Pests are any plant or animal that comes into your home and pretty much make a nuisance of themselves. They can range from the generally harmless to the potentially lethal and can cost American households billions of dollars in medical expenses and property damage every year.
But did you know that you’re probably sharing your space with one or two of these creatures right now? Find out which of these North California pests could be eating you out of your house and home right this moment, and why you should kick them out as soon as possible.
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California and its critters
Why is California home to so many bugs and critters? It has something to do with the warm, balmy days that we all enjoy so much. Many insects like the ants and scorpions enjoy the heat. It spurs them into activity and drives them to find even more food and water for their growing colonies, as well as a place to call home.
Other critters enjoy the heat but are driven into our homes to escape the more extreme weather such as rain and floods. Animals like mice, rats, and spiders find our homes quite convenient and safe, just as we do. It’s no wonder that they’re attracted to take shelter in the same places.
Ants are common worldwide, and in California, we have a thriving population of them. Unfortunately, this includes the dangerously invasive Argentine Ant.
Native to Southern Brazil and its neighboring countries Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia, Argentine ants have slowly made their way into becoming a truly global species, invading and establishing colonies in countries as far away as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. They have also been found in Europe, and of course, in our very own backyards.
These tiny insects enter our homes through cracks and crevices, looking for food and water. Once inside our homes, they can be next to impossible to eradicate on your own.
Some species native to Northern California have been known to bite aggressively in defense of their territory—which could, unfortunately, include your kitchen—but for the most part, the worst that they can do is contaminate a household’s food and water. In some cases, ant bites can lead to extreme allergic reactions.
Rodents: Mice and Rats
Mice can come in a range of sizes and stay undetected in your home for years, scurrying away in the shadows and stealing bits of food here and there. When their numbers increase, however, they can become a real problem. They chew through insulation and woodwork, and in some cases, they can cause structural damage to a house that would cost a homeowner dozens of thousands of dollars to repair.
What’s worse, they can even eat through the insulation in electrical wiring, making the entire home ripe for a fire.
Once you suspect an infestation of mice or their larger counterparts, you may want to call professionals to make sure that the problem is dealt with efficiently. Even a single pair of mice left behind can bring you right back to where you started in as little as a couple of months.
Meanwhile, rats are rodents which are similar to mice, but larger and meaner. They don’t always tend to live inside our homes like mice, but they will not turn down the chance if they get it. These rodents have sharp teeth and claws, so they are more likely to destroy the things inside a home to get to food, water, or a warm nesting place. They are also more prone to carrying disease, including the dreaded infection, rabies, which can be transferred to both humans and household pets.
With their numbers left unchecked, they can cause serious damage to your home, chewing on everything including books, clothes, furniture, electric wiring, stored food, and even biting and fighting with smaller pets.
Named after an old wives’ tale that they crawl into sleepers’ ears, these fearsome-looking creatures can be found in places that are warm and moist. This means they can be lurking in your gardens, but they could very well be in your kitchens and basements too.
They are completely harmless, despite their appearance, and they only make a nuisance of themselves when they destroy stored paper products and emit a foul-smelling yellow liquid in self-defense.
While some spiders can be a gardener’s best friend, there are a few that you would never want inside your home. Among the many different species of spiders that live in California, most are harmless, but two native species can send you straight to the hospital.
The black widow and the brown widow spider are both found in Northern California, and carry within their tiny bodies a venom made with neurotoxins that instantly attack a victim’s nervous system once the spider lands a painful bite. The venom makes breathing increasingly difficult, raises the victim’s blood pressure, and makes their muscles cramp up painfully. A bite from one of these spiders can easily prove fatal, and if you find them in your home, do not handle them on your own.
Fleas and ticks
Any home with pets knows how potentially terrible a flea infestation can be, and how easy it is to be infected. Pets can get them from stray animals, or from the grass and ground where other animals have been. Then they come home and transfer fleas and their eggs into the upholstery of furniture, into corners or the house, or in the cracks in the floors and walls where it’s warm, dry, and dark, perfect conditions for these pests.
Fleas and ticks not only attack your pets, but they also bite humans. Flea bites can be wildly itchy, and enough of them can cause unsightly welts and scars on the skin. To make matters worse, fleas can carry tapeworms that are then transferred to your pet dog or cat. Flea bites can also cause skin dermatitis in humans, and inhaling flea feces can cause asthmatic-type reactions in some people.
Finally, some tick bites can be fatal for pets and even dangerous for small children. A species of tick carries a toxin in its saliva that attacks a victim’s nervous system, causing paralysis and even death.
You would usually not consider scorpions to be plentiful enough to be considered pests, but these animals have been known to make nests near or inside human homes, and when they do, they become serious threats.
Unfortunately, this animal is very small—enough to slip under the gap between the floor and the door or a tiny crack in a window. If you ever find one in your home or garden, remember to give it a wide berth and keep your eye out for more. These venomous pests have a sting that causes severe pain, a sensation similar to being continuously electrocuted with a high voltage wire. Soon after the pain sets in, paralysis follows, and the sting can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Is your home safe from common pests?
Pests in your home are no laughing matter. For one thing, you can’t always rely on all family members being as careful as they need to be to avoid getting hurt by some of the more dangerous pests. You can’t always prevent them from bringing in illness either.
The best way is to remove all pests from your home, and you can’t always do that on your own.
For one thing, some pests are dangerous. Rats can bite when cornered, scorpions sting and even a nest of mice will definitely defend themselves. What about flying pests like wasps? Do not even think you could remove a nest full of angry, buzzing wasps without proper equipment!
Professional pest control personnel know how to safely read the signs of damage, track the pests down to their source, and ensure that all the pests are removed or eliminated.
Better to invest in a job well done than to find yourself either with a bigger bill, or a medical one.
But as a homeowner, you can do your part in protecting your home by learning to identify the most common pests and keeping your eye out for them. That way, you could get help before the problem becomes too much to handle!