Naomi Wilkinson continues her global search for nightmares of the natural world. This time she heads to the largest city in the US - New York.
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Welcome to my Nightmares of Nature.
I'm Naomi Wilkinson
and I'm coming face-to-face with the nightmares of the animal world.
The ones that make your spine tingle...
..your heart beat faster...
..and your blood run cold.
Are they truly terrifying?
Or is there a twist in the tale?
Come with me as I shine a light on wildlife's deepest, darkest secrets.
And see if you can guess which will be my worst nightmare.
Like all nightmare adventures this one will be full of action
and packed with critters that make your toes curl,
but I'm not in the wilds this time.
Quite the opposite.
I'm in the largest city in America.
New York, baby!
Home of glitz, glamour and showbiz.
Not an ideal place to look for nightmare wildlife, you might think,
but you'd be surprised!
The city of New York is on the east coast of the mighty US of A.
It covers an area half the size of London,
but is home to over eight million people.
With it's gazillion nooks and crannies,
tonnes of rubbish
and green spaces,
it offers a great opportunity for any animal
who is up for chancing his luck in the biggest of big smokes.
We're on the trail of New York's hidden nightmares.
I'll be scaling the heights in search for a buzzing swarm,
joining some prehistoric monsters on a night-time beach safari...
It's like an alien, isn't it?
..and meeting some blood sucking critters
that are taking New York by storm.
-It's filling up with your blood and I can see it.
Now, this is how I like to arrive at a nightmare destination.
Only Brooklyn Bridge.
This nightmare of nature emerges
when darkness falls on the city of New York.
They rampage through people's houses.
They terrorise pets.
They feast on rubbish.
My first nightmare of nature is the raccoon.
Oh, my gosh. There's a racoon walking towards me.
'There are estimated to be over 30,000 raccoons
'living in New York city...
Huh! Oh, oh, oh!
'..more than twice the concentration found
-'in the surrounding countryside...'
'..moving into bath tubs,
'..and destroying people's houses.
'These city slickers are fast becoming New York's most wanted.
'I'm heading to a centre where problem raccoons
'are rehabilitated and then released into the wild.
'I want to see first-hand
'if these rascally raccoons deserve their bad boy reputation.
'The centre is run by Kelly...'
'..and the raccoon I'm here to meet is called Digby.'
'Digby has been with Kelly for two years.
'She's blind and so can't be released into the wild.'
-It's right here. It's right here.
-Please don't eat my finger.
Don't move fast. Calm down, Naomi.
-Oh, she's snappy, isn't she?
-Hold it as little as possible.
-Put as much out as you can.
Good grief, man, you're scary.
Right here. Right here. It's right here.
No, that's a finger.
There we are.
So this shows very clearly why it's a problem
when raccoons come into contact with people in the city.
Humans just don't understand they have claws, they have fangs
and their only way to defend themselves is to bite and claw.
How come they come and live in people's houses?
They like to live in dark, quiet areas.
But they'll break in, will they? Like a little burglar?
They'll peel off the siding. They'll chew through,
and you can see how sharp their teeth are,
and those hands are so dextrous they can pretty much manipulate anything.
'It's not just their dexterity that makes them nightmare neighbours.
'They have sharp teeth and claws,
'used in the wild for digging and cracking nuts.
'A great sense of smell helps them find food
'and unshakable bravery,
'despite their size.'
That gave me a fright.
Easy, easy, easy.
'Time to give Digby some space
'and she has certainly shown me
'why combining a city full of people
'and a high concentration of raccoons is a recipe for disaster.
'But Kelly is going to show me another side
'to this masked bandit
'and I have a feeling I'm going to like it.'
Oh, my word! One of the cutest animals ever.
..very clingy with their claws.
So this is five days old, can't really walk.
You're a raccoon mom, now. Look at that.
-I'm a raccoon mum!
-She's a racoon mom.
-Oh, my word, that was fast.
-That was fast.
Sometimes what we even do is, we kind of burp them.
Wind them? Like a baby?
-Will it burp.
-..they'll give you a little burp.
-Little raccoon burp?
BABY RACCOON BURPS
So, could the raccoon be classed as a nightmare of nature?
Well, they are intelligent, they are dextrous and they are cunning
and that enables them to live
and thrive in a city like New York
and as babies they are super cute.
But, would I want one living in my attic,
eating my rubbish
and terrorising my pet cat?
'Back in the centre of town,
'I'm off to meet some of New York's high flyers.'
This animal could be many people's idea of an ultimate
nightmare of nature.
They live in their millions,
they can inject poison strong enough to scare off a bear
and they are under the central control of an all-powerful queen!
A bit like you lot, really.
All powerful queen! Get it?
All right, not like me.
All those nightmare credentials and, to top it off, they live right here
in the centre of New York city
and, to find them, I need to get up there.
'This New York nasty obviously has a head for heights...'
-Welcome to Brooks Brothers.
-Thank you very much.
'..and men's fashion?'
Nightmare on the 10th floor.
The nightmare contender I'm here to see is the honeybee.
'The honeybee is found all over the world.
'They exist in colonies with one queen
'and tens of thousands of workers.
'Any creature approaching a bees' nest
'runs the gauntlet of thousands of stings.
'Their sharp sting punctures the skin and then rips out of
'the honeybee's body, still pulsating to inject the maximum dose of venom.
'The sting also releases an attack pheromone,
'which triggers other bees to join in.
'Don't be fooled by their love of flowers.
'These coordinated, toxic flying machines
'have all the credentials to be my worst nightmare.'
To meet these mini marauders I'm going to need
some special clothing,
so I need to put on my bee suit.
Give me a minute. I'll just get changed.
Ta-da! Check me out in my bee suit. Bzz.
-Oh, no. I thought you meant this sort. You didn't?
I'm a bit embarrassed now.
So now that I'm kitted out properly,
I'm going to meet a man who's looking after thousands of bees
on the top of this sky scraper.
'I need to get to the bottom of how millions of creatures with such
'impressive nightmare credentials can live in a place like New York.'
-Hello, Andrew. Good to meet you.
-Good to meet you, too.
-Why are there bees here?
-Because I put them here.
But why in New York?
It may seem strange to have bees on top of a building in New York city
but, really, it's a natural place for them to be.
There's plenty of food around for them.
Central Park is just a few blocks that way.
These bees can fly for three miles in every direction and they do.
-So there's no problem?
They're very happy little cosmopolitan bees
living in Gotham City.
'It's time to meet these city-dwelling bees.
'Approaching a hive is something you should only do
'if accompanied by an expert like Andrew
and wearing the right gear.'
Look at all those bees!
-There are a lot of bees around us.
-A lot of bees.
What could happen if you get stung?
Potentially, if a person is anaphylactic, they could have a
very negative reaction.
It could be as bad as death,
but we're talking about someone who's highly allergic
to the venom of the honeybee.
That person is probably aware that she or he is anaphylactic
and carries around an epipen.
'So you could die from the sting of a honeybee,
'but that's worst-case scenario
'and for most of us a sting will just give us a bit of pain
'and some swelling.'
So they can be aggressive
but they'd only do that to protect their food or their young?
You know, if you leave the bees alone
they're going to leave you alone.
Now they could swarm,
which is when about one-third of these bees, maybe ten to 20,000
go together in a group and land on a tree branch or...
-Down in the city?
What are they doing when they swarming?
They're looking for a new home.
'Andrew is no stranger to swarming bees.
'Any swarm in the city of New York
'and he's the first port of call.
'But he also knows that a swarm isn't as dangerous as many
'people might think.'
Swarms are docile. They are harmless,
They have no hive to defend. They're unlikely to sting.
So, if you see a swarm, you don't need to panic.
They're just looking for a place to live.
They are just trying to get by in the world, Naomi, like you and me.
-Oh, there's the honeycomb.
-There's the honeycomb and...
Oh, and all the honey. How do they make honey?
They suck up a bunch of nectar,
spit it into the mouth of one of their sisters,
who spits it into another bee's mouth.
-Back and forth, back and forth.
-Literally. they pass it from one bee to the other...
..in their mouths?
And then they'll "Eurgh" it into one of these chambers?
Well, let's not think of it that way.
So, understanding bees a little bit better.
If we give them some space. they don't pose us any threat
and I do love honey!
But, on the other hand,
they can sting and could potentially cause a human serious harm.
So, could I call the honeybee my worst nightmare?
'With my feet back on solid ground
'I'm on the hunt for a prehistoric monster of the deep.'
My next nightmare contender has been around
since before the dinosaurs and only comes out on a new or full moon.
They spend almost all their lives unseen in the depths of the ocean,
but on a night like tonight
they drag themselves up this beach on the edge of New York city.
The animal I'm hoping to find
is the horseshoe crab.
Luckily, we have an expert to help us with our hunt.
Over there in the water, that's Matt.
He monitors the horseshoe crabs around the city of New York
so hopefully he'll be able to help us find one.
Are the conditions good today?
Yeah, they're perfect actually. There's a really nice new moon.
There's a very good chance that we'll find them.
All right, well, let's go searching, I'll try and help you.
Have you got any top tips on how I find them?
Basically, you're going to look for a kind of dome shape animal.
-A dome shaped...
'And It doesn't take us long to find our first clue.'
-Ah, we know we're in the right place.
'Discarded horseshoe crab shells.'
-Oh, that one's got a big... tail?
-That is the tail.
Wow. What does it use that for?
So, this tail is actually... It looks kind of ominous, right?
Sort of scary? It's actually not dangerous at all.
This tail is used to help steer the animal in the water
and it is also used to help flip itself over
when it gets flipped over on the beach from the waves.
-And, er, you can feel those spines.
-Are they sharp?
-They are very sharp, so they are well protected.
Ooh, yes, ow! So finding all of these means we're in the right place?
Yeah, we're getting warmer!
Come on horseshoe crab, where are you?
-Hey, Naomi, I've found one.
-You found one?
-Come on over.
-Is it alive?
-We've found one! I don't believe it.
-There's one that's stranded.
Oh, let's have a look.
Looks like a large female that is stranded.
Oh, my word. It's one of the weirdest animals I've ever seen.
-Yeah. It's odd isn't it?
-I thought you've seen some...
I've seen some odd things but this is one of the weirdest.
'Horseshoe crabs aren't actually crabs at all.
'They're more closely related to spiders
'and scorpions than our pinchy seaside friends.'
So they are not dangerous?
They are not dangerous.
-It's not going to hurt us?
-They look it, but they are not dangerous.
There's nothing really venomous or poisonous or toxic.
Not going to hurt a human. You can feel how heavy she is.
-This looks like a...
-..pretty old female, too.
And you can see the gills.
-They look like little pages on a book.
Oh, there's hundreds of them.
Yeah, and here are the little limbs that push the food right in.
But that's its mouth, all those hairy bits?
That's right. Those are actually just kind of like bristles,
and they kind of grind up the food as they eat it.
-It's like an alien, isn't it?
-It is. It looks just like an alien.
The merostomata. That's the class it belongs to.
It literally means mouth surrounded by legs.
And that's exactly what it is.
Mouth surrounded by legs. That's a perfect description.
'On the highest spring tides,
'the beaches around New York experience an armoured,
'Horseshoe crabs leave the sea in their thousands
'to lay their eggs on land.'
Usually what happens is the female will dig into the sand.
-She lays about 4,000 eggs in the sand.
-Wow! 4,000 eggs?
So, Matt, do you think the horseshoe crab is a nightmare of nature?
I would have to say, while they look like a nightmare of nature,
I think it's actually just an incredible,
beautiful animal that's survived the test of time.
Beautiful? I challenge you on that one.
-Well, when you flip it over this way...
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-Look at it that way.
-It's a lot cuter.
So, they may be armour plated,
pretty weird looking
and prone to creeping around in the dark
but actually they are totally harmless
and really rather fascinating.
So now that I've met one,
surely I can't call the horseshoe crab a nightmare of nature.
Time to return this monster to the deep.
My next nightmare of nature is taking over New York city!
They hide in people's beds.
They hunt at night and they drink blood!
So, I'm going to find out if the average New Yorker
knows what they are.
Do you know what this is?
A nasty cockroach.
It looks like a spider.
It looks like a really big beetle.
Do you know where might live?
-In a dog?
And what do you think it's eating?
I think it eats, like, hair.
-Do you want to know what it is?
-Yeah, what is it?
-It's a bedbug.
-It's a bedbug.
'My next nightmare of nature is indeed the bedbug.
'Bedbugs are descended from cave dwelling insects that
'fed on bats but have now developed a taste for human blood!
'They thrive in places like New York
'where lots of people live close together.
'Inserting their needle-like mouth parts through the skin,
'they drink their fill.'
I've come to a lab in the centre of New York to meet a man who looks
after and researches bedbugs.
-How are you?
Ooh! I was really good until I saw that.
-Hello. Lovely to met you.
-Oh, hi. How are you?
That's on you?
That's on my finger, yes.
And she's pumping, sucking up blood.
-It's filling up with your blood and I can see it.
-When will it stop?
-When it's full.
Some of these take a few minutes
to up to ten minutes to feed, especially adults.
And you could have multiple bedbugs feeding on you at one time?
Oh, you can have one to hundreds or more on you at the same time,
depending how infested that area is, you know, where you're staying.
-Oh, they are nasty.
Why do they live in our beds?
Actually, they don't have to live in our beds
It's usually where the host, where the person, is the most.
-So they're called bedbugs but they live everywhere.
They pick up on your carbon dioxide when you exhale
and then when they're close they pick
up on the heat from your body and then they'll feed on you.
Oh, it makes me itch.
They are creepy, aren't they?
..this is on my red birth mark.
That's got to hurt, hasn't it,
if you've got lots of them biting at one time?
-No not necessarily.
If I leave them to feed for 20 minutes to half an hour then
there's 500 or 1,000 or more feeding
then I react because they've had so many feeds
so it's reddish.
You'd let 1,000 feed at one time on you?
Yeah, I do.
And they're all filling up with your blood now.
Where did it go? where did it go?
-You had one.
-I know. I'm not sure where it went.
Lost a bed bug.
Everyone's itchy. Itchy!
We're all itchy.
There it is. It's on the brush.
Phwoar. That gave me a fright.
They are a complete nightmare, aren't they?
-They are a nightmare of nature.
-Yes. They are, yes.
Are there more people without bedbugs than with?
Yes, I'd say there are.
Good. So, on the whole, most people won't have bedbugs, would you say?
Right, exactly. It's not an insect that's in everyone's home.
'Bed bugs can be controlled by using pesticides
'but the real problem is finding where they're hiding.'
No need to fear!
New York can sleep easy tonight knowing that there's a secret
weapon, that will leave bedbugs quaking in their tiny little shoes!
Ah. Hello, Trace.
Yes, that's right.
Trace the dog is New York's secret
weapon in the fight against bedbugs!
So what is it that makes Trace such a nightmare for bedbugs?
Well, Trace has been trained to sniff them out.
Right, well we're going to set Trace a bit of a challenge.
If you might take her outside to play with a ball,
I'm going to hide these two vials of bedbugs
around the place and we'll see if she can "trace" them!
-Right, off you go.
Sniff out bedbugs?
Now this I have to see!
Ha-ha. She'll never find it in there.
OK, Trace, you're going to get no clues from me
about where I've hidden them but we do want to get
"Trace camera" point of view.
So, ooh, can I pop that on your head?
Show me. Good girl.
She's found it!
Atta girl, Trace. Well done.
'All over New York,
'dogs like Trace are hunting down bedbugs.'
So do you think that Trace
and other dogs like her can have an impact on the bedbugs of New York?
They absolutely do!
Atta girl, Trace. Well done!
Well, there's no denying that bedbugs are super successful at what they do
but with their bloodsucking behaviour and creepy antics
I'd say they well and truly qualify as a nightmare of nature.
As we've seen, New York is a haven for lots of wildlife,
but it's also packed with people,
chok-a-block with cars,
it's ridiculously busy.
It could be said, it's a real nightmare FOR nature!
'Any animal living here is constantly exposed to the hazards of the city.
'and millions of people.
'It's no wonder that every year thousands of creatures
'need to be saved from the city itself.'
I'm heading out of town to a local rescue centre to meet some
of the animals who've had a complete nightmare in the city.
'I'm going to meet Hope
'who has helped thousands of animals
'recover from their injuries and return to the wild.
-Hello, I'm Naomi.
-Welcome to Wild Baby Rescue.
'Today is a special day for a group of squirrels
'who struggled to find a home in the big city.
'Far away from their forest home,
'they were found stranded in an attic.
'Hope has nursed them back to health over the winter
'and today they'll return to the wild.
'I'm joining three girl scouts
'who are earning their nature badge by helping Hope with the release.'
Right, let's watch. Are you ready?
They are so sweet looking, aren't they?
They look so cute.
-Shall we count them as they come out?
One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven.
-I wish I could climb like that.
'This forest must feel a long way from the cramped city attic
'where these squirrels were found.
'And these aren't any ordinary squirrels.'
Oh. look, look, look, look!
-Did you see it?
That's so cool!
'These are flying squirrels.'
There, there, there, there, there!
-I can't stop screeching. I'm so excited.
'They glide from tree to tree
'using flaps of skin on either side of their bodies.'
There goes another one.
It's like a little rectangle in the sky.
27 flying squirrels, flying free again!
These flying squirrels have all been a victim of a nightmare
in the city and, as far as I'm concerned,
anything that hurts something this cute
could definitely qualify to be my worst nightmare.
And you lovely girls qualify for a Naomi's Nightmares of Nature
-Girl Scout badge.
-This is amazing!
You are welcome. Hey and one for me, too!
-Yeah, you definitely deserve one.
-Happy days. Thanks.
The time has come to say, "See y'all later" to the Big Apple
and I've met some pretty nightmarish critters along the way.
But which New York resident is going to top my list?
Will it be those toxic flying machines, the honeybees?
Literally, they pass it from one bee to the other
and then they'll "Eurgh" it into one of these chambers?
Well, let's not think of it that way.
Or those rascally raccoons that have been terrorizing the city?
That gave me a fright!
This time, I am totally certain that my New York worst nightmare
just has to be those bloodsucking, bed occupying, creepy critters,
the downright disgusting
-When will it stop?
-Er, when it's full.
CAR HORN BLARES Ooh!
NAOMI AND CREW LAUGH
CAR HORN BLARES
-That was perfect.
This time she heads to the largest city in the US - New York! She scales a skyscraper in search of a buzzing swarm, tracks down a raccoon to learn first-hand why they have been terrorising the city, and meets a bloodsucking critter that's taking New York by storm. Join Naomi as she sees which city slicker will top her list.