The worst summer pests: Ants, mosquitoes, bees, bears & skunks - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

The worst summer pests

If you see one ant, expect more to follow. (©iStockphoto/Thinkstock) If you see one ant, expect more to follow. (©iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

By Roberta Pescow

During summer most of us look forward to time at the beach, fishing and other fun activities. Unfortunately, summer also means having to deal with certain pests.

Why So Many Summer Insects?

Have you noticed that when warm weather rolls in, insects seem to appear, seemingly out of nowhere? Here are some reasons:

Food supply: Warm weather and humidity are excellent conditions for plant growth, so summer means more food for insects.

Population growth: When insects are comfortable and eating well, they're also able to breed productively.

Perception: During winter, insects haven't all died off. They hide out where they'll be warmer, in dark tree trunks or other natural shelters.

Worst Tiny Summer Pests

All creatures are part of the web of life, and not all summer insects are bothersome. While most people love the charm of fireflies, butterflies and ladybugs, when these pests show up, they drive almost everyone crazy:

Ants: If you see one ant, expect more to follow. Sugar ants are attracted to both sweet and savory foods, and luckily do not have a painful bite. The bites of fire ants, on the other hand, are painful and can cause serious injury to small children or those with allergies. Carpenter ants present another problem entirely, chewing on wood and damaging homes. 

Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes ruin the experience of a barbeque, camping trip or a timeless summer sunset. When they bite, the itching can persist for a week or more. Even worse, they carry human diseases such as West Nile Virus and pet illnesses including heartworms.

Flies: They buzz around your personal space, land on your food, carry disease and some even bite.

Ticks: Wood and deer ticks like warm places on the body to bite and drink a blood meal. Deer ticks carry a number of diseases that affect both humans and dogs, such as Lyme disease. 

Termites: During wintertime, termites retreat to underground nests. When weather gets warm, however, they emerge to feed on wooden structures of homes, causing costly damage.

Bees and wasps: While bees are vital to the pollination of many plants, no one likes to get stung. For those with allergies, the stings of bees, hornets, yellow jackets and other wasps can be life threatening.

Cockroaches: Cockroaches are actually more attracted to your home during the summer months, when they look for escape from the intense heat outdoors.

Avoiding Summer Insect Pests

These tips will help you keep tiny pests in your home and yard to a minimum:

Don't offer handouts: If you keep exposed food off your countertops and tables, clean up spills and crumbs quickly and store leftovers in sealed containers right after eating, hopefully insects won't find much to eat at your house.

Use plant power: Plant pretty flowers that repel or even kill bugs, such as chrysanthemum or lavender.

Clean up outdoors: Long grass and weeds provide comfortable hideouts for summer pests.

Dry up: Get rid of any standing water on your property. Even a tiny bit of water provides excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Cover up: In especially bug-ridden areas, avoid dark colored clothing, which attracts mosquitoes and other pests, and cover as much of your skin as practical with light colored fabrics. Those with very dark hair may even want to wear a light colored hat.

Shield yourself: Try commercial or all-natural bug repellents.

Set traps: If insects become a nuisance, consider setting pet and child-safe insect traps.

Call the professionals: If you can't handle pests on your own, you may need a professional exterminator. A professional knows how to safely remove a wasp or hornet's nest, and where to apply insecticides most effectively.

Other Summer Pests

Summer pests aren't always tiny; in fact, sometimes they're enormous. Here are a few larger summer pests to be aware of:

Raccoons: After hibernating all winter, they become real summer pests, finding ways to get into your garbage and even your home. As cute and as they are, raccoons are often quite destructive, can be vicious and even carry rabies.

Bears: Bears also hibernate, and they wake up hungry. As they search for food, they'll destroy garbage cans, bird feeders and anything else that stands between them and a meal. Although humans are not their first choice for dinner, bears can be aggressive when hungry or provoked. Mother bears are particularly dangerous; so avoid getting close to any adorable cubs you find. 

Skunks: Skunks become pests only as the weather gets warm and they wake up from hibernating. Although they look very sweet, they're one of the most likely animals to carry rabies and they'll dig up your yard looking for a meal of grubs. If startled or frightened, they'll spray you or your pets with an intense odor that's difficult to remove.

Keeping Furry Pets Away

Make your property uninviting to furry pests with these simple measures:

- Use metal garbage cans and secure the lids shut with sturdy cords. Don't put food garbage outside before garbage pickup day.

- Leave a battery-operated radio on at low volume.

- Spray ammonia or commercial animal repellent in and around your garbage cans.

- Install motion detector activated lights.

- Use humane traps to relocate repeat visitors.

- Block openings to areas where animals might hide and remove all outdoor junk.

- Get rid of rodents and insects in your yard that attract larger animals.

- If bears are a problem in your area, remove bird feeders during warm seasons, keep grill free of food remains and don't leave human or pet food outdoors.

- Never feed bears or other wild animals that visit your yard.

Large and small pests may be a part of summer, but with a little proactive planning, they don't have to spoil the fun. 

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