Does everything tick you off lately?

Lessons learned about bugs and how to avoid them

5 minute read

a child pretending to be a monster

Politics, plagues, and other plights. Whoa, do we have woes. Not the least of which are bugs. Altogether, they make up nearly 80% of known animals and they’ve been around for eons longer than we have. Bugs can do more than make us bug out – they can impact our health and wellness. So in honor of World Pest Day, we’re sharing some insights about a few bugs that pose a threat to us.

Here come the ticks.

a tick on skin

Ticks are just as excited about spring and summer as you are. After spending the winter tucked away in cozy spots like bushes and brush, they're ready to take advantage of all the potential hosts walking past their hiding places. And while they may be too small to get your attention, they're ready and willing to latch onto animals like deer and mice – or even you, your cats, and dogs!

Ticks belong to the arachnid family. They’re hardy and good climbers. Favorite hangout spots include dark, damp, and heavily-wooded areas. Tall grasses provide just the lookout they need to wait for their new hosts.

What’s the problem with ticks? Species like the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) carry pathogens that can cause Lyme disease. Ticks can also cause other diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), Powassan, and Babesiosis. In fact, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lists sixteen different human diseases attributed to ticks in the U.S. Pets can get tick-borne illnesses too. In fact, pets often bring ticks home for their people.

You’ve likely heard the news: Tick cases are at record highs in the U.S. for both pets and people, with many regions sharing the risks are at endemic levels.

The CDC recommends that pets and people take preventative measures by using protective products when outdoors. Walk in the center of paths or trails and avoid wooded and brushy areas that have a lot of tall grass or leaf litter. Be sure to check for ticks after time in areas that can be infested with these little buggers.

Fleas aren’t just a nuisance – they’re serious pains.

a flea on skin

Fleas aren't just unpleasant; they can be downright dangerous for pets and people. Some fleas carry pathogens that can cause diseases such as Flea-borne typhus, cat scratch disease (CSD), and even tapeworms.

For pets, if fleas are left untreated, they can cause all sorts of issues including skin irritation, allergic reactions like allergy dermatitis, and even lead to anemia which is low blood count because of all the blood-sucking fleas.

It's vital to prevent fleas in the first place by treating your pets and home regularly. Truly, fleas (and ticks) can live year-round, and they become even more active, and more abundant as the weather warms up. Don't take chances when it comes to flea and tick protection.

One place to be mindful of fleas is in the yard. Since they love shady, moist areas and places to hide, here are a few tips to reduce your risk: Keep your lawn trimmed, don’t over-water lawn or landscape, pick up yard debris, and do all you can to discourage stray animals like rodents or raccoons (who carry fleas) from coming into your yard. Bring in the dog water bowl when it’s not in use, don’t leave food outside, and keep trash well contained.

Mosquitoes suck.

a mosquito on skin

Like fleas and ticks, mosquitos are a pest you don't want to mess with. In fact, according to the American Mosquito Control Association, mosquitoes cause more human suffering than any other bug. From West Nile virus to Dengue and Zika, the diseases that mosquitoes carry are a growing concern. And not only for people – mosquitos are equal-opportunity offenders. They can and will take a bite from your dog or cat, leaving them with swelling, redness, and hives. Maybe even worse, your dog may contract heartworms from the bite of a mosquito.

Heartworms are serious business. They take up residence in a dog’s blood vessels, arteries, and lungs. Each year about 1 in 100 dogs gets this parasite and one bite is all it takes.

It’s important to take every precaution you can against mosquitoes. In the yard, remove standing water and be sure water in pools and ponds remains well filtered and treated. Mosquitoes love dark, humid, and cool spaces so keep grasses and bushes trimmed. Plant pet-safe mosquito repellents like basil and rosemary, and protect your yard with a yard spray that’s safe around the whole family when you use it as it’s intended. Using fans while you’re outside helps too, because they can prevent mosquitoes from landing on you or your pet.

Bugs that spread pathogens topically

There are some bugs that don’t transmit disease by biting, but rather by carrying disease-causing agents that they leave behind after contact with people, pets, food, and household surfaces. Here are three common pathogen-passing bugs.

According to the CDC, the cockroach can trigger allergies and asthma. Roaches are known to carry Salmonella among other bacteria, so it’s best to get rid of these bugs as soon as you notice them.

The common housefly is actually quite extraordinary. Each one can easily carry over a million bacteria on its body. The CDC shares that house flies have been known to transmit the following to humans:

  • Shigella spp: Can cause dysentery and diarrhea
  • Salmonella spp (typhoidal): Can cause typhoid fever
  • Escherichia coli: Can cause traveler’s diarrhea
  • Vibrio cholera: Can cause cholera

Flies spread these organisms via their legs or body hairs, or through regurgitation that ends up on food when flies feed.

Fruit flies are small and unassuming, but they can pack a punch by leaving behind germs like salmonella, E. coli, and listeria, which can cause food poisoning.

an army of ants on a rock

Ants, roaches, and other bugs want to join your family dinner.

The best way to keep ants and roaches out of your home is to keep it neat and tidy. Put food away in airtight containers, keep sinks dry, and use plant-powered bug sprays to kill and repel these nuisances.

We’ve just shared a fair amount of bad news about bugs that can cause serious harm. The good news in all of this is that there are measures you can take to stay protected and to protect the ones you love most. It’s just a matter of being bug smart.