AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Storm season and warmer weather have settled over the High Plains in recent weeks. While those may bring much-needed rain or comfortable days to spend on local activities and attractions, the summer can also mean an influx of bugs and other pests.

What are some of the most common pests in the High Plains? Which ones are dangerous? Where are they found?

Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension has published not only a field guide, but multiple reports regarding insects and other pests found around the High Plains. MyHighPlains.com referenced the university’s reports in order to find basic information for some of the most common household pests on the High Plains.

Common pests on the High Plains

Bed Bugs

Pest nameWhat does it look like?Is it dangerous?Where are they found?
Bed BugPhoto credit: CDC/ CDC-DPDx; Blaine Mathison - top view of bed bug with millimeter scale beside itBed bugs are not known to transmit
or spread disease, according to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
but they can cause other health issues.
They might be found in cushions and curtains, under loose wallpaper, near the seams and tags of mattresses and box springs, and in bed frames and headboards.
Photo credit: CDC

Spiders

Pest nameWhat does it look like?Is it dangerous?Where are they found?
Brown Reclusebrown recluse spider adult
Yes.
While these spiders often coexist with humans without incident, bites can be serious and painful. Bites can also cause secondary infections, skin ulcers, and sometimes life-threatening complications.
They may lay eggs and live in cluttered closets, garages, crawl spaces, and attics.
Southern Black WidowBlack widow
Yes.
A bite can cause a red, swollen mark that is pale in the center. Within a few hours, a person can have intense pain that could last for multiple days. Other symptoms could include tremors, nausea, leg cramps, abdominal pain, sweating, muscle loss, and increased blood pressure.
Might be found in protected outdoor areas or in structures open to the outdoors. Also, they can be found in wood piles, garages, cellars, shrubs, crawl spaces, and other rarely-disturbed areas.
TarantulaTheraphosidae aphonopelma
No.
While tarantulas can release hairs that can irritate skin, eyes, or noses, their bites are not dangerous. They can also be safely kept as pets.
Tarantulas often live in burrows or in natural cavities under rocks or logs.
Photo credit: Texas A&M University

Fleas and Ticks

Pest nameWhat does it look like?Is it dangerous?Where are they found?
Common FleaA flea
Yes.
Fleas can be a source of irritation and disease. While common fleas do not usually live on humans, they can bite people who handle infested animals. Bites can be small, red, and itchy and usually cover the ankles and lower legs.
Fleas often jump onto passing animals such as cats and dogs, and can be found in fur, pet bedding, and carpet.
Lone Star TickLone Star Tick
Yes.
Ticks such as the Lone Star Tick can spread an array of tick-borne viruses such as the Heartland and Bourbon viruses. They can also cause rash infections.
These ticks can often be found attacking deer, cattle, horses, sheep, swine, dogs, and humans.
Photo credit: Texas A&M University

Roaches

Pest nameWhat does it look like?Is it dangerous?Where are they found?
American CockroachAmerican cockroach, Periplaneta americana Linnaeus (Blattodea: Blattidae), adults and nymphs. Photo by Drees.
Cockroaches can contaminate food and kitchen utensils, which can spread germs as well as odors.
American cockroaches are more common in commercial buildings and sewers, and mostly live outdoors. Adults can fly.
Oriental CockroachBlatta orientalis, oriental cockroach
Cockroaches can contaminate food and kitchen utensils, which can spread germs as well as odors.
Oriental cockroaches prefer cooler, ground-level places such as basements, crawl spaces, and generally wet areas.
German CockroachGerman cockroach, Blattella germanica (Linnaeus) (Blattaria: Blattellidae). Photo by Drees
Cockroaches can contaminate food and kitchen utensils, which can spread germs as well as odors.
German cockroaches can transfer germs and are associated with allergies and asthma.
German cockroaches are the most prolific of indoor roaches and are widespread in urban homes, apartments, and restaurants.
Photo credit: Texas A&M University

Pest prevention and pesticides

The EPA published multiple lists of tips focused on preventing pest infestations, as well as how to safely use pesticides when needed.

Pest prevention tips:

  • Remove sources of food, water and shelter.
  • Store food in sealed plastic or glass containers. Garbage containing food scraps should be placed in tightly covered trash cans. Remove garbage regularly from your home.
  • Fix leaky plumbing and don’t let water accumulate anywhere in the home. Don’t let water collect in trays under your house plants or refrigerator. Don’t leave pet food and water out overnight.
  • Clutter provides places for pests to breed and hide and makes it hard to get rid of them. Get rid of things like stacks of newspapers, magazines, or cardboard.
  • Close off places where pests can enter and hide. For example, caulk cracks and crevices around cabinets or baseboards. Use steel wool to fill spaces around pipes. Cover any holes with wire mesh.
  • Learn about the pests you have and options to control them.
  • Check for pests in packages or boxes before carrying them into your home.

Safely and correctly using pesticides:

  • Keep pets and children away from areas where pesticides have been applied.
  • After preventive steps have been taken, you can use baits as a first line of chemical defense against insects or rodents.
    • These are often effective and can be used with low risk of exposure to the pesticide, as long as they are kept out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Other relatively low-risk pesticides are available for some pests. Consult your local cooperative extension service office for recommendations suitable for your area.
  • Pesticides not contained in baits or traps should generally only be applied to targeted locations, not sprayed over the whole room.
  • Use fogging devices only when absolutely necessary.
  • Always read and follow the pesticide label’s instructions and safety warnings.
  • Use ready-to-use products (i.e., no mixing needed) whenever possible.
  • If you hire any outside persons to help control pests, ask them to find and correct the source of the problem before applying pesticides.
    • For example, you might have to repair a leaky toilet to remove a water source.
    • Ask them to use baits and crack and crevice treatments when feasible.
  • Only apply chemicals approved for use in homes.
    • The label will list where the chemical may be used.
    • Write down the name and EPA registration number of any chemical used by someone you hire. You will need this information if you decide to look up more information on the pesticide.
    • The pest control operator should be able to provide information about the chemical, such as the material safety data sheet.

The EPA also published additional resources such as its Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety.