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Which Areas Of Texas Are Hit Hardest By Termite Infestations

Texas is home to several termite pest species that cause significant damage to timber-framed structures in every area of the state. These species include the eastern subterranean termite, the arid-land subterranean termite, the western subterranean termite, the western drywood termite, the native subterranean termite, the Formosan subterranean termite, and more. Termite control and repair costs in the US exceed 5 billion dollars annually, which makes termites the most economically significant insect pests in the country. In an effort to reduce the damage that termites inflict to structures, pinpointing termite habitats and tracking termite movements into new areas is a priority for government employed entomologists. This is especially true when it comes to the invasive Formosan termite species, which has established colonies within the entirety of the eastern half of Texas, but the Golden Triangle sees the highest rate of Formosan termite infestations. This is not to say that Formosan termite infestations are unheard of in west Texas, as these insects also infest dead trees that are sometimes removed so that the wood can be shipped to other areas of the state for commercial purposes . According to entomologists, the eastern half of Texas sees “very heavy” termite pest activity, while the eastern half is considered “heavy to moderate” in terms of termite pest activity.

While Formosan subterranean termites are most problematic in southeastern cities like Beaumont, Lumberton, Houston and Port Arthur, eastern subterranean termites are active in every region of the state. Eastern subterranean termites usually swarm during February and March in Texas, while Formosans swarm during the month of May, but swarms are often spotted in April as well. Unlike eastern subterranean termite swarmers (alates), Formosan subterranean termite swarmers are attracted to outside lights, much like moths. These swarms can become a nuisance, and if they are spotted near a structure, then a colony must be nesting nearby. If a swarm occurs within a structure, an active infestation has likely already been established. Not long ago, a massive Formosan termite swarm occurred near a business in Beaumont, causing the outside window sills and front walkway to become covered with thousands of dead alates. In other words, Formosan termite swarms are difficult to miss, as they are large in size and are apt to approach outdoor lights around dusk. Eastern subterranean alates are slightly smaller in size, and they often swarm during the daytime after a bout of rainfall. Western and arid-land subterranean termites are most abundant within the western half of Texas.

Have you ever examined a winged termite (alate) shortly after witnessing a swarm?

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Flooding In Texas Has Caused Sewer-Dwelling Insects To Enter Residential Homes

Residential areas in some parts of northern Texas are seeing insect plagues of epic proportions. Insect pests like Oriental cockroaches, mosquitoes, fire ants and numerous fly species are “flooding” into homes in massive numbers. So what is causing this regional insect pest invasion into homes and buildings in the area? If you have been watching the news lately, you know that urban and residential areas located on the Texas panhandle are currently being flooded. The floods are displacing some and destroying thousands of dollars in property, but hardly any homeowners or tenants in the area are able to avoid the massive amounts of insect pests that the floodwaters are pushing into homes, businesses and public buildings.

The worst of the flooding occurred during the last week of May and during the first few days of June, so luckily, residents of the panhandle are finally able to clean up and salvage their goods. However, area pest control specialists and entomologists are stating that insect pest issues become particularly severe during and after floods. Once the heavy bouts of rain began in the area less than a month ago, pest controllers in the region became inundated with service requests. The most abundant and problematic insect pest for homeowners has been the Oriental cockroach. One pest controller in the area stated that he had been receiving a record amount of calls concerning the roach pests, which many residents refer to as “water bugs” on account of their preference for damp conditions.

Oriental roaches are well known by pest controllers and residents alike in the area, as the insects are abundant even under normal climatic conditions. Pest experts claim that Oriental roaches maintain a thriving habitat within the sewers below urban and residential areas in the panhandle region, but the flooding caused sewers to overflow. Naturally, this overflow has pushed the filthy Oriental cockroaches out of their sewer habitat and into human populated regions, like city centers and neighborhoods where they are invading homes en masse. Although the roaches prefer high-moisture conditions, they are certainly not aquatic insects, so they are struggling to reach higher ground that is relatively dry in order to survive. Unfortunately, the roaches are choosing residential homes as their refuge, as all other locations remain inhospitable to the bugs. Some reports claim that Oriental roaches are entering homes through showers, sinks and floor drains. Filth flies are also emerging from sewers and entering people’s homes in large groups. As it happens, monsoon season is only a few weeks away for residents in the panhandle region, so the current roach nightmare may not be over yet.

Have you ever captured a roach in a jar in order to keep it as a pet?

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Spitting Spiders Live Almost Exclusively Indoors

A great many spider species can be found throughout the large state of Texas, including species of  tarantula, widow spiders, recluse spiders and house spiders. One common genus of spider that is abundant in Texas is known as Scytodes. These spiders are well distributed in tropical areas all over the world as well as in subtropical areas in the southern United States and Europe. Scytodes spiders can also be found in northern US regions, but to survive in these habitats they often need to establish an indoor presence during bouts of harsh weather. In fact, these spiders are even able to maintain habitats in Scandinavia, but only because they have adapted to living within human dwellings.

One of the most commonly encountered Scytodes spider species in the US is Scytodes thoracica. Considering this spider’s natural instinct to enter homes and buildings, it is not surprising that a survey of S. thoracica sightings all occured indoors, and not one single sighting occurred outdoors. Although these spiders do not closely resemble recluse spiders, many people still mistake Scytodes spiders for recluse spiders given the similar eye arrangement of both spider genuses. There exists at least eight other relatively less common Scytodes spiders in the USA, all of which are likely endemic to the southern states. Scytodes spiders are commonly referred to as “spitting spiders”, as these spiders subdue their prey by spitting a substance that causes their bodies to constrict. Unsurprisingly, many homeowners contact pest control professionals in order to have the Scytodes thoracica species eradicated from their home. While this species may be venomous, its fangs are believed to be too small to penetrate human skin, making them harmless to humans. Spitting spiders are solitary and aggressive, which prompts males into slowly approaching females lest they be mistaken for prey and consequently killed. These spiders are a component of indoor ecosystems, and they are preyed upon by domestic house spiders, cats, and pest control efforts on the part of humans to keep their indoor presence minimal. Spitting spiders have a pale yellow exterior and long legs, making them appear relatively large, and they move about houses at night in search of prey. The Scytodes thoracica is most often found within cupboards, cellars, closets and dark corners, and females can live for a period exceeding two years.

Do you believe that you have spotted a spitting spider within your home?

 

 

 

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How Did The Invasive Turkestan Cockroach Wind Up In Homes And Buildings In Texas?

International commerce and travel have facilitated the spread of many insect pest species into new regions of the world. Although cockroaches are common house pests in the United States, most species that infest homes and buildings in the country originated from other parts of the world. For example, the non-native German cockroach is the most common roach pest found within homes in the United States. Despite having originated on another continent, the German cockroach has adapted to living and breeding solely within indoor structures in the US. The Turkestan cockroach is the newest non-native roach pest found in urban and residential regions of the US, and they have become well established in the southwest. These cockroaches are native to the middle east, but they were spotted for the first time in the US back in 1978 in California. One year later, a second Turkestan cockroach sighting occurred at Ft. Bliss in El Paso.

The cockroaches at Ft. Bliss had established an infestation within a housing unit. Several more Turkestan cockroach infestations were documented at other military bases during subsequent years, leading experts to believe that the roach species arrived in the US after hitching a ride on military equipment returning to the country from the middle east. Today, Turkestan cockroaches are abundant in urban and suburban regions of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Researchers claim that up to 75 percent of all peridomestic roach species found within structures in the southwest are Turkestan cockroaches, making them more abundant within structures than the Oriental cockroach species. Turkestan cockroaches are well adapted to arid desert environments, which explains the speed with which these roaches gained a foothold over Oriental roaches in the southwest. Turkestan cockroach infestations see a greater number of individual roaches within structures than Oriental roach infestations. The Turkestan cockroach is quickly surpassing the oriental cockroach as the most abundant roach pest around homes and buildings in Texas.

Have you ever found food that was infested with cockroaches?

 

 

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A Historically Significant Texas Church Is Infested With Termites

It is currently not hard to find piles of discarded termite wings in urban areas of southeast Texas, as winged termites (alates) of multiple species have been swarming frequently in the region. This time of year sees swarms of southeastern drywood termites, dark southeastern subterranean termites, arid-land subterranean termites and Formosan subterranean termites emerge in areas all over the southern half of Texas, particularly southeast Texas where Formosan subterranean termites are abundant. Alates from the most destructive termite species in the US, the eastern subterranean termite species, are probably still active, but their swarming behavior is winding down and will soon cease for the year. Formosan subterranean termite swarms are by far the most conspicuous, as these swarms contain a relatively high number of alates.

Formosan swarms occur at night, and alates are attracted to artificial lights, making swarms a major nuisance for homeowners. The bodies of Formosan alates are covering some homes, and many residents have reported the presence of thousands of alates gathering on window frames and entering homes beneath doors. In some cases, alates are establishing new colonies indoors. In Waco, a historically significant African-American church was recently found to be infested with termites.

The Texas Historical Commission has recently petitioned the National Park Service to have the St. James United Methodist Church building registered as a historically significant structure. The building was recently purchased by a couple who plan to open a restaurant in the building’s basement. Unfortunately, termites are damaging some areas of the building, particularly the original wood window frames. The termite pests were likely attracted to the high moisture environment within the building. The building’s significant leaks and water-logged structural and cosmetic wood provide termites with an ideal environment. Hopefully, the termites can be eradicated before they inflict irreparable damage. The building was constructed in 1924 out of brick masonry, but this has not stopped termites from eating away at the floors, window frames and parts of the roof.

Have you witnessed any termite swarms yet this year?

 

 

 

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Is Texas Home To Wood-Boring Beetle Species That Infest And Damage Structural Wood Within Homes?

Unfortunately, the great state of Texas also has a great many wood-boring beetle species that just live to find the wood in your home such as stored wood, wood products, as well as structural timber. These beetles come from at least 12 different families and their size, wood preference, the nature of the damage they cause, among other habits vary greatly between species. Since there are other well known insect pests that also damage wood such as termites and carpenter ants, it is important when you find an infestation of wood-boring beetles that you make sure identify the insect properly, as the kind of damage they cause and their appearance can vary greatly.

The most obvious sign that you have an infestation of wood-boring beetles is if you see holes present in the wood that the adults chewed their way out of. Beetles often produce a powdery material called frass when they are feeding on wood and push it from thee holes they are boring, leaving it in piles below the holes or in cracks in the structure. The consistency of the frass can also vary depending on species. In some cases, you might actually spot an adult wood-boring beetle in your home. They are attracted to lights and windows, and can often be seen accumulating in these locations. You might also noticed a stained or blistering appearance to the wood made from the larvae of the wood-boring beetle tunneling below the surface of the wood.

As I already mentioned, identifying the culprit of your infestation is very important when dealing with getting rid of these invaders. Some of the possible species include the old house borer, flatheaded borers, wharf borers, and bark beetles, just to name a few. Adult wood-boring beetles can range from ⅛ inch to over 2 inches in length. They can also vary greatly in color. While most are dark brown or black in color, others are metallic blue, metallic green, and some are striped yellow or red. Knowing what kind of wood they are damaging will also help to identify the correct wood-boring beetle that is infesting your home.

The best way to keep your home from being infested by these insects is through preventative measures. Before purchasing the wood to construct your house make sure it is properly dried and chemically treated in pressure chambers. Controlling the level of moisture in your house can also go a long way towards preventing an infestation. Making sure leaks are repaired, installing vapor barriers, insulation, dehumidifiers and air conditioners will help to vastly reduce the amount of moist wood and moist environment these pest need to thrive. Store any firewood outside and away from the outer walls, and make sure to inspect any items made of wood you purchase before bringing it into your home.

Have you ever had to deal with an infestation of wood-borer beetles in your home?

 

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Where In Texas Can The Highly Venomous Striped-Bark Scorpion Species Be Found

Pest control professionals operating in Texas have already reported a higher-than-normal amount of calls concerning scorpion-related pest issues among residents this year, and the summer season has not even started yet. Particularly hot summers tend to see a relatively high amount of indoor scorpion issues, as scorpions tend to gravitate into air-conditioned homes in an effort to find respite from the blazing Texas heat.

Many Texas residents have come to learn that scorpions are not as intimidating as the media often makes them out to be. In fact, of the 18 scorpion species that have been documented within Texas, only one produces venom that is potent enough to result in medical issues. Many desert-dwellers will accurately identify this scorpion species as the “striped-bark scorpion”, and despite this species’ relatively potent venom, its presence near homes can sometimes be dismissed as insignificant. However, it cannot be denied that striped-bark scorpions can pose a threat in some cases due to the species’ willingness to flagrantly invade populated indoor areas.

Striped-bark scorpions are distributed across most of Texas, and this species is encountered by humans more often than any other species in the state, and this includes indoor encounters. The striped-bark scorpion can appear within structures located in the middle of urban centers. For example, one Austin resident claimed that a bark scorpion suddenly appeared within a classroom where he had been taking German language lessons. The scorpion’s appearance in the building surprised him at the time due to the building’s location in the middle of town.

While bark scorpions do possess the most potent venom of all 90 scorpion species that have been documented within the US, they are far from being the largest in body-size. Bark scorpions rarely grow beyond 2.5 inches in length, and most sting incidents result in nothing more than 20 minutes of localized pain. However, those who have an allergy to scorpion venom are likely to experience severe symptoms following a sting from a bark scorpion, and such individuals are likely to go into anaphylactic shock as a result.

Have you ever smashed a scorpion specimen with your foot? If so, did the scorpion make an attempt to evade its violent death?

 

 

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Crazy Ants Have Terrorized School Children, Caused Power Outages In Homes, And Are Moving Into Houses, But Researchers May Be Able To End The Ant Scourge In Texas

The South American ant species known as N. fulva, or the crazy ant, was spotted for the first time on US soil in Houston back in 2002. Since then, this troublesome ant has established an invasive habitat in southeastern and parts of central Texas. These ants are unique for fitting just about every category of “pest” that has been established, as this species is an agricultural pest, yard pest, house pest, and a pest of medical significance to animals, including large livestock, like cows. Although the crazy ant does not infest structural wood like carpenter ants, swarms of these invasive ants do infest electrical devices like appliances, fuse boxes, electrical utility boxes, sewage pumps and power grids, making the insects “structural pests” as well. Basically, all types of electrical equipment can fail due to crazy ant infestations, and these types of infestations have been found within and near homes and buildings, sometimes causing power outages.

In 2014, crazy ants swarmed young school children that were on a field trip in Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. It was during this time that park authorities discovered that crazy ants had killed off numerous insect and arachnid species within the park, including scorpions and tarantulas. The invasive ants even managed to blind rabbits and other animals by spraying their naturally occurring acid into their eyes. Enormous crazy ant nests had become established around the parks restrooms, posing a serious threat to visitors.

Unlike most ant species, crazy ants do not construct defined nests; instead, they simply gather in massive number over all types of natural and manmade surfaces. Residents living in areas of Texas where these ants have become established have found their homes inundated with these ants, causing widespread terror, but luckily, the bites these ants inflict to humans is not very painful.

In response to the crazy ant dispersal across southeastern Texas, a University of Texas researcher, Ed LeBraun, is determined to find a biological control method in the form of a crazy ant predator to control crazy ant populations before the insects make further advancements into urban and residential areas. Unfortunately, LeBraun claims that the insects probably cannot be eradicated from the state, but they can be controlled.

Have you ever encountered a swarm of crazy ants?

 

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How To Know If The Swarming Insects In Your Texas Home Are Ants Or Termites

How To Know If The Swarming Insects In Your Texas Home Are Ants Or Termites

We are well into the spring season, and summer is just around the corner, which means that the insect swarms occurring around residential and urban areas of Texas will only continue to increase in frequency. The two most common groups of insect pests in Texas homes during the spring and early summer seasons are ants and termites, and both have been swarming into indoor areas for the past several months in the state. However, swarms emerge at different times in Texas depending on region. The frequent bouts of rainfall have also been making termite and ant swarms more frequent lately, especially in south Texas.

In south Texas, subterranean termite swarms begin to emerge as early as January and February, while the panhandle typically sees swarms emerge during the months of April and May. Subterranean termites swarmers (alates) emerge from existing colonies in order to start new colonies, but most alates die before finding a mate. When subterranean termites swarm indoors, they will most certainly fail to establish a new colony, as these termites must initiate new colonies within soil. In rare cases, indoor subterranean termite swarmers (alates) access soil by exiting through a window. Although indoor termite alates cannot contribute to the spread of termites within a structure, these swarms often indicate that active colonies may already exist in the vicinity.

Swarming ants may be a nuisance, but most winged species do not emerge from colonies that are destructive to homes or buildings, and therefore, swarming ants can usually be dismissed as harmless. Carpenter ants can infest wood, but the damage they cause to structural wood is not nearly as extensive as termite damage. This is because carpenter ants, unlike termites, do not feed on wood; instead, carpenter ants merely bore nesting galleries into structural wood sources. That being said, carpenter ant swarms can be just as dramatic as subterranean termite swarms. Since subterranean termite and carpenter ant swarms occur within homes and buildings at the same time of year in Texas, it is important for residents to properly differentiate between winged termite alates and winged carpenter ants.

Winged subterranean termite alates possess two sets of equal sized wings, while winged ant swarmers possess hind wings that are larger in size than the anterior set. A narrow midsection is a feature common to all winged ants that clearly differentiate them from subterranean termite alates. While 14 carpenter ant species have been documented in Texas, the C. rasilis species is the most common carpenter ant swarmer that emerges within homes in the state. Swarmers of this species can be recognized by their quarter inch long and reddish-black bodies.

Do you believe that you can discern between a carpenter ant swarm and a subterranean termite swarm?

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Hairy Trapdoor Spiders Appear Around Texas Homes After Bouts Of Rain, And They Are Commonly Found In Pool Filters

Spiders of all shapes and sizes are abundant within the state of Texas, and the vast majority do not inflict medically significant bites to humans. Most experts agree that only two spider species within the United States produce venom that can cause serious medical issues, and possibly death. These spiders include the brown recluse (L. reclusa) and the black widow (L. mactans) species, both of which can be found in Texas. However, there exists other spider species that can inflict bites that may lead to serious medical conditions, such as tissue necrosis, but such cases are very rare.

According to officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency, Texas is home to 900 documented spider species, but according to one scientific survey, at least 1,084 spider species have been documented in Texas. In any case, spiders in Texas are plentiful, and many are large, hairy, and generally look terrifying to a great number of people. Unfortunately, for arachnophobes living in Texas, large spiders often gravitate onto properties, and sometimes into homes in the state. For example, trapdoor spiders often appear in residential areas of Texas, particularly within the dry southwestern region of the state. These spiders are often mistaken for tarantulas due to their large size and hairy exterior. And much like most tarantulas, bites from trapdoor spiders are reported as being painful, but harmless. Residents of southwest Texas can expect to find trapdoor spiders crawling around their home after bouts of rainfall, and oddly enough, these spiders are often found within pool filters.

Trapdoor spiders of the southwest dwell within burrows that can be as deep as ten feet and around one inch in width. These burrows become flooded during bouts of rainfall, prompting the spiders to evacuate their burrow and wander into residential areas. It is not uncommon for residents to find a trapdoor spider at the bottom of their pool or within the pool’s filters. Although trapdoor spiders found within these odd locations may seem dead, they usually begin moving again before eventually crawling away after they are fished out of pools.

Have you ever found a spider of any sort within a swimming pool?