A Guide To Common Pest Identification In North Texas
North Texas experiences pest pressures that are unique from other parts of the country. If you’ve found a pest in your home or business that you’re unfamiliar with or want more information about, you’ve come to the right place. Our pest library provides information about all the pests most likely to infest Texas homes and businesses.
There are more than 1,000 species of ants living throughout the United States. In our area of North Texas, the most common species of ants are Pharaoh ants, fire ants, sugar ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, raspberry ants, and carpenter ants. Each species has unique behaviors, appearance, nesting preferences, and food preferences; most are simply annoying to have around our homes, while others bite or sting, and some spread diseases that make people ill.
Ants are fascinating insects that live and work together as one to care for the colony. Ants divide their members into different groups, or castes – each with its own job to help the colony succeed. Fertile males are solely responsible for mating with the queen(s), and usually die soon after. The queen's only job is to lay eggs and produce more ants to increase the colony's size. Making up the largest number of ants in the colony are the workers. The workers are responsible for defending and gathering food for the entire colony, caring for the developing larvae, and maintaining/expanding the nest. Worker ants are the ants you are most likely to see wandering around your yard and kitchen.
The reason ants invade any home or business is, they have discovered multiple sources of food. Ants forage for food in garbage cans, recycling bins, pet food bowls, compost piles, and garden areas. No matter the species, they should always be kept out of our homes to prevent them from contaminating our food and surfaces with their excrement and the bacteria they carry on their bodies and legs.
Tips to prevent ants: Keep ants off your property by eliminating their access to food. Keep tight-fitting covers on trash cans, recycling bins, and compost bins. Pick up uneaten pet food, maintain garden areas, and keep outdoor eating areas free of food debris. Remove standing water from your property that attracts moisture seeking ants. Keep ants out of your home by sealing up cracks in the foundation and exterior walls. Place weatherstripping around windows and doors, place mesh covers over vents, and repair screens that are loose or torn.
Cockroaches are primitive, adaptable insects, and are pests that no home or business owners want on their properties. The good news is, most species of cockroaches worldwide live away from people, and cause us no harm. Cockroaches have flat, oval-shaped bodies with six spine-covered legs, and two long antennae; most cockroaches have wings, but are not known for being great flyers. The bad news is, cockroaches that do live near us cause us big problems! The most common species of cockroaches that live in our area of Texas are the American cockroach, German cockroach, brown-banded cockroach, smokey brown cockroach, and Oriental cockroach.
Cockroaches are scavengers and feed on a variety of both food and non-food items. Before finding their way into our homes or businesses, they were living and traveling outside in some very unsanitary places, including garbage dumps, sewers, and drains. When they move indoors, they bring with them a large number of bacteria, human pathogens, and parasites and can contaminate food and surfaces.
Other problems associated with cockroaches include triggering allergies, causing asthma attacks, creating unpleasant odors, and causing damage to personal items like clothing, walls, upholstery, and curtains. Unfortunately, a cockroach infestation can occur at any time of the year. They find their way inside through entry points that they find. Cockroaches also move into homes by hitchhiking inside used appliances, furniture, or in deliveries.
Tips to prevent cockroaches: Keep cockroaches out of your home or business by sealing up cracks in the foundation and exterior walls. Place mesh covers over vents and drains leading into your home, and place door sweeps on exterior doors. Get rid of as many sources of food as possible by placing tight-fitting lids on trash cans and compost bins. Always store food in the refrigerator or inside containers with airtight lids. Fix dripping pipes and use dehumidifiers to keep the basement dry and humidity levels down.
A type of true fly, mosquitoes belong to the order Diptera; however, mosquitoes have scales covering their wings, while other flies do not. Other physical features of the mosquito include a small, narrow, oval-shaped body; six long, thin legs; and a proboscis – an elongated piercing mouthpart.
Both male and female mosquitoes use their long thin proboscis to feed. Females use it to pierce the skin of their host to consume a blood meal. Males and females also use the proboscis to feed on plant nectar, which is their primary food source. Mosquitoes are attracted to properties with lots of dense vegetation for them to rest in and areas of standing water on which females can lay their eggs.
Mosquitoes are a big problem for people living in Texas. These biting pests can ruin any outdoor event, driving people indoors and preventing them from enjoying their outdoor space. Female mosquitoes bite people and animals in order to get the protein needed to produce their eggs. Their bites are not only annoying, but leave behind red welts that, depending on the person, can become very large and itchy. Female mosquitoes feed on a variety of hosts and can carry and transmit a wide range of diseases and parasites that make people and our pets ill. Biting mosquitoes are dangerous pests, and you should always take measures to reduce their numbers and avoid contact with them.
Tips to prevent mosquitoes: Get rid of standing water from your property by storing containers that can collect water upside down, filling in low-lying areas in your yard and driveway, and keeping gutters free of debris. Empty and refill pet water bowls, wading pools, and bird baths daily. Reduce mosquito resting spots on your property by cutting the grass short and removing overgrown vegetation. Keep mosquitoes out of your home by keeping windows and doors shut as much as possible and repairing loose or ripped screens. Limit the amount of flowering vegetation planted on your property, especially close to the exterior walls of your home. When outside, wear mosquito repellent – especially when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk.
Occasional invaders are, as their name implies, those pests that occasionally invade our yards and homes. Spending most of their time outside, occasional invaders move into homes and other structures to escape unsuitable weather conditions. More often than not, occasional invaders cause no significant problems. However, they do invade in large numbers, are annoying, sometimes damage personal property, and are hard to eliminate. Crickets and beetles are examples of occasional invaders living throughout North Texas.
Crickets, beetles, and other occasional invaders move into homes during periods of harsh weather but also find their way inside while searching for food. Most occasional invaders live in similar habitats such as in the damp soil that surrounds the foundation or is near our homes. They live under landscape ties, mulch, fallen trees, in gardens, and similar areas. After moving into our homes while seeking refuge or looking for food, they congregate in areas that mimic their outdoor environments. Our bathrooms, basements, laundry rooms, and crawlspaces often become home to occasional invaders.
Tips to prevent occasional invaders: Place a barrier between any soil or mulch and your home's foundation. Keep the soil around the perimeter of your house dry by cutting back overgrown vegetation and making sure gutters are working and directing water away from the outside of your home. Seal up cracks in the foundation and place door sweeps on exterior doors to help eliminate entry points. Reduce the humidity levels in your house by fixing leaking pipes and using dehumidifiers and air conditioners.
Spiders are arachnids – not insects – and so have eight legs, two body parts, and fangs. They are wingless, and also lack antennae. Spiders are predators that hunt and feed on a variety of insects and other spiders. Their feeding habits help to control the populations of nuisance pests. While many people are scared of spiders, the truth is that these leggy creatures are generally shy and reclusive. They want to stay away from us just as much as we want to stay away from them!
All spiders have venom, but most of the spiders we come across don't have venom that is strong enough to cause us harm. Nuisance spiders that live in our area are orb-weaver spiders and wolf spiders. There are, however, a couple of species of dangerous spiders living in our area that we need to be aware of: brown recluse spiders and black widow spiders. These and other dangerous spiders have venom strong enough to cause health problems in people that should be managed by a health professional.
Spiders are most attracted to properties that offer them plenty of food. Spiders feed on insects, and tall grasses, dense vegetation, woodpiles, and gardens attract both insects and spiders. Spiders mainly live outside but do find their way into our homes, usually while hunting or seeking a safe place to lay their eggs. Inside, spiders live in low traffic areas like basements, attics, closets, under furniture, in cabinets, and the corners of windows and doors. Spiders living inside of our homes are annoying to deal with, and sometimes dangerous – and many species leave behind unsightly webs that we have to remove.
Tips to prevent spiders: Make your outdoor space less attractive to spiders by removing excess piles of debris, keeping the grass cut short, and eliminating overgrown shrubs. To keep spiders out of your house, seal up cracks in the foundation and exterior walls. Place mesh covers over vents and seal spaces around utilities (wire/pipes) entering your home. Reduce hiding spots in your home by keeping basements, closets, and other storage areas organized and free of debris. Knockdown spider webs as soon as you notice them, this will annoy the spiders and make them want to move to a new location. Replace white outdoor lightbulbs with yellow or LED lights; they are less attractive to the insects that spiders prey upon.
Termites are a type of wood-eating pest, and subterranean termites are the most common species to invade structures across Texas and the entire country. These termites have high moisture needs and nest in damp soil under the ground. Subterranean termites do not live within the pieces of wood they are feeding on; they move back and forth from their nest to a food source each day.
Termites are not dangerous to people, but they are extremely dangerous to our structures. They enter into our home without us noticing and feed on its structural wood day and night. It is typically only after the damage is done that we even notice their presence. Termites feed on the cellulose in wood and other plant matter. Subterranean termites prefer to feed on wood that is decaying or damaged by water.
Termites are social insects and work together to maintain their colonies. Termite larvae develop into three different types of termite; each group, or caste, within a termite colony has its own appearance and job description. Worker termites are responsible for gathering food for the colony. They have soft, wingless, cream-colored bodies, and are blind. The soldiers defend the colony and look like the workers, but have strong jaws and elongated, yellow heads. The reproductive members of a termite colony are the only members that have wings and are able to reproduce. They are larger than the workers and soldiers, and are dark brown to black.
Tips to prevent termites: Subterranean termites gravitate to areas of moisture. Eliminate excess water and reduce humidity levels in your home by ensuring gutters are working, fixing leaky pipes, ventilating crawlspaces, and using dehumidifiers. Replace any wood in your home that is damaged by water. Remove sources of food from your yard that could attract termites such as fallen trees, tree stumps, excess woodpiles, and leaf piles. Replace wood mulch with a non-organic option. Keep termites out of your home by sealing up cracks in the foundation and getting rid of wood to soil contact on your property.
While most spiders that you encounter are relatively harmless, some spider infestations pose greater risks than others. Knowing what you can do to reduce the likelihood of invasion can help you make sure your property doesn’t become a hunting ground for black widows.... Read More
I’m not a big fan of bugs in general. Honestly, just writing about them kind of makes my skin crawl. So when I see a cricket in my house, I usually jump in surprise and let out a rather high-pitched scream (which never fails to elicit some sort of ribbing from my wife).... Read More
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