Scale insects can kill trees but are supposed to be harmless to humans. Yes, they’re parasites, but they don’t suck our blood or live inside us. But that doesn’t mean they can’t hurt us, indirectly. And as the planet keeps getting hotter, they will. As a new study shows, these tree-attacking insects thrive in hotter places — which, soon enough, will be everywhere.
The study, led by North Carolina State University entomologist Emily Meineke, looked at the abundance of scale insects on trees in Raleigh. They found that the bugs were “13 times more abundant on willow oak trees in the hottest parts” of the city, because the heat was encouraging outbreaks.
The scary part, though, is that, soon enough, all of Raleigh will resemble what are now the “hottest parts of Raleigh.” And eventually, even the cooler countryside will feel like the hot center of a city. io9 writes:
Cities warm more quickly than rural areas, but Meineke and her colleagues warn in their paper that the conditions in Raleigh will soon spread to wild forests as well. If insects overwhelm trees in these areas, all the animals who depend on those trees will become vulnerable.
This is how mass extinctions begin …
So, no, these bugs will not harm you. They’ll just kill the trees and all of the animals that depend on them, which can’t bode well for humans, either.
Cities of the Future Will Be Swarming With These Insects, io9.