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How Human Activity Led To The Establishment Of Insect Pests In Urban Areas?

The phylum Arthropoda is the most species-rich phylum in the animal kingdom, and it is composed mainly of insects, arachnids, myriapods (mostly centipedes and millipedes), and crustaceans. Worldwide, just over one million insect species have been documented, and more than 100,000 arachnid species have been documented, including more than 45,000 spider species. It is a fact that a great number of arthropod species remain undiscovered, but the true number of species is a matter of dispute in the scientific community. In any case, the massive number of arthropod species that exist today is not surprising considering that arthropods were the first terrestrial organisms to appear hundreds of millions of years ago. This makes arthropods just as important to ecosystem balance as plant life, and without arthropods humans would not exist. Unfortunately, human activity has been altering the natural state of the insect community, resulting in ecological upset and serious urban pest issues.

Cockroaches live in forested ecosystems where they obtain nutrients by feeding on organic waste. Termites and wood-boring beetle larvae also inhabit heavily wooded areas where they feed on organic waste, specifically cellulose within the cell walls of dead wood and other forms of rotting plant matter. Although many species of cockroaches, termites and beetles have become urban pests, they also maintain ecosystem balance by breaking down dead forms of organic waste. They also convert organic waste into soil nutrients, and their natural activity creates conditions that allow for the continued growth of vegetation.

In all parts of the world, many termite and wood-boring beetle habitats have been cleared of trees and all forms of vegetation to make way for urban developments, and as a consequence, these insects have become pests that feed on the structural wood in homes and buildings in place of their natural diet of dead wood. The structural damage inflicted by termites in the US alone amounts to more than five billion dollars annually, and due to global trade and travel, non-native species of termites and wood-boring beetles have hitchhiked into ecosystems where they don’t belong. Because of this, non-native termites and wood-boring beetles have established invasive habitats in the US and elsewhere, which has resulted in a degree of property destruction unmatched by native wood-eating insect pest species.

Urbanization has even led to the complete domestication of some insects that were once ecologically important species. For example, the German and brown-banded cockroach species have evolved to dwell solely indoors where they depend on food waste and interior structures for their survival. These two roach pests are no longer capable of surviving outdoors. In addition to being a nuisance, cockroaches spread disease pathogens within homes, and they are now known to contribute to the development of childhood asthma.

Do you believe that your health has been negatively impacted by living with insect pests?

 

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