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?


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?




Massive Insect Invasions

Massive Insect Invasions Bring Bugs Into Restaurants Just As Often As They Bring Bugs Into Homes In Texas

Texas is home to numerous insect pest species of all kinds. Some are nuisance pests, like swarming crickets and Asian lady beetles, while some pose a public health threat, like mosquitoes and Africanized honey bees, and some insects in the state fit both categories. Homes in all regions of Texas can become infested with an array of different insects and spiders all year round. For example, last year saw numerous homes in San Antonio become infested with scorpions. The scorpions were bark scorpions, which are the most dangerous scorpions in North America, as their venom can be lethal without antivenom treatment. This mass invasion of scorpions into homes occured due to the intense heat and excessive dryness that plagued the southwest region of the state for a long period of time. Although scorpions are built to withstand harsh conditions, they need to cool off indoors every now and then. What is alarming is how often restaurants in the state become infested with nuisance insects, or worse, disease-spreading insects. Since restaurants contain a variety of foods that attract insects and several large objects that can provide shelter for bugs, it should not be a surprise to learn that restaurants are more vulnerable to arthropod infestations than homes are, especially when it comes to cockroach infestations.

Every summer, the city of Austin is inundated with cricket swarms, and one new resident, Erica Waksmunski of Texas learned this the hard way during her visit to a drive-through Whataburger. Upon pulling into the eatery’s parking lot, she noticed what looked like moving concrete. After receiving her food at the drive-through, Erica found several crickets on her bag of food, both her and the employed screamed in response, and she then understood what had been making that crackling sound beneath her tires. The Texas Health Department often shuts down restaurants after finding insect pests during walkthroughs. Not long ago, a popular donut shop named “Ken’s Donuts” was forced to shut down for two days after an insect pest infestation was found in the establishment on several occasions. In most cases, the insects that infest restaurants are cockroaches, which have been known carry disease-causing bacteria on their bodies due to their habit of basking in fecal matter and other found conditions. So the next time you visit your favorite restaurant, you may want to check its pest control history.

Have you ever found insects within fast food that you had ordered?


Asian Lady Beetles Frequently Invade Texas Cities Where They Often Enter Buildings And Homes

Ladybugs are one of the most beloved insects, as even those who fear creepy-crawlies don’t seem to mind handling them with their bare hands. Despite their approachable appearance, several ladybug species in the United States are not native to the country, and many species are considered nuisance pests. The most significant ladybug pest is the Asian lady beetle. Although Asian lady beetles are hardly discernible from common ladybug species, they do not cause the same degree of nuisance infestations within homes. Texas did not see major Asian lady beetle invasions into homes and buildings on a mass scale until the 1990’s when their populations seemed to explode in the state and the rest of the country. In recent years, Texas residents have found themselves perplexed by the sudden appearance of the insects within their home during the winter season when insect infestations are not expected to occur in houses.

Although Asian lady beetles were not known for infesting homes until recent decades, one Austin resident and business owner, Cooper Anderson, recalls seeing the insects pour out of the vents of his rural home as a child. In response to the bizarre sight, Anderson’s father told his son that the insects were brought to Texas from a foreign land in order to allow them to prey on crop-damaging aphids. As it happens, Anderson’s father was correct, as the insects have proven effective at saving crops from large-scale aphid damage since the species was introduced into the country as a biological pest control agent many decades ago. This is why Asian lady beetles have long been an insect pest to homes in agricultural regions of the state where Anderson lived as a child. Today, however, Anderson claims that the lady beetles often infest his urban home and even his car.

Asian lady beetles are abundant outdoors during the summer season, but they move into homes once winter approaches in order to find warm shelter. Once spring arrives, the lady beetles emerge from their hiding places in homes where they are often treated as a nuisance by homeowners. While the spring season sees the greatest degree of lady beetle pest activity in Texas homes, the relatively warm climate in many areas of the state can cause infestation problems for homeowners during the winter when the insects scramble into homes.

Have you ever witness a large mass of ladybugs either indoors or outdoors?





Cricket Outbreaks In Texas Can Bring The Insects Into Your Home

Most people understand crickets to be non-threatening insects that can hop and make chirping sounds. Any further knowledge concerning the nature of these insects is considered superfluous to your average citizen. After all, crickets are not a significant part of anyone’s life. Well, for most people this is true, but for some residents of Texas, crickets can become omnipresent creatures during the late summer and early fall months. This is because certain cricket species are known for invading areas of Texas in massive numbers. These “cricket outbreaks” do not occur every year, and when they do, the outbreaks are, thankfully, limited to single towns, cities or counties, and not the entire state of Texas, as that would be horrifying. As you can imagine, these outbreaks often bring crickets into people’s homes, where they can damage clothing, drapery and wall paper. These materials can become stained with cricket vomit or feces, as well as from their feeding activity. Although crickets do not typically feed on textiles, clothes that contain human sweat and body odor sometimes sustain cricket damage. While researchers know that certain environmental factors can increase the likelihood of cricket outbreaks, there is still much that researchers don’t know about this phenomenon, as Texas cricket species are relatively understudied insects.

According to Justin Hale with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Johnson County, dry spring and dry summer seasons greatly increase the chances of a cricket outbreak. It is believed that a prolonged period of dry climate allows more cricket eggs to complete their life cycle and develop into fully grown adults. It has also been speculated that the dry climate prevents the formation of fungal diseases that often affect and kill large amounts of cricket eggs and larvae, but no studies have been conducted to verify this theory. Although residents of Texas don’t have to worry about these crickets spreading disease, during outbreaks crickets can become a nuisance for homeowners, as crickets are attracted to artificial light sources located around homes and buildings. In order to prevent massive amounts of crickets from invading your home during an outbreak, it is important to tightly seal door thresholds, weep holes, windows and garage doors, as crickets are known for accessing homes in these areas.

Have you ever heard about a cricket outbreak on the news or from a friend or relative who had witnessed one?

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The Most Common Venomous Spiders In South Texas

The state of Texas is one big hunk of land that encompasses a number of climates due and is a major climate transition zone. You can go from being in the hot desert on the western side of the state to swamplands in the east, with a slew of various habitats throughout, making it a host of one of the most varied spider populations in the entire world. Texas contains more than a thousand different spider species, with most of them (around 900) making their home in South Texas. Of course, this means there are also plenty of venomous spiders living there such as the brown recluse and the dreaded black widow. These are spiders you definitely want to avoid, so what venomous spiders should you be looking out for in Texas?

The infamous black widow spider comes in first place for being one of the most common venomous spiders in Texas. These spiders live both indoors and outdoors with a venomous neurotoxin in their bite that causes severe systemic reactions and even death in rare cases to humans that are unlucky enough to be bitten. They are black in color and have a reddish or yellowish marking on their abdomen that resembles an hourglass.

Brown recluse spider the next ones you need to be mindful of in Texas. They are quite small in size and are a golden brown color. Luckily for us humans, brown recluse spiders avoid us at all cost, secluding themselves in dark, undisturbed, sheltered areas such as basements and garages where they hide amidst boxes, firewood, any kind of clothing or towels, and between boards. You really have to go looking for one of these guys to get bitten. This usually happens when people are in their garage and happen to brush their hand over or into the spiders hiding spot without even noticing the spider is there or that they got bitten. Their bite can cause nausea, fever, chills, and lead to necrosis of the skin where the bite is located.

Texas wouldn’t be a desert state without having some tarantulas hanging around the place. Texas has 14 species of tarantulas, with most of them living in South Texas. Tarantulas are those big, black or brown, hairy spiders that are often depicted in films set in desert areas. Their large size (between 1.5 to 3 inches in length) and frightening looks are what make this spider so iconic. They tend to live in burrows or other natural cavities under stones and logs. Thankfully, while their bite is venomous to their prey, it is not poisonous to humans.

What other venomous spiders can you think of that live in Texas?



A Texas Family Was Plagued By Massive Scorpion And Tarantula Invasions On Their New Property

Texas may be the second largest state in the US by area, but no matter where you go in Texas, you cannot escape the native tarantulas and scorpions. This is especially true in rural areas of the state where homeowners sometimes see what appear to be hundreds of tarantulas traveling in herds across highways and properties. More troubling than the tarantulas are the scorpions, which tend to congregate and rest on a home’s exterior. When standing at a distance, these scorpion-adorned houses appear to be moving, at least this is how Jason and Victoria Fisher described their first Texas home in Bastrop. Not long ago, the Fishers moved into a home located on ten acres of land, and needless to say, they were surprised by the number of tarantulas they immediately encountered on the property. Eventually, the Fishers discovered that scorpions were the real enemy.

Jason claimed to have found at least ten tarantulas crawling near and within his home in just the first month of living in Bastrop. According to experts, the Fishers moved into Texas just as male tarantulas were traveling in large groups across the state in search of a mate. This did not come as a surprise to Jason who claimed to have found herds of tarantulas crossing roads during his commute to Austin. But tarantula populations in Texas are known for fluctuating dramatically in size from year-to-year, and this could be due to many factors, including being displaced by wildfires and the occurrence of fungal infections that affect spiderlings. While the tarantula presence at the Fisher home was particularly creepy for Victoria, the scorpions that infested their home became a serious problem for the whole family. In just one night, Jason removed at least 100 scorpions from the exterior of the home. Unlike the tarantulas, which rarely wandered inside of the Fisher home, scorpions waltzed right inside where one specimen inflicted a sting on the couple’s daughter. Jason also sustained two stings before he had a professional treat the property with pesticide. While the family was happy to see the scorpions around the home decrease after treatments were applied, they were surprised that tarantulas appeared to be unaffected by the toxic chemicals. According to pest control experts, a significant dose of pesticide is required to kill tarantulas, and there does not exist any established method of tarantula control or eradication. Luckily, the Fishers have since gotten used to sharing their property with tarantulas.

Have you ever spotted more than ten scorpions in one place?


The Interesting Looking Caterpillars That Send Numerous Texas Residents To The Hospital Every Year Are Often Found In Homes

As the nation’s second largest state by area, Texas covers a wide range of ecosystems, and therefore, the state also contains a rich diversity of arthropod species. To provide examples, Texas is known for its high tarantula population in the southwest portion of the state, its high Formosan subterranean termite population in the southeastern portion of the state, and its remarkably high cockroach population in all areas of the state. However, most non-Texans are not aware that the state is also home to several venomous caterpillar species that can harm humans. In fact, the most venomous caterpillar in the United States, the puss caterpillar, resides in Texas, and they sometimes make their way into homes and buildings where they inflict painful and sometimes medically significant stings via the barbed bristles that protrude from their body, like quills on a porcupine. Numerous Texans sustain severe stings from venomous caterpillars each year, and many of these sting victims are young children.

According to one study, during a five year period in Texas, there were 54 reported cases of people sustaining a caterpillar sting. Forty seven of these cases resulted in pain and swelling at the site of the injury, but the other seven cases resulted in anaphylactic shock brought on by a severe allergic reaction. The puss caterpillar was identified as the culprit in 43 of these cases. However, these cases occurred during the 1950s before rapid urbanization brought millions of people into the state, and before other venomous caterpillars had been identified within the state. Today, the caterpillar envenomation rate in Texas is much higher than it was over half a century ago.

Back in the fall of 2014, a high school student was rushed to the emergency room after she sustained a puss caterpillar sting while riding the school bus. Earlier that same year, public health authorities publicly warned elementary school children to avoid the creatures. Just last year, a 5 year old girl was hospitalized after sustaining a puss caterpillar sting while playing in her front yard. Unfortunately, puss caterpillars are often found within or near homes, particularly patios. But the creatures die off during the cold of winter.

Have you seen a puss caterpillar in the wild?

In An Effort To Rid Her Business Of Insect Pests Without Professional Assistance, A Woman Blew Up Her Salon

Discovering that your home, business or rental property is infested with insects is always a bummer, but making the situation worse by introducing new problems is certainly the last thing that anybody would want to do in such a situation. One great way to start things out on the wrong foot when dealing with an insect infestation is to convince oneself that the insects can be eradicated without professional assistance and with commercially available pesticides. Of course, some insect situations within a house can be handled by non-trained homeowners, but if the infestation is substantial and extends to areas of a home that are inaccessible, then calling upon the services of a pest control professional is in order. It is not uncommon for disasters to occur when homeowners and tenants attempt to eradicate insect infestations themselves. For example, not long ago, a business owner discovered that her hair salon had become infested with numerous insects of different species. In a desperate attempt to remedy the situation herself, she literally blew up her salon. But luckily, she successfully eradicated the insect pests.

A New York City woman purchased and activated 20 insect pest foggers within her hair salon in order to eradicate an extensive insect infestation within the business. Although the initial attempt at eradication via fogger managed to kill several of the insects, the foggers also revealed the true extent of the infestation, which was more widespread than she had realized. Since an even greater number of insects arrived to replace the ones that had just been killed, the salon owner proceeded to set up a few dozen additional bug foggers to seal the deal. Unfortunately for the amatuer pest control operator, the woman left the pilot light in her stove on, which ignited the flammable aerosol released by the several dozen fogging machines.

The resulting blast certainly eradicated the insect pests, but the building’s windows were blown out on a total of three stories and 12 people sustained injuries. One building resident described running from the flames in an attempt to escape the building alive. Not surprisingly, this particular incident is nothing new, as non-professionals blow up their homes or other structures 500 times every year in the US in ill-conceived efforts to eradicate insect infestations with flammable fogging machines.

Do you believe that it is ever permissible for a non-expert to attempt a DYI pest eradication method?

How Are Insects And Spiders Trained To Perform In Movies And TV?

How Are Insects And Spiders Trained To Perform In Movies And TV? Waco Ant Control

We have all seen movies and TV shows that feature creepy insects or arachnids. In many cases, creepy-crawlies are created on the big screen by resorting to computer generated imagery. In movies that were made before computer graphics were in use, robotic insects and spiders were often created. However, sometimes directors insist upon using real-life insects and spiders for their movies. In these cases, directors must call upon experienced arthropod trainers. These trainers are most often well educated in the field of entomology. It is the job of spider and insect trainers to make sure that the arthropods perform properly in different scenes and to make sure that the actors and crew are safe from potentially dangerous specimens.

Steven Kutcher is an entomologist who has been training spiders and insects for movie roles for several years. Kuther has worked on more than one hundred major motion pictures including Spiderman, Arachnophobia and Jurassic Park. Kutcher insists that he does not “train” arthropods for movies as much as he “controls” them. According to Kutcher, there is not enough time to train arthropods for movies, so he learns to control their movements instead. For example, if a scene calls for a group of spiders to swarm toward a person or object, high speed winds can be used to facilitate the spider’s forward movements.

For one film, Kutcher was tasked with making a spider crawl across a room and into a slipper. In order to pull this off, Kutcher placed vibrating wires within the slipper. Kutcher knew that the spider species was attracted to vibrations, so his wire contraption successfully led the spider directly across the room and into the slipper. In some scenes, Kutcher has to ensure an actor’s safety when a dangerous arthropod is supposed to crawl on a character. In one movie, a scorpion had to crawl on an actor’s shoulder. In order for Kutcher to protect the actor from scorpion stings, he placed a cap over the scorpion’s stinger. Some spider species can be prompted to move forward by tapping on their back legs, and they can be made to stop by covering their eyes. For Kutcher, the most enjoyable aspect of his job is making the actors and crew less frightened of spiders and insects.

Is there any other job in the field of entomology that you believe would be more enjoyable than Kutcher’s job?