10/28/2017 | New York’s Most Monstrous Pests
Ghouls and goblins may not exist in real life, but plenty of creepy crawlies just as monstrous are all-too-real. Obviously, the real-world equivalent of horror story monsters are pests. Just look at those things. Not convinced? Well, you asked for it: in honor of Halloween, here are the three New York pests that even give us the heebie jeebies. And we’re professionals!
These pests aren’t the most destructive pests in New York. They’re not particularly dangerous. They’re not big disease spreaders. They’re not even all that prevalent. We chose these creatures for one reason and one reason only: they’re the freakiest-looking living things we’ve ever seen. Forget ghosts; these are the things we don’t want going bump in the night.
The wheel bug, or Arilus cristatus, is a member of the Reduviidae family. The Reduviidae family is comprised entirely of species of true bugs called “assassin bugs.” ASSASSIN. BUGS. The Wikipedia page for the Reduviidae family literally asks if you meant to search for a Dungeons & Dragons monster. It makes sense, too, because every bit of info on the wheel bug reads like some cruel Dungeon Master’s final boss.
This thing is one of the biggest bugs in North America, measuring up to 1.5 inches long. Their coloration acts as highly effective camouflage, which makes it easy for them to sneak up on prey. Threatened wheel bugs secrete a gross stink from scent glands. And we’ve haven’t even gotten to the worst part: that giant hook on their faces! Wheel bugs plunge this long, sharp “beak” into their prey’s bodies, injecting enzymes in the process. These enzymes liquefy their prey’s insides, which the wheel bug proceeds to slurp up through its beak, like it’s drinking a bug smoothie! Wheel bugs can’t liquefy our insides (thank goodness), but their bite is considered more painful than a wasp’s sting and inflicts a numbness that can persist for days. Maybe worst of all, we don’t know very much about wheel bugs, presumably because nobody wants to get close. We can’t blame them.
“WHAT KIND OF CTHULHU-SPAWNED HORROR IS THAT?!” is probably the question you asked the first time you saw a horseshoe crab. It’s a fair question. The Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is a surprisingly frequent patron of New York’s beaches, where they’ve been cavorting for over 400 million years. Despite the name, this species of marine chelicerata is actually more closely related to spiders and scorpions than crabs.
Horseshoe crabs are sometimes called “living fossils,” because of their prehistoric appearance and age. The more you learn about them, the freakier they sound. Horseshoe crabs can get big: females have been measured at 24 inches long. Their blue is blue, because it contains copper. They have eight legs, which they can regrow and use to pull clams and mussels into their mouth. Also, horseshoe crabs are one of the few creatures that have more eyes than limbs. The arthropod has five eyes on its carapace and two on both its underside and mouth, for a total of nine eyes.
Probably the most distinctive part of the horseshoe crab is its smooth shell, or carapace. This dark brown, horseshoe-shaped shell can become home to a wide variety of marine life, including algae, barnacles, and bryozoans. So many different species can live on top of horseshoe crabs at once that they’re sometimes called “living museums.” Despite their fearsome appearance, horseshoe crabs are actually totally harmless. That won’t stop hundreds of them from ruining your day at the beach, however.
Giant Water Bugs
There are few names as immediately upsetting as the “giant water bug.” Kind of tells you everything you need to know, doesn’t it? The largest of the 40,000-some insects in the true bug Heteroptera family, giant water bugs are often mistaken for really big, swimming cockroaches. Depending on where you’re from, you may know these creatures under a different moniker; they’re also called “toe-biters,” “indian toe-biters,” and “alligator ticks.” ALL OF THOSE NAMES ARE VERY UPSETTING.
These bugs earn their names, too. Some species may grow to over 4.5 inches long. Their size and power allows them to act as aggressive predators, preying on a wide variety of aquatic prey. Water bugs swim by using their flattened, oar-like hind legs to propel themselves forward through water. They can’t breath underwater, and regularly return to the surface to take in oxygen through tiny holes called spiracles, located on the bug’s abdomen. Water bugs wait for prey beneath the surface of fresh water, lunging up at them when they pass close by. When prey gets close, water bugs use their powerful forelegs to grab hold and keep the unfortunate victim still while injecting them with a paralyzing poison. What follows is similar, meat smoothie-wise, to what we described above. We’re not describing it again. We can’t.
Finally, giant water bugs have become particularly notorious for biting down on the toes of passing swimmers. Hard. These punks are known for playing dead when threatened, so if you see one, don’t be fooled. Maybe swim the other way.
We apologize for any nightmares these three terrors may cause you. But remember, no matter how terrifying the pest, you’ve got us. If pests are the monsters of the real world, then we’re the real world’s monster hunters.
Ours is an ancient tradition; why, Assured alone has been at it for more than 80 years. It’s a discipline combining ages of learned tradition with cutting-edge technology. We’re not saying we’re Blade or anything, but the comparisons are there. So you have any monsters plaguing your homestead, call up your very own Blade today and put an end to them. Happy Halloween!