July 21, 2024

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Tiger mosquitos, Asian hornets and bed bugs: What climate change means for Europe’s ‘pest demographics’ haunting the Paris Olympics

2 min read

About an hour outside Vienna, the Penny Markt in Krems an der Donau prides itself on two things: low, low prices, and the provenance of its meat and fresh produce. But one mild August day last year, shoppers rummaging for a locally-sourced bargain found a rather more exotic, if less welcome, surprise, lurking amid the banana crates.

The culprit was a stowaway Brazilian Wandering Spider, an 11cm black and red arachnid with a bite that causes convulsions, hypothermia, death and—if you’re of the male persuasion—a particularly painful case of uncontrolled erections. You can imagine the shock.

The store shut for precautionary disinfection, and the spider got away, never to be heard from again. But it’s hardly the only invasive creepy crawly to make its way into European tabloids lately.

France has acquired an unfortunate pre-Olympic reputation for rampant bed bug infestations, with Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire warning people “no one is safe. You can catch them anywhere,” and reports of the bloodsuckers on the Eurostar causing panic in London.

Tiger mosquitoes, which can carry Dengue and Zika, have also been seen around the country, leading Paris authorities to bring in entomologist ‘detectives’ to track down their breeding spots.

The Turkish pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, is eyeing Europe more broadly as an exciting new export market for scorpion antivenom.

A medical lab staff holds a scorpion at a vaccine company in Turkey.

Kemal Karagoz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Is climate change to blame for this apparent arthropodal invasion?

The reality is rather less apocalyptic than the headlines suggest, says Dr Matt Green, principal entomologist at UK-based global pest control company Rentokil Initial, which has operations across the continent.

We’re nowhere close to Dengue becoming endemic. Reports of French bed bugs rose largely because people saw horror headlines and started looking under their mattresses. And if…

Adam Gale

2024-06-22 01:00:00

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