close up of ants

Your Guide To Pest Identification In The St. Louis Metro

When pests get into your home or business that you’re not terribly familiar with, you have questions that need answers. Our pest library can help! This handy resource guide provides useful information about the most common pests to invade St. Louis homes and businesses.

Ants

a black ant on a leaf

Ants are one of the most common species of household pests, and with more than 1,000 species living throughout the United States, keeping them away from your home can be difficult. Most species of ants living in St. Louis, including sweet ants and odorous house ants, are nuisance pests that pose us no real harm or threat. Other species, such as the carpenter ant, do pose dangers when they invade our homes. Carpenter ants, after invading homes or other structures, often decide to create satellite nests inside structural wood, overtime causing more and more damage to a home’s structure.

Problems with ants typically occur after food draws them to a property. Ants are mostly omnivorous, and feed on a variety of things including meats, sweets, nectar, honeydew (produced by garden pests), fruits, and vegetables. These opportunistic pests will forage for food in gardens, trash cans, compost piles, our pet’s food bowls, and crumbs in outdoor eating areas. While foraging for food, they often find their way in through spaces in the foundation and exterior walls of a home. Once inside, they are often seen wandering around our kitchens, pantries, and bathrooms. Whether dangerous or a nuisance, ants should always be kept out of our homes to stop them from contaminating our food and surfaces with excrement, bacteria, and other pathogens they carry on their bodies and legs.

Ant prevention tips: Keep tight-fitting covers on trash cans, recycling bins, and compost bins. Maintain garden areas, picking up fruits and vegetables that have fallen to the ground. Pick up your pet’s uneaten food. Keep outdoor eating areas clean and free of food debris. Remove standing water from your property. Seal cracks in the foundation and exterior walls of your home. Place weatherstripping around windows and doors, put mesh covers over vents, repair holes along the roofline, and repair damaged screens. Inside your home regularly vacuum, wipe down counters, and store food in the fridge or containers with tight-fitting lids.

Bed Bugs

a bedbug on gravel

Bed bugs are hitchhiking pests that feed only on the blood of people and animals. They are difficult pests to avoid, as they have the potential to find their way into any home or business. Adult bed bugs are about 1/4 of an inch long and have broad, flat, oval-shaped bodies. Depending on when they have had their most recent meal, bed bugs are either reddish-brown or a deep, purplish-red color. Bed bugs feed in a way that is painless for their hosts, in order to prevent them from waking. Their saliva acts as an anticoagulant, and prevents the blood from clotting. Those allergic to their saliva will develop a raised, red itchy rash around the bite sites.

Bed bugs are mostly nocturnal – hiding during the day in dark cracks and crevices, and coming out at night to feed on their host’s blood. The presence of bed bugs in any home will lead to stress-filled days and sleepless nights. Bed bugs like to hide out in places where there are people, since we are their favorite hosts to feed from. In addition to our homes, bed bugs have the potential to be present in hotels, movie theaters, hospitals, schools, dormitories, libraries, shopping centers, airports, or any other public place. When inside our homes, some of their preferred hiding spots such as the seams of mattresses, box springs, upholstered furniture, baseboards, wall trim, and behind loose wallpaper and light switches.

Bed bug prevention tips: When traveling, always inspect hotel rooms for signs of bed bugs before bringing luggage and other personal belongings into it. Wash and dry all clothing taken on a trip immediately after bringing the items home, using the highest heat setting the fabrics can handle. Limit hiding spots in your home by placing protective bed bug covers on all mattresses and box springs, and picking up excessive clutter. Vacuum your home’s floors, upholstered furniture, and mattresses and box springs. When spending time in public places, keep your bags, coats and other personal belongings off the ground and away from other people’s belongings.

Cockroaches

a cockroach on wood

Cockroaches vary in size and color, but have similar hard, flat, oval-shaped bodies, and two antennae that are usually as long as, or longer than, their bodies. Depending on the species, cockroaches may or may not have wings; even those with wings, however, they aren’t known for being great fliers. Most species of cockroaches are social, and live together in large groups – making controlling and eliminating them a difficult task. There are many species of cockroaches that live outside and away from people. These species are scavengers and help to break-down decaying plant and animal matter, which makes them very helpful. It is only the handful of cockroaches that have discovered the benefits of living with or near people that cause us problems. Some of the most common species of cockroaches to invade homes and businesses in our area are the German cockroach, Oriental cockroach, and American cockroach.

No species of cockroach should be allowed to live with people,  as they cause a variety of serious problems. Cockroaches living outside live and travel in unsanitary places, such as sewers, trash cans, drains, and decaying plant or animal matter. Once inside your home or business, cockroaches will contaminate food, food prep areas, dishes, and surfaces with bacteria, human pathogens, and parasites they carry on their body and legs. In addition, the build-up of their excrement and shed skins will cause the flare of allergies and trigger asthmas attacks in many, with young children being most susceptible. Cockroaches move inside through cracks in the foundation, gaps around windows and doors, spaces around air conditioners, and through drains or vents. They also move inside on potted plants, in delivery boxes, or in used appliances that are infested with these hitchhiking pests. The many ways they are able to enter inside buildings make avoiding cockroaches a difficult task.

Cockroach prevention tips: Get rid of entry points by sealing cracks in the foundation and exterior walls, placing weather strips around windows and doors, and fix damaged screens. Eliminate standing water by fixing leaky pipes and fixtures and maintaining gutters. Reduce humidity levels in your home by using dehumidifiers and keeping crawlspaces ventilated. Get rid of places for cockroaches to forage for food on your property by keeping locking lids on outdoor trashcans and compost bins. Inside store food in the refrigerator or airtight containers. Before bringing in used furniture, potted plants, appliances, and packages inspect the items for signs of cockroaches.

Rodents

a mouse chewing on a wall cord

Rodents are common pests that live in rural, urban, and suburban areas. They are wild animals, but over time, some species have decided to take advantage of the food, water, and shelter people and our structures provide them. Though there are more than 1,500 different species of rodents living worldwide, all rodents – no matter the species – have front incisors that continuously grow. Some of the most common species living in our area are mice, Norway rats, and roof rats.

To prevent their front incisors from overgrowing, rodents chew on almost anything they come across. Rodents cause a lot of damage in our homes by chewing through wires, pipes, ducts, drywall, and other structures. They also damage personal items like clothing, shoes, furniture, pictures, and books. Rats and mice do not hibernate, and remain active year-round. While they have the potential to move inside at any point in the year, they often move inside when the weather cools in the late fall, seeking warmer living conditions and easy access to food. Common indoor nesting spots for rodents include behind large appliances, underneath of furniture, in boxes, in basements, in crawlspaces, and behind wall voids. They will also invade garages and nest inside of things like vehicles and lawnmowers.

Rodent prevention tips: Prevent their easy access to food by keeping tight-fitting lids on trashcans and compost bins, picking-up uneaten pet food, and maintaining garden areas. Limit hiding spots on your property by cleaning up fallen trees, logs, excess woodpiles, and keeping the grass cut short. Keep rodents out of your home by sealing spaces in the foundation, exterior walls, and roofline. Place a tight-fitting cap on chimneys and mesh covers over vents and drains leading into your home. Keep garage and shed doors closed when not in use and keep storage areas free of clutter. Limit sources of water by eliminating standing water and by fixing leaky pipes and fixtures.

Spiders

a black widow spider in its web

Spiders have many eyes, eight legs, and two body parts. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are dangerous, and others are just annoying to have around. While spiders are common household pests, they shouldn’t be a common fixture in your home. Most species of spiders are nuisance spiders, meaning the venom they use to paralyze prey, is not strong enough to harm people. Nuisance spiders living in our area include wolf spiders, grass spiders, and house spiders. In the United States, there are two species of dangerous spiders- brown recluse spiders and black widow spiders. Care should be taken to avoid both species because their venom is strong enough to trigger health problems in people.

Spiders are predators and feed on insects and other spiders, helping to control populations of nuisance and dangerous pests. Yards or any outdoor spaces with a lot of insect activity are most attractive to spiders. Spiders like to live outside in quiet shelter places near their prey. Tall grasses, bushes, shrubs, trees, roof eaves, doorways, woodpiles, fallen trees, and areas under decks all make great hideouts for spiders. Spiders do find their way inside of homes and outbuildings usually while following their prey. Spiders move inside during the fall and winter months when their food sources become scarce after many insects have moved inside to overwinter. Inside spiders hide in dark, less-traveled areas like closets, basements, attics, under sinks, and under furniture.

Spider prevention tips: Trim shrubs and bushes back from the exterior of your home. Store woodpiles away from the outside of your home. Remove fallen trees, logs, and tree stumps from your property. Keep the grass in your yard cut short and cut back away from your home’s foundation. Maintain garden areas. Reduce points of entry into your home by sealing cracks in the foundation, exterior walls, roofline, and spaces around utilities entering into your home. Fix loose or torn screens.

Termites

a termite on a dirt mound

Termites are a type of insect that feeds on cellulose found in wood and other plant materials. Subterranean termites are a species of termite that nest under the ground, and prefer water-damaged wood; they do not nest within the pieces of wood they are feeding on. Those colonies that choose to build their nests near homes and other buildings often find their way inside while foraging for food. They move inside unnoticed through spaces in the foundation or through pieces of wood making direct contact with the ground.

Described as social insects, termites live together in large numbers. Termite colonies divide into different groups, or castes. The larvae grow to become either workers, soldiers, or reproductives (fertile males and queens). The worker termites make up the bulk of the colony and are responsible for gathering food to feed the colony. Worker termites are those that invade structures, tunnel through and feed on structural wood, and over time cause extensive and expensive to repair damage. Termites living across the country are responsible for causing over five billion dollars in damage each year.

Termite prevention tips: Eliminate as much wood-to-soil contact on your home and property as possible. Stop rainwater from seeping into your walls by keeping gutters clear and placing weather-stripping around windows and doors. Use dehumidifiers to reduce moisture levels in your home and make sure to ventilate crawlspaces. Repair leaky pipes and fixtures. Remove fallen trees, tree stumps, and leaf piles from your property. Leave a barrier of at least 12-18 inches between any soil and your home’s foundation, and if possible, replace traditional mulch with a non-organic option.

To protect your property from pests, reach out to the pest control experts at Arenz Pest Management today. With our help, you can enjoy a pest-free property!

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