West’s Pests

August Kalina Heinrich, Reporter

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Many older buildings in Alaska are home to a variety of insects and small rodents, and West High is no different. Some of the most commonly spotted creatures in the 60-year-old building are mice, bees, flies, spiders, cockroaches and silverfish.

Silverfish love the dark, and a home such as West, with many nooks and crannies, and even sub-grade tunnels may seem like the perfect location for the critters. The small insects are not directly harmful to humans; they do not bite or sting, but they do occasionally damage books, paper, and other items made of similar materials such as cardboard.

Staff Services Principal David Legg said, “Silverfish live in dark areas… since this building has lots of underground areas like tunnels… there’s plenty of areas for them to thrive down there.” Legg says that although staff and students may complain about them, he has not seen enough to consider them a problem for the building.

For a silverfish infestation to be a problem, there would have to be enough of them to cause noticeable damage and be a large distraction, but Legg said that he has only seen one silverfish this year. He said, “I’ve had people report that they’ve seen them in the morning when they turn on the lights, but as soon as the lights come up they run away.”

Considering their diet, they could potentially be an issue in classes with a large amount of paper supplies. Donna Valentine, one of the art teachers at West, said, “I probably see one every two or three weeks.” However, she also mentioned that she has “not seen actual damage done by a silverfish.” Valentine mentioned that she used to see the occasional mouse and she “probably trapped three or four,” but she hasn’t seen a mouse since then. Because of how they gather materials to build their nests, mice tend to cause more damage than silverfish, and—considering their larger size—the sight of a mouse could be more distracting than spotting a silverfish. Many people have a natural fear of rodents, due to their seemingly dirty living conditions and their tendency to eat any food they come across.

 

Legg said, “There’s a couple of classrooms where we seem to have problems with flies and bees… you can see them in the diffuser screens on the fluorescent lights…” Considering the habits of silverfish—preferring to stay in dark places—flies which tend to stay higher up on the floors and ceilings are usually more visible than the silverfish, especially when they get stuck in a light. Student Brody Roy said, “Flies are super annoying,” and that spotting one would usually distract him for the whole period by causing him to get stuck “staring at a black dot flying around.”

Legg also said, “You might see seven or eight bees flying around in one or two classrooms in the fall. Called in the exterminator two or three times and they can’t find a nest, so we’re not sure if there’s a nest up there or if they just get in the building.” Bees, unlike silverfish, are directly harmful to humans; their stings can be very painful—and in some cases, deadly if the stung individual is allergic to bee stings. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, five percent of the population of the United States is allergic to insect stings.

Silverfish, among other creatures, will probably always be living at West; it’s simply impossible to eradicate every one of them. Fortunately, the small insects appear to be a nuisance at worst.

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