Beyond Bedbugs: 8 Insects Businesses Should Really Worry About
“Don’t let the bedbugs bite” used to be just a cute expression to say before saying goodnight. Today, it’s an actual warning. Bedbugs are back and they continue to attack a variety of businesses, from clothing retailers to hotels to movie theaters. According to a new study by the National Pest Management Association, 95 percent of pest-control companies nationwide have had run-ins with bedbug infestations in the past year.
While bedbugs get all the attention, plenty of other interesting, rather ominous insects are out there wreaking havoc on consumers and costing companies millions. So if you feel like being unnerved by bedbugs isn’t enough and you’re wondering what other creepy, crawling critters your business should be scared of, check out this list.
What they threaten: California’s $1.3 billion citrus industry.
Modus operandi: The Asian citrus psyllid isn’t such a bad bug on its own, but it can carry the devious and deadly Huanglongbing (HLB) bacteria, which kills all varieties of citrus trees. And what’s truly sneaky is that it’s often not evident for years that a citrus tree has been infected, so if the owner of the trees isn’t aware of what’s going on, the psyllids continue to eat away at the tree, allowing HLB to continue to spread.
Fun fact: “The adult psyllid tilts its rear end up in the air when it feeds — a unique posture among citrus pests,” Grafton-Cardwell says.
What they threaten: Wooden furniture manufacturers, lumber companies and at least one famous baseball bat company.
Modus operandi: This metallic-green, beautiful-but-devastating insect is attempting to destroy 7.5 billion ash trees in the United States. They were first discovered in Michigan in 2002. How they got here is anyone’s guess, but most international insects travel to America for a better life as stowaways in luggage or on humans traveling on planes, or they burrow in cargo on ships or in packages sent through the mail. The emerald ash borer is now found in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Maryland. Pennsylvania’s trees, meanwhile, are the source for the Major League Baseball bats manufactured by the famed company Louisville Slugger, and the state has been girding itself for the emerald ash borer’s arrival but has so far kept them at bay.
Fun fact: Minnesota is introducing stingless wasps into the state to combat the emerald ash borer.
What they threaten: California’s $320 million avocado industry, where 90 percent of the nation’s avocados are grown, as well as the peach and apricot industries.
Modus operandi: They like to feed on avocados, which causes the plant’s leaves to fall prematurely. As the leaves fall too soon, the bark becomes sunburned, the fruit doesn’t grow properly and the avocado trees in general get stressed out.
Fun fact: The average persea mite only lives 15 to 40 days. The warmer the weather, the shorter the life. Sixty-seven degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the sweet spot.
What they threaten: Every business in parts of Texas, mostly in Houston. Reportedly seen in southern Arkansas.
Modus operandi: Crazy rasberry ants are named for exterminator Tom Rasberry, who first identified the critters in Houston in 2002. These ants bite humans and are oddly attracted to electrical equipment — they enjoy nesting in it and chewing it up. In fact, the NASA Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake City, Texas, had some crazy rasberry ant sightings and brought in Rasberry to exterminate them.
Fun fact: They’re called “crazy” because the ants don’t move in a straight line — they move all over in a lot of different, zigzag directions.
What they threaten: The grape and wine industries — and any business that has a building
Modus operandi: Basically, this is the Asian version of the ladybug, and mostly, they’re harmless. But during the winter, they fly into buildings and crawl into windows, walls and attics. Before dying, they’ll often release an annoying stench and a yellow fluid that stains. But if you’re a fruit grower, you’ll be much more than annoyed. This is war. After all, these Asian lady beetles like to munch on peaches, apples and grapes, among other fruit, and as wine growers have found, if even just a small number of these beetles are accidentally processed along with the grapes, it can taint the wine’s flavor.
Fun fact: The Asian lady beetle’s stench, which you’ll discover if you try squashing them, Harrison says, “is their way of discouraging things from eating them.”
What businesses they threaten: The beekeeping industry — a $12 billion industry in the United States alone.
Modus operandi: The varroa destructor is a blood-sucking parasite, attacking both adults and kids. The juvenile honeybees born under the influence of a varroa destructor often are deformed, missing legs or wings. It’s a very bad situation for the bees and not a great one for the honeybee industry, and considering how we depend on bees to pollinate flowers and crops, it’s a bad situation for the world at large.
Fun fact: The varroa destructor was first discovered in Southeast Asia in 1904. They first turned up in the United States in 1987.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
What they threaten: Farmers, and they could embarrass some business owners in their own stores.
Modus operandi: Although the United States has plenty of stink bugs, this one first showed up in Pennsylvania in 1998. Since then, they’ve been attacking farmers’ crops, including apples, figs, peaches, citrus and mulberries. On the plus side, “Often, they just do cosmetic damage rather than actually destroying the fruit,” says Ron Harrison. Of course, try telling a potential customer the apple he’s eying isn’t as disgusting as it looks. As for getting into a place of business, they won’t — unless you have cracks around your windows or doors, or if they can find a way through the utility pipes or by invading your siding.
Fun fact: Once stink bugs move into your storefront, they will come year after year. They return because they can smell the odor they left behind. It’s kind of like leaving out a sign to other stink bugs that your establishment is a fun vacation spot.
What they threaten: Hawaii’s coffee growers, an estimated $60 million industry.
Modus operandi: These insects, which are well-known in Central America and South America, were recently discovered in Hawaii by a University of Hawaii graduate student. The bug bores into the coffee cherry and lays its eggs. As soon as the larvae, the juvenile coffee borers, arrive on the scene, they instantly feeding on the coffee bean. Borers typically ruin about 20 percent of a crop and do an estimated $500 million in damage every year.
Fun fact: The coffee cherry borer is a small beetle, about the size of a sesame seed.
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