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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Creepy Crawlies

Learning to live with most insects is probably the best approach


Just in time for Halloween, there’s a new poll out that shows that nearly one-in-three Americans are concerned about being bitten by blood-sucking pests. Of course, had they taken the poll in June here in the North Country, it would have been a lot higher, since blood-sucking pests pretty much rule the roost in these parts that time of year.
The poll is the kind that seems to fill our email inboxes here at the newspaper on a daily basis, as businesses or nonprofit organizations compete to generate the kind of timely, off-beat content that might get an editor to take a second look and possibly shine a little light on their activities.
In this case, it was the National Pest Management Association that was taking advantage of the spooky season to scare up some attention for their efforts to promote the pest control industry.
Most insects and spiders, of course, are benign, and they contribute to the world around us in a myriad of ways. What is far more frightening than a biting mosquito or black fly is the fact that the populations of most insects, including those, like pollinators, that are highly beneficial are falling rapidly through a combination of habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, and climate change.
Here in the North Country, we haven’t experienced the huge declines in the numbers and diversity of our insect populations seen in other places, at least not yet. But insects are highly attuned to the conditions, cycles, and seasonal fluctuations in their environment and are among those organisms that can be devastated by rapid changes in climate.
At the same time, the warming temperatures we’re experiencing here in Minnesota, is allowing some species that formerly couldn’t survive the cold of a Minnesota winter to gain a foothold here, and that’s one of the scariest developments we’ve seen in recent years. In particular, the spread of black-legged and lone star ticks into the North Country has come with major ramifications for those who spend time in the woods, particularly in the fall. A bite from a black-legged tick, commonly known as a deer tick, is certainly something to fear, since they are a common carrier of Lyme Disease, a debilitating disease that can have life-changing consequences, particularly if it isn’t diagnosed quickly. While fall is the season when most other biting pests in our region are absent or on the decline, it is actually one of the most active periods of the year for black-legged ticks, which remain a threat until our blanket of winter white arrives.
A bite from a lone star tick is known to cause a strange condition that renders sufferers allergic to red meat, so it’s definitely something to avoid for those who enjoy the occasional hamburger or steak.
It’s also a time of year when many insects are looking for warm and protected places to ride out the winter months, and that means many of them are hoping to spend the winter inside our houses. Many area residents have seen significant numbers of cluster flies, Asian tiger beetles—which look like lady bugs— and a wide assortment of other insect squatters, suddenly appear on windows and ceilings inside. While the National Pest Management Association is no doubt hoping you’ll turn to a local pest control to address the problem, we’d argue that learning to live with them, and learning a little more about them, might be the best approach to your insect pest problem.