Ants set up permanent colony nests with a wide variety of habitats usually found in moist and secure crevices, in timber, under pavers and nest in the walls which vary in size depending on their species and age. Of the thousands of different species of ants in Australia, only a few are considered pests in and around our buildings.
Ants can undermine pavers and the root zone of plants. They can damage and short circuit electrical components with the ability to cause fires and they can transfer viral, bacterial, plant and fungal diseases. Ants may travel large distances in search of food sources, usually being your kitchen, in order to supply the colony. This is when they become a real nuisance as they completely infest the area in large numbers.
Although ants have comparatively powerful jaws, and they do bite, the pain comes from the hypodermic sting or from the venom sprayed from the tip of the abdomen over the area bitten. Large painful welts are almost instantaneous and allergic reactions can cause deaths.
Bed Bugs can not only be a problem at home but also in places with numerous beds and visitors such as Hotels, Motels, Backpacker Lodges, Caravan Parks and Boarding Schools. Bed bugs are usually found in unhygienic conditions and inside bedrooms as their name implies.
They have a flattened appearance before ingesting fluid (blood) and are about five millimeters long with the look of a rather wide flea, reddish brown in color.
They hide under the buttons and in creases of old mattresses, behind wallpaper, skirting boards and cracks in the floor. They are wingless so they can’t fly or jump like the flea.
They are active during the night and have been known to drop from the ceilings onto beds. They can survive without a blood feed for up to a year. Bedbugs pass through an egg and five nymph stages to become an adult. The nymphs and adults leave their harborage to feed every 2-3 days. They feed for only 3-5 minutes in the hours prior to dawn and return to their harborage.Their presence can be detected by bite marks, dots of blood on the sheets, a sickly sweet odour and inspection of potential harborages results in visual sighting of dried blood deposits around cracks in the bed, bed head, bedside furniture and mattress.
They are a nuisance pest but generally harmless. They are usually introduced into the home via old mattresses or furniture, so inspection of any recent furniture is essential. Some people react to the bite of bed bugs. Before the bedbug sucks blood it injects saliva, containing an anticoagulant, into the host. The irritancy is caused by the body’s reaction to the saliva.
There are only 6 families of cockroaches found worldwide, consisting of 4000 species. Australia has representatives of 5 of these families with only 428 species present.
Cockroaches will eat almost any organic matter no matter how rancid. Once inside the home, they will seek out food scraps, unsealed food containers, sugar and grease deposits, pet food, rancid meat, glue and even book bindings.
Cockroaches rest during daylight hours in dark, warm and secure locations in your home, such as wall cavities, the sub floor, roof void, cracks and crevices in the kitchen and bathroom and within electrical appliances.
They will emerge from these locations in the still of the night. Cockroaches have an array of acute sensory and survival instincts. If you see cockroaches in your home during the day, you have a serious problem.
If left unchecked, a cockroach infestation can rapidly expand its’ numbers in a few weeks or months to become a major risk to health and safety.
There are 16 different families of fleas worldwide, consisting of about 2380 species.
In Australia 9 of these families are represented with just 90 different species.
About half of the endemic species that occur in Australia are found in the iopsyllidae family.
The Pulicidae family contains many of the introduced fleas such as the cat, dog and human flea, as well as some native species. They are parasites of warm blooded animals, particularly dogs and cats.
Several hundred eggs are laid during a female’s lifetime. Small, white and smooth, the eggs freely drop off to cause infestation in areas frequented by the host.
White, legless larvae hatch and feed on food debris, skin scales and the blood-rich faeces of the adult flea. About two weeks later, the larvae spin a silken cocoon, pupate and await the vibrations that signify the passing of prospective host.This may explain why hordes of fleas appear “on cue” when you enter your home after being away on holidays. Nevertheless, fleas can remain in virtual hibernation in the pupal stage for up to a year and still survive.
Flies can be treated with general household sprays; however, it is the nearby hatching of fly larvae that could well be the root of the problem.
Maggots are the larvae of winged insects, especially houseflies and blowflies.
They are hatched from eggs which are usually laid on rotting meat or faeces. They have a putrid odor and disgust most people.
Maggot infestation may often become noticeable after baiting for rodents or the discovery of uncovered food sources like unwrapped meat lying in garbage bins.
Flies are not only annoying, they can also carry harmful bacteria that they pick up from decaying materials and spread to any uncovered food sources becoming a risk to health and safety.
The word “mosquito” (formed by mosca and diminutive ito) is Spanish for “little fly”. Mosquitoes are small, midge-like flies. Females of most species, tube-like mouthparts (called a proboscis) pierce the hosts’ skin to consume blood.
Thousands of species feed on the blood of various kinds of hosts, mainly vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and even some kinds of fish. The saliva of the mosquito often causes an irritating rash that is a serious nuisance. Much more serious though, are the roles of many species of mosquitoes as vectors of diseases. In passing from host to host, some transmit extremely harmful infections such as malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, dengue fever, Ross River Fever and dog heart worm rendering it the deadliest animal family in the world.
Rats and mice are unwelcome guests of human dwellings and farm buildings. They are destructive and carry disease causing organisms. These organisms can cause problems to humans and pets.
In Australia, a number of rodent species are agricultural pests. Two species, the house mouse and black rat, were introduced around the time of European settlement.
House mice are found throughout agricultural cropping areas and around sheds and houses. When conditions are favourable, their numbers can increase to plague levels.
Black rats are found in Queensland as they exist throughout temperate and tropical Australia in human-modified environments.
Rats and mice are more likely to become a serious problem during the cold winter months where it is much warmer in the subfloor or roof void of a building. Rats may suddenly appear in large numbers when excavation work disturbs their in-ground nesting locations.
There are many species of spiders found around Australian homes and properties. Whilst the majority of spiders are non-aggressive, poisonous spiders can be of great concern for families with young children and pets.
Black House spider: This type of spider is common in sheds, under house eaves and around windows where it forms tunnel webs finishing outside with a funnel shape. Electric lights appeal to their main food source of moths, flies, mosquitoes and other insects. Black house spiders are extremely gentle and their behaviour makes bites rare. Bites are painful and can cause illness and complications but they are not lethal. It is recommended to seek medical assistance if bitten.
Funnel Web: These spiders are medium to large in size with body lengths from 10 mm to 50 mm. They are darkly coloured ranging from black to blue-black or plum to brown. They are commonly found in suburban rockeries and shrubberies. A Funnel-web’s burrow characteristically has irregular silk trip-lines radiating from the entrance. Australian Funnel-web spiders are found in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
Huntsman spider: The Huntsman spider mostly lives outside under bark and hunts prey at night. They often enter houses but are usually timid and placid. Sometimes the spider walks sideways on occasion. These spiders rarely bite and the venom is non-toxic.
Mouse spider: Mouse spiders are ground dwellers with burrows that are no more than one metre deep. Both the female and male spiders can cause a deep and painful poisonous bite. Normally the mouse spider is not aggressive but the male Mouse spider will bite if provoked and should be considered dangerous to humans. All the black females are timid and can be distinguished by blunt spinnerets on the rear of abdomen.
Red back spider: These spiders prefer to be in dry habitats and are common in roof areas, gutters, sheds & gardens and under garden furniture. Commonly adults are black with a red marking on top of the abdomen. Their tough, untidy webs are usually near the ground with the spider hiding in a shelter in a corner, often guarding her round woolly egg sacs. The red back spider is potentially dangerous. There have been no deaths recorded since 1954 when anti-venom was introduced. It is recommended to seek medical assistance if bitten.
White tail spider: White tails spiders are not common in Queensland. The White tail spider is a cautious hunter. The bite of the spider may cause nausea and burning pain followed by swelling and itchiness around the site of the bite. The white tail spider prefers cool, moist locations and is commonly found in garden mulch areas. In summer, these night-hunting ground dwellers will enter houses, particularly bathrooms to escape the heat. It is recommended to seek medical assistance if bitten.
Wolf spider: The Wolf spider prefers to live under the flaking bark of trees, under flat rocks and under eaves or within roof spaces of buildings. All hunt at night, are very fast and get their name from the way they run down their prey. A large Wolf spider has lengthy fangs and can deliver a deep painful bite but is a low risk to humans. They are extremely shy and afraid and will run away given the chance.
Termites are a common name for numerous species of social insects that can damage wooden structures such as furniture or houses. Termites build various types of nest. Some termites have a totally underground existence without a central nest.
Of about 2000 known species, most are distributed in tropical countries and some inhabit the temperate regions. Termites are sometimes referred to as ‘white ants’ because of their creamy ant-like appearance.
Australia has over 350 species of termites of which some 20 species can damage timber in houses. In nature, they assist in the recycling of organic matter and nutrients back to the soil.
Termite species infest timber and particularly timber which is in an early state of deterioration by wood rotting fungi; some species of timber are resistant to termites but none are entirely termite proof.
Termites will often damage materials they cannot digest, for example, plastics, rubber, metal or mortar. Primarily, this damage occurs when the indigestible items are encountered during the termites search for food.
In Australia alone, there are over 12,000 species ranging from the tiny priid wasps which are barely visible to the naked eye, to the spider and cicada-killer wasps capable of taking large prey. Most wasps have carnivorous larvae that feed on other insects and spiders. The adults provide food for them by capturing prey or by laying the egg on or near the food source which might be an egg, larva or pupa of another insect.
European wasps were first recorded in Australia in 1959. The European Wasp may attack in large numbers and may sting repeatedly in a frenzy. In such circumstances, this feral pest can be highly dangerous to children, the infirmed and elderly and deaths have been recorded. The sting of a European wasp is extremely painful and highly inflammatory, particularly if you are stung on the throat or other glandular parts of your body.
Paper Wasps are far less dangerous but they may be aggressive during hot weather periods and may cause severe localized pain from their sting. Paper wasps are about 20 mm in length and should be approached with caution.