ANECPLA: The high price of pests


ANECPLA press release: The high price of pests


- A recent report published in the scientific journal 'Nature' has put the damage caused by some of the most dangerous invasive pests that are wreaking havoc around the world at more than a trillion dollars. 

- Aedes mosquitoes, responsible for diseases such as Zika virus, Dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fever among others, are at the top of this disturbing list worldwide. 

- The Spanish Association of Environmental Health Companies (ANECPLA) points to rats, cockroaches, mosquitoes and termites as the species responsible for the main costs in this area in our country. And it points to prevention as the only way to save costs. 


Madrid, 14 April 2021 - More than one trillion dollars is the price that has been paid between 1970 and 2017 for the presence of certain invasive pests around the world. This has been shown by the scientific journal Nature in a recently published study that reveals the importance of placing this problem related to the increase of pest species around the world at the forefront of the health, political and public agenda. 

Globalisation and climate change have been the main factors that have set off the definitive spark in this kind of uncontrolled global fire that is invasive pests. A good proof of this was the Zika virus crisis from 2015 to 2017, whose economic impact in Latin America and the Caribbean alone was estimated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at some 18,000 million dollars. An epidemic, declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a "global emergency of alarming proportions", whose main cause was the vector that transmits the disease: the Aedes aegypti mosquito. However, its close relative, the Aedes albopictus, popularly known as the "tiger mosquito", has also been responsible for numerous cases of the disease in Europe, where this species is highly prevalent. 

Another species that causes significant expenditure worldwide is termites. Only 3% of these xylophagous insects cause major damage to buildings, costing the world more than 60 billion dollars a year. This was recently made clear by the expert entomologist from the University of Florida, Nan-Yao Su, in his speech at the last edition of EXPOCIDA MADERA, organised by ANECPLA last March.  

The 4 most costly pests in Spain 

In Spain there are four fundamental pests that ANECPLA places in the podium of vectors causing the greatest economic expenditure, both public and private. These are: 

1) Rats. 

The extreme reproduction speed of this animal, together with its vectorial capacity to transmit diseases as serious as leptospirosis, hantavirus and toxoplasmosis, among others, make it the real time bomb of pests in our country.  

A plague that in recent years has increased worryingly to the point that scenes of these rodents roaming the streets of more than a few cities in broad daylight are no longer exceptional. "The fact that rats are seen on public roads during the day", explains Milagros Fernández de Lezeta, general director of ANECPLA, "is a clear indication that the volume of this species is too high in that area, as when rats come out of the sewers during the day it is because they are looking for new areas to colonise in view of the saturation of those they come from". 

In Madrid, the presence of black rats (Rattus rattus) was already detected in the city in 2019. This species, unlike sewer rats (Rattus norvegicus), tends to be confined to parks and gardens, making nests in trees that are difficult to distinguish from those of birds. 

ANECPLA points to the precariousness of the systems for contracting services as the main focus of a problem that the current crisis of the coronavirus has finally put the nail in the coffin. During the confinement, many of the maintenance control treatments agreed with the Public Administrations were not carried out, not to mention the multitude of premises that remained closed and inactive during this time, with all that this implies in terms of lack of hygiene and care. 

2) Cockroaches. 

Cockroaches are the pest par excellence in our country. They undoubtedly occupy first place in terms of population volume. With nocturnal habits and a preference for dark, warm and humid habitats, cockroaches are directly responsible for large economic losses every year in Spain due to the contamination they cause, mainly in foodstuffs, being transmitters of serious diseases such as dysentery or salmonellosis. 

On the other hand, the key role that cockroaches are playing in the development of multiple types of allergies and cases of asthma has been demonstrated in recent years. In industrialised countries, asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood, to the point of being considered a global epidemic. The evidence linking asthma to exposure to cockroaches, among other pathogens, is clear. 

3) Termites. 

Less than 9 mm long, the destructive power of these xylophagous insects is inversely proportional to their size. Moreover, their pernicious process is so silent that by the time their effects become apparent, it is often too late to act. 

These insects feed on the cellulose contained in wood, which can seriously compromise the structures of buildings and other constructions that include this noble material among their elements. 

In Spain, more than 90% of the buildings constructed before 1920 have wooden structures. The historic centres of countless Spanish cities are the most sensitive locations to the onslaught of this plague, which attacks not only personal dwellings but, above all, numerous buildings belonging to Historical Heritage and National Heritage, many of which are of incalculable value.  

4) Mosquitoes. 

The accelerated proliferation of the Aedes albopictus mosquito, also known as the 'tiger mosquito', in Spain is worrying. With the capacity to transmit up to 22 different types of virus, associated with potentially fatal diseases such as the Zika virus, Dengue or Chikungunya, among others, this mosquito species has doubled its presence in our country in the last six years, according to data from the Ministry of Health. 

The threat has increased since the discovery, last year 2018, of the presence of another variant of the Aedes mosquito in Spain: the Aedes japonicus. Another invasive species originating in East Asia and with an even greater capacity for expansion than its close relative, it is already fully established in the Autonomous Communities of Asturias and Cantabria and with a clear determination to advance towards Galicia. 

Culex mosquitoes (Culex pippiens and Culex perexiguus) were, for their part, the protagonists last summer of the cases of West Nile virus that emerged in Andalusia. This type of mosquito is found in the natural environment, especially in areas of accumulated water - such as marshes - where they develop their larval process and where they can become infected with the virus by biting infected migratory birds from Africa. By subsequently biting humans, infected mosquitoes can transmit the virus. The incubation period for this disease, which can lead to episodes of meningitis or encephalitis, is between three and 14 days. 

Prevention is the key  

Undoubtedly, the price paid for the growing presence of pests is very high and mainly affects the quality of life of citizens and their physical and mental health. "But if we focus exclusively on the economic cost they cause, this is immense and, the most important", says ANECPLA's general director, Milagros Fernández de Lezeta, "avoidable if prevention were taken into account as a key control tool in the plans of thousands of town councils and autonomous communities all over Spain and in the mentality of their citizens". 

Pests such as the aforementioned rats, cockroaches, mosquitoes and termites are causing enormous expense both for health systems and public administrations and for the pockets of many individuals. "An unnecessary expense that could be reduced", insists Fernández de Lezeta, putting on the table a well-planned prevention strategy that could significantly reduce expenditure in this area". 

For this reason, ANECPLA insists on the importance of using professional pest control services that will deal with the problem by taking into account factors such as the biological cycle of the pest, environmental conditions, the level of infestation and the minimisation of the possible impact on the environment, animals and humans. 

ANECPLA is the National Association of Environmental Health Companies. Established in 1992, it brings together almost 500 companies that represent approximately 85% of the turnover of the sector in Spain. Its main objectives are to consolidate a professional sector that looks after public health and the environment and to fight against intrusion.

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