3 Noteworthy MLB Pest Experiences
With the MLB World Series currently in its fourth game, baseball fans everywhere are watching with both anticipation and bleakness. Anticipation to see who will take home the title, and bleakness over this being the last occurrence of major league baseball until Spring Training heats up in a few months. Although the baseball season takes some time off until the weather is more suitable, one season that does not seem to have a beginning and end is pest season.
They are certainly more active in spring and summer, coincidentally lining up with baseball season, but pests are still an issue in fall and winter when they invade for warm shelter. They just seem to be more prevalent during the warmer months because they are energized with the sunshine. This explains why there have been so many strange occurrences of pests interfering with baseball in humorous or intimidating ways over the years. Let’s look at three recent examples of strange pests incidents in the big leagues and why these could have possibly happened in the middle of nail-biting games.
Bee swarms are not just a problem for cartoons and children’s stories. There are a number of reasons why a bee colony would decide to swarm an area, but that doesn’t mean we want to be anywhere near them when it happens. Such was the case when a massive bee swarm interrupted a 2014 matchup between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Since the game took place during the Spring Training season, bees were emerging to gather nectar and pollen while simultaneously expanding their colonies. This may have been why a swarm gathered enough steam to finally cause a game delay in the third inning. Left fielder Mike Carp notified the umpires of a nightmarish bee swarm around the left field fence, an insect gathering far too large to ignore for the sake of the game.
Since umpires understandably do not have the equipment to deal with a massive bee swarm, they had the grounds crew handle the situation head-on. The brave staff sprayed an impressive amount of an unknown insecticide all over the area, causing the insects to gradually disperse and fly off to wherever they could find safety. But in case this did not work as intended, one quick-thinking player had a backup plan straight out of a storybook. Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira emerged from the clubhouse with two bottles of honey, one in each hand. He claimed that drawing lines of honey from the field to the parking lot would lead the bees outside the stadium. When asked how he possibly found two full bottles of honey in a baseball clubhouse, Teixeira simply said that he always knew where the honey was in a new stadium since he loved the treat so much.
Why Did Pests Invade the Game? Since this game took place in the middle of spring, it makes sense that bees would be swarming at this time. Bees overwinter in various ways, depending on the species, so they are ready to go by the time the spring sunshine defrosts the flora and fauna. Honeybees overwinter in their hive together to conserve heat, while other bee species just have their queen and drones survive the winter to begin reproducing in the spring. It is unclear which species of bees swarmed this Spring Training game, but most bees have the same reasons for suddenly swarming. It could have been that their hive was in the stadium and currently being disturbed by the game taking place, so the territorial bees decided to use some intimidation tactics. Another potential reason is that the specific area they swarmed housed a lot of flowering plants with plenty of nectar for the bees. Worker bees are devoted to gathering nectar and pollen to bring to their hive, so this could have been the ultimate foraging. No matter why these bees decided to gather in a cloud, it is probably for the best that they left before Mark Teixeira poured out some honey on the field.
Moths are overall harmless pests that just like to swarm lights when the sun is below the horizon, but they can quickly become a problem if that swarm grows in number. A 2014 regular season game between the Cardinals and the Phillies had already undergone a long rain delay by the time the moths caused problems. Normally, rain causes flying pests to take cover until it ends in order to prevent their wings from becoming too soaked to use. But these moths persevered through the moisture and swarmed everything from the massive stadium lights to the reflection of the beams on the players’ jerseys. The athletes played through it for as long as they could, but the constant swarm of moths did not get any better with the deepening darkness.
Imagine the feeling of an insect accidentally flying in your face or landing on you, multiply that by about fifty, and that seems to be what these players were dealing with while trying to play a game of baseball. Players, umpires, coaches, and the rest of the staff made a habit out of swatting moths away in between pitches and plays. The benefit of being a player in the infield or outfield is that they could move around and try to keep the moths from landing on them as a temporary resting place. Arguably the worst place to be, besides maybe pitching, was catching. This is why Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina came out of each inning with more moths splattered on his mask than anyone would prefer. Catchers have to deal with all kinds of flying insects making their way into the mask, but this was a ridiculous amount. Molina said this moth population was the worst he’s ever had to play in, and we believe him without a doubt.
Why Did Pests Invade the Game? The answer for this one seems a bit more obvious than others. We know that moths love light, so it makes sense that they would flock to a place with multiple bright, tall lights over a grassy field. Moths are also pollinators, so they like to be near vegetation for their food as much as possible. But moths do not just go to light sources for the fun of it. They use the moon for their directional patterns, meaning they fly under the moon to know where they are going as a compass of sorts. Moths flock to artificial lights because they confuse them for the moon and immediately dart around to keep the massive light above them. And since moths of all kinds do this, they can also find their mate near the lights and reproduce to fulfill the purpose of their short lives. As to why they would swoop so low that they annoy all of the players and staff, it was likely because they were either looking for some food in the field or they were attracted to the lights reflecting off of the bright white jerseys. Or, even more likely, both were reasons why moths would dare to bug (literally) these athletes.
This recent incident is less of a swarm issue and more of an insect taking an interest in being a part of the game. A 2021 game between the Nationals and the Phillies was progressing normally as the daylight lessened and the night sky developed, until one player suddenly gained a new teammate. Nationals outfielder Victor Robles was minding his business in the dugout during the eighth inning, when the cameras highlighted a massive praying mantis perched on his hat! It is unclear when this insect first landed or if anyone around him noticed, but the TV commentators had a great time joking about the size of this beast. One said that it looked like a character from the movie series Men in Black, and we can’t say we disagree.
The mantid did not seem to be bothered by the events of the game when it continued to hang out on Robles’ hat as he took his position in center field. It even crawled to the brim to get a closer look at what was happening, and possibly say hello to his new friend. Robles seemed unfazed by the monster on his hat, even taking time to make it feel like part of the team. After he held up his pointer finger to his teammates, indicating there was one out, Robles looked up to his new teammate and held up his finger and glove to make sure the mantis knew how many outs they had. The pest flew away at some point during this inning, but hopefully it gained a new understanding of the game and the excitement of getting an out while in the field.
Why Did Pests Invade the Game? Mantids, despite their terrifying size, are actually one of the most harmless pests to humans. They only come near us when they think there is a chance they can get some food. The praying mantis got its name from the position it holds while staying perfectly still and waiting for an unsuspecting pest to venture in front of them. The mantis will then strike with its sharp forearms and pierce the insect before taking it away to devour it. They can fly, hence why this one managed to land on a six-foot-tall athlete, but they typically only use this skill when they are searching for their next hideout. This famous mantis may have decided that Robles’ hat was the perfect place to wait for other insects to fly close enough to grab, but it doesn’t seem like the mantis was successful in its hunt.
Whether the Phillies or Astros win the 2022 World Series, you can be sure that pests will continue to make an appearance in future baseball games. Between the bright lights, the hydrated field, and the delicious ballpark food, it’s no wonder that insects and critters love the stadiums for more than the game. Even though our houses don’t have all of the appeal of a professional baseball field, pests still like to makes our homes their own. They can make their nests in the forgotten corners and take our food to feed their ever-growing colonies. But no matter what season it is, Bel-O technicians are prepared to tackle all kinds of pest problems! Our treatments are tailored to address pest concerns as thoroughly as possible, and we are committed to leaving you with a pest-free home after every visit. Contact our team to learn how we can solve your pest issues faster than the pinch runner can steal second on a wild pitch.
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