The Black Bugs That Collect On Window Frames And The Exterior Ledges Of Houses Often Invade Central Texas Homes In Large Numbers During The Winter, But What Are They?

Several species of insect pest gravitate into homes in overwhelming numbers in order to seek warm shelter during the fall and winter seasons in Texas. Some of these insect pests include Asian lady bugs, boxelder bugs and elm leaf beetles. During recent years, many residents of central Texas have been finding hundreds of black bugs collecting on window sills and the exterior walls of homes. When this occurs during the fall and winter, it seems that the tiny bugs are attempting to gain entrance indoors, and in many cases, they succeed. Residents who have found large numbers of these bugs on and/or within their home have phoned University extension services and pest control companies asking about the mysterious “black gnats,” and whether they pose a medical or structural threat. According to Wizzie Brown, an insect specialist with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office, these insects are commonly known as hackberry psyllids, and while they certainly pose a nuisance to residents, they will not harm humans or damage property.

Just as their common name suggests, hackberry psyllids are insects that feed on hackberry trees during the summer, but they usually go unnoticed until they suddenly appear in massive numbers on window sills. The insects nestle into small cracks and crevices on the exterior walls, window frames and door frames of a home, and from there, many find their way indoors. In the northern midwest region, these insect pests invade homes during the late summer and fall, and they may appear on sunny midwinter days. In central Texas, hackberry psyllids make an attempt to overwinter indoors during the fall and winter, and they are particularly abundant throughout the fall season. Although these insects can technically bite due to possessing sucking mouthparts, bites are relatively painless, and will not harm humans. There is little that can be done to control hackberry psyllids short of cutting down hackberry trees or installing new window screens that the insect pests cannot squeeze through. Although their habit of jumping about makes them a serious indoor nuisance, infestations usually last only for a short time. In some cases, professional pest control intervention is necessary.

Have you ever witnessed hackberry psyllids on or within your home?






Spider Crickets Frequently Invade Homes During The Colder Months Where They Eat Away At A Variety Of Indoor Items

The group of insect house pests that are commonly referred to as spider crickets look just like their name suggests, as the insects possess unusually long legs that make them look like arachnids from a distance. Due to their long legs, spider crickets appear significantly larger than other types of crickets. Unsurprisingly, spider crickets are often mistaken for wolf spiders, which are a group of large hairy arachnids that frequently appear indoors. Several different cricket species throughout Texas are commonly referred to as spider crickets, but the pests are also referred to as cave crickets, camel crickets and sprickets. Given their appearance, spider crickets tend to give residents a scare when they are encountered indoors, and they tend to establish sizable economically significant infestations within homes during the summer and fall seasons in Texas.

Like other crickets, spider crickets thrive in moist environments, which is why the insect pests are often found congregating in large numbers in basements, crawl spaces, bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, fireplaces, and other indoor areas where moisture levels tend to be relatively high. If spider crickets establish shelter in sufficiently moist indoor areas, they may reproduce. One of the most dreaded aspects of a spider cricket pest presence within a home is their habit of jumping into people’s faces, as spider crickets jump in self defense. Unlike most cricket pests, spider crickets aggressively and constantly eat away at a variety of valued indoor items, making their indoor presence more than just a nuisance.

Spider crickets possess strong mandibles that allow them to chew through wood, fungus, cardboard, fabrics, carpeting, upholstery, curtains, houseplants and many other indoor items with ease. Spider crickets are not generally recognized as pests that inflict bites on human skin, as entomologists frequently stress that their mandibles are used for chewing only, and never for defensive purposes. However, countless anecdotal reports claim that spider crickets annoyingly gnaw on human skin, which rarely produces a sensation of pain. While spider crickets are categorized as “accidental home invaders,” the insect pests quickly develop a liking for indoor areas that are sufficiently moist, especially when outdoor temperature becomes too cold for their comfort. Once a few individual spider crickets secure moist shelter indoors, they emit pheromones that attract others.

Have you ever encountered a spider cricket either indoors or outdoors?



The Common Ants That Are Most Active Around Homes During The Cold Winter Season

Prenolepis imparis, or the small honey ant, is a common ant pest in houses throughout much of the United States, and like most ant species, honey ants are most abundant in the southern states. Generally, ants are most active during the warmer months before entering into a dormant state during the winter season. However, small honey ants are unique in that they are most active during the winter when temperatures are between 35 and 55 degrees in Texas. Amazingly, these ants have been found emerging from their underground nests when temperatures are in the single digits.

Small honey ants usually infest homes by entering in large numbers from outside nests, but they also establish indoor nesting sites on occasion. It is not uncommon for reproductive alates of this species to swarm indoors during the colder months, particularly from January through March, but seasonal mating flights are most frequent during the spring. Foraging worker ants of this species are determined home invaders where they seek out a variety of human food sources such as grains, meats, fruits, vegetables, and especially sugars. Foraging workers gain access indoors with ease due to this species’ habit of nesting within expansion joints where concrete slabs make contact with foundations. Small honey ants also eat away at garden flowers and landscaping plants, and entirely colonies have been found infesting both indoor and outdoor potted plants.

Small honey ants workers can be recognized by their dark brown to black exterior and relatively small 2 to 4 mm body length. Queens of this species resemble workers, only they are around twice their size. Homes that become infested with small honey ants should be inspected thoroughly, especially around the foundation. Indoor infestations usually see multiple outdoor nests that each contain multiple queens. Luckily, pest control professionals can destroy nests with relative ease by injecting insecticide into their small nesting chambers, which contain hundreds or a couple thousand individual ants.

Have you ever found ant pests feeding on your indoor food items?





Pest Spotlight: The Smokybrown Cockroach

The Smokybrown Cockroach Is One Of The Most Commonly Encountered Insect Pests In Central Texas Where They Can Establish Breeding Sites Within Homes.

Cockroaches are not hard to come by in central Texas, as multiple cities in the region have been named as being among the most roach-infested cities in the US. In Waco, for example, pest control calls concerning cockroaches far outnumber the national average. Social workers and police officers regularly report roaches as being the most significant and threatening insect pests found in impoverished homes. In fact, roaches have literally been found nesting in the ears of children living in infested homes in the city, and in nearby Fort Hood, military housing authorities have long struggled to control roach pests within homes located on the base. The most common species of roach pests regularly found within Waco homes include American, Oriental, German and brown-banded cockroaches. The smokybrown cockroach is another frequently encountered roach pest species in Waco homes, and although these roaches prefer to dwell outdoors, they have been known to establish breeding populations within houses.

The smokybrown cockroach is most abundant in central and eastern Texas, and in addition to invading homes, these roaches annoy and terrify residents by flying toward artificial lights on porches and along residential streets. The 2 inch long American cockroach species is the largest roach pest in the US, but the smokybrown is not far behind, as both males and females grow to the startling size of 1 ¼ to 1 ½ of an inch in length. Unsurprisingly, smokybrown cockroaches are often mistaken for American cockroaches due to their similar brown to dark brown color, comparable size, preference for humid indoor locations, ability to fly, and their tendency to access homes through sewer and septic pipes. Once indoors, smokybrown cockroaches are most frequently found in attics and fireplaces where rainwater often leaks indoors. Smokybrown cockroaches can be differentiated from American cockroaches by their particularly long antennae, which exceeds their body length.

Have you ever spotted roaches flying toward your porch lights?


Dreaded Pharaoh Ants Establish Nests Within Hard-To-Access Areas Within Homes Where Colonies Can Develop Rapidly

Getting an infestation of the household pests Pharaoh ants is a nightmare that is, unfortunately, all too common, as they are prevalent all over the planet and the most difficult ants to control. This ant species does not nest outdoors except for in the warmest regions, making them the ant scourge of many households. They do not exactly stand apart in the looks department either, which makes them difficult to distinguish from many other ant species. Like most other ants you come across, they are small and range in color from a yellowish, light brown to red. One of the major reasons they are so difficult to control is their prolific breeding habits. They also will nest in areas that are difficult to access and establish colonies throughout an entire building. Needless to say, they are considered one of the worst indoor pests in the country.

Pharaoh ants are a major indoor pest throughout Texas, and were even reported to have infested a seven story medical center, in which they were a particular danger to the burn victims and newborns, as they can transmit over a dozen pathogens. They were seen looking for moisture in the mouths of sleeping infants, as well as from IV bags that were in use at the time. So, these guys will go after any food or moisture source, no matter how out-in-the-open and risky the place might be.

Pharaoh ants build their nests in warm, moist, hard-to-access areas in your home that have nearby sources of food and water, such as inside wall voids. While the colonies tend to be large in size, they can contain anywhere from a few dozen to several thousand and sometimes several hundred thousand ants. The reason for this level of proliferation is the short amount of time needed for eggs to develop into adults, which is around 38 days for workers and 42 days for queens and males meant for mating purposes. Mating between the queens and males happens inside the nest, with no swarming occuring. The sheer number of eggs a queen can hatch in one go also doesn’t help, as she can produce over 400 eggs in batches of 10 to 12. The colonies also often split after growing larger, with numerous daughters branching off with a group of workers to create their own nest. This can obviously result in your entire home being infested with Pharaoh ants fairly quickly.

Have you ever had to deal with an infestation of Pharaoh ants?





Why Accurately Identifying Red Imported Fire Ants Can Be Relatively Difficult, And How They Can Be Differentiated From Similar Looking Ant Pest Species

The red-imported fire ant was first documented in the US back during the 1930s, and since then this species has spread to numerous southern states where they are considered a major public health threat. Red-imported fire ants are the most common ant pest species in central Texas where their dirt mounds have become a dreaded sight to residents. These invasive ants are known for rapidly colonizing residential yards and inflicting stings that cause tremendous pain and result in unsightly pustule wounds. A relatively high number of people are allergic to red-imported fire ant venom, and for these sensitive individuals, a fire ant attack can lead to anaphylactic shock and even death if treatment is not sought out in a timely manner. During periods of drought and/or exceptionally hot weather, red-imported fire ants may invade homes where they are likely to seek out human food sources. Despite the notoriety of red-imported fire ants, colony workers can be difficult to identify for several reasons.

One of the most significant difficulties when it comes to accurately identifying red-imported fire ant workers has to do with the wide variation in their body sizes. Workers range in size from 1/16 of an inch in body length to 1/4 of an inch in body length, and the largest workers can be 3 times as large as the smallest workers. Red-imported fire ant workers are nearly identical to workers of the native tropical fire ant species, but close detection will reveal that tropical fire ants are composed of a minority of relatively large sized workers with square-shaped heads. Generally, native fire ant workers are more uniform in size than red-imported fire workers, but unlike other mound-building ants, like harvester ants and leafcutter ants, both native and red-imported fire ants create dirt mounds with no central entry/exit hole. However, red-imported fire ant mounds are typically a bit larger in both height and circumference. When finding dirt mounds with no central entrance hole, residents should assume that the mounds belong to red-imported fire ants due to the species commonality in central Texas.

Have you ever stepped on a red-imported fire ant mound?




Red-Shouldered Bugs Are Often Mistaken For Boxelder Bugs, But Both Species Are Common House Pests During The Fall Season

While insect pest issues within homes are to be expected during the spring and summer seasons, there exists a significant number of insect pests that are notorious for invading homes during the fall and early winter seasons in Texas. Some of these fall pests include Asian lady beetles, brown marmorated stink bugs, and boxelder bugs. These insect pests invade homes in order to overwinter within warm conditions before the arrival of freezing temperatures. In many cases, the above named insect pests only become problematic in and around homes during the fall season, and they tend to prefer dwelling outside in the natural environment during all other times of the year. While some common fall insect pests may inflict an occasional and ultimately harmless bite, such as Asian lady beetles, fall pests are generally nuisance invaders. Boxelder bugs may be the most common of all fall insect pests in Texas, but many infestations that residents commonly attribute to boxelder bugs are actually caused by red-shouldered bugs. Red-shouldered bugs closely resemble boxelder bugs and their pest behaviors are virtually identical.

During the spring and summer, boxelder bugs and red-shouldered bugs feed on trees, but once temperatures begin to decline during the fall, these two pests congregate on the exterior walls of homes where they seek out overwintering sites under shingles and siding, around doors and windows, and in cracks in foundations. From there, boxelder bugs and red-shouldered bugs easily gain entrance indoors by squeezing through narrow entry points. Once indoors, these two pests tend to congregate in wall voids and other hard-to-access areas where they can overwinter without being noticed by the homeowners. On winter days that are unseasonably warm, boxelder bugs and red-shouldered bugs naturally emerge from their indoor hiding spots in an attempt to escape outdoors. Since windows tend to be shut during the winter season, these bugs fail to escape outdoors; instead their corpses gather along window sill and around door frames. Sealing cracks and crevices on a home’s external walls will help to prevent these two pests from gaining entrance indoors. In serious infestations cases, pest control professionals nearly always succeed in eradicating the bugs from homes.

Have you ever noticed a large congregation of bugs on the sides of your house?



Are Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes A Major Threat To Waco Residents During The Fall Season?

For the past two decades, mosquito-borne disease has been a growing threat throughout the United States, particularly in the southern and eastern halves of the country. Last year, researchers surveyed mosquito populations in every region of the contiguous US in order to determine where disease-carrying mosquitoes pose the greatest threat to citizens. Results showed that central Texas was among the most mosquito-heavy regions in the country, and seven cities in the state were listed on the top 50 most mosquito-populated cities in the US. According to the list, the central Texas cities of Waco, Temple and Bryan each tied at number 41, and the cities of Dallas and Austin, each of which are located 90 to 100 miles away from Waco, were listed as the 2nd and 20th most mosquito-heavy states in the country, respectively. Unlike last year, Mclennan County has not seen any human cases of mosquito-borne disease so far in 2019, and this will likely remain the case, as mosquito-borne disease cases reach their peak in September and October in the state.

Texas is home to 85 mosquito species, 26 of which can be found in Mclennan County, and unfortunately, all three disease-carrying mosquito species in the state can also be found in Mclennan County. In recent years, Mclennan County has documented locally transmitted cases of the West Nile virus, and travel related cases of chikungunya, dengue fever and malaria, but mosquitoes in the county are also capable of transmitting St. Louis encephalitis to residents. Two mosquito species in the county, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, are capable of transmitting chikungunya, the Zika virus and dengue fever to humans, while Culex pipiens can transmit St. Louis encephalitis and the West Nile virus. Unlike most mosquito species, the three disease-carrying species in Texas dwell in urban and residential areas where they rely on stagnant water for reproduction. Stagnant water collects in objects commonly found in yards such as kiddie pools, cups, grills, bottle caps, clogged gutters, potted plant saucers, beer cans, bird feeders, and wheelbarrows. If all residents of Mclennan County were to keep their yards free of these water sources at all times, disease-carrying mosquitoes would not only stop congregating in residential areas, but their population numbers would decrease dramatically. Pest control professionals can treat properties where mosquito pests are particularly abundant.

Are you concerned about the possibility of a mosquito-borne disease outbreak occurring in your area?






iPest Solutions shares information on common pests that may take up residence during the colder months

While it’s normal to see bats, spiders and other creatures invade your front doorstep on Halloween in the form of trick-or-treaters or spooky décor, IPest Solutions  advises people to be on the lookout for real-life ghoulish pests this fall.

Halloween is a fun celebration of all things creepy and crawly, but it also serves as a reminder that actual pest infestations can cause quite the fright. In the spirit of this spooky holiday, we are reminding homeowners to take preventative measures to keep pests from taking up residence indoors.

Here’s a guide to some common critters that may spook homeowners this fall, along with tips to prevent them from turning the home into a haunted house.

Rats – One of the most reviled pests, rats can contaminate food, spread dangerous diseases and create fire hazards by chewing through electrical wires. Before homeowners bring boxes of pumpkins and faux cobwebs inside to decorate for Halloween, they should inspect them for signs of an infestation such as gnaw marks and rodent droppings.

Bats – Bats are frequent carriers of rabies, which can be fatal if left untreated. They often enter homes through attics, belfries and under fascia boards. Homeowners should screen attic vents and openings to chimneys, and install door sweeps this fall to keep bats out of the home.

Spiders – Some species of spiders, mainly the brown recluse and black widow, can administer a painful bite when disturbed. Homeowners can avoid coming in contact with spiders by wearing heavy gloves when moving items that have been stored for a long period of time and shaking out shoes before wearing them.

Bed bugs – Bed bugs are similar to vampires in that they feed off of human blood, typically at night. These elusive pests do not transmit disease, but they can leave red, itchy welts on the skin. Before dressing up in a costume that came from a rental or second-hand store, make sure to inspect it for bed bugs.

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) offers some additional tips to prevent a pest infestation this Halloween season:

  • Seal cracks and crevices around the home’s exterior using caulk and steel wool. Pay close attention to where utility pipes enter the structure.
  • Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
  • Keep kitchen counters clean, store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles.
  • Store fire wood at least 20 feet away from the house and keep shrubbery well trimmed.
  • If you see signs of an infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional.

For more information on common household pests and how to protect your home, visit www.wacopest.com



Harvestman Spiders Invade Homes Where They Build Many Unsightly Webs That Can Be A Nuisance To Residents

During The Fall In Central Texas, Unbelievably Large Clusters Of Harvestman Spiders Invade Homes Where They Build Many Unsightly Webs That Can Be A Nuisance To Residents

The spiders that are often referred to as “daddy long legs” are the most commonly encountered spiders indoors and outdoors, but despite the ubiquity of these spiders, there exists much confusion about the nature and pest status of daddy long legs. First of all, many arthropod groups are commonly referred to as daddy long legs, including “harvestman,” which is a common name given to an entire order of arachnids. The family of spiders commonly known as “cellar spiders” are also referred to as daddy long legs, and even a family of flies that are known as “crane flies” have been known as daddy long legs for decades due to their excessively long legs.

According to officials with the extension service at Texas A & M, the daddy long legs name can only be properly applied to one family in the harvestman order, and this family is known as Phalangiidae. Second of all, harvestman are not actually spiders at all; instead, harvestman belong to an order of arachnids known as Opiliones. Despite this, the term “daddy long legs” is commonly used by professional entomologists and other experts when referring to both cellar spiders and harvestman. While harvestman are common in homes and buildings all over the world, the abundance and diversity of harvestman species is particularly high throughout Texas where they often become a nuisance around the fall when hundreds congregate into homes.

Texas is unique for being home to multiple endangered harvestman species, and they are particularly common in south and central Texas where many species dwell in caves. Harvestman are frequently spotted grouped together in the corners of basements, cellars, attics and around structural foundations. These arachnids appear delicate and harmless, which they are, but during the fall, harvestman enter homes in tight congregations. This behavior is known as “clustering,” and it can pose a nuisance for residents. The longstanding myth that daddy long legs are highly venomous, but cannot penetrate human skin with their fangs is false, as harvestman do not possess venom glands. However, harvestman can give central Texas residents quite a scare, as a viral video clip posted to Instagram clearly demonstrates. This clip showed a Texas resident removing what he thought was a collection of fur from the corner of his home. Once he had the “furball” in his hands, he suddenly realized that he had just picked up hundreds of clustered harvestman, and surprisingly, this sort of thing happens all the time in Texas, as a similar incident was recounted in a news release not long ago.

Have you ever found “daddy long legs” in your home?