ants on a tiled kitchen floor

Your Guide To Common Pests In El Centro, California

If a pest gets into your home or business, will you know what kind of problems it can cause simply by looking at it? If your answer is no, don’t worry! Our pest library can help. In this resource guide, we provide helpful information about the most common pests to infest homes and businesses in El Centro and the Imperial Valley.

Ants

fire ants outside a california home

Ants are one of the most common insect species to invade homes and businesses. They are very good at taking over properties because they live together in very large colonies and have learned to work together for the good of the colony. Ants divide their members into different groups or “castes”: males, queens, and workers. Fertile males and queens work together to make new ants and increase the colony’s size. The worker ants make up the bulk of the colony and are the ants you see wandering around yards, walkways, sidewalks, kitchens, and other areas of your property. As their name suggests, workers do most of the work and gather food for the entire colony as well as care for developing larvae, defend the colony, and maintain the nest.

The most common species of ants living in our area are Pharaoh ants, crazy ants, fire ants, and common house ants. The main reason why any species of ant moves onto a property is that they have discovered reliable food sources close to their nesting sites. Most species of ants have their central nest built outside in the soil in lawns, or under things like woodpiles, leaf piles, landscape ties, and rocks. Some species, like Pharaoh ants, prefer to live and nest inside buildings. Ants that live inside place their nests in out of the way locations behind walls, near hot water pipes in insulation, under floors, and in attic spaces. Ants living inside or outside your home are more than just a nuisance. They will contaminate food, spread bacteria and diseases, damage property, and some deliver painful bites or venom-filled stings.

Ant prevention tips: Get rid of an ant colony’s easy access to food by keeping tight-fitting lids on trash cans, recycling bins, and compost bins. Maintain garden areas and outdoor eating areas. It is also a good idea to pick up uneaten pet food and remove standing water from your property. Keep ants out of your home by sealing up cracks in the foundation and exterior walls. Place weatherstripping around windows and doors, put mesh covers over vents, and repair screens that are loose or torn. Reduce humidity levels by using dehumidifiers and repair any leaky pipes or fixtures.

Bed Bugs

two bed bugs on a mattress box spring

Bed bugs have flat, oval-shaped bodies, and tend to resemble an apple seed with legs. Adults grow to about 3/16 of an inch long, and are reddish-brown. After consuming a blood meal, their bodies elongate and swell, and they turn a deeper reddish-purple. Bed bug nymphs (young bed bugs) are smaller in size. Before consuming a blood meal, they are translucent or yellow; after feeding, nymphs turn bright red, and become quite easy to spot. Bed bugs are unable to fly or jump, so they rely on people or our belongings to move from place to place.

Blood is the sole source of food for bed bugs, and unfortunately for us, people are their favorite hosts. In addition to people, bed bugs will also feed on other warm-blooded mammals like dogs, cats, and rodents. Bed bugs are mostly nocturnal, hiding during the day in tight cracks and crevices in walls, floors, furniture, and wall voids, emerging at night to feed. Bed bugs live wherever there are people. Homes, hotels, libraries, airports, schools, shopping centers, and hospitals are all places where people can come into contact with bed bugs.

Bed bug prevention tips: Avoid coming into contact with bed bugs by being aware of your surroundings and keeping personal belongings up off of the ground. When traveling, always inspect your hotel room or other rental space for bed bugs before bringing luggage and other personal belongings inside. Never buy used furniture or mattresses for use in your home. To reduce hiding spots, place bed bug proof protective covers over mattresses and box springs in your home and keep clutter to a minimum. Make sure to vacuum your home’s floors and upholstery regularly.

Cockroaches

american cockroach hiding under edge of plate

Cockroaches are hearty, social pests that are difficult to eliminate and control. Cockroaches have flat, oval-shaped bodies, six spine-covered legs, and a head that is smaller than their bodies. Keeping cockroaches out of our homes and business is difficult because they can find their way inside so many different ways. Cockroaches move into structures through cracks, gaps, and other openings they discover while foraging for food. They also get in inside of packages or other mail, or inside used appliances, electronics, or furniture.

There are about 70 species of cockroaches living in the United States. In our area, two species that people contend with frequently are the German cockroach and American cockroach. German cockroaches are so problematic because they have adapted to living indoors, and their small size easily allows them to invade spaces. American cockroaches live both indoors and outdoors. They are the largest species of household invading roaches in the U.S. No matter what species of cockroach has found their way into your home, the response should be the same: quick elimination! Cockroaches are pests that spread bacteria, human pathogens, and parasites. They contaminate food and surfaces that can make people very ill. They also trigger allergies and asthma attacks, damage personal property, and create an unpleasant musty odor.

Cockroach prevention tips: Eliminate as many entry points into your home as possible. Seal up cracks in the foundation and exterior walls, place door sweeps on exterior doors, place covers over vents and drains. Repair damaged screens and place weatherstripping around windows and doors. Limit their access to food by keeping locking lids on trash cans and compost bins. Remove trash from your home daily. Store left-over food in the refrigerator or containers with air-tight lids. Reduce humidity levels in your home by using dehumidifiers and air conditioners and repair any leaky pipes or fixtures. Limit their hiding spots by keeping storage areas free of clutter.

Fleas & Ticks

flea on human skin

Fleas and ticks are external parasites; this means they feed on their host’s blood from outside the body. The sole source of food for both fleas and ticks is blood from animals and sometimes people. Both are known for being prolific breeders, and just a couple being introduced onto your property by wild animals can cause a large infestation in or around your home. Fleas and ticks are both unwelcome pests. Not only do they feed on our blood, but they are capable of causing allergic reactions, spreading tapeworms (fleas), or spreading diseases that cause serious health problems (ticks).

Fleas are wingless and have a body that is flattened from side to side. Their flat bodies allow them to easily move through their host’s fur. Their large, powerful back legs help them to jump great heights to access a host or get out of the way of danger. Ticks are a type of arachnid, and are related to spiders. Adult ticks have eight legs, and their wingless, oval-shaped bodies swell after a blood meal. Ticks wait in dense vegetation for a host to brush past them that they can crawl onto. Fleas and ticks spend most of their lives on the backs of the host they are feeding on. However, when wild animal hosts travel across your yard, adults and their eggs often drop off onto your lawns or other outdoor space where they can come into contact with you or your pets, then get carried into your home.

Flea and tick prevention tips: Deter wildlife from living or traveling across your property in large numbers by removing their access to food. Get rid of bird feeders, keep locking lids on trash cans and compost bins, and pick up uneaten pet food. Mow the grass to keep it short and cut back wooded areas away from your property line. Limit hiding spots for fleas and ticks on your property by removing leaf piles, woodpiles, brush, and other debris. Check yourself and pets for fleas or ticks before coming indoors. Regularly vacuum your home and change and wash bedding. Place all pets on a year-round flea and tick program with the help of their veterinarian.

Rodents

little rodent eating bread

Rodents are a type of mammal; in fact, the order Rodentia makes up the largest group of mammals with over 1,500 different species living worldwide. Those rodents that live outside and away from people cause us no harm and are an important part of the eco-system because they act as prey for many other animals. However, some species of rodents have come to rely on us for their food and shelter needs. Though they may want to live near us, they spread disease, damage structural elements, and destroy our personal property. They also carry other harmful parasites (fleas, ticks, and mites).

All of the 1,500 species of rodents living worldwide have one thing in common, front incisors that grow continuously throughout their lifetime. To stop their teeth from overgrowing, they chew on almost any object they come across. Their constant need to gnaw is what makes rodents so destructive. Some of the most common species of rodents living in our area are house mice, field mice, Norway rats, and roof rats. Things that commonly attract rodents to our properties are open trash cans, compost, gardens, orchards, pet food, and outdoor eating areas. Once rodents are living in your yard, they can move indoors while searching for food or while trying to escape harsh weather.

Rodent prevention tips: Reduce hiding spots on your property for rodents by removing brush, woodpiles, fallen trees, logs, and tree stumps. Trash cans, compost bins, and recycling bins should be placed away from the outside of your home, up off the ground, and have tight-fitting lids. Remove bird feeders from your yard and pick up uneaten pet food between feedings. In gardens and around fruit trees, pick up fruits and vegetables that have fallen to the ground. Seal up cracks in the foundation, exterior walls, roofline, and spaces around utilities entering into your house. Place covers over vents and chimney openings. Keep storage areas free of clutter to reduce hiding spots inside your home. It is also important to keep doors to garages, sheds, and the basement closed whenever possible.

Termites

termite on destroyed wood

Feeding on the cellulose in wood, plants, and other organic material, termites are a destructive pest that needs to stay out of our homes and businesses. There are several species of termites living across the United States, but subterranean termites are the most widespread species. They nest under the ground and move back and forth from their nest to a food source each day. As the worker termites are out and about foraging for food, they often enter homes or other buildings through cracks in the foundation or wood that is making direct contact with the ground.

Termites are referred to as “silent invaders,” as they can work for a long time without anyone noticing them. Termites tunnel into pieces of wood and feed on it from the inside out. It is usually only once their damage is extensive that the termite infestation is discovered. A subterranean termite infestation begins at ground level where they feed on structural wood behind walls, and below floors. Subterranean termites have high moisture needs and are initially attracted to water-damaged pieces of wood, however as the infestation develops, they will attack sound wood as well.

Termite prevention tips: Make your property less attractive to termites by removing things like fallen trees, tree stumps, logs, and leaf piles from your yard. Reduce excess water from your property by fixing low-lying areas and making sure gutters are directing water away from the outside of your home. Prevent water from seeping into your home’s walls by placing weatherstripping around windows and doors. Replace wood mulch with a non-organic option. Inside your home, repair leaky pipes and always replace wood that has become damaged by water.

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