With the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano the news has been reporting on almost every aspect of what is happening and what to expect with this huge event but no ones reporting what will happen to bugs exposed to the volcanic ash. As chief journalist for pest cemetery I feel it is my duty to bring this most important aspect of the untold story to you. We have Mel our crack field reporter at the scene but I think he might have gotten a little too close to his work, he can be a bit clumsy but he definitely gets in to his work.
Something that caught my attention was the vast amount of silica that was in the blast and is being carried over all of Europe and where ever the wind will blow next. Silica is a material that is found in the crust of the earth and is used by pest professionals everywhere. Silica is a desiccant which can absorb 40 times its weight of moisture and pest control operators use this most effectively in dusting cracks or other voids where pests hide. One way the silica works is that it’s a very sharp particle and cuts through the protective waxy shell of an insects exoskeleton and they simply dry out and die. It is a long term and very effective tool in the pest control arsenal.
It would seem then that besides all the health hazards for humans and air traffic nightmares one thing that’s got to happen is that insects
exposed to this volcanic ash will be dying by untold numbers and for quite some time. I was living in Spokane Washington at the time of Mt. St. Helens eruption and our city was covered in ash as if a winter blizzard dumped a foot of snow. Even 2 years later you could see piles of ash in parking lots where the snow plows had pushed it soon after the eruption. In the aftermath of St. Helens insects did take a huge hit. Grasshoppers are very abundant in the north west but the fields affected by the plume got very quiet. Many other types of insects perished too but oddly enough beetles faired very well. Ballooning spiders were among the first to arrive and what should have been a insect ghost town for years began to bounce back rather quickly. The ash actually acted somewhat like a fertilizer collector sucking nutrients from the dead carcasses and by 1985 plants and bugs were living in a rich paradise of abundance once again. I’m not sure if rains tamped down the particles and nature just recycled the hostile substance or the insects just made do by adapting and avoiding the ash but the bugs survived and even thrived on the bounty left behind.
They say a roach can survive a nuclear blast and that is true but coincidentally so can a beetle and it’s the flour beetle that can stand the most radiation. Insects of every kind will die with this eruption which is natures atomic bomb and far more powerful but soon the land will be replenished with 6 and 8 legged creatures in even greater abundance. So while this cloud of silica and ash seems to be a major set back in the natural order of things I say to my bug brothers in Europe take heart. The bugs will be back sooner than you think but just maybe you’ll hesitate the next time you reach for a duster, to treat that void.