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Threats and Prevention

We call some animals "pests" because they're just plain annoying, But many pests also pose real threats to people and property. You may have heard that some insects and rodents can make you sick or damage your house. Some pests do cause harm, but there are many things you can do to protect yourself and your house.

Read up on these threats below. Then try your hand at our pest threat quiz.

Carpenter Ants

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Carpenter Ants can eat wood and damage your house. There are nine types of carpenter ants throughout the U.S. As many as four or five species are regularly seen in some places. All species mainly attack wood that is or has been wet and damaged by mold.

Even though these ants first invade wet, decayed wood, they may soon begin building paths through dry, undamaged wood. They usually come into buildings through cracks around doors, windows, or through holes for wires. They will also crawl along overhead wires, shrubs, or tree limbs that touch the building far above the ground.

Preventing Carpenter Ant Problems:

Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent carpenter ant infestations:

  • Eliminate standing water. Pests, such as ants, mosquitoes and termites, are attracted to moisture.

  • Keep tree branches and other plants cut back from the house. Sometimes pests use these branches to get into your home.

  • Make sure that there are no cracks or little openings around the bottom of your house. Sometimes pests use these to get into your home.

  • Make sure that firewood and building materials are not stored next to your home. Pests like to build nests in stacks of wood.

Carpenter Bees

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There are seven species of carpenter bees throughout the U.S. They get their name from their ability to drill through wood and nest in holes of about one-half inch across. The holes that carpenter bees drill usually only look about one or two inches deep. But they can be up to 10 feet long. These tunnels usually have several rooms where the bees hold their eggs and food. These bees can drill into almost any wood, but like old and unpainted woods best.
Preventing Carpenter Bee Problems:
Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent carpenter bee infestations:
  • Carpenter bees can drill into almost any wood, but prefer bare wood, so painting and staining wood can sometimes deter them.
  • However, they will sometimes attack stained or painted wood, and their nests can be hard to reach, so a pest management professional or beekeeper should be called in to help.

Cockroaches

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Cockroaches are pests that have been known to carry lots of dangerous germs. They crawl through dirty areas and then walk around our homes tracking in lots of bacteria.

When you see one cockroach, you can be pretty sure that there are many more out of sight. When these insects shed their skins, die, or leave droppings, those remains are called cockroach allergens. Researchers recently discovered that cockroach allergens can cause asthma attacks in children.

Preventing Cockroach Problems:

Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent cockroach infestations:

  • Cockroach allergens are build-ups of their droppings and shed skins. If you carefully clean your room and help to clean your house, you will remove a lot of the cockroach allergens.

  • If you have cockroaches in your house, talk to your parents about having a professional pest control person come in and help you get rid of them.

Mosquitoes

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Mosquitoes in your area may infect you with one of two dangerous viruses:

 

Eastern Equine Encephalitis


Mosquitoes carry the virus that causes Eastern Equine Encephalitis. It's found most often in the Eastern United States. Both horses and humans can get sick from it. In humans, the disease can cause encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, coma and death. There have been 200 known cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the United States since 1964. Most cases were reported in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.


West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people infected will not develop any symptoms.. If you do get sick, symptoms can include fever, headache, body ache, and swollen lymph glands. In the most severe infections, people may have a high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Within four years after the disease was first reported in 1999, there were over 5,500 cases of West Nile Virus. Over 325 people have died.. In 2003, human West Nile Virus cases have been reported in 36 states, with the highest case incidence in Texas.

 

Preventing Mosquito Problems:

Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Mosquitoes like to hang out around standing water. To help get rid of them you can clean out the gutters on your house, and the water in your pools, ponds and bird baths.

  • Make sure that the screens to your house do not have holes! This will help to keep the mosquitoes out and you safe.

  • When you go outside make sure that you are wearing bug spray. Have your parents check to see if the bug spray has DEET in it. This will help you to be as safe as possible.

  • Mosquitoes are the most active at dusk or at dawn. Try and stay inside during this time.

  • If you are going to spend lots of time outside, try and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

Rats and Mice

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Rat

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Mouse


Rodents, mostly deer mice and packrats, can spread the very dangerous Hantavirus. The full name of this disease is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, which is a big name for a very scary, but rare illness spread by small pests. About a third of the people who caught Hantavirus have died. However this is a rare disease, with only 318 known cases between 1993 and 2002. Most cases have been in Southwestern states.

The urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents contain this virus. Humans can catch the illness if they breathe in particles of the droppings, saliva, or urine that are in the air. They can also catch Hantavirus if they touch or are bitten by infected animals.

Rats are also responsible for spreading bubonic plague, also known as the "Black Death." Although fleas are responsible for infecting humans, —they get it from the rats!

Preventing Problems with Rats and Mice:

Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent infestations of rats and mice:

  • Rats like to live near humans because we provide them with food and shelter, usually without knowing that we are helping them.

  • To keep rats away from your home you should try to keep the things they like to eat away from the ground and in containers that are closed tight. Rats like to eat pet food, fruit and vegetables, nuts, grain, and old food.

  • Rats make their homes in hidden areas around and in human homes. They like to live in sheds, garages, boxes, ceilings, under floors, in wood heaps and in thick grass.

  • To keep rats from making their home in or near your home you should make sure that your home and storage areas are clean. Make sure that you clean your sheds, crawlspaces, and garbage cans often. Close up any small holes and cracks they can come in through.

Termites


Termites eat wood and can damage your house. They are known as 24/7 pests. This means that termites eat twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. When they devour dead trees in forests, termites help recycle nutrients and make space for new plant life. But once they start to eat the wood in your home, they are not so welcome!. Termites eat very slowly, making it difficult to spot termite damage until it is very bad. A trained pest control professional can find out if termites are keeping you company in your home.

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map of termite range

Preventing Termite Problems:

    Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent termite infestations:

    • Eliminate standing water. Pests, such as ants, mosquitoes and termites, are attracted to moisture.

    • Keep tree branches cut back. Sometimes pests use these branches to get into your home.

    • Make sure that there are no cracks or little openings around the bottom of your house. Sometimes pests use these to get into your home.

    • Make sure that firewood and building materials are not stored next to your home. Pests like to build nests in stacks of wood.

Ticks

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Ticks in your area may infect you with one of two dangerous diseases:

Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is caused by the bite of infected deer ticks. Symptoms include a distinctive "bull's-eye" shaped rash, fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches and joint aches. About 15,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported in the United States every year. Almost all of those cases occurred in the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a disease caused by tick bites. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain and rash. Most cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever occur from April to September. Although the disease is named Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the disease has been found in 45 states. Most cases of the disease occurred in North Carolina and Oklahoma.

Preventing Tick Bites:

There are two simple things you can do to prevent tick bites:

  • Wear light colored clothing when you are outside. This will help you to spot the ticks before they attach themselves to your skin.

  • After you spend time outside try to check yourself for ticks. Have someone look through your hair to see if they fell onto your head and check your back. Make sure you check your legs and arms very carefully.


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