Hole in the Wall Establishment (AKA: Ah, nuts)
If it hasn’t hit your news feed, here it is. That’s right: 700 pounds of acorns were removed from a house due to woodpeckers stashing them. But I’m not going to talk about the birds (see last week’s post).
What is important to talk about is the secondary damage of pests, particularly pests that manage to get into wall voids and other tight spaces in buildings. In this situation it was acorns and that sounds pretty harmless. So many pests like nuts. Of course, we have the mammals like rats, mice, and squirrels that may get in and set up a happy home, but insects too. Many stored product pests are going to be elated with this food stash. Dermestid beetles, Indian meal moths, and even some weevils are going to take advantage of this. For the insects, it will be a lot easier to gain entry. The bigger mammals may need to expand openings which again, causes more damage.
Every so often, one of these stories hits the news: massive honey bee hive found in wall!
Of course, the bees are a problem. Once they are gone, the problems only multiply. Now there is lots of sweet, sugary honey and protein rich larvae not to mention the wax. So once the bees are gone, there are going to be hide beetles munching on the larvae and some of the wax and so many ant species going after all the sweets. Not to mention all the fly issues, both large and small. After a bit of time, all that mess starts to mold. Now the fungus feeders come in. Plaster beetles (aka minute brown fungus beetles), foreign grain borers (a misnomer, they feed on fungus), and hairy fungus beetles are going to be happy little insects with all that molding food source.
Then there are the small mammals like raccoons (are raccoons really small?), bats, and a host of others that will get into wall voids because they are nice warm, protected spots. Sure, cute little mammals can’t cause much damage right? Oh so wrong. All the droppings they leave behind (aka: poop) are a feast for cockroaches, Dermestid beetles (again!), and eventually those fungus feeders too as the droppings start to eat into the wood, plaster, and other building materials.
It's not just the droppings. Like those woodpeckers we mentioned at the beginning, rodents, especially mice will cache food. They want to store their precious takings in a sheltered, dark, safe area. Like the walls of a structure. I had a situation once where we knew there were mice, we could see the droppings and other evidence. It took us a while, but eventually (with the help of some trail cameras), we pulled out the dishwasher and there was just one small hole. We know mice don’t need a lot of space so we opened that up a bit more and hit the jackpot. There was tons of dog food stuffed up in this wall as well as a happy family of mice. All was removed so as to not allow those secondary invaders a chance to make a happy home.
Lastly, if any of those animals die in those protected spots, the secondary pests are going to come in as well (forensic entomology is fascinating!). Flesh flies, blow flies, and phorid flies will quickly find those corpses and start to feed and breed. Research has shown some carrion feeding flies can find a corpse within minutes of its death. There may be some ants too, they need the protein for their developing larvae. Then the beetles come in. The carrion beetles, rove beetles, and hister beetles join the party. Then our old friends the Dermestid beetles show up to join in the fun. A great deal of research has been done on forensic entomology and when specific species show up in the decomposition process.
I won’t get into all the ectoparasites many wall-dwelling invaders will bring with them to exacerbate the problem.
So there it is: woodpeckers are industrious little creatures but they aren’t the only problem. The additional problem comes from all the secondary pests taking advantage of the conditions the primary pest are leaving for them. Next time it seems like something may be happening in the walls, it might not be Bruno. It may be a much larger problem.
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Lagniappe: you have to watch this, it's so cool.
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