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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Friday 15:00
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 20 September
PRESENTER
TOM HEAP
Tom Heap
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Thursday 20 September 2007
Cockroach
Sharing your home? The cockroach



The Bugs Bite Back

Rubbing along with insects has been mankind’s lot for most of our history but in recent decades, chemicals and cleanliness have kept them at bay. Now, however, it seems we’ve dropped our guard. Changes to our world and the way we live in it are letting the bugs back in. Mosquitoes, ticks and bedbugs are all on the increase and experts say the fight to control them is getting harder. This wet summer has seen a surge in the numbers of mosquitoes breeding in pools of rainwater. Native species of mosquito are harmless, but there are now increasing fears that our changing climate could make it possible for some disease carrying exotic species to take up residence on our shores. A group of health professionals and insect specialists have set up Mosquito Watch to record different types of mosquito around the UK. They’re especially on the look out for the Asian Tiger Mosquito which can play host to potentially fatal diseases such as Dengue Fever and West Nile virus. Academic and entymologist Dr. Moray Anderson points to the danger of imported car tyres from the Far East harbouring mosquito larvae, which can survive for months in the dry warm interior. It’s then a simple case, says Dr. Anderson, of ‘add water and activate’. Efforts have also been stepped up to monitor mosquito activity around airports to guard against malarial mosquitoes hitching a ride on incoming flights from the Tropics. Climate change is thought to be responsible for a new arrival in Britain - the Oak Processionary moth, a highly toxic creature that can cause severe allergic reactions to humans coming into contact with it at the caterpillar stage. So far the moth has only been found in west London, but as it’s deadly to trees, the Forestry Commission is putting a huge effort into trying to eradicate it.
Tick mapping around the country is also being carried out to try and establish whether numbers are increasing. It’s believed wetter springs and autumns help them survive. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, an infection with spiral bacteria called 'Borrelia burgdorferi'. The bacteria are spread by infected ticks sucking when they attach to your skin and feed on your blood. The Health Protection Agency is sufficiently concerned to provide advice for people visiting areas of the countryside where ticks are present.
But never mind the outdoors. These days one of the biggest insect menaces is found in our homes, our own bedrooms even. It’s the common bedbug. And according to pest controller David Cain, it’s breeding rapidly, being spread on public transport through clothing and luggage. David says a lack of awareness has allowed the bedbug to establish and breed undetected across London, and now in many parts of the UK.
Experts fear many insects are developing resistance to insecticides, and with fewer at their disposal due to tightening laws on chemical use, the battle against the bugs is far from won.
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