South Florida’s tropical climate, with its high humidity and ample rainfall, sets the stage for many bugs, rodents, and other pests that thrive in Florida’s paradise. While many bugs are nuisance pests, such as most ants, some others pose risks to humans and pets. South Florida visitors and residents alike will benefit from learning to recognize these harmful pests and how to avoid them. Some of these pests can act as vectors for diseases that affect humans and pets. Let us explore some of these disease-carrying pests.

Mosquitoes

While around 80 mosquito species live in Florida, about 33 of these pose health threats to people and pets. Only female mosquitoes bite when they’re in search of a blood meal that will allow their eggs to develop. The most concerning mosquitoes in South Florida because of their potential to spread disease or aggressive biting include: 

· Aedes Aegypti With a dark brown to black colored abdomen, white scales that form a violin-shape on their thoraxes, and white banded legs, Aedes Aegypti, aka yellow fever mosquito, also transmits dengue, plus, Zika and Chikungunya viruses. Aedes Aegypti feed during the day and are found throughout Florida.

· Aedes Albopictus – With black and white striped bodies, a white strip running down their heads, and white banding on their long legs, Asian Tiger Mosquitoes transmit dengue, in addition to Zika and Chikungunya viruses. These mosquitoes also feed during the day and, like Aedes aegypti, can be found throughout Florida.

· Culex Known as aggressive biters, preferring to feed on birds and mammals, a common mosquito found all over Florida is the “southern house mosquito,” a medium-sized brown mosquito most active at night that can transmit St. Louis and Western Equine Encephalitis. Another, Culex Nigripalpus, found throughout Florida transmits the same diseases in addition to dog heartworm. Yet another Culex, known as the Western Encephalitis Mosquito, is the primary vector for this brain inflammation, as well as California and St. Louis Encephalitis.

· Anopheles – Most well-known as vectors for malaria, Anopheles appear dark, covered in brown or black hairs. While no longer a major threat in the US, Anopheles mosquitoes do still occasionally transmit malaria. Laying their eggs in clean water, such as streams, ponds, and lakes,  Anopheles mosquitoes prefer the blood of large animals and that includes people.

· Aedes Taeniorhynchus – Common in eastern coastal areas, including all of Florida, these pests are aggressive biters and tend to appear in large numbers after heavy rains or flooding. White scales distinguish Aedes Taeniorhynchus from other mosquito species and they lay their eggs in moist soil instead of in the water.

Timing is Almost Everything

To avoid mosquito bites, wear insect repellent and cover your arms and legs if you must go outside early in the morning and/or at dusk. While some mosquitoes feed during the day and some into the night, most mosquitoes that pose health threats to humans and pets feed at these times. To reduce the likelihood of mosquitoes in your yard:

  • Eliminate all standing water, including in gardening containers, patio furniture, kids’ toys, and anything that can collect a few drops of water.
  • Change the water in your birdbath often or install a fountain that keeps the water moving at all times.
  • Keep your gutters cleaned and ensure your downspouts are working properly.
  • Eliminate dense vegetation near your home.
  • Replace window and door screens that have holes or tears.

Ticks

Found throughout the year in South Florida, but varying “in abundance due to seasonal conditions,” both the nymphs and adults can transmit diseases, according to the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) resource page. The most common ticks affecting South Florida include:

· Lone Star Ticks – Recognized by the light-colored dot on their backs, Lone Star Ticks are the most common human-biting tick in Florida, carrying and transmitting ehrlichiosis and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Nymphs are found between February and October, with adults prevalent from April through August, peaking in July.

· Black-Legged Ticks – Also known as deer ticks, black-legged ticks are also known to carry Lyme disease but can also carry babesiosis and human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA). Lyme disease is often characterized by a “bull’s eye” rash, initially after the tick bites. Nymphs are found from April to August, while adults are common from September through May.

· Brown Dog Ticks – Feeding mostly on dogs, the CDC recently identified the brown dog tick as a vector for Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in the southwestern US and along the Mexican border. Visitors from Texas or Mexico or Floridians traveling to Texas or Mexico can bring brown dog ticks back to Florida, unknowingly.

· American Dog Ticks – Usually found on dogs, American dog tick nymphs will also bite rats and other mammals, but adults will attach to humans and can carry RMSF. When American dog ticks attach to children and dogs at the base of the skull or the spinal column, paralysis can occur. Caused by a toxic secretion, the paralysis subsides usually within 24 hours after the tick’s removal. Adults are active from March through September.

· Gulf Coast Tick – Prevalent in the southeast, Gulf Coast ticks appear similar to American dog ticks but with larger mouthparts. Transmitting a less severe RMSF type disease, Rickettsia parkeri, nymphs are active from January to March and adults are common from March through September.

Preventing Tick-Transmitted Diseases

Because ticks need to feed for a few hours to transmit diseases, finding and removing ticks before they can attach to a host is essential. Remove ticks as soon as possible after you find one on you or your pet by grasping it on its mouthparts and pulling it straight out with firm pressure. Other measures you can take to prevent tick-borne diseases include:

  • Checking yourself and your pets after each walk in the woods or tall grass.
  • Staying on the trail when you’re walking.
  • Wearing light-colored long-sleeve shirts and long pants that tuck into boots when walking in the woods or tall grass.
  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin.
  • Clear brush and debris on paths.
  • Keep your grass cut short.

Just Call Hulett!

In addition to building an awareness of the South Florida bugs that pose health threats to you and your loved ones, the best way to ensure that your home is pest-free involves contacting a professional pest control company, such as industry-leader, Hulett Environmental Services for a free pest inspection and to create a pest-free barrier around your property.

Hulett’s Healthy Home programs guarantee to keep your home pest-free all year long. We believe that pest prevention is a lot easier than trying to control a pest infestation. Protect your home and loved ones from bugs that pose health threats – Just Call Hulett!

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