5 Texas Insects to Be Cautious Of During Warm Weather
Before I moved to Texas, my friends and family warned me to be careful of the insect life. It didn't take long for me to take note of the mosquitoes, bees, scorpions and spiders setting up camp outside of my home and now that summertime is right on the horizon, it's only going to get worse.
Children (and myself) love to frolic around in the yard and leave the door open amid our excitement. But wearing close-toed shoes and closing the screen behind you is only the beginning when it comes to taking precautionary measures with the summer insects of Texas. Here are some tips to make sure you and your family stay safe this season without sacrificing outdoor shenanigans.
When I think summer, I think mosquito. As soon as it gets warm you can find them buzzing around your porch light. Female mosquitoes are the ones that bite as they need a meal of blood before laying its eggs. They are very attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale so if you can, stop breathing - just kidding.
The best way to avoid those pesky bites is to wear protective clothing when you're outside as well as wearing insect repellent that contains DEET. DEET disrupts the ability of insects to detect a source of carbon dioxide. It doesn't kill them, it just makes you seemingly invisible to them.
Mosquito bites aren't just annoying. They can also transmit diseases like malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, West Nile virus, and more recently, Zika.
Stinging insects are the worst - especially if you experience allergic reactions. Now is the time to take a look around your home to spot budding bee, wasp and hornet nests. Now if they're honey bees, we suggest calling the local beekeeper as these insects are endangered and we all still love flowers, don't we?
If you're dealing with an aggressive wasp or hornet nest, first consider hiring an exterminator as they will take appropriate measures to eradicate the threat without putting yourself or your family in harms way.
If you decide you can handle it yourself, I suggest a strong insecticide designed for wasps. Make sure to do the duty either early in the morning or just before nighttime when they are less energetic and moving a little more sluggish.
If you get stung:
Most stings can be treated with a cold compress or sting-kill medication. However if you are allergic or stung multiple times and experiencing shortness of breath, seek medical help immediately.
When I was a kid, I made the mistake of not looking wear I sat at sleep away camp. I never made that mistake again. I had to go home early on account of dozens of ant bites - luckily they weren't fire ants!
Female fire ants are the ones who sting and are reddish brown while the male worker ants are dark brown. Be wary infringing on their habitat, which are often mounds of dirt, resembling gopher hole diggings. They are frequently found along driveways, walkways, patios and at the base of fence posts.
Now, I actually haven't come across a scorpion over the last year I've been in the lone star state, but I have certainly seen some spiders.
I'm going to have nightmares after perusing the list of spiders located in Texas, but it's an important lesson to learn. Always be wary of these eight-legged creatures that like to hide in dark, undisturbed areas such as under furniture, rocks, piles of clothes (yikes!), wood. Basically, if you want your own little corner of the world, so does a spider. So be as cautious when you're at home putting on your shoes as much as when you're camping under the stars.
Certain spiders like the Texas Recluse or Black Widow can do more harm than most. If you think you've been bitten by one of those two, it would be wise to seek medical treatment. Recluse bites can take months to heal and Black Widows, although seemingly painless after the bite, will become excruciating three hours later and can last up to 48 hours.
Every year, Texans deal with contracted diseases such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis and Relapsing Fever - all of which are transmitted through infected tick bites. Early symptoms of these diseases are reminiscent of the flu and include fever, headache, neck pain, muscle aches and fatigue.
Avoiding ticks is the best way to protect yourself. Summer doesn't only bring out humans into the woods, it also brings out the ticks. The one most likely to bite you in Texas is none other than the "lone star tick" - about the size of a watermelon seed.
Here are a few tips to prevent tick bites brought to you by ticktexas.org.
- If you are in an area with ticks, check your body carefully for them every few hours. Ticks are small and can be hard to see, and they can attach to any part of the body.
- Stay on trails, avoiding areas of overgrown brush and tall grasses.
- Wear light-colored clothes so that ticks are more easily spotted. Protect skin from ticks by wearing a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into boots or socks.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET applied to the skin or permethrin applied to clothing. Follow label directions.
- Check pets frequently and remove ticks from them immediately.
If you have to remove a tick, best to use tweezers, but NEVER twist, jerk or crush the tick's body. The last thing you want is to have the head still in your skin with no way to get it out.