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Learn More About The Common Pests Found In Alabama

No matter what the species, all pests have several things in common. Pests all have the potential to cause destruction in yard and garden as well as damage the structural integrity of our homes, they can destroy personal items like clothing and furniture, they can contaminate food sources, and they can introduce harmful bacteria, diseases, and parasites into our home that can cause serious health problems for us and our families. To protect your home and property from pests and the problems they cause, it is important to have an understanding of the most common pests found living in our area. Listed below is a reference to some of our area’s most common home-invading pests:

Ants

brown ant resting on a leaf in elmore lee county alabama

Ants are social insects that live and work together in large colonies; in fact, ants are very rarely seen alone. Instead, these pests are typically found traveling together in search of food along well-established foraging trails. Ants are very common pests and are fairly easy to identify. They have three distinct body regions: head, thorax, and abdomen as well as six legs and a pair of antenna. The reproductive members of the colony are winged, but only emerge from the colony a few times a year in order to mate and create new colonies. Ants range in size from large (3/4th – 1 inch in length) to small (1/8th – 1/4th of an inch in length) and come in a variety of different colors including black, brown, red, and yellow. Some are solid in color while others are multicolored.

In nature, ants are typically found living in underground nests or inside of nests that have been constructed in tree cavities or tree stumps. Ant nests are also commonly built underneath rocks or fallen logs, inside of wood piles, or in the cracks and crevices of pavement or cement. While foraging for food sources, typically meats and sweets, ants often find their way inside of homes and decide to create nesting their sites closer to their newly found food source: your kitchen and pantry. Once inside, ants make satellite nesting sites underneath of floor, behind walls, inside of crawl spaces, behind large appliances, near hot water heaters, and inside insulation.

Ants are typically categorized as either nuisance, dangerous, and damaging. Nuisance ants, while difficult to eliminate and contaminate food sources and the surfaces in your home, tend to cause no real serious health problems for people and cause no real damage to property. Dangerous ants, on the other hand, have the potential to carry and transmit diseases and bacteria that can make people very ill, as well as bite and sting. These ants and can cause damage to the structures they decide to invade. Some ants, such as carpenter ants, can also cause damage to the wood of homes by tunneling inside it to create their nests.

Ant prevention tips: Keep tight-fitting lids on all outdoor trash cans to prevent them from attracting ants to your property. Store woodpiles, compost piles, and fruit and vegetable garden areas away from the exterior of your home. After eating outdoors, make sure to clean-up, removing any excess food, throwing away or washing used plates and cups, and cleaning the grill area. Trim back overgrown trees, bushes, and other vegetation back away from the exterior of your home and leave a barrier between any mulch and/or grass and your home’s foundation. Inspect the exterior of your home, sealing any spaces found in the exterior walls, roofline, or foundation; make sure that all your window and door screens are intact and caulk or seal any gaps or spaces found around windows, doors, and utilities entering into your home.

Cockroaches

cockroach crawling on a piece of wood outside a coosa clay county business

Cockroaches are very hearty insects that have withstood the test of time, partially due to their ability to live for almost a month without food and up to two weeks without water. Another reason these pests are so durable is due to their ability to easily adapt to living in a wide variety of indoor and outdoor environments, including in close proximity to humans. Cockroaches are social insects that typically live in groups. Roaches emit pheromones that leave chemical odors in their feces and on their bodies which they use to communicate and find each other. Cockroaches are large insects with semi-hard bodies that are flat and oval-shaped; they have small heads compared to their bodies.

Cockroaches have six legs that are very sensitive to the touch and are winged. However, not all species have wings that are fully developed and or are capable of flight. These pests have large compound eyes that are made up of more than a thousand lenses, allowing cockroaches to see more than one thing at a time. Cockroaches mouths move from side to side which gives them the ability to feed on just about any type of food. Roaches are also commonly identified by their two long antennae.

Cockroaches are considered to be very dangerous insects for several different reasons. First of all, cockroaches carry a large number of viruses, bacteria, and parasites on their bodies and legs as well as in their feces that can cause diarrhea, dysentery, and a variety of other serious health concerns. Secondly, as cockroaches grow, they shed their skins behind. These pests also leave large amounts of feces in the areas that they are infesting. Both of these things can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks in people, especially in children or individuals with weakened immune systems.

Where cockroaches prefer to live both indoors or outdoors is dependent on their exact species, but common outdoor living quarters for most cockroaches include underneath mulch, around trees, in flower beds, in piles of trash, in sewer systems, and near pipes or other sources of water. Inside homes and other buildings, some cockroach species prefer to live in warm, raised areas like above ceilings, in attics, and in or behind large electrical appliances. Other species of cockroaches prefer to live in damp, dark areas and can be found living near pipes and faucets in basements, bathrooms, and laundry rooms, under sinks, drawers or cabinets in kitchens, in pantries, or inside of crawl spaces.

Cockroach prevention tips: Inspect your home’s exterior and seal any spaces found in the foundation; make sure that door sweeps are installed on all exterior doors, especially basement doors. Caulk any gaps found around exterior windows and doors and make sure that screens are completely intact. Place tight-fitting mesh covers over all vents leading into your home and seal any spaces found around utilities entering into your home. To eliminate food and water sources, make sure to fix leaky pipes and fixtures, use dehumidifiers, and store all food in airtight containers or in the refrigerator. It is also a good idea to inspect used furniture or appliances for cockroaches before bringing them into your home or to avoid purchasing used furniture or appliances for your home altogether.

Spiders

spider resting in a web outside a talladega home

Spiders are predatory pests and are very beneficial to the environment by feeding on populations of nuisance insects. Most spiders are rather reclusive by nature and rarely bite people. In the United States, most species are harmless with only a few that produce venom that is potentially dangerous to people. Spiders have two body parts (abdomen and cephalothorax), between six to eight eyes, eight legs, and chelicerae or fangs. Spiders range in size from very small to quite large. Their bodies can range from smooth to covered in fuzzy hair, and they come in a variety of colors including brown, tan, black, yellow, and red and a variety of patterns such as chevron, mottled, and striped.

Outside spiders live in a variety of environments, but typically choose areas that are quiet and secluded. Some species of spiders produce silk and create webs to nest and catch prey in. Those spiders often create their webs in garden areas, in the grass, in bushes and shrubs, in between rocks, near the foundation of homes, underneath decks and outdoor furniture, in wood piles, and underneath roof eaves. Other species of spiders do not create webs at all, but instead create burrows where they hide and lay in wait for their prey to happen by then chase it down, capture it, and then feed on it. Spiders commonly create their burrows in the ground, in piles of leaves or grass, or in between rocks. Spiders are usually found living outside, but often inadvertently find their way inside homes, garages, sheds, and other buildings while foraging for food or when the weather outside becomes too cold for them to live comfortably. Just like outside, when living inside, spiders hide in dark, quiet areas. Some common spider hiding spots include in closets, basements, crawl spaces, storage areas, underneath furniture and beds, and inside clothing and shoes.

Spider prevention tips: Keep garden areas away from the outside of your home. Clean up any piles of debris on your property that spiders could hide and create their webs in. Trim back any overgrown shrubs and bushes away from the exterior of your home. Keep outbuilding doors and windows closed as much as possible. Inspect your home’s foundation, exterior walls, and exterior windows and doors for holes, gaps, or cracks, sealing any openings found; seal any spaces found around the utilities entering into your home and along your home’s roofline. Inside of your home, keep storage areas like closets and basements free of clutter or debris and dust and vacuum regularly, especially the corner of rooms and closets and underneath furniture to discourage spiders from creating their webs in those areas.

Termites

termite chewing a piece of wood in elmore lee county

There are many species of termites found living throughout the United States; however, the eastern subterranean termite is one of the most common species and are responsible for causing more than 5 billion dollars’ worth of damages to homes all across the United States! Termites are social insects and work together in very large colonies. What a termite looks like depends on which specific “caste” they are a part of within that colony: worker, reproductive, or solider. Workers make up the majority of the termite colony. They have soft creamy white colored bodies, have no wings, are blind, and grow to be about 1/4th of an inch in length. These termites are responsible for tunneling through the structural wood of the home or structure the colony has invaded to gather the food needed to feed their ever-expanding colonies. Soldiers look very similar to the workers, but they are a bit larger in size, have shorter legs, and their heads are elongated and are more of a yellowish color. Soldiers have strong jaws that they use to defend their colony. The reproductive members are the largest members of the colony and are dark-brown to black in color; these winged termites can grow up to 1/2 of an inch in length. These reproductive termites swarm from their mature colonies in order to find a mate and establish new termite colonies. Termite swarming season typically occurs in the spring.

Out in nature, termites are considered to be very beneficial insects because as they feed on water-damaged or decaying wood and other cellulose debris and break down those items, returning their nutrients back into the soil and aiding in new healthy plant growth. Termites live and nest underneath the ground while foraging termites travel through the soil or create mud tubes to travel back and forth safely from their food source and nest. While in nature termites can be quite beneficial, they become anything but beneficial when they enter into homes and other structures while out foraging for food sources. When found living inside homes and other buildings, termites are considered to be very damaging and dangerous insects. Termites are initially attracted to structural wood that is decaying or has been damaged by water such as the structural wood found behind walls, window and door frames, ceilings, and floors, but as the infestation grows, these wood-destroying pests will also attack sound wood found inside the home.

Termites are often referred to as “silent destroyers” because they are rarely seen by people since they live most of their lives under the ground or inside of the wood that they have invaded and they can invade for years without people realizing. Termites have the unique ability enter into homes unnoticed and work for months or even years until they create enough damage for a property owner to become aware of their presence, which has also earned them the name “silent destroyers”. Some common signs of a termite infestation include windows and doors that no longer open and close properly, a drooping ceiling, floors that feel “spongy” when you walk on them, paint on walls that appears splintered or blistered, wood that sounds hollow when tapped on or wood that can be easily pierced by a sharp object. Another common sign is discovering mud tubes that are about 1/4th of an inch wide ( about pencil width) that termites use to travel from their nests to their food source running along the ground towards your home, running up your homes foundation or basement walls, or inside of crawl spaces.

Termite prevention tips: Termites are a moisture-seeking pest, so reducing moisture levels in and around your home by using dehumidifiers or air conditioners, making sure that crawl spaces are properly ventilated, making sure that gutters are clear and working properly, fixing any leaky pipes or fixtures, and removing any wood in your home that has been damaged by water can help deter them from invading your home. Limiting soil-to-wood contact on your property to also make it more difficult for termites to invade a structure. In addition, inspecting your home’s foundation and sealing any cracks or crevices that are present and creating a stone or rock barrier between your home’s foundation and any soil or mulch can help prevent a termite infestation.

Bed Bugs

bed bug crawling in a residential home near talladega county

Bed bugs are ectoparasites that mainly feed on the blood of people; however, if there are no people are available to feed on, they will feed on other mammals. Adult bed bugs are about 1/4th of an inch long and have broad, flat, oval-shaped bodies. Before feeding, bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, and after feeding, these pests turn a deep reddish-purple color; their bodies also swell and elongate after having a blood meal. Bed bugs have six legs, are wingless, and have antennae. Immature bed bugs, also called nymphs, look quite similar to the adults, except that they are smaller and are translucent until they have their first blood meal. After having a blood meal, these bed bug nymphs turn a bright red color.

Anywhere that people live, travel, or spend time in is a place where bed bugs could potentially be found. Since human blood is their main food source, it makes sense that these pests would take up residence basically anywhere there are people. Bed bugs hide inside tight cracks and crevices during the day and emerge at night to feed. Places people frequently come into contact with bed bugs include hotels, motels, airports, buses, taxis, shopping centers, hospitals, schools, dormitories, movie theaters, and libraries. To get around, bed bugs crawl onto people or their belongings such as purses, bags, or coats and hitchhike their way into homes without being noticed. Inside homes and other structures, bed bugs can often be found hiding out in the cracks and crevices of wooden furniture, in mattresses and box springs, and in piles of dirty laundry as well as in more unusual areas like walls, flooring, window frames, light switches, electrical outlets, behind loose wallpaper, and inside of keyboards and electronics.

Bed bugs are prolific pests and if they invade, should be eliminated from properties as quickly as possible. Signs that bed bugs typically leave behind to alert property owners of their presence include finding red dots of blood or dark streaks of excrement on bedding, mattresses, and box springs, as well as on walls or floors and in closets or drawers. If bed bugs are present, it is not uncommon for homeowners to find live or dead bed bugs in the cracks and crevices of bed frames or underneath mattresses and box springs. In the case of a large infestation, you may notice a sweet, musty odor inside of an otherwise clean room. Bed bug bites are not an accurate indication of a bed bug infestation because not all people react to their bites and bed bug bites look very similar to other insect bites.

Bed bug prevention tips: Keep all personal belongings up off of the ground while traveling or when out in public places. Vacuum your home’s floors regularly, making sure not to miss the edges where the wall and floor meet. Routinely wash and dry all outerwear that is worn by your family on an everyday basis a high heat cycle. Wash all bedding on a weekly basis, inspecting the mattress for signs of bed bugs during the process. Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs and reduce clutter found throughout your home to eliminate hiding spots. Do not purchase any used furniture, mattresses, or box springs for your home. During travel, always make sure to check the room that you will be staying in for signs of bed bugs before bringing your luggage inside. Keep your luggage up off of your room’s floors and make sure to store any personal belongings that are not in use in sealed plastic bags. After returning home, make sure to immediately wash and dry all clothing on a high heat setting and vacuum and wipe out all suitcases that were used before storing them away.

Beetles

small beetle chewing a leaf in alexander city

Beetles are a diversified group of insects. In fact, there are more than 400,000 individual species living all across the world. Beetles come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are rounded while some are domed, some are oval-shaped and others are elongated, but they all have well-developed antennae, chewing mouthparts, and hard, shell-like front wings. Their shell-like front wings create a distinct line down the backs of most beetles where they meet. These hard, waterproof front wings cover and protect the more delicate back wings and the beetles themselves from water and dehydration. Like we said above, beetles come in a variety of colors including black, brown, brownish-red, red, yellow, orange, and more; beetles can be spotted, striped, mottled, or solid colored.

Different food sources and living conditions will attract beetles to homes and properties. Some species feed on plants, wood, and other insects and therefore are commonly found living outside in and around garden areas. These beetles usually only become a problem inside of homes and other buildings when they overwinter inside them. Beetles are also known for feeding on and breeding in stored grains and dry goods. They are referred to as pantry pests and are often found living in food processing facilities and grocery stores where they are then accidentally introduced in homes inside dry goods purchased from the grocery store that were infested with beetle eggs or larvae. Other beetles are known for infesting and damaging the lumber used to build homes and feeding on and damaging clothing, upholstery, other fabrics, and wooden furniture. Beetles typically don’t pose any threats to people, but they have the potential to be destructive and damaging to plants, wood, furniture, fabrics, and dry goods.

Beetle prevention tips: Seal cracks, crevices, or openings found in the exterior walls and foundation of your home. Place mesh covers over vents entering into your home and tight-fitting caps on all chimneys. It is also helpful to make sure that screens placed in windows and doors are completely intact and to caulk any gaps found around windows and doors. Many species of beetles are attracted to outdoor lights; therefore, replacing white outdoor lights with warm colored (yellow/orange) LED lights can make your home less attractive to them. Establish garden areas a distance away from the outside of your home. To prevent a beetle infestation, inspect food packaging for rips and tears before bringing them home from the grocery store. It is also a good idea to inspect fabrics, wooden items and lumber for signs of beetles before bringing them into your home.

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