Stinging & Biting Insects of Summer
Below are listed some of the most common insects and arthropods you may encounter during the later summer months in and around the home. The heat of the summer brings on an onslaught of stinging and biting insects to make our days of work and play somewhat challenging. Our homes and yards provide ample opportunity for harborage and breeding sites, making your home a “biting bug country inn and restaurant”. Knowing the insects and their habits can go far to minimize your exposure to their effects.
Wasps & Bees
Wasps are for the most part social insects, having a caste system in their colony structure. In a normal colony, there is a primary reproductive (queen), workers for foraging and colony building purposes, and soldiers to protect the hive. While there are solitary wasps, such as Carpenter Bees, Cicada Killers and parasitic wasps, they do not pose a threat in our everyday activities. In general, stinging wasps are nest builders; their hives are either open faced or enclosed, ball type nests. They are easily recognizable and can normally be found in areas protected by window
ledges or overhangs. The exception to this would be hornets and yellow jackets. While both build ball type nests, hornets normally hang their nests from a tree branch or roof overhang, and yellow jackets will normally build their nests underground, using old rodent burrows to begin excavation. These wasps are extremely aggressive and should not be bothered without proper safety equipment and knowledge about their behavior. Many paper wasps will build their nests inside metal fence railings, in attics and also behind shutters and windows when openings are found. While these wasps are somewhat docile, they will aggressively sting when threatened or disturbed unintentionally. When late summer arrives, wasp queens will prepare for the coming year by producing next year’s queens. She will stop laying eggs after this job is complete and the nest will lose its social hierarchy. The workers start to forage on their own, going after carbohydrates and sugars instead of proteins to feed the queen and larvae. This is why the wasps become aggressive around picnics and backyards… picnics provide ample foods for the quick fixes the wasps are looking for in late autumn.
Mosquitoes are one of the worst biting insects; at the very least causing extreme discomfort, and in some cases, being vectors of diseases that have caused pain and death throughout the world. They require rather small amounts of stagnant water as breeding sites and can be found in multiple areas around the home. In warmer temperatures, their reproductive rate is astounding, so finding and removing their breeding sites is critical to control. Some mosquitoes require as little as a tablespoon of water for breeding purposes, so any standing water, such as in gutters, planter bases, children’s toys and other reservoirs should not be left to stagnate. If these sites cannot be drained permanently, they should be treated to prevent reproduction.
Ticks are the great hitchhikers, and while they are not a true insect, they have proven to be a major vector of diseases such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. They are second only to mosquitoes in disease transmission from parasitic organisms. While ticks cannot jump onto a host, they climb tall grasses and shrubs to wait for an unsuspecting meal to walk by. It is for this reason that grasses should be kept at minimum height, preventing ticks from finding an easy ride. When walking through fields, you should always tuck in clothing and inspect yourself for ticks as often as possible. The reproductive cycle of a tick is nothing short of astounding. After consuming a blood meal, the female tick will lay many thousands of eggs, ensuring that a good number of offspring reach maturity. Pet bedding and baseboards of rooms where pets reside are good harborages for ticks
Fleas are a major nuisance when encountered, mainly because they don’t make themselves known until their numbers have increased to the point where they can no longer be ignored. While it appears to happen overnight, flea infestations normally progress slowly until heat and humidity speed up their life cycle. In a lot of cases, this is the same time when people go away on vacation, leaving the resident fleas without a meal for a period of time. When the homeowner returns, vibrations from walking into the home will trigger the pupae to emerge into the adult phase and immediately look for a meal. This is what triggers the frantic calls to come treat the house immediately. As a homeowner, the best thing you can do is vacuum the house continually, especially around baseboards and carpeting. Pet bedding should be cleaned regularly and the pet should be inspected for signs of flea infestations. While this will no guarantee against flea infestation, it will go far to prevent the population explosion likely to occur when left unchecked. One thing is sure, flea prevention is much less of a battle than eradication. Fleas carry a number of diseases, but they are relatively rare in occurrence. Typhus and plague are the best known concerns, but they have not made an appearance for some time.
While no one can ensure that you will not encounter some of these pests throughout the summer, being aware of the potential harborages and nesting areas of these pests will go far to minimize the likelihood of being bitten or stung while enjoying the fun of summer and autumn seasons. If any concerns appear to be beyond your ability to eliminate the pests when found, play it safe and feel free to contact us for more information or to schedule a visit.