The arrival of summer means we all get to spend more time outside, which also means we’ll have more exposure to such summer pests as mosquitoes, spiders and cockroaches. These summer bugs also like to join us indoors, so now’s the time to pest-proof your home as well as protect yourself against outdoor encounters with insects. Read on for all you need to know about the mosquitoes, spiders and cockroaches of summer.
Mosquitoes aren’t just a summer nuisance—they’re also one of the world’s most dangerous pests. Some species transmit West Nile virus and other viruses that cause encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, leading to dangerous epidemics in North America during the summer and fall. About 200 of the more than 3,000 mosquito species are found here, and they thrive in warmer temperatures. June, July and August are prime months for mosquito infestations, but their stay can start earlier and last longer the farther south you live.
The short lifecycle and preferred conditions of mosquitoes can also make them hard to control. Mosquitoes thrive and breed around small, nutrient-rich water sources as little as two to three inches deep, and complete an entire lifecycle in 10 to 16 days. So, to keep mosquitos at bay, it’s important to empty any standing water in such spots as gutters, birdbaths and flowerpots, and to thin out vegetation around your home. Using yellow light bulbs in outdoor fixtures will help keep mosquitoes from congregating on porches and patios, and well-maintained, secure window and door screens will prevent them from coming indoors.
Mosquitoes are most active in the early morning, late afternoon and early evening, so if you’ll be outdoors during those periods, take steps to protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses. Spray exposed skin with an EPA-approved insect repellent, and wear long sleeves and socks whenever possible. You can also gear up for summer activities with clothing treated with materials that repel and control mosquitoes.
Spiders are actually very beneficial in that they kill many of the very insects that bug us, like mosquitoes, cockroaches, bees and wasps. They only become dangerous when we interact with them, which is why it’s important to keep them and their food sources out of our homes.
More than 35,000 of spiders have been identified worldwide. About 3,500 of these reside in the U.S., but only 10-20 of these species are normally encountered inside the home. One of the most common is the house spider, which isn’t harmful; others, such as the brown recluse and black widow, can be dangerous when they bite unsuspecting individuals. Brown recluse spiders are yellowish-brown with a dark brown, violin-shaped marking, and though their bite isn’t usually felt, it can cause severe injury. Black and brown widow spiders are approximately half an inch long, jet black or dark brown and shiny (some adult females have hourglass-shaped red markings on their abdomens), and they inflict a painful but rarely fatal bite. Hobo spiders are another dangerous species, and their bite can cause flesh to die and yield disfiguring scars and headaches that last as long as seven days. Mostly found outdoors, they can sneak into wall voids and other quiet indoor spaces, and you’ll know them by their half-inch length, hairy legs and the herringbone stripe pattern of brown, gray and tan on their abdomens.
If you have a spider problem, you have a pest problem, and it usually takes a licensed pest management professional to discern, target and remove spider-attracting food sources. Otherwise, do what you can to make your home uncomfortable for spiders by removing clutter, sweeping regularly, and cleaning and dusting in areas where they could otherwise create webs. Also seal off potential entries like cracks and crevices, and install door sweeps to prevent spiders from creeping into your home under the same doors you use. Finally, use caution when handling firewood, mulch or moving boxes, as all three can end up being handy transportation for spiders.
Cockroaches are filthy pests and spread disease, contaminate food, and cause allergies and even asthma. They can pick up germs on their legs and bodies as they crawl through decaying matter or sewage, and then transfer these germs to food or onto food surfaces. This leads to a range of health problems, including diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, leprosy, plague, typhoid fever and viral diseases like poliomyelitis.
Cockroaches are also survivors, predating humans by more than 300 million years and now existing in nearly 4,000 species around the world. They’ll eat almost anything, and without food, they can survive nearly two months. Without water, they can survive approximately one-and-a-half weeks. Cockroaches are mostly nocturnal and reproduce very quickly—in fact, for every cockroach you see, there could be hundreds more hiding and reproducing in your home.
German, American and Oriental cockroach species cause serious pest problems, with the American cockroach (a.k.a. palmetto bug or water bug) being the largest urban home-infesting variety, at one-and-a-half to two inches long. Prevent their presence in your home by removing all food and unnecessary water sources, sealing all cracks and crevices, vacuuming, and using an integrated pest management system. You can also reduce risk of cockroaches by carefully inspecting and removing items prone to infestation, such as suitcases, cardboard boxes and grocery bags.
Keeping summer pests away
If you’d like to learn more about how to prevent summer pest problems in your home, visit Orkin.com. You’ll find a range of useful information to help identify and eliminate insect issues, including a pest library where you can look up any insect you’ve spotted in your home. You can also locate a local Orkin pest control pro to help eliminate those insects, and may arrange for a free pest control estimate.