10 Horrible Insect and Pest Infestations
By Karl Smallwood, Toptenz, 28 February 2018.
By Karl Smallwood, Toptenz, 28 February 2018.
Nobody really likes dealing with creepy crawlies and pests, but just like family members you don’t like and the looming specter of death that hangs over us all, sometimes you just have to confront them. If, like most people, you harbor no love for things with too many legs or that carry immense amounts of disease, here are 10 stories of horrifying insect and pest infestations to make you feel a little better about that large spider you found in the bath that one time.
10. Mazda keeps making cars that spiders love making nests in
If that Simpsons episode where Homer designs a car taught us anything it’s that people look for different things when buying an automobile. However, we’d hazard a guess and say that a feature everyone looks for when buying a car is that it should be spider-free. Mazda apparently didn’t get this memo and released a number of cars that for some reason, spiders seemed to love making nests in.
The problem was first discovered in 2011 when owners of the Mazda 6 noticed that spiders liked making nests in the car’s fuel and vent lines. It would later emerge that, due to a manufacturing oversight, a small crack leading to the car’s gas line could be circumvented by yellow sac spiders, which are known to be attracted to the scent of gasoline and “other hydrocarbons.” Mazda recalled the cars and sealed the crack, only for the spiders to find their way back in. As if having to drive with the knowledge that thousands of spiders could be chilling mere feet away from you wasn’t bad enough, the spiders made nests so large they could potentially cause the engine to catch fire. While there’s no evidence of any Mazda succumbing to a spider-related fire, would you buy a car knowing that it was full of spiders and also might randomly erupt in flames?
Executives for the company seemed baffled that spiders kept making nests in their cars, with one matter-of-factly saying he wanted nothing to do with the issue because he was scared of them. But here’s the best part: after multiple attempts to solve the problem, Mazda issued a software update some gleefully reported on as being a “literal bug fix.” To be clear, the fix didn’t get rid of the spiders, it just made it so that the engine wouldn’t overheat and catch fire. Which, to be honest, we think is worse because at least if the car caught on fire it’d take the spiders with it.
9. For a few days in a small town in Brazil it literally rained spiders
Imagine waking up one morning and looking out of your window to see a thin sheet of white covering your neighborhood and specks of pearly white silk dropping from the sky. After throwing on your hat and gloves you walk outside to enjoy the snow, only to realize that, wait…you’re in the middle of Brazil. After looking closer at the “snow” you realize that it’s actually spider silk and those little flecks of Colgate-white sleet you thought was snow are actually millions of spiders raining from the sky. Believe it or not this isn’t something from a crappy Arachnophobia sequel you never saw, but something that actually happened to a small town in Brazil called Santo Antonio da Platina in 2013.
The spider rain, as it was called by no less of an authority than the freaking Smithsonian, was noted by biologists as being a perfectly natural, if not unusual, phenomenon likely caused by a freak gust of wind blowing spiders from a nearby forest a couple of miles away from their home. Residents of the town seemed relatively non-plussed about thumb-sized spiders falling from the sky, as this video handily demonstrates. Warning, do not click that video (or watch the one above) unless you want to spend the rest of the day feeling itchy.
8. Poor neighborhoods in 60s-era DC used to have to deal with hoards “possum-sized rats”
As if being black in the ’60s wasn’t tough enough for African-Americans just wanting to go about their daily lives, residents of the poorer, predominantly black districts of Washington DC had to deal with - and we’re not making this up - “possum-sized rats.”
This was until a hero named Julius Hobson decided to do something about it by making it, in his own words, “a white problem” too. You see, Hobson was keenly aware that the the government wouldn’t do anything about the rats if it was just a problem that impacted black folk, so he decided to remedy that by driving around wealthy white neighborhoods with cages full of giant rats strapped to his roof, threatening to release them all if the problem wasn’t solved.
When panicking white people tried to suggest this was illegal, Hobson handily pointed out that nowhere did any law say he had a legal obligation to keep captured rats in cages, and that the law couldn’t touch him for releasing the modern equivalent of one of the 10 plagues of Egypt on their quaint little suburb. Hobson then politely pointed out that he had hundreds of rats hidden away and was prepared to keep coming back to release them for as long as it took for the problem to be solved. As Hobson expected, when government officials started getting complaints from white people they mysteriously started funding rat patrols in the poorer regions of DC and the rats went away.
7. A couple bought a house where spiders ended up “bleeding from the walls”
If, like a lot of people, you’re creeped out by spiders, we recommend skipping this one if you like feeling comfortable in your home. For everyone else, let’s talk about that time a couple in St. Louis lived what for many people would be their absolute worst nightmare: spiders bleeding from their walls and randomly raining down from the ceiling while showering.
As noted by USA Today, problems began for the couple when they purchased a US$450,000 home near the Whitmoor Country Club in Weldon Spring in 2007. Shortly after moving in, the couple began seeing spiders, in their own words, “everywhere.” Specifically, the couple kept happening upon brown recluse spiders, a venomous spider that usually grows to around half an inch long.
The couple twice called exterminators, who were woefully unequipped to deal with the problem, and at one point angry spiders responded to their impending deaths by bleeding from the walls and showering the couple from above. The couple eventually got so sick of being covered in spiders that they moved out and sued the person who sold it to them. Unsurprisingly, they won.
6. India’s cobra problem
During the time of British rule in India, a scheme was hatched in Dehli to try and curb the country’s rampant cobra problem. In a nutshell, the British offered a bounty for dead cobras, which it hoped would eliminate the problem. However, wily Indians realized that just like in an RPG, they could farm the snakes for extra gold and began instead capturing cobras and breeding them.
When British authorities learned that some people had gamed the system and were making money from cobras, the scheme was quickly quashed. You can probably see where this is going. With no incentive to farm cobras anymore, everyone trying to cash in on that sweet snake-money simply released all of the cobras into the wild. The net result? Dehli ended up with an even worse cobra problem. Which just serves as a reminder that when you have a serious cobra problem, you should probably just leave it to the experts.
5. A woman in San Francisco spent years “breeding rats” just so she could keep releasing them into the city
Everyone, as they say, needs a hobby. Unfortunately for San Francisco one homeless female resident made it her hobby to breed giant rats and release them into the city for seemingly no reason other than…well, because she could.
Over the course of several years officials found that the woman, identified as Erica J, had bred hundreds of rats around the Japantown bridge, leading to an explosion in the local population of the vermin. Every time officials took Erica’s rats she somehow managed to acquire hundreds more and she was observed “living” with the rats, feeding and caring for them like some kind of rat overlord.
4. House infested with so many bird mites soldier says he’d rather sleep in Iraq
Bird mites are a tiny, almost invisible pest that is - shockingly - spread by birds. The insect feeds on blood and is noted as being exceptionally mobile and hardy, which combined with their small size makes them hard to find and kill. Although the mites cannot live on a human host indefinitely, they’ll happily bite and suck the blood of a person given half a chance.
As an idea of how terrifying a bird mite infestation can be, in 2012 a lady named Gayle White had millions of the bugs invade her house after thousands of birds decided to chill on her roof. According to her husband, who’d served across the world in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia, the worst night’s sleep of his life was inside the bird mite infested house. White’s husband openly referred to the bugs as “tali-mites” and lamented that he’d rather sleep in a combat zone than deal with them again. White herself recalled waking up with the bugs crawling inside her nose and ears and finding bite marks everywhere on her body. So yeah, next time you have a bad night’s sleep, feel sorry for the woman who woke up with millions of tiny bugs gnawing on her butt.
3. There’s an island out there lousy with deadly snakes
About a 100 miles off the coast of Brazil is a pristine island called Ilha da Queimada Grande. Untouched by humans, the island is a nesting ground for millions of golden lancehead snakes, a kind of pit viper with a bite that melts human flesh on contact. The island is so densely covered in snakes that estimates say there are as many as five snakes per square meter of land, and it’s so dangerous that visiting it is illegal. On the rare occasion the Brazillian navy does visit the island to perform routine maintenance on an automated lighthouse located there, a doctor with a pack full of anti-venom is required to come along. Even then the bite of the golden lancehead is so deadly that even with anti-venom, there’s still a 5% chance of death anyway.
Stories tell of snakes raining down from tree tops and slithering through open windows to bury the family who originally operated the aforementioned lighthouse in an avalanche of hissing, flesh-melting venom. The snakes are able to survive thanks to the fact the island is a resting place for migratory birds and, thanks to the a complete lack of human oversight, have near total dominion over the island.
Speaking of which, the island’s nickname is, unsurprisingly, Snake Island. Because of course it is.
2. Pakistan had trees covered in millions of spiders
Spiders are remarkably adaptable creatures. For example, consider that time in 2010 when spiders reacted to floods in Pakistan by forming super colonies containing millions of spiders all hidden within individual trees that they sealed with spider silk.
The trees pretty much became no-go zones for Pakistani residents, with locals admitting that if you stood below them you’d be constantly showered with tiny spiders and that you could hear larger arachnids moving around within the confines of the silk cocooning the branches. While there was never any confirmation that the larger spiders were commanding the smaller spiders to do their bidding, we feel it’s safe to assume that they were. Also, as an aside, the silken webs the spiders spun around the trees they took refuge in made them largely impervious to water, meaning the spiders inside remained relatively safe during a period of unprecedented rainfall in Pakistan.
Contrary to what you’d expect, though, residents reported being happy to see that millions of spiders were taking refuge in trees since more spiders meant less mosquitoes, a common danger following floods. The same can’t be said of residents near our next entry, however…
1. There’s a building in America filled to the brim with spiders
In 2009, during a routine inspection of a Baltimore water plant, engineers discovered something that, regardless of your feelings about spiders, is pretty much guaranteed to make your skin crawl: it had somehow become a refuge for 107 million arachnids. And no, that’s not a typo.
Researchers later estimated that for every cubic meter of space, the plant contained roughly 35,000 spiders, and they observed that in some places the sheer weight of spiders hanging from light fixtures and ceilings had caused permanent structural damage. Just for a second, look up and imagine how many spiders you’d need to have crawling on your roof for it to begin to sag and strain under their weight. Feel free to continue thinking about that fact until you try to sleep later.
Top image: Indian cobra. Credit: Kamalnv/Wikimedia Commons.
[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]