.

Martin De Ruyter / Stuff

“Once [German cockroaches] dispersed, they spread everywhere, they reproduce so quickly,” says Shane Warland.

Because the queen only consumes food produced in the nest, ingesting bait could also be ineffective, Warland said.

The best way to control the ants was to use a non-repellent insecticide, which the ants, which are “touchy feely”, would transfer to the nest through their bodies, he said.

Unwelcome intruders were becoming increasingly resistant, Warland believed.

“They get used to what we throw at them. They are survivors; they have been there for a long time, they walked with the dinosaurs.

Entomologist and science communicator Morgane Merien said intruders at home tend to be introduced species.

The Argentine ant is one of the most frequently spotted insects in homes.

Provided

The Argentine ant is one of the most frequently spotted insects in homes.

“The natives tend to stay in their own habitat, and are quite harmless, and even beneficial for some of the services they provide to our ecosystems.

“I think more people are seeing these introduced ants and cockroaches because our summers are getting longer and hotter, leading to higher numbers and a longer breeding season,” Merien said.

Merien, who presents TVNZ’s Bug Hunter, said the cold weather forces insects to seek warmth and shelter. And because we’re more indoors for the same reason, we’re more likely to encounter them, she said.

As the climate warms, introduced insects that would not have survived in New Zealand before will likely start to thrive, she said.

Some (such as brown marmorated stink bug, spotted lantern and gypsy moth) can cause problems in agriculture.

“It’s important to keep an eye out and report any strange creatures you don’t know to the Ministry of Primary Industries.”

Ruud Kleinpaste, known to viewers as Bugman, doesn’t like the word “harmful,” and he’s careful not to use it when lecturing to children.

“You mean an unwanted insect? What’s the undesirable part of it? The only parasites are those that have no place here in our ecosystem and that alter our natural habitat.

Cockroaches are helpful creatures: the Gisborne variety breaks down vegetation under your garden mulch, while German cockroaches are the “best recyclers on the planet”, naturally teaming up with the messiest animal on the planet: the man.

The Bugman, Ruud Kleinpaste, doesn't like the word “harmful”.  “You mean an unwanted insect?  What's the undesirable part of it?

ANDY JACKSON/Stuff

The Bugman, Ruud Kleinpaste, doesn’t like the word “harmful”. “You mean an unwanted insect? What’s the undesirable part of it?

“If you get cockroaches, question your own hygiene systems at home,” Kleinpaste said.

“If you spill spaghetti bolognese at home, they’ll come in and leave a business card and say, ‘don’t worry, I’ll clean up, I’ve been doing this for five million years’.”

Kleinpaste is more interested in the insects that damage our crops: like southward-homing guava butterflies and other creatures that wouldn’t have survived when our climate was cooler.

“They are pests, from a biosecurity perspective.”