Know Your Enemies

The time of year for creepy, crawling bugs is officially here. As spring continues, weather changes come with seasonal critters we all have come to regretfully expect … and run away from. Every year, insects come out of their long winter slumber and grace us with their presence throughout the warmer months, which can be especially long here in Texas. It is helpful to know which creatures you should put your guard up against before we really get into the sweltering middle of it all. 

When covering bugs in Frisco, it is appropriate to start with everyone’s favorite summertime guest: the mosquito. These blood-sucking nuisances hang around from the moment it starts getting warm until it finally dips into chillier, blustery fall and winter months. But, what is tricky about mosquitoes, is their ability to survive. Not only do the fully-grown, flying and biting mosquitos have a lifespan of 21 days, but the eggs adult females lay can survive freezing temperatures, bad weather and years of dormancy. After all that, they still hatch into larvae and begin to mature. These eggs are laid in standing water like in bird baths, plant saucers, puddles, small children’s overturned toys — any area that can collect water when it rains and remain without evaporating immediately. Something everyone can do to prevent a mosquito infestation around their home is to do a simple assessment of your yard every few days to make sure none of these areas exist. Without a place for the eggs, there is a greater chance the mosquito population at your house will not get out of control. 

If you would like to take more advanced measures to ensuring you have a safe, comfortable warm season, you can always call a service like Mosquito Authority to come to your property and set up extra safeguards. There are specialty mosquito control services out there, so when it comes to the most annoying and top disease-carrying insect out there, they are the experts to turn to. “We start in mid-March and will treat houses all the way through mid-November,” says the owner and expert of Mosquito Authority, Jeremy Holland. 

Mosquito Authority provides regular checks and treatments to your property. An expert comes out to assess your home, then sprays mosquito larvicide and adulticide in areas that most need it. They are bee-friendly and steer clear of pollen-producing plants that could attract bees, though their solutions are diluted to a level that is generally harmless to bee-size insects. They return every 21 days (that important time frame that is the lifespan of the average mosquito) to make sure you are mosquito-free through the season. “If you can get on top of them early, you will have much better control than if you wait until June or July to address an issue. If you start soon, you could really see a significant difference later in the season,” Mr. Holland says. “We believe in the importance of making your property safer and more comfortable, so your living room can extend out onto your back porch,” says his wife and business partner, Megan Holland.

An important reason to protect your home from mosquitoes is their ability to carry diseases to humans. As they are the top disease-carrying insect in the world, this is something most people are aware of, and why it is good to be mindful of the viruses that these insects could bring. West Nile and encephalitis are the most common in North Texas. Frisco considers the health of its citizens to be of the highest priority and monitors the mosquito situation carefully. The City regularly treats areas with standing water with larvicide, as this is the most effective way to keep the mosquito population down. The City also performs a mosquito surveillance program by trapping mosquitoes and sending them off for testing by a contracted entomologist. These traps are tested every week — a positive West Nile result leading to increased monitoring efforts that could include treating with larvicide and adulticide.

And speaking of insect-carried diseases, one of the most recent developments in this realm has been the arrival of the Chagas disease through Triatominae, also known as “kissing bugs.” These insects are also blood suckers but are larger in size (somewhere between a dime and a penny). They do not fly, are nocturnal and can mostly be found outside near animal dwellings or under debris, piles of wood, rocks, brush and porches. They bite victims on the face, close to the mouth or eyes, and suck their blood like a mosquito might. They then defecate near the wound before moving on. If their feces gets rubbed into the wound, disease can enter the body. It has recently been reported that around 50 percent of kissing bugs are infected with Chagas disease and can therefore transmit it. Chagas is a disease which can be quite mild and treatable, causing swelling around the bite, possible fever, lethargy, aches and swollen glands when the patient exhibits symptoms. However, if left untreated, Chagas disease can cause lasting heart issues in the patient. Early detection is critical, so if you think you or a loved one could have been bitten by one of these bugs, head to your doctor and ask them about a simple blood test they could administer to check for the disease.

Typically, these insects are not going to be found in the house, though they could be. The best way to make sure your house is clear and safe of these critters is to check pets when they are coming in from the outdoors and keep their areas and beds in the house regularly cleaned. Make sure any damaged weather stripping, window screens or cracks to the home are repaired so you can seal entrances to your home. 

Other critters that could show up in your yard or garden are everyone’s favorite eight-legged guests: spiders. Most of the species native to Texas are quite unaggressive towards humans unless seriously provoked, and some of them are insect hunters that can help keep the bug population around your house down. Wolf spiders can make you jump because of their large size and speed, but they rarely come indoors to bother you. The Long-bodied Cellar Spider gets mistaken often for a Daddy Longlegs and does hang around indoors. However, it is very difficult to get bitten by one, and it is very good at catching all sorts of flying insects that might have found their way into your home. The Woodlouse Hunter Spider is a roamer, not a web-builder, and preys on pests such as termites, which could cause obvious damage to your house. You might want to let these spiders roam free in your backyard and do some of the dirty work for you. At the end of the day, the two types of spiders you need to concern yourself with are the Black Widow and the recluse spiders (of which there are six species), as these are the only spiders in Texas whose bite and venom have toxicity levels that may require medical attention. Everyone can recognize the famous red diamond on the black body of the Widow, but the Brown Recluse can be identified by a darker, violin-shaped marking on its dusty brown body. 

Even though bug season is on its way, try not to worry too much! After all, a number of insects like bees, ladybugs, mealybug destroyers, earthworms, green lacewings, praying mantises and so much more are actually extremely beneficial. There are steps and precautions you can take to make sure your days are as comfortable as they can possibly be in the 100-degree Texas summer heat, but not at the cost of losing some of these helpful critters.