National Insect Week: All you need to know about bugs in the home
We asked entomologist Adam Hart some questions about our tiny, multiple-legged friends. Turns out they're not so creepy after all
Thursday 26 June 2014
Why do mosquitoes bite some people more than others?
Everyone seems to know someone that is a mosquito magnet! Studies are starting to shed some light on why some people are especially attractive to mosquitoes and it turns out that there might well be a variety of factors playing a part. Blood type, your metabolism, how much carbon dioxide you exhale, how much you have exerted yourself, what you’ve eaten and even the bacteria on your skin can make you more or less attractive to mossies. If it’s tied up with your genetic makeup then there’s a not a lot you can do about it, but covering up and using a good repellent should help to keep them away.
Why is arachnophobia so common?
Spiders are generally dark in colour, have very angular legs and move quickly and unpredictably. These features, along with the fact they are often found in dark corners, conspire together to make spiders a particularly effective “fear factor”. Spiders are actually fascinating animals and if you are scared of them then it is worth seeking out phobia treatment – it can be very effective and change your life if fear of spiders is stopping you from doing things.
Should we eat insects?
There are two rather simple but opposing facts when it comes to eating insects. Firstly, they are an excellent source of nutriment and can be farmed ethically and sustainably. Secondly, western tastes have dramatically veered away from eating them and most consider the idea to be, at best, objectionable! However, we happily pay top dollar for other invertebrates (like lobster or tiger prawns) and if they are well prepared many insects are delicious. The key thing will be marketing and good recipes. My favourite is crickets covered in sage leaves and deep fried in beer batter. Absolutely lovely, and much cheaper than prawns flown in from the other side of the world.
What's the most venomous insect in the UK?
We are lucky in the UK – we don’t have that many venomous animals. However some insects, especially members of the order of insects called the Hymenoptera can give you a nasty sting. They are more commonly called the ants, bees and wasps, and of these the beautiful hornet (our largest social wasp species) is probably the most painful to be stung by. However, they are not particularly aggressive and they are magnificent insects, so if you are lucky enough to see one then enjoy the experience – just don’t try to handle it!
Why do moths eat our clothes?
It’s the caterpillars that can do the damage to our clothes, accessories and even our carpets but only the caterpillars of certain types of moths – most commonly called, appropriately enough, clothes moths. They can feed on natural fibres and we use a great many of these in our clothes.
What's the best way to get rid of ants in the home?
Number one tip – block up the hole that are coming in through. It is also a good idea to be clean and tidy – remove food waste and other things that might attract them. Finally, and if there is no other solution then ant powder is effective, but it is far better to redirect them than to kill them. Ants have some of the most fascinating social behaviour of any animal so take your time to appreciate their amazing chemical foraging trails then next time you see them coming through your kitchen.
Adam Hart is Professor of Science Communication at the University of Gloucestershire. He is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and a regular broadcaster, including co-presenting BBC4's Planet Ant, upcoming series Hive Alive on BBC2
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