THE TINY MONSTERS THAT EAT YOUR HOME

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1 THE TINY MONSTERS THAT EAT YOUR HOME You ve put a lot of time and money into your home. You ve had the wall-to-wall carpets put in, upgraded the central heating, installed new wardrobes. But, just as you ve improved it, something s trying to damage all your good work. Entire families of tiny insects are busy chewing away at your floors, books, clothes and carpets. Here are the main culprits, revealed by the microscope as ugly, destructive little monsters. ALL IMAGES BY STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY (unless otherwise stated)

2 Science Photo Library Feature Stories WOODWORM It s the piles of dust beneath and around tiny holes in your floorboards or the nice wooden cupboard you bought from the car boot sale that give the game away. You ve got woodworm. Or rather, you had the larvae of one of several wood-boring insects, probably the common furniture beetle, which can spend up to four years eating timber from the inside out before tunnelling out as flying beetles. By the time they emerge, the damage has been done. In the past, woodworm could cause entire buildings to collapse. Modern timber treatment and warm temperatures inside the home usually mean that woodworm is localised and an irritant rather than a house destroyer.

3 Science Photo Library Feature Stories CLOTHES MOTH That t-shirt you bought last month now looks like it s rapidly becoming a string vest. It s covered in tiny holes and, as you take it out of the wardrobe, it s obvious who the culprits are tiny fluttering moths. Clothes moths. But you d be wrong. It s not the moths that cause the damage, but their evil offspring. Adult clothes moths the flying ones don t feed on clothes. In fact, they don t feed at all. The males spend their short lives looking for females, the females lay up to 50 eggs, and then they die. It s what happens next that causes the problem. The eggs hatch into larvae, or grubs, which immediately start eating your wardrobe. They even have the nerve to spin fibres from that t-shirt into their cocoons.

4 CARPET BEETLE Science Photo Library Feature Stories Clothes moths get the blame for damaging soft fabrics and carpets. In this case, it s misplaced. The main culprit is the carpet beetle, or, to be more exact, their grubs, often known as woolly bears due to their appearance. These pests can spend years chomping through clothes including leather, soft furnishings like chair and sofa covers and, of course, carpets before they change into adult beetles. Experts believe they have become more destructive than clothes moths because of modern home conditions. Central heating gives them comfortable temperatures, and wall-to-wall carpeting means they can breed undisturbed.

5 TERMITE Termites are so rare in the UK that only one infestation has ever been confirmed. Yet they are the most destructive insect pests in the world, and they are steadily marching through Europe. Termites are voracious, eating timber beams and even plastic piping. What s even more damaging is that their networks of tunnels can undermine buildings, causing them to collapse. And they are notoriously difficult to eradicate. Originally from Latin America, they arrived in western Europe inside imported timber. In France, they are estimated to cause E500 millions a year in property damage, and have been found as far north as Normandy. That s just a Channel away from the south of England.

6 Science Photo Library Feature Stories SILVERFISH They have remained unchanged since the dinosaurs and are considered living fossils. To most people, that doesn t mean a thing. Silverfish are ugly little creatures that emerge from dark places - like beneath the kitchen sink to scavenge around the house. They re not particular about what they eat: carpets, books, photos even the plaster and paint on your walls. COCKROACH Cockroaches are the largest of the destructive household pests, and the most resilient. They can resist heat, cold, nuclear radiation and most attempts to eradicate them. As well as carrying harmful bacteria like salmonella around the house, they are not particular about their diet. They will chew on leather, wallpaper, even toothpaste. And when they re bored with munching household items, they ll simply eat each other.

7 FULL PICTURE SET For captions and credits, please refer to the captions.txt file For further information, please contact: All images are copyright, please credit images as stated on the captions

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