(BPT) - Warm weather is here for the next few months, and that means you'll be spending more time outdoors with family and friends - and more time with summer pests. Mosquitoes, fire ants, bees, wasps and yellow jackets are some of summer's worst bugs. And those pests can be more than a mere nuisance.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 5,300 cases of West Nile Virus throughout the United States. West Nile Virus can be a serious disease for a few people (about one in 150), according to the CDC. Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have milder symptoms, while most people who get the disease (about four out of five) will not show any symptoms at all.
"The best way to protect yourself from mosquitoes is to take the proper precautions," says Orkin entomologist and technical services director Dr. Ron Harrison. "Use insect repellent when spending time outdoors, empty any standing water from around your home, and either stay inside or wear long sleeves and pants if you must be outside during dusk and dawn, because that is when mosquitoes are most active."
Fire ants prefer warm, sunny conditions, and are most common throughout the southern United States, but have been found as far west as California and as far north as Maryland. Their mounds can grow up to 2 feet around and stand more than a foot tall. These colonies can contain several hundred thousand ants, including at least one queen. By attaching themselves to their victims and injecting venom through their stingers, they can sting animals and humans repeatedly when threatened or searching for prey. These ants are reddish-black and range in size from 1/16 to almost half an inch long.
Many bees, wasps and yellow jackets are social insects and live in colonies. Unlike bees, however, wasps and yellow jackets are capable of stinging multiple times. Many can exist where humans live, and can be dangerous if disturbed. All three insects can wreak havoc on outdoor fun, especially since they are attracted to food, garbage cans and sugary soft drinks.
Bee, wasp and yellow jacket stings can cause significant and life-threatening allergic reactions in about 3 percent of people who are stung, according to the Mayo Clinic. While stings are usually not life-threatening to most people, they can be painful, become infected and aggravate skin disorders or allergies.
Orkin recommends preventing these backyard pests from being summertime bothers by remembering the following tips:
- Clean up spilled food and drinks immediately, and keep food stored tightly, especially during outdoor picnics.
- Rinse out cans before recycling, and empty garbage cans and recycling bins often.
- Seal cracks around doors and windows.
- Keep gutters and downspouts clean and keep plants away from your home's foundation.