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carpenter ants on damaged wood

A Guide To Common Pest Identification In Austin, Texas

This guide will help you determine which pests are bothering you and your family. Listed below are some of our area's most common pests that invade our homes and yards. The following information will help you to prevent problems with common pests, protecting your family and property from danger and damage.

Ants

an ant outside a home

Ants are a type of insect that have three distinct body regions (head, thorax, and abdomen). They also have six legs and a pair of bent antennae, while the reproductives (queens and males) have wings.

There are more than 10,000 species of ants living worldwide. Some species of ants like Pharaoh ants, fire ants, and carpenter ants are considered dangerous. Pharaoh ants spread serious diseases, fire ants deliver painful bites and stings, and carpenter ants damage the structural integrity of buildings. Other species like the acrobatic ant, sugar ant, and crazy ant are considered nuisance pests and pose no significant threat to people or property.

Ants find their way into our yards and homes while searching for food. Gardens, compost, recycling bins, trash cans, outdoor eating areas, and pet food often attract them in the first place. Once comfortable feeding in our yards, it is only a matter of time before they'll find their way into our homes while searching for more food. They'll move inside through cracks and crevices in the foundation or exterior walls. Once inside, ants often decide to stay and build a satellite nest behind walls, under floors, or above ceilings. Ants, no matter the species, should always be eliminated from your home quickly because they contaminate food, spread bacteria, and sometimes cause structural damage.

Ant Prevention Tips

  • Eliminate entry points by using caulk to seal cracks in the foundation, exterior walls, and spaces around utilities coming into your home.

  • Get rid of their access to food by placing tight-fitting lids on trash cans, keep outdoor eating areas clean, and maintain gardens.

  • Keep food out of their reach by storing it in the refrigerator or airtight containers.

  • Limit nesting areas in your yard by cutting back overgrown vegetation, removing excess piles of wood and rocks, and getting rid of fallen trees and tree stumps.

Bed Bugs

a bed bug on a bed

So-named because they often hide in cracks and crevices near or in our beds during the day, bed bugs are pests that strike fear in any homeowner. Bed bugs are wingless insects with flat, oval-shaped bodies; adults are about 3/16 of an inch long and are reddish-brown. Despite their inability to fly or jump, they easily move across states, countries, and oceans by hitchhiking on people or their belongings.

Bed bugs are ectoparasites, meaning they feed on blood from the outside of the host's body. Their favorite host is humans, but if we are not available they will also feed on other animals, including our pets. Blood is the bed bug's only source of food. Since we are their favorite food source, bed bugs live wherever there are people. In addition to our homes, they hide out and live in hotels, libraries, shopping centers, movie theaters, museums, schools, hospitals, airports, and other public places.

Bed Bug Prevention Tips

  • When traveling, inspect your hotel or rental space for signs of bed bugs before bringing personal belongings inside.

  • Reduce hiding spots in your home by placing bed bug proof protective covers over mattresses and box springs.

  • Keep personal belongings up off the ground while at work, schools, or in any public location.

  • Eliminate clutter from your home where bed bugs can hide.

  • Regularly vacuum floors and the seams of upholstered furniture, box springs, and mattresses.

Cockroaches

a cockroach on a deck chair

Cockroaches are ancient pests that have survived the test of time by being extremely adaptable. Over time, some species have come to rely on people to provide them with food and shelter. The German cockroach is a good example of a roach that has adapted to living with people. These roaches prefer to live indoors and are a major pest inside homes, restaurants, schools, warehouses, and other buildings where food is prepared or stored.

Cockroaches find their way into homes or businesses while foraging for food or by hitchhiking in bags, used furniture, appliances, electronics, or potted plants. Once inside, they create many problems for home and business owners. Cockroaches contaminate food and surfaces with pathogens and parasites they carry on their body and legs, and their shed skins and excrement trigger allergies and asthma attacks. They chew on and leave behind a foul-smelling substance on upholstered furniture, curtains, and items made of paper. As you can see, cockroaches are a pest that should never be allowed to live near or with people for long!

Cockroach Prevention Tips

  • Inspect your home's exterior and repair any openings you find.

  • Place mesh covers over drains or vents leading into your home.

  • Keep tight-fitting lids on trash cans, store food in the fridge or containers with airtight lids, and pick up your pet's uneaten food.

  • Use dehumidifiers to reduce moisture levels in your house.

  • Keep cabinets and other storage areas free of clutter where cockroaches can hide.

Mosquitoes

a mosquito on a plant

Adult mosquitoes are small, fly-like insects with a slender body and long thin legs. Mosquitoes thrive in hot, humid, wet weather, and female mosquitoes lay their eggs in areas of standing water. The more rainwater there is to pool, the more mosquitoes there will be. Common breeding sites include buckets, flower pots, drainage ditches, ponds, marshes, wading pools, and low lying areas in driveways and lawns.

Female mosquitoes bite people and animals to feed on their blood and gain the required protein needed to make their eggs. The bites that they deliver are painful, and they leave behind itchy, red welts. The itchy bite sites are prone to infection, especially in young kids. Their feeding habits also give them the ability to spread many diseases and parasites to both people and animals. In the United States, mosquitoes spread diseases like the West Nile virus and encephalitis.

Avoiding contact with mosquitoes and taking steps to limit their numbers on your property is essential in order to protect the health and safety of your family and friends.

Mosquito Prevention Tips

  • Eliminate standing water from your property by storing containers that can collect water upside down when not in use.

  • Fill in low-lying areas on your property that collect rainwater.

  • Do not overwater potted plants.

  • Refill wading pools, birdbaths, and your pet's water bowl with fresh water.

  • Limit the amount of flowering vegetation planted near your home's exterior.

  • Keep wandering mosquitoes out of your house by repairing any loose or missing window or door screens.

Rodents

a mouse outside of a home

Field mice, Norway rats, and roof rats are types of rodents that often find their way onto our properties. Over time, our habitats have come to overlap the habitats of mice, rats, and other rodents. Since they have come to live so close to us, they somewhat rely on us for food, water, and shelter. Rodents have learned to forage for food from open trash cans, compost bins, pet food, and gardens. They've also found that our homes provide them with access to more food and safe places to build their nests, protected from both predators and harsh weather conditions.

Rodents are unwelcome house guests because they carry and spread a wide variety of diseases such as hantavirus, leptospirosis, rat-bite fever, salmonellosis, and more. Inside of our homes, they will contaminate food and surfaces with their urine, saliva, and feces. Rodents are also very destructive pests because of their constant need to chew. They prevent their front incisors from overgrowing by gnawing on anything they come across; in our homes, this means wires, pipes, cables, drywall, flooring, furniture, and almost anything else they come across.

Rodent Prevention Tips

  • Remove bird feeders, pick up uneaten pet food, and place locking lids on trash cans and recycling bins.

  • Keep outdoor eating areas free of food debris.

  • Eliminate entry points by sealing up cracks in the foundation, exterior walls, and roofline. Also, seal spaces around utilities that enter into your home.

  • Cut back trees, bushes, and overgrown vegetation from your home's exterior walls and foundation.

Stinging Insects

a wasp outside of a home

Stinging insects are pests with venom-filled stingers that they use to paralyze prey or defend themselves. Common examples of stinging insects include wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. Stinging insects can be harmful to people because their venom is strong enough to cause allergic reactions or anaphylaxis in those allergic to their venom.

When stinging insects live outside away from people, they are beneficial and wanted pests. They help to pollinate plants, and predatory species keep populations of nuisance insects in check. However, when they decide to nest in our yards and close to our homes, they become unwanted, dangerous pests.

Our yards, unfortunately, make excellent habitats for stinging insects. They provide plenty of places to build their nests such as trees, tree branches, chimney, utility poles, and bushes. They also place nests under roof eaves, decks, and behind window shutters or wood shingles. Ground nesters, such as yellow jackets, nest in tree stumps, under fallen trees, in holes in the ground, or the abandoned nests of small animals. In addition to nesting sites, flowering trees and plants, gardens, open trash cans, and compost areas where they can feed and hunt draw stinging insects.

Stinging Insect Prevention Tips

  • Trim tree branches away from the exterior of your home and remove overgrown vegetation or piles of debris from your property to reduce nesting sites.

  • Repair openings in the roofline, gaps in the exterior walls, and repair ripped screens to keep stinging insects out of your home.

  • Limit the amount of flowering vegetation planted near your home's exterior.

  • Keep lids on trash cans and compost bins and keep outdoor eating areas free of food debris to limit their access to food on your property.

Termites

a termite crawling on damaged wood

The most widespread type of termite living across the United States is the subterranean termite. As their name suggests, they nest under the ground. Subterranean termites feed on wood structures and are most attracted to pieces of wood that are decaying or have been previously damaged by water. Worker termites leave the nest each day to forage for food to feed the colony. As they are moving through the soil, they often accidentally find their way into homes and other structures through cracks in the foundation or pieces of wood that are making direct contact with the soil. Once inside, they are attracted to and begin feeding on the interior of damaged structural wood.

Termites typically enter into homes and other buildings at ground level, first feeding on wood under the floor or behind the walls. Over time, they will move up the walls and begin attacking wood located above ceilings. Termites are referred to as "silent invaders" because they work for long periods before their damage is finally observed. Termite damage can become extensive and therefore expensive to repair. Also, most homeowners' insurance doesn't cover damages caused by termites.

Termite Prevention Tips

  • Prevent rainwater from seeping into your home's walls by cleaning gutters and placing weatherstripping around windows and doors.

  • Use dehumidifiers to reduce moisture levels in your home and ventilate crawl spaces. Replace wood in your house damaged by water.

  • Remove fallen trees, tree stumps, and leaf piles from your property.

  • Leave a barrier of at least 12-18 inches between the soil and your home's foundation.

  • Replace traditional mulch with a non-organic option.

To learn more about our home pest control or commercial pest control, reach out to the experts here at Bella Bugs today!

 

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