The World’s Most Disgusting Parasites


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Few individuals enjoy slimy and creepy crawly things. Amongst some of the nasty things that nature provides our planet with some are grouped into the category of parasites. We hate them, but they sure love us! We have to hand it to science and commend those who have chosen to study these types of organisms. So, out of respect for entomologists everywhere and to gross out those of you who fit into the category of “slimy and creepy crawly” haters, we present a list of some of the most disgusting. Rather than create an order of disgustingness, we present them in alphabetical order. This list is merely a summary.

Bedbugs

Bedbugs

Some of you may not know that bedbugs are actually more than just a cute little good night rhyme that your parents said to you before you went to sleep. They are as real as the other entries. While they are not the worst or deadliest on the list, they certainly have their share of difficulties.

Bedbugs have been on the rise lately, and there are several theories as to why. Some point to increased international travel while others blame the lack of bedbug killing insecticides, most popularly DDT, as well as the increasing use of gel-based insecticides. These gel-based insecticides are completely ineffective against bedbugs since bedbugs do not feed on anything other than blood. Control and elimination can only be achieved through repeated sprayings with a bug-killer by a professional exterminator.

The bedbug is like a small tick that typically lives in and around the area of the mattress. They feed mostly during the night, although they have been known to feed during any hour of the day. Due to their small size, the bedbug can hide in mattresses, mattress seams, baseboards, headboards, screw holes, carpets, cracks in walls, bedroom clutter; practically anywhere in or around the bedroom. Bedbugs have been known to nest and walk as far as 100 feet in order to feed on their host.

The bites they leave are usually mistaken as mosquito or spider bites, since the irritation and redness is very similar. There is no scientific evidence that they spread disease, although the bite sites may become infected due to scratching. The misdiagnosis of the bites can also lead to a dramatic increase in infestation numbers before detection. The worst problems with bedbug infestations are not physical, but psychological. Once bedbugs are detected the host usually has heightened levels of anxiety, paranoia and fear.

Bedbugs are very difficult to detect and all too often a major infestation has occurred before detection. Their small size and elusive behavior only add to their difficult detection. Bedbugs are usually associated with lack of cleanliness and squalor, but this is not the case. Even the most posh and lavish hotels, apartments and homes have been infested with bedbugs. The bedbug can “hitch” a ride in clothes, luggage, purses, back packs and essentially anything that a small apple seed-sized insect can work its way into. They are flat like a tick and can go over a year without feeding and still remain alive.

Another reason why bedbugs are a huge problem, aside from their detection difficulty and ability to live without sustenance for long periods of time, is their ability to breed rapidly. The female can lay over 500 eggs during a lifetime. Once the eggs hatch the bedbugs will immediately begin to feed. They usually feed once every several days and will pass through 5 molting stages, lasting 5 weeks before becoming a mature adult capable of breeding.

Hookworms

Hookworms

The hookworm is transmitted through fecal matter. The eggs will hatch within about a week and grow into larvae which can live for close to a month within the soil of the earth or the feces which bore them. Upon contact with humans, usually through the foot, the worm will work its way through the host’s veins, into the heart and eventually the lungs. After entering the lungs, they are sometimes expelled through mucus during a cough or simply swallowed by themselves. This gives the worm a one way ticket into the small intestine.

After setting up residence in the intestine the worm will attach itself to the intestinal wall and begin feeding on the host’s blood. If left undetected and untreated the hookworm can reproduce resulting in a serious intestinal infestation. This can lead to anemia, extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue and even a bizarre hunger for inedible things like dirt and mud. The life cycle of the worm begins anew when the host releases more eggs through bowel movements.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes

I am sure that most of us have been bitten by a mosquito before. These pesky flying insects are not only a nuisance but also a deadly health threat. They can carry many different types of parasites and diseases which cause conditions such as West Nile Virus, malaria, yellow fever and can even inject a parasite which causes elephantiasis. Mosquitoes are responsible for millions of deaths due to their ability to carry disease from host to host.

The mosquito needs blood in order to reproduce. Thus, it is the female of the species that is responsible for biting mammals. Interestingly enough, both the male and female mosquitoes regularly feed on nectar from flowers and fruits. However, the female requires the necessary proteins from blood to reproduce.

The mosquito’s life begins with the already mature female laying her eggs on fresh and stagnant water in groups of up to fifty. With enough blood she can produce these groups of eggs every three days for her entire lifetime. The female must lay her eggs in still. standing water, which is why it is recommended that you eliminate any free-standing water around your property to minimize the possibility of a mosquito infestation.

Once the eggs have been laid they hatch in a mere 48-hour period. The larvae will live near the surface of the water anywhere from 1-2 weeks depending upon the temperature of the water in which they live. After this period they become pupa and will pupate in only a few days, afterwards becoming adult mosquitoes.

The mosquito is attracted to a person’s body heat and also their scent, if you will. It is advised that you avoid heavy perfumes and colognes since they are attracted to sweet smells. However, this is not a complete deterrent.

The female mosquito uses a complex proboscis coupled with an anti-coagulant within its saliva to draw blood from its host. Most often the host has no idea that it has been bitten until it is too late and the trademark itchy bump appears. These lesions are extremely itchy and easily irritated. Scratching can lead to infection, so an anti-itch ointment should be applied to minimize the itch.

Tapeworms

Tapeworms are similar to hookworms. They are intestinal parasites that can be transmitted through soil and fecal matter, but most often are ingested by humans through undercooked meats that have not been adequately cooked to kill the tapeworm eggs. The tapeworms set up shop in the muscles of the host animal after being ingested through the feeding of grass or contaminated vegetables. The animal is eventually slaughtered and becomes food for us as humans.

The human host will ingest the tapeworm egg and as digestion of the food occurs the egg will eventually hatch and grow from a larva to an adult while feeding on blood and nutrients via the intestinal wall. The adults, being hermaphrodites, can then produce more eggs which will be released from the body through the stool. The eggs can linger around the toilet bowl or can even be flushed down the commode where they can infest the soil through sewage and irrigation water, thus, beginning the cycle all over again.

The symptoms of a tapeworm infection are very difficult to spot as there are often no outward symptoms to indicate an infection for a very long period of time. This can lead to the tapeworm growing up to 30 feet in small, segmented lengths resulting in a bloated stomach and malnutrition, amongst other conditions. These parasites have been known to live for a few decades if left untreated.

Ticks

Ticks

Ticks are classified as arachnids and there are many, many different varieties, both hard and soft. The most commonly known are the black-legged tick, the lone star tick, the deer tick and the dog tick. The tick is capable of carrying diseases as well. The most well-known are Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.

Ticks are usually found in areas with heavy underbrush and high weeds and grass as well as areas commonly traversed by deer and horses. The tick will wait in this type of environment as its host walks by where it will grab a hold and work its way toward a suitable area of the body, most often where an abundance of hair is present. On humans this is usually the scalp, but on other mammals this could be anywhere. This allows the tick to remain virtually undetected for several weeks as it gorges on the blood of the host.

Ticks have a fascinating lifecycle. There are three different types of ticks so far as the lifecycle is concerned. The one host female tick lives off of one single host for its entire life before dropping off and laying its eggs. Then there are the two host and three host ticks which live off of either two or three hosts in its lifecycle.

The best method of tick removal is to take a pair of tweezers and pinch as close as possible to the mouth of the tick, the point at which its head meets the area where the tick is lodged. Slowly and steadily pull the tick out. Avoid twisting or wrenching. After removal it is advised to either flush the tick down the toilet or put it in a container full of isopropyl alcohol to both kill it and preserve it just in case an illness befalls the host shortly after. This way it can be taken to a doctor and identified so that proper treatment can be administered.

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