How To Keep The Family Safe From Dangerous Warm Weather Pests
When the sun shines in spring and summer, annoying and dangerous warm weather pests pose a threat to kids, pets and you.
For example, last summer, my dog threw up a scorpion on to my expensive rug. I couldn’t believe my eyes since I had no idea we even had them here in La Jolla, CA.
Speaking of the dog, our veterinarian says that summer 2013 is going to be a horrible season for fleas and ticks in Southern California.
With all of this in mind, here are summer pests to be aware of and how to prevent them from invading outdoor living spaces and ruining summer fun.
There are over 850 species of ticks, which are blood-sucking insects that find prey by sensing heat and carbon dioxide.
Once they sense prey on the horizon, they slowly climb up stems with legs outstretched and then leap onto unsuspecting animals and humans.
The tick most commonly-found in coastal regions of California is the Western black-legged tick.
Adult female Western black-legged ticks have a reddish-brown edge with black legs while the males are all brownish-black and slightly smaller, though both swell up to look like a grey pebble after feeding.
Here’s a video by the County of San Diego about how they study ticks along with helpful prevention methods.
Diseases spread by ticks
Lyme disease is the most well-known and common disease spread by ticks who become infected with it by sucking blood from an infected host.
Tularemia, an illness caused by bacteria found in animals, is also carried by ticks though usually treatable with antibiotics.
How to keep ticks out of your outdoor living spaces
If you have pets, make sure to flea and tick control such as a special collar, internal medication or external medication.
Clear tall grass and brush away from your home and, especially, at the edge of lawns where pets and children play.
Remove potential hiding places by mowing grass frequently and keeping leaves or debris from piling up in the yard.
Keep play equipment and patio furniture away from tall trees and yard edges.
Fence out deer and other potential hosts and keep rodents at bay.
Eliminate ground cover, which can hide ticks.
Consider adding more hardscape and xeriscape to your yard.
Precautions for wandering in tick-prone areas
Despite the bad rap, mosquito repellants (check the label for tick use) with DEET also repel ticks so consider using on if you’re lurking in dense brush.
Stay on marked, wide trails and avoid grass or bushy areas where ticks may hide.
Tuck pants into boots, shirt into pants, and seal off any entry points that might allow a tick near your skin.
Check your skin immediately upon returning home as it does take ticks a while to decide where to bite.
They’re small, wingless and annoying insects that jump on to pets and humans to administer an itchy bite.
Fleas love living in warm, coastal areas with high humidity.
Diseases spread by fleas
Rodents carry the plague and fleas love to bite them, therefore, transmitting the disease elsewhere.
Hard to believe this can happen to such a small insect, but if you happen to swallow a flea infected by a tapeworm, you can get one, too.
Murine typhus is a a high fever-causing disease that’s spread by the bite of a rat flea, a type of flea that feeds on rodents.
How to keep fleas out of your outdoor and indoor living spaces
Similar to ticks, keep your pets free of fleas by using proactive flea control methods.
Vacuum indoors frequently and then seal and dispose of the vacuum bag immediately, in case you sucked in live fleas.
Fleas lay eggs on pets, so clean beds and areas in the yard where your pets hang out.
Eliminate their hiding places or preferred environment by removing dead debris and allowing sunlight into damp areas.
If a large part of the yard is damp, consider fencing it off so that pets can’t access it.
Unfortunately, 90 different species of these hard-to-kill pests lurk all over the United States and their sting is extremely painful.
How to deal with scorpions in the yard
Scorpions feed on insects like cockroaches and crickets so it’s imperative that you work to remove their food source.
Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth as an organic barrier, because it’s so sharp to pests like scorpions (yet safe for humans and pets) that they will walk over it and die or refuse to.
Use an old Indian trick of sprinkling cinnamon near doorways as they don’t like the smell and might not enter your house.
Seek out scorpions at night by using a black light–they’ll glow underneath it.
Remove piles of wood, leaves, loose rocks and other potential hiding places.
Keep the lawn mowed to expose them.
Yellow light bulbs don’t attract insects as much as white ones do so consider making the switch.
Seek medical attention if stung by a scorpion
Fortunately, scorpion stings are rarely fatal, however, the CDC recommends seeking medical attention immediately, especially for children.
Apply ice to the wound and stay calm and relaxed to prevent the venom from spreading.
In the case of pets, some veterinarians won’t have the tools necessary to treat a scorpion sting and may direct you to a pet emergency hospital (find out before you have the need).
The CDC recommends safely capturing the scorpion and bringing it to the medical facility for identification.
Rattlesnakes hunt small pray, such as rodents, by injecting a poisonous venom and have a rattle at the end of their tail to warn off predators.
How to recognize a rattlesnake
A rattlesnake has a triangular-shaped head with pit organs (that look like actual pits) between the nostrils and eyes along with a forked tongue and jointed rattle at the end of the tail.
There are 16 different varieties of rattlesnakes with various color combinations.
Rattlesnakes coils up before striking and are mostly active during twilight hours.
Other snakes, like gopher snakes, sometimes curl up and pretend to be rattlesnakes in order to ward off predators.
Knowing their habits helps keep you safe
According to the San Diego Natural History Museum, rattlesnakes are shy and only strike in self-defense.
If you’re lurking in their habitat, take these precautions:
— Do not step anywhere you can’t see. For example, step on a rock then over it and not directly over it.
— Don’t run or let your dog off the leash in brush as surprising a snake can cause an attack.
— If you have to flip over a rock or log, flip it toward you with your hands in front of it, so that it is in between you and a potential snake.
How to keep rattlesnakes out of the yard
Invest in a snake fence that has tiny holes a snake can’t crawl through or, in some cases, catch snakes so you can call a professional to deal with it.
Some snake fencing is metal, like a much smaller version of chicken wire and there are companies that specialize in snake fence installations.
Keep dog food and other food off the ground.
Keep rodent problems at bay and clear out any unnecessary brush.
Seek medical attention immediately if bitten by a rattlesnake
The most important thing to do, at first, is to keep calm to prevent the venom from spreading and call 911 immediately.
The good news is that the antivenin for rattlesnakes is the same regardless of the type of rattlesnake, at least in Southern California.
Clean the wound, apply a dry dressing, don’t ice it or use a tourniquet, keep the wound below heart level (if possible), and don’t drink caffeine or alcohol.
Interesting fact: Only female mosquitoes bite, because they need the blood and protein for their eggs.
Diseases that mosquitoes carry
Encephalitis viruses, like West Nile, that affect the nervous system
A well-known blood parasite called malaria that can cause high fevers, brain damage, liver damage and more.
How to control mosquitoes in the backyard
The best thing to do is remove the breeding sources by eliminating still water by:
— Fixing all outdoor leaks.
— Keeping swimming pool and fountain water circulating.
— Not leaving water in the saucers of potted plants.
— Keeping trash cans covered and clean.
— Remove debris from rain gutters and drains to prevent stagnant water.
— Use mosquito fish or larvicide in bird baths and ponds.
Other natural garden pest control measures help rid your patio of mosquitoes include:
— Changing light bulbs from white to yellow.
— Citronella candles.
— Planting rosemary or catnip as mosquitoes are repelled by the smell.
Just because we have a love of warm weather in common with these pests doesn’t mean we have to always live together. Have a warm weather pest issue? Please share it with us here.
Photo credits: Scorpion by Flickr/Doug Letterman, mosquito by Wikimedia Commons.