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Posted by Sirena Rubinoff | Oct 08, 2009

Scary Pests of the American Southwest

Black Widows and Brown Recluses

You're most likely to run into black widows or brown recluse spiders in Arizona and western Texas. These spiders tend to hang out in garages, electrical power boxes, woodpiles, lawn furniture, potted plants, closets, clothing and other dark places. They also like the wet areas around outdoor faucets. You should check around your property for these spiders at night armed with a flyswatter and flash light. Black widow venom is dangerous because it increases your heart rate and blood pressure and makes you feel sick to the stomach with cramps and vomiting. A bite by the brown recluse will give you a blister that ultimately turns into a bull's eye ulcer that takes weeks to heal. In both cases, you should seek medical attention.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes

The most common snake in the American Southwest is the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. These creatures are coldblooded and therefore seek out locations that help them maintain their ideal body temperature. During cooler times of the day, you'll find rattlesnakes near sources of heat, such as on or near warm pavement. When it's hot outside, you should be wary of rattlers hiding in shaded, cool areas. If you come across one of these guys, give it space and leave it alone. Do not try to move it or catch it - that is the job of your local fire department. It's a myth that rattlers will always rattle before biting and if you're on the unlucky receiving end of a rattlesnake bite, you need to seek immediate medical attention from a facility with anti-venom. Remove any restrictive clothing and/or jewelry while on the way to help.

Termites

Sometimes called white ants, these awful pests invade buildings and eat them from the inside out. They devour wood and cellulose 24 hours a day and can be a severe danger to the structural integrity of your home. If you're worried about a termite infestation, check any object made of wood and paper and look for holes. You should also look along garage expansion joints for mud tubes rising from the foundation where termites have tunneled their way through. Another clue to a possible infestation is if you find piles of fine sawdust falling from a ceiling or cabinet. If you even think you might have a termite problem, call up your local pest control company to schedule an immediate inspection and let them handle it from there.

Fire Ants

Fire ants are named such due to their reddish-brown coloring that distinguishes them from other ants. They live in colonies and produce identifiable mounds of soft soil that can reach up to 18 inches in diameter. They can be dangerous to your property because they gang up on plants, seed, and even small animals to feed. They do so by stinging and injecting their victims with venom. To a human, the painful sting feels like being burned by fire - another reason for its name. A sting will result in a red, swollen bump with pus inside. If left alone, it will usually go away by itself within a few days. Topical hydrocortisone cream, aloe vera or toothpaste can be used to soothe the pain. People with allergic reations should see a doctor. If you see a mound, pour a mixture of orange juice and cinnamon onto the top of the mound. Fire ants can't stand cinnamon, and orange juice is toxic to these unwanted insects, so this mixture should kill the colony or force the survivors to move away.

Giant Desert Centipedes

These Halloween-esque critters can reach up to 8 inches in length and inflict a painful pinch when stepped on, bothered, or surprised. Beware of giant centipedes particularly at night, when they come out of hiding from the hot sun. Treat pinches with ice and a topical antihistimine.

Bark Scorpions

These nasty-looking creatures live in wood or rock piles, plant debris, cracks in masonry, indoor appliances like sinks, cabinets or drains. They like dark, moist environments, so beware of scorpions in clothing, shoes, bedding and around fresh concrete and plaster. Always shake out shoes or gloves that have been left outside to makes sure no creepy crawlies crawled inside. Scorpions are not vicious by nature - they sting humans in self-defense. Most stings are comparable to that of a bee and pose no serious threat to a healthy adult. However, bark scorpion stings can be dangerous and potentially lethal to young children, the elderly and sick people. If you get stung, call your doctor or a poison control center for advice on what to do.

Gila Monster

The venomous Gila Monster is the largest lizard native to the United States, reaching up to two feet in length and sometimes weighing more than five pounds. It was originally discovered in Arizona's Gila River basin - hence the name. Gila Monsters are identifiable by their patterned bodies of black with pink, orange or yellow marks. They live in underground burrows and come up only to feed or bask in the desert sun. They eat eggs from birds' nests as well as newborn animals. The bite of this lizard is extremely painful and while not lethal, it will result in vomiting and convulsions. If you come across one of these lizards, leave it alone and it will do the same. If you have a bad encounter with a Gila Monster, head to the nearest emergency room for immediate medical attention.

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