Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Perspectives: Pests to Look Out for in Boston

From bluebirds to bottlenose dolphins, Massachusetts is home to a fascinating variety of wildlife. If you live in Boston then you should learn who your neighbors are, even if they turn out to be bothersome pests.

Bed Bugs
Bed bugs were virtually eradicated in the U.S. for decades, but they managed to make a major comeback in the 1990s. Bed bug infestations are now commonplace, especially in northern states with temperate climates. Unfortunately, this includes Massachusetts, and their numbers continue to grow at an alarming rate in Boston.

Once bed bugs get inside a home, they breed rapidly and spread throughout the area. They feed exclusively on blood and can turn you and your pets into tasty food sources that never run out. After being bitten by a bed bug, many people develop red bumps and rashes on their skin. Bed bug bites are not infectious by themselves, but scratching at irritated skin leaves it vulnerable to bacterial infections.

Houses in Boston are certainly not cheap, and termite damage can be unbelievably frustrating. The type of termite that destroys buildings in Massachusetts lives in the soil beneath sources of wood. These subterranean termites can burrow through the tiniest cracks in foundations, and it doesn't take them long to start gnawing through a home's wooden components. Colonies typically contain hundreds of thousands of workers and soldiers, and they can do some serious damage to your property in a matter of weeks. If termites are feasting on your home, try to get rid of the infestation as quickly as you can. Termite queens are egg-laying machines, and the problem will most likely get worse until the insects are removed.

While rats and mice make excellent low-maintenance pets when raised in captivity, your safest bet is to think of their wild cousins as furry balls of disease. Wild rodents in Massachusetts spread a variety of diseases through their droppings and urine, including Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, meningitis, and encephalitis. You can get these diseases by touching surfaces that have come into contact with rodents or by inhaling contaminated dust particles. Because their bodies are often covered in salmonella and other bacteria, rodents can cause food poisoning when they forage in pantries and cupboards.

As if these health problems weren't enough, Norway rats, house mice, and many of Boston's other invasive rodent species are extremely destructive houseguests. In addition to gnawing through wooden walls and floors, they cause power outages by chewing through electrical wires. Damaged wiring is one of the leading causes of house fires, so avoid letting rodents hang around on your property for too long.

The two bat species found in Boston are the little brown bat and the big brown bat. The majority of bats in Massachusetts actually live in man-made shelters, and both species can often be found roosting in attic spaces. The main problem with bats is not the bats themselves, but is the vast quantities of droppings that accumulate in their nesting areas. Piles of bat guano spread fungal infections and other diseases to humans, and contaminated insulation can make people sick even after the bats leave. While the health risks make it a good idea to get rid of bats, try to do it without harming them, as many species are increasingly threatened. Brown bats function as a natural insecticide, and adults eat thousands of mosquitoes and other pests per night.

In the end, be it bats, bugs or termites the best way to keep your home free from them is by practicing preventative pest control. Keep areas clean, dry, and free from food and call a professional exterminator for peace of mind.

Brad Thomaston is a homeowner in the southeastern US, which has made him a pest control enthusiast by necessity. For more pest control safety tips and other information, check out his blog Brad Hates Bugs.

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