The spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus around the world means many things: thousands of deaths, millions of lost jobs and the possibility of a global recession.
But beyond the big picture, little creatures have been using this moment of global human calamity to begin re-emerging into the urbanised world.
“Whilst the world is healing and the air is becoming cleaner, so is the new distribution of most wildlife changing,” Arnold Sciberras, a leading Maltese pest exterminator, told Lovin Malta. “Wildlife is not on hold, but taking every opportunity to prolificate and enjoy the environment without humans.”
But before we get into the bad news, let’s start with the good.
Certain pests that depend on human transportation to get around have been on the decrease. These include insects like bedbugs as well as certain cockroaches, like the brown-banded or German cockroach… so it isn’t all bad.
However, so-called “opportunistic” pests that utilise streets, sewers or establishments have been on the rise ever since the usual borders that keep them at bay have suddenly disappeared.
Everything from rodents to feral pigeons to American cockroaches have been making a comeback in Malta.
Some of the recent infestations Sciberras has come across were in areas that humans used to frequent more often, and have suddenly stopped visiting due to the outbreak.
“Agricultural fields and farm animals are also feeling the increase of these pests,” he pointed out.
He has come across more cases of rats inside restaurants after-hours or emerging in the middle of the night inside animal stables to steal feed.
“Rodents are taking to the streets, and in some particular places they are already giving the eye to whoever passes by,” Sciberras said.
“Wild feral pigeons are also on the increase as they are not being disturbed during nest-building, egg incubation and the raising of chicks.”
And these species are just some of the animals benefiting from the current quarantine situation Malta finds itself in.
The thing is, these changes could have real effects on other parts of Maltese flora and fauna life. One pest, hornets, can have terrible consequences on local beekeeping initiatives.
“Hornets have also already started – these will eventually traumatize residents who are close to their nest,” he said. “And there goes the apiculture industry at this dire moment.”
Sciberras wanted to urge Maltese authorities to keep Malta’s agriculture in mind when rolling out preventative measures and other defences against the COVID-19 virus, saying that “agriculture is an industry that requires the utmost protection”.
Photos: Arnold Sciberras
Have you noticed an increase in Maltese pests amidst the COVID-19 outbreak? Let us know in the comments below.