Which Arthropod Pests Are Most Likely To Invade Homes In Central Texas During The Winter?

Arthropod pests like brown marmorated stink bugs, Asian lady beetles, western conifer seed bugs, elm leaf beetles, cluster flies and face flies are all known for maintaining infestations within homes during the entire winter season, even in the northernmost US states. These particular arthropod species are known as “overwintering pests,” as they invade homes during the winter in order to establish warm shelter where they can survive until the arrival of spring. With the exception of the above mentioned species, arthropod pests are not much of a concern during the winter season in most regions of the US. However, in the southernmost states, a significant number of arthropod pests invade homes year round.

In central Texas, the winter cold reduces much of the insect and plant food sources that more durable insect species rely on in order to survive. Also, bouts of bitter cold weather during winters in central Texas usually do not last long enough to force all insect pests into hibernation or death, but the cold is enough to motivate many of them into seeking warmer conditions within homes where much needed moisture and food sources can be more readily secured. According to Wizzie Brown of the Texas A&M Extension Service, scorpions and cockroaches are two arthropods that are likely to invade central Texas homes during the winter season.

At least 18 scorpion species have been documented in Texas, but the striped bark scorpion is the most common home-invading species found in central Texas. Well over 40 cockroach species can be found in Texas, but the American and the smokybrown species are the two most common roach species that invade homes in central Texas during the winter. Another pest control professional with the Texas A&M Extension Service, Molly Keck, states that black crazy ants are also common in homes located in the region, as they often hitchhike into homes on potted plants that residents bring indoors before or during the winter season. Black crazy ants also invade homes through small openings on the external walls of homes, and they can be recognized for their dark body color and erratic movements.

Striped bark scorpions are hard to confuse with other arthropods, but they are around 2 ¾ inches in length, and they are pale yellow in color with two parallel stripes on their backs. American and smokybrown cockroaches are among the two largest cockroach species in the US, and the American species can be particularly unpleasant due to their tendency to fly toward humans. The American cockroach is around 2 inches, while the smokybrown cockroach is around 1 ⅜ inches. While these arthropod pests are not deadly to humans, their infestations can be difficult to eradicate.

Have you ever encountered an airborne cockroach within your home?


The Tiny Jumping Bugs That Often Migrate Into Homes From Grass Lawns, And How To Prevent Infestations

Springtails are one of the smallest insect pests that commonly infest homes in all areas of the US. These insects thrive in moisture, and they are naturally abundant in grassy residential lawns where they can sometimes be seen hopping into the air. Springtails are often encountered in compost bins, garden mulch, and in damp areas within homes, particularly basements, cellars, bathrooms, and kitchens. Springtails are always found in large numbers, but they are nearly microscopic at only 1 mm in body length. While these insect pests are most problematic during the spring and summer seasons, they can invade homes all year round in areas located in the far south. Springtails are common pests throughout Texas, and they are generally active for most of the year in Waco.

Since springtails rely heavily on moisture in order to survive, they often invade homes in massive numbers during bouts of dry weather. When this occurs, springtails congregate in the moistest indoor areas that they can find. These insects reproduce rapidly under normal climatic conditions, but when conditions are properly humid, their reproduction rates increase to the point where as many as 100,000 springtails can become established in every cubic yard of residential lawn grass. When their population numbers become particularly high, springtails tend to invade homes where significant numbers can be found around windows, doors, flooring and just about anywhere, making them a serious nuisance. It is not uncommon for residents to find millions of springtails on the surface of swimming pool water, but their tiny size makes them look like specks of dirt floating on the surface. Springtails are also well known pests of potted plants, and it is not uncommon for residents to inadvertently transport infested potted plants into their home. In order to prevent springtail invasions, damp conditions resulting from rainwater or pipe leaks should be eliminated, and cracks and other small entry points on the exterior walls of homes should be sealed. In some circumstances, applying insecticides around the perimeter of properties becomes necessary to keep springtails at bay.

Have you ever found numerous tiny insects in your home that hopped into the air like fleas?


Millipedes Frequently Congregate In Homes And May Cause Injury To Humans In Some Circumstances

A substantial number of arthropod pests that frequently invade Texas homes can inflict painful and potentially dangerous bites and stings to humans. Some of these dangerous pests include scorpions, recluse spiders, southern black widows, yellow jackets, red-imported fire ants, native fire ants, and even Africanzied honey bees. Some arthropods that neither sting nor bite may inflict human injuries. For example, venomous caterpillars and blister beetles can cause injuries that warrant medical intervention, but millipedes are the most common indoor arthropod pests that can inflict injury without stinging or biting.

Puss moth caterpillars are just one of many caterpillar species that are covered in prickly spines that inject venom into the bloodstream when handled or even touched. Although residents often sustain stings from venomous caterpillars while performing yard work, they do not invade homes. It is also not uncommon for residents to sustain chemical burns after making contact with blister beetles that are commonly found in gardens. Blister beetles secrete a defensive fluid from their bodies that cause severe skin irritation, but luckily, they too are almost never found within homes. Millipedes, on the other hand, are common home-invading arthropods throughout the US, and they secrete an irritating fluid that causes burning and itching skin injuries. When accidentally rubbed into the eye, millipede secretions may cause redness, swelling, corneal damage, and even eye lesions.

While playing in his yard a few years ago, a toddler was hospitalized after a millipede sprayed its irritating defensive fluid into his eye, and this scenario is common across the US. Curious children are at high risk of sustaining millipede injuries due to their habit of readily handling arthropods that they encounter, and some medical professionals believe that millipedes should be categorized as “medically significant” arthropods. Most pest control professionals and medical professionals, however, consider millipedes nuisance household pests only. Millipedes invade homes when the soil they inhabit becomes too wet from heavy rainfall, or too dry from drought, and they are very common indoor pests in residential areas all over Texas.

Have you ever sustained a skin burn from a millipede’s defensive secretions?


How To Control House Centipedes Within Homes, And Which Species Are Frequently Found Indoors?

Several centipede species inhabit central Texas, and they are all venomous, but luckily, the commonly encountered house centipede species’ is not able to penetrate human skin with its mandibles. Despite their relatively small moutharts, house centipedes are widely reviled due to their unpleasant appearance and their nuisance presence within homes, which can become sizable. Unlike most centipede species, house centipedes are able to remain indoors indefinitely where they can reproduce and rely on other arthropods for sustenance. However, house centipedes cannot survive in homes unless they locate a moist harborage, which is why these critters are often found in large numbers within damp areas of kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements. Naturally, keeping indoor spaces dry, maintaining pipes, and preventing rainwater leaks will keep these insects from surviving in homes. Spraying their indoor and outdoor harborges, and applying perimeter insecticides around a home can also reliably prevent indoor centipede invasions for a period of time. While the house centipede is easily the most frequent indoor centipede pest, other potentially dangerous centipede species are often found in homes as well.

During the daytime hours in the natural environment, centipedes can be found in the dark beneath objects and materials commonly located in residential yards. Once evening arrives, centipedes emerge from their moist nesting sites in order to feed on other arthropods, even large spiders and scorpions. Various centipede species ranging in size from less than 1 inch to more than 8 inches can be found beneath wood piles, logs, landscape ornaments, flower pots, and bundles of plant debris near homes. Centipedes often inflict bites to gardners, and while not fatal, their bites are extremely painful. Some species, like the Texas redhead centipede, transmits venom that can induce nausea and even temporary paralysis in humans. Although this 6 to 8 inch long species is occasionally found in central Texas, they are most abundant in the southwest region of the state. That being said, multiple large and highly venomous biting centipede species in Central Texas often move into moist basements and other indoor areas where they can pose a medical threat to residents. For example, the bark centipede often hides in shoes, leading to painful bites within homes.

Have you ever discovered a centipede that you believe exceeded 6 inches in length?



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?






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?



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?


Which Recluse Spider Species Can Be Found In Waco?

Loxosceles reclusa, or the brown recluse spider, as it is commonly known, is the most widespread and dangerous recluse spider species in the United States. Generally, experts refer only to the brown recluse and the black widow as the two medically significant spider species in the US, but this statement can be misleading, as there exists three black widow species in the country, and 12 additional recluse spider species can be found in the US. The three black widow species inhabiting the US include western, southern and northern black widows, all three of which are dangerous to humans, but only the southern black widow can be found throughout Texas. Of the 13 recluse spider species in the US, a total of five can be found in Texas, two of which are known to inhabit Waco, but additional recluse species can appear in the city on occasion.

The recluse spider species that can be found in Texas include Loxosceles apachea, L. blanda, L. devia, L. reclusa and L. rufescens. Of these species, only two have a habitat distribution that overlaps Waco, the brown recluse and L. devia. The latter species is commonly known as the Texas recluse, and while the brown recluse can be found all over Texas, the Texas recluse is likely the most commonly encountered recluse species in the state. The habitat distribution of L. apachea and L. rufescens are scattered over Texas, but both of these species are rare in Waco. Residents of Waco are also more likely to encounter brown recluse spiders within their home as opposed to Texas recluse spiders, as the latter’s habitat range becomes thin around central to northwest Texas.

While brown recluse spiders get all of the attention for inflicting dangerous bites, research shows that the 12 additional recluse species inhabiting the US are also dangerous to humans, including the Texas recluse. However, very few studies have been carried out on bites inflicted by these more obscure recluse species. Brown recluse spiders are not shy about entering homes, sometimes in large numbers. These venomous spiders are often found in corners, crevices, closets, storage rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, under furniture and in garages.

Have you ever sustained a bite from a brown recluse spider?


The Most Common Insect And Arachnid Yard Pests That Frequently Enter Waco Homes

The mosquito pest population was particularly high in central Texas this year, and several insect pest reports name Texas as one of the worst states for biting mosquito pests. Texas is home to some of the most dangerous disease-carrying mosquito species, including Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. In residential areas, mosquito bites are generally sustained while residents are gardening or performing yard work, but it is not uncommon for people to sustain mosquito bites within their own home as well. In addition to mosquitoes, chiggers and fleas are common yard pests in central Texas. Chiggers are technically arachnids known as mites, and they are very common on turf lawns where residents often sustain bites. It is not uncommon for residents to unknowingly transport chiggers into their homes, but luckily, chiggers do not survive long within indoor conditions. However, this is not the case when it comes to another common lawn-dwelling arthropod pest, fleas. Fleas inflict bites on humans and pets in order to feed on blood, and both humans and pets often transport fleas indoors after the insect pests become attached to the body. Once indoors, fleas can establish stubborn infestations that are difficult to eradicate.

Basically everything people have heard about “natural” mosquito control is wrong. For example, bats prefer to feed on beetles, moths and grasshoppers, but not so much mosquitoes, and the Environmental Protection Agency states that ultrasonic mosquito repellent devices do not work to keep mosquitoes out of yards. Homemade repellents containing garlic are also ineffective against mosquitoes, and bug zappers may do more harm than good, as they also kill beneficial insects that prey on mosquitoes. The best way for homeowners to control residential mosquito pests is to remove stagnant water and containers that gather rainwater from lawns, as disease-carrying mosquito pests congregate around and breed within standing water sources. There also does not exist any reliable remedies for keeping chiggers out of lawns, but wearing pants and long sleeves can go a long way at preventing bites. Chiggers release digestive enzymes into skin in order to feed on tissue, and while some people may have a serious allergy to chigger bites, these mites can simply be brushed off of skin once they are found. Fleas routinely establish indoor infestations where they burrow into carpeting, upholstery and curtains. In order to avoid flea infestations, dogs should be treated for fleas and humans should perform yard work in pants. There does not exist in home remedies or over-the-counter products that can reliably eradicate flea infestations, so professional pest controllers must be contacted for flea treatments.

Have you ever experienced a flea infestation?



Why Leafcutter Ant Infestations Are Extremely Difficult To Eradicate From Residential Lawns, And How They Can Cause Damage To Structures

Texas is home to numerous arthropod pest species that damage vegetation in residential yards. Some of these pests include chinch bugs, spider mites, fleas and many grub and caterpillar species. Some insect pests of this sort also inflict unsightly and economically significant damage to lawn grass, such as the red-imported fire ant. However, very few insect pests in the state are capable of damaging trees and houses in addition to lawns and garden plants, but leafcutter ants happen to fit the bill. During the mid 2000s, leaf cutter damage to properties in east, south and central Texas became a serious issue. During this time, the rate of leaf cutter ant infestations on residential properties began to skyrocket, and many infestations became extensive enough to damage the foundation of homes. The reason for the sudden increase in this species’ pest activity was largely due to the discontinuation of over-the-counter insecticides that homeowners had come to rely on to combat infestations. Today, leaf cutter ants have spread to most areas of Texas where they continue to stubbornly maintain infestations despite efforts to eradicate the pests from properties.

Leaf cutter ants cause more lawn damage than any other native ant pest in the US, and this is partly due to the massive size of their colonies, which can grow to contain 2 million individual specimens. These ants inhabit colonies that span great distances below the ground in urban, suburban and rural areas, and they strip the leaves off of countless plant species, including trees. Leaf cutter ants transport the foliage they collect to their subterranean colonies where they use the plant matter to cultivate fungus gardens. This fungus is fed to larval specimens and it is the only form of food that these ant pests eat. This makes leaf cutter ants difficult to eradicate from properties, as they tend to ignore baits, even sugar baits, and unfortunately, baits are the only way to control subterranean pests that build extensive colony tunnels over large areas of land deep below the ground. Leaf cutter ants also excavate sizable open ditches on properties, and when these dithces are excavated below homes, the foundation can crack due to the uneven weight distribution.

Have you ever had an ant infestation in your yard?