Know thy enemy: from Paper to Pest

    

The art of origami has always fascinated me. Imagining the endless possibilities that can be achieved by folding one square sheet of paper to complete a total transformation is undeniably awe inspiring.

However, my rationale tells me that if you spend any time folding a specific shape – or should I say a pest-inspired shape – you should at least have some sort of background knowledge on that pest. In this case, my mantra is “if you can fold it, you can understand it”; the proverbial art of war, on pests of course.

So this got a few Rentokil colleagues very interested in declaring artsy war on pests. We decided to each pick a pest. (Well, actually names were drawn randomly from a hat, so this technically can be called the kind of hat trick that no pest is expecting….)

Our artsy team managed to create these origami pests, and we were learned some interesting facts about them:

1. The Cicada

cicada

Cicadas are famous for their constant humming – which are actually mating calls!

The cicada (also called a “sonbesie” in Afrikaans) pictured to the right is cute-looking, isn’t it? I assure you that isn’t the case, since I hear their noisy droning every day. The constant humming noise is produced by the male species. This sound is made by flexing their tymbals which are drum-like organs found in their abdomens and is a mating call to attract females. Interestingly enough, each species has its own distinguishing call and only attracts females of its own kind, even though similar species may co-exist.

Female cicadas cut slits into tree branches and lay eggs inside within 5 – 10 days after mating. The eggs hatch and tiny nymphs fall to the soil, feasting on the sap (xylem) of underground tree roots. They remain underground for years, slowly growing, until they emerge as adults. It is the female that causes harm to the trees since she lays 600 eggs she moves from branch to branch to deposit her eggs. This causes the twigs (or branches) to die and break off and can often destroy young trees and bushes. Although this also occurs in mature trees, they recover easily.

Here’s a tip: To prevent damage from cicadas, be sure to either cover young plants with netting or cheesecloth, or ensure that you plant towards autumn to avoid plant damage. I wouldn’t recommend using pesticides as it might kill off your plants too, and further research on this topic suggests that this route is not very effective. Luckily these seasonal insects aren’t phased about annoying us indoors (thank goodness!) and are focused on their love-calls and mating to continue their romantic legacy.

2. The ladybug

ladybugs

Ladybugs are natural pest control agents since they feed on plant-destroying aphids!

I must say that the ladybug is one of my favourite insects not only because of an old wives’ tale that say they signify good luck, but they are also beneficial insects to have around.

Since ladybugs feed on plant-destroying aphids and other plant lice, they are natural pest control agents! Farmers love having ladybugs around, so much so that they actually bring in ladybugs as a way to naturally get rid of aphids that cause damage to their crops. Lady beetles also have a rather interesting defence mechanism. They release a nasty odour when under attack, and oddly enough, the fluid that they release is actually small droplets of blood!

Here’s a tip: I don’t regard lady bugs as pests (they are always welcome in my garden!), but if they do become a problem, burn lemon, menthol or mulberry candles in your home since they tend to dislike these scents. You can also make use of a humidifier containing Vicks vapour rub to repel them. Alternatively, one can make use of DIY pesticides to get rid of them. Although they rarely pester us in our homes, and since I have come to like them so much, I feel this might be too cruel for these natural pest control troops!

3. The Bat

bat

Thankfully, contrary to the belief surrounding bats, very few live off of blood – their diet consists mostly of insects!

Here is where we digress from interesting and beneficial to creepy (and not to mention ugly.) Bats have rodent-like features which makes me think that they are actually rats dressed up in Halloween attire to come and haunt us forever. Okay, well that’s a bit extreme, but I’m sure you can see the resemblance. Though I must admit I’d very much like it if bats were as harmless as this origami I have folded.

Thankfully, not all bats are bloodsuckers. And don’t worry; the blood that they consume is from cattle. They also only consume up to two spoonfuls, which is less than what I imagine Dracula would help himself to. Some bats eat fruit and most of them live on a diet of insects, so you could say they are pest controllers too, although I wouldn’t openly invite them in as I do with ladybugs! In fact, the little brown bat can eat up to one thousand insects in an hour! Some even eat frogs, fish and lizards.

Here’s a tip: Since a bat’s diet consists mainly of insects, try to ensure your property is free of insects so they don’t have a steady food supply. Try and change your light bulbs to those that emit yellow light to discourage moths and mozzies, or you could ask Rentokil to do an insect spray to minimise the presence of insects. Sealing entry points on with mesh or caulking on areas such as ceilings and attics can also help prevent bats from entering indoors. Please take extra care to not kill or poison bats as they are an endangered species.

4. The Rat

rats

Rats have filthy eating habits – if they aren’t tearing up packaging and contaminating food, they’re chewing through wiring!

Rats are the most annoying pest I have ever had to endure. This was also the easiest origami to fold out of them all. See the link? They are quick to make their appearance and stubborn, lingering critters. As a result of rats cavorting in my ceiling for months on end (and by the sounds of it, they were they the size of cats!) I hardly ever got a good night’s rest. Sometimes I even woke up to bits of plaster falling from the ceiling, and believe me; they ate the pesticide pellets as if I sent them a pack of Romantics. Thankfully, Rentokil came to my rescue and I could finally get my much longed-for shut-eye.

Since rodents are nocturnal, it makes sense that they were frolicking around my ceiling at night. That was also when a rat paid a visit to my poor mother (in my blog post titled the Midnight munchie rat.) Luckily I didn’t find any torn up packaging, but they do love to raid the food cabinets. This can also lead to contaminated food and the spread of harmful illnesses (such as Salmonella and E.Coli). Not only to they have filthy eating habits, but they also gnaw on almost anything to keep their incisors down; sometimes they even chew through wiring which can lead to electrical fires!

One would think that at least they’d be grateful to live rent-free, but all that I have ever received from them are droppings, and smear marks along their favourite runways.

Here’s a tip: Like I should have done from the beginning, make sure that you fit bristle strips beneath doors and seal entryways, as well as any crack or crevice that rats can fit through with sealant or mesh wire. Also make sure to store food away in airtight containers, and also clean up any food debris on countertops and beneath kitchen appliances as to not attract them. See more rat control tips. 

5. The Snail

snail

Don’t let these nonchalant critters fool you, while they are sliding about, they are also helping themselves to your veggie patch!

Leaving the slowest for last is the snail. Snails move about slowly, leaving a yucky slimy trail as evidence of their whereabouts. Not only have snails been known to destroy crops, but they also ruin gardens. If you are as keen a gardener as I am myself, this is not good news.

Snails love eating leaves, fresh veggies; especially tomatoes, and also enjoy strawberries. They also like cabbages as they give them a hideout place. This to me is especially aggravating since after all the hard work that goes into a veggie patch, they slide about casually as if they don’t have a care in the world. Snails also pose a health risk as they can spread Salmonella and it has even been reported as a worst case scenario, they can spread Meningitis as well.

Here’s a tip: Sprinkling coffee on plants can help keep snails away and ground eggshells and ginger help to inhibit snail’s movements as do lime and talcum powder. Snails are also attracted to beer, so leave a saucer in the garden, placing it in the ground so only the edges protrude. This will attract snails inside and they will drown. See more tips on getting rid of snails.

Now that we have had a wonderful time in folding origami’s – and learning more about each beneficial insect and annoying pest – we’re armed with some knowledge on how to prevent them, and how to mark our territory. After all, all’s fair in love and war..!

Instructions on folding origami pests were found on origami-instructions.com

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