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Insect Sanitation

December 3, 2014

Insects may be helping to reduce rat populations in our cities.



Elsa Youngsteadt

Tasty insect treats hidden under rat-proof containers. (Elsa Youngsteadt)

Insect sanitation. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Billions of tiny garbage collectors are hard at work in the streets of New York, according to North Carolina State University entomologist Elsa Youngsteadt.  She and her colleagues placed measured amounts of hot dogs, chips and cookies on grassy street medians there — some out in the open, and some in containers that kept out rodents, but not arthropods like ants and millipedes. Youngsteadt says those little creatures were the biggest eaters, devouring over 3 grams of food per spot. Multiplying that times the 150 blocks the median strip covers adds up to over a ton of garbage per year.

ELSA YOUNGSTEADT (North Carolina State University):

That would be about 60,000 hot dogs, or maybe 200,000 cookies. So quite a bit of garbage could be disappearing without our ever really noticing.


In addition, she says the insects eat much of it before rodents can, reducing the city’s rat population. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Elsa Youngsteadtd (1)

Ants sampling hot dogs. (Elsa Youngsteadt)