A Guide To The Common Pests Of Tampa Bay, Florida
Looking to learn more about the pests you're seeing in and around your Florida home or business? Use this quick reference page to learn more about the insects and rodents that frequently invade residential and commercial properties in our area, as well as the dangers and damages that they cause, so you can better protect your home and family from them. Listed below are some of the most common pest invaders found in Brandon, Apollo Beach, Riverview, Ruskin, and throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Ants are common household pests and are easy to identify. They have three distinct body regions - head, thorax, and abdomen. Ants also have six legs and a pair of antennae. The reproductive members of the colony are winged, but only emerge from the colony a few times a year. Ants range in size from small to large and come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, red, and yellow. Ants typically nest outside, but often find their way inside homes while foraging for food or if the weather outside becomes too harsh. Once inside, many stay and build nests. Common species of ants found living in our area include ghost ants, Florida carpenter ants, crazy ants, and pharaoh ants.
Ants are often described as either dangerous or a nuisance. Nuisance ants usually invade homes in large numbers, are difficult to prevent and eliminate, but they pose no real threat to people or property. Ghost ants and crazy ants are both types of nuisance ants. Dangerous ants are those species that carry and transmit diseases and bacteria, bite or sting, and cause damage to the structures of properties. Pharaoh ants are considered dangerous because of the pathogens they carry, which they can transmit to people. Pharaoh ants are particularly dangerous in hospitals, where they contaminate patient wounds. Florida carpenter ants are destructive, and an infestation can damage the structural integrity of a home or business by the fire ants tunneling through and nesting inside your property's structural wood.
Preventing problems with ants can be difficult, but there are several things you can do to keep them out. Trim overgrown trees, bushes, and other vegetation away from the exterior of your home. Leave a barrier between any mulch and grass and your home’s foundation. Inspect the outside of your home, sealing any spaces found. Make sure screens are intact, place weather stripping around windows and doors, and install door sweeps. Use dehumidifiers to reduce moisture levels in your home and repair leaky pipes or fixtures. Limit food sources by keeping locking lids on trash cans and compost bins, keeping outdoor eating areas cleaned up, and picking up fallen fruits and vegetables in garden areas.
Bed bugs are parasitic pests that primarily feed on the blood of people, but also feed on other mammals as well. Bed bugs feed using specialized mouthparts shaped into an elongated proboscis, which punctures the skin of their host and allows them to consume a blood meal. Bed bugs are mainly nocturnal, hiding during the day in tight cracks and crevices, emerging at night to feed on their host(s). Adult bed bugs are wingless, about 1/4 of an inch long, and have a flat oval shape. Before feeding, the apple seed-shaped bed bugs are reddish-brown in color. After feeding, they turn a purple-reddish color, and their body expands and swells. Nymphs look similar to adults, except that they are smaller and are light yellow in color. They turn bright red after feeding.
Bed bugs live where people live, or in public places where people come and go in large numbers. Hotels, motels, airports, taxis, shopping centers, hospitals, schools, dormitories, movie theaters, and libraries are all common places that large bed bug populations are found. In homes, bed bugs usually first take up residence in sleeping areas. If the infestation is allowed to develop, they will travel throughout the home, infesting other rooms. Although their presence is never welcome in any home or business, they are not considered dangerous pests and aren’t known to create a significant amount of health risks to people.
To minimize you and your family’s exposure to bed bugs, it is important to always keep your belongings up off the ground while in public places. When at work or at school keep your bags, purses, coats, and other personal belongings away from other people’s. Thoroughly inspect a hotel room before bringing luggage and items into it. Do not purchase used furniture, mattresses, or box springs for use inside your home. Immediately wash and dry newly purchased clothing on high heat cycles. Regularly wash your family’s bedding, and vacuum your home often. It is also a good idea to use a protective cover that encases your home’s mattresses and box springs.
Cockroaches are insects that are adaptable and are found living in a wide variety of indoor and outdoor environments. They are large insects with semi-hard, oval-shaped, flat bodies. Their heads are small compared to their bodies. Cockroaches are scavengers and feed on a wide variety of food and non-food items. Roaches are typically social and are prolific breeders living together in large groups. Common species of cockroaches living in our area include the American cockroach, the Australian cockroach, the German cockroach, and the brown-banded cockroach.
Inside, cockroaches are found living and nesting in a variety of locations, including above ceilings, in attics, inside crawlspaces, and behind large electrical appliances near pipes and faucets. They are also commonly found in basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens. Outside, they live in mulch, on trees, in garbage dumps, and near sewers. Cockroaches are considered dangerous pests and great care should be taken to keep them out and away from your family and stored food. Before invading your home, they were living in and crawling through some less-than-sanitary items and areas. Because of this, they carry a large number of viruses, bacteria, and parasites on their bodies, legs, and in their feces. Cockroaches are known to cause diarrhea, dysentery, and other serious health concerns. In addition, their shed skins and excrement can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks in people, especially those with weakened immune systems and children.
To stop cockroaches from finding their way into your home, it is important to inspect your home’s exterior and seal any spaces found in its foundation. You should place weather stripping around windows and doors, and make sure that door sweeps are installed, especially on basement doors. Place tight-fitting mesh covers over all vents. Eliminate food and water sources by repairing leaky pipes and fixtures, using dehumidifiers, and storing all food inside air-tight containers or inside the refrigerator. Inspect used furniture, appliances, and packages for cockroaches before bringing them inside.
Seasonal pests are pests that live outside during much of the year. However, the key word is "much". Seasonal pests often move inside homes and other buildings during certain seasons of the year. When the weather begins to cool in late summer and early fall, they look to move inside, seeking warm, safe shelter that is close to food sources. Seasonal pests may also move inside when the weather becomes too hot during the summer to live comfortably outside. In addition, seasonal invaders can be described as those pests that only emerge during certain seasons of the year. Seasonal invaders are a huge nuisance to deal with year after year, but the good news is they can be eliminated and controlled with the help of a trained professional.
Examples of seasonal pests living in our area include rodents, spiders, and mosquitoes. Rodents are common household pests. They have the potential to enter inside to forage for food and shelter any time of the year. Rodents are especially problematic in the late fall and winter seasons. Spiders are usually found living outside foraging for food (other insects and spiders). Spiders in our area often find their way inside during periods of hot weather or heavy rains. Mosquitoes are at their highest numbers during spring and summer seasons when the weather is hot and humid and provides the right environmental conditions for breeding.
To protect your home or business from invasion by seasonal pests, it is important to eliminate entrance points into your home. Seal cracks in its foundation, place weather stripping around windows and doors, put caps on chimneys, place door sweeps on all exterior doors, and repair torn screens. Remove their access to food by keeping locking lids on trash cans, limiting flowering vegetation of your property, and maintaining garden areas. Make your property as unappealing as possible by keeping the grass cut short, removing piles of debris, and trimming trees and shrubs away from the outside of your home.
Termites are insects that feed on things made of cellulose, such as decaying plants, tree roots, tree stumps, fallen trees, tree limbs, fallen leaves, and structural wood. Out in nature, termites are beneficial. They help to speed up the process of breaking down decaying plants. However, when termites find their way into homes and other structures, they are destructive and unwanted.
Termites are social insects that have a complex social structure, living together in large colonies. Termites divide themselves into different castes to maintain the colony and are usually described as either workers, soldiers, or reproductives. The three different types of termites that live in the Tampa Bay area are Formosan, Eastern, and Drywood termites. Formosan termites live across the southern portion of the United States. They live in large colonies. A single colony may have several millions of termites in it. Due to their large colony size, they can cause more damage in a shorter period of time than other species of termites. They are a subterranean species of termite, but also nest above the ground, usually on roofs in carton nests. Eastern subterranean termites live across the entire United States. Their colonies are not as large as Formosan termite colonies. Still, Eastern subterranean termites may have hundreds of thousands of members in a single colony and can cause extensive and expensive damage to properties they invade. They nest exclusively under the ground. Drywood termites invade dry wood with low moisture content and can be founding invading items like wooden furniture, woodwork, trim, and dry structural timbers. Their colonies tend to be much smaller in size than subterranean termite colonies.
To protect your home from wood-destroying termites, it is important to reduce as much excess moisture in and around your home as possible. Use dehumidifiers or air conditioners, and make sure crawlspaces and attics are properly ventilated. Maintain your home’s gutters, place weather stripping around all windows and doors, repair leaky pipes or fixtures, and remove any wood in your home that has been damaged by water. Eliminate as many entry points as possible into your home, especially openings found in the foundation and on the roof. Limit soil-to-wood contact on your property, seal cracks in your home's foundation, and leave a barrier between it and any soil or mulch. Place woodpiles up off the ground and away from the exterior of your home in addition to removing scrap wood from your property.
Wasps are stinging insects and are usually categorized as either social or solitary. Many species of wasps are predatory and feed on species of nuisance insects. Some wasps do feed on pollen and nectar and are responsible for some pollination. Most species of wasps have pinched waists, two pairs of wings, and six legs that hang down when in flight. Two of the most common species of wasps are the yellow jacket and paper wasp. Yellow jackets are social and live together in large colonies. Paper wasps are semi-social and live together in relatively small colonies.
Wasps build their nests in a variety of locations that provide them with ample food and shelter sources. Paper wasps make their nests out of a paper-like material that they create by chewing on bark, plant stems, and leaves, mixing plant material with their saliva. Paper wasps usually place their umbrella-shaped nests up off the ground in trees, on utility poles, or under roof eaves. Yellow jackets are ground nesters. They build their nests in abandoned holes created by squirrels, chipmunks, or other small animals. Their ground nests can be difficult for people and pets to avoid, making them quite dangerous.
Wasps have venom that is strong enough to cause allergic reactions, or in some cases, anaphylactic shock in people and pets. If wasps ever place their nest in an area that is a potential danger to you, your kids, or your pets, it is important to contact a professional to have it removed. To help prevent problems with stinging insects on your property, remove water sources, limit the number of flowering plants planted near your home, trim overgrown vegetation, remove debris from your property, and seal possible entry points into your home.
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