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Do Insects and Pests Carry Pathogens?

For thousands of years, insects have been the culprits of disease transmission to both humans and plants. Mosquitos, fleas, bed bugs, lice, cockroaches and ticks - just to name a few - have been the culprits of devastating illnesses worldwide for centuries.

How Have Pests Affected Crops?

Throughout history, pests have wreaked havoc on crops. One of the most notorious examples occurred in the mid-1800s during the Irish potato famine. The Great Famine caused the death of almost two million people. Its cause was a mold, or blight, that caused the failure of potato crops - a staple in the Irish diet. The spread of the blight was additionally facilitated and exacerbated by insects. Even today, it is estimated that plant diseases cause an annual percentage of 11 to 16 percent reduction in the value of corn, wheat, rice and potato harvests. Much of the diseases' transfers can be blamed on insects.

How are Plant Diseases Caused?

Plant diseases are caused by several factors, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, mollicutes and nematodes. Fungi are spore-bearing organisms that produce enzymes that break down plant or animal produces in order to absorb the nutrients. Fungal diseases have included Dutch elm diseases, apple scab and wheat stem rust. A fungal disease is what caused the Irish potato famine. "Late blight," another type of blight caused by Phytophthora infestans, has become the largest biological deterrent in global food production and has been the biggest reason for the use of pesticides worldwide. Bacteria is another disease-causing culprit and is often very easily spread, making it very contagious and infectious. Bacterial diseases can be spread by wind, water and through insects.

What about Human Diseases?

Insects not only affect the transfer of diseases in plants - they can cause diseases in humans as well. Even in the 20th century, malaria is still a major problem - both in the U.S. and worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1700 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. Additionally, the World Health Organization estimated that in 2016, 216 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and caused the deaths of almost half a million children.

What Types of Pests Have the Most Diseases?

Insects have been the cause for the spread of other illnesses as well, including West Nile, Lyme disease, dengue fever, yellow fever and Zika virus, just to name a few. Houseflies and cockroaches are also often commonly blamed for foodborne illnesses such as salmonellosis, gastroenteritis, dysentery and typhoid fever. Flies carry the most diseases of any pest - more than 100 pathogens. They also are known to easily spread diseases. Flies pick up disease-causing organism and easily transfer them to other food sources.

What Can I do to Protect My Family?

It is important that the damage that insects can do is acknowledged and is take care of based on control strategies that include exclusion, eradication and protection. Much research has been done to learn how to eradicate many bacteria due to unfavorable cultivation practices that are meant to "starve" bacteria and other organisms. Check out our robust pest library for more information on a particular pest here.

Still, it is also important to be diligent in the control of insect populations, particularly in areas that have high human populations that can be affected by the pathogens and diseases that insects and pests are known to carry. Although we probably won't ever have a completely pest-free world, we can take steps to make areas less hospitable to disease-carrying insects.

Contact MosquitoNix today for more information about how we can make your home and surrounding perimeter inhospitable to pests and biting insects that are known to carry diseases.

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