Security and Safety

A Field Guide to Things That Want to Eat Your Home

By Jennifer Chappell Smith 7.9.18

Entomologist Molly Keck works at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension in Bexar County as an integrated pest management program specialist. This is her list of pests and insects Texans should guard against this summer.

Termites

“Termites are the No. 1 culprit [of home damage], especially in South Texas,” Keck says. To keep them at bay:

  • Keep shrubs and plants far enough away from the foundation of your home to avoid root contact with the structure.
  • Pay for an annual inspection to determine whether you have the winged creatures, which can live between Sheetrock and feast on your wooden walls and posts unseen.
  • Invest in a treatment plan if you have an infestation and look out for evidence of their return. 

Paper Wasps

Summer brings on these stinger-armed insects en masse. They won’t harm your home, and they help control the caterpillar population and pollinate your flower beds. But they terrorize kids, who fear getting stung; and worse, their bite can cause severe allergic reactions.

Powder-Post Beetles

There are different species of this type of beetle: some only leave their telltale symmetrical holes in hardwood trim and ornamental elements of a home. But true powder-post beetles, classified as “structural pests,” will eat through the wooden posts. A pro can determine which you have. Either way, you’ll spend money to replace molding, cabinets, furnishings, or walls. The good news? Once the damage is done, their lifecycle is typically over and they don’t often re-infest.

Carpenter Ants

This type of ant hints at a moisture problem that’s bigger than the insect issue. Figure out why you’ve got the leak, whether it’s a sprinkler hitting the house or a broken spigot. In Texas, this type of ant doesn’t usually cause structural problems.

Leafcutter Ants

You may see these ants crawling, holding a leaf on their backs like a sail. They build their nests near your foundation and can tunnel underneath it, creating gigantic voids that can lead to cracks. This is a worst-case scenario and may mean an expensive repair.

  • Watch for volcanolike mounds and plants with missing foliage, because they strip the leaves off plants.
  • If you do have this ant, prepare for a war. You’re usually battling them for a long time, and will have to continuously suppress their advances, because you can’t really get rid of them.

Fire Ants

These guys can clog outdoor electrical boxes, causing issues by introducing moisture into the boxes that leads to corrosion. They also can clog sprinkler heads. Cleaning these out can usually get circuits back up and running and water flowing. Also, they sting.

Fleas

Fleas can infest homes and carry diseases deadly to pets. 

Dr. Alison Diesel of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences recommends vacuuming weekly and spraying outdoors, paying particular attention to “shaded areas, under trees and bushes, in dog houses, and under porches and decks.”

She also advises that pet owners put their cats and dogs on year-round flea protection: That can mean medications, collars, flea baths, powders, and other veterinarian-approved measures. Keep up your efforts through the warmest months of the year as fleas can travel into your home on everything from a child’s sock to your pet’s paws.

Rodents

Furry friends may be cute in storybooks but freak you out inside your home. Beyond the unsettling scurrying you hear, they can carry germs and do real damage.

  • Seal things up. Rats can enter your home through a crevice that’s just a quarter of an inch wide. Eek! Mice can get in through openings even smaller.
  • Use screens on vents, caulking, and other means to fills cracks and openings.
  • Make sure tree branches don’t hang over your roof.
  • If you find evidence of rodents — droppings, gnawed carpet or fruit — invest in traps or call in the pros if you’re squeamish.

Raccoons and Opossums

Raccoons can make their way inside through a pet door or a chimney — sometimes by mistake or sometimes to find a home, according to one raccoon removal service website. While a stray raccoon may be shooed out the door, the one wanting to start a family in your attic requires professional assistance, experts say. Raccoons and opossums may not gnaw on wiring, but they can cause Sheetrock damage and more.

“Some people don’t mind sharing their house with a few bugs,” Keck says. But if you’re a Texan who’s not so tolerant, stay alert to prevent injury, damage, and possible claims.

If you’re concerned about pest damage, call your local Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to review your homeowners policy, and check out this guide to preventing damage.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2018 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance