Bug Off!

Bedbugs get all the press, but here are some other local pests.



Insects, pests, creepy crawlers, disgusting creatures—whatever you call them—they’re everywhere, and distinguishing them isn’t an easy task. Enter Entomologist Jim McHale, CEO of JP McHale Pest Management Inc. in Buchanan. McHale has identified some of the most common bugs you’ll come across in the county. “We’re not the only species to call Westchester home,” says McHale.

BLACK AND YELLOW
GARDEN SPIDERS
Number of Legs: 8
The black and yellow garden spider is quite an artist: it is well known for its ability to spin incredibly complex web patterns. And what an appetite: a garden spider can consume prey up to twice its size. But not to worry: rarely will a garden spider use its fangs to bite people—unless, that is, it feels threatened or is pressed up against human skin. And, oh boy, as far as romance, fugetaboutit—sometimes after mating, the female will eat the male!
AMERICAN HOUSE SPIDERS
Number of Legs: 8
The most common spider found around homes—dining on common household pests such as flies, mosquitoes, ants, and wasps—this native pest builds its web often in secluded areas—between loose walls, behind doors, and around attic windows. If prey is too agile, the spider will try shooting its web at it. Don’t mess with it: American house spiders will bite you in self-defense, and its bite is as painful as a bee sting.
AERIAL NESTING
YELLOW JACKETS
Number of Legs: 6
Don’t be fooled by the cute yellow-and-black striped jacket this wasp, which is about the size of a honeybee, wears. Unlike bees, which are generally plumper, mild-mannered, and flower lovers, yellow jackets are thinner, can be aggressive, and love to dine on garbage. Come late summer, odds are good you’ll find them circling around your garbage cans, looking for dinner. And not only do their stings hurt, but they can sting multiple times.
HOUSE FLIES
Number of Legs: 6
A housefly is the most common of all domestic flies, capable of carrying more than 100 pathogens that cause diseases including typhoid, cholera, Salmonella, bacillary dysentery, and tuberculosis. And it has lousy—really lousy—taste: it feasts on feces, open sores, and moist, decaying, organic matter such as spoiled food, and flesh. It has lousy manners, too. It spits out saliva on solid food to predigest it, and then sucks it back in.
MILLIPEDES
Number of Legs: 36-400
You’d think all those darn legs—one pair per segment—would give millipedes race advantages. But in fact they slow the insect down to the speed of a worm. Millipedes usually live on rotting leaves, wood, and places of high moisture. If it enters a home, it may die within a day due to the dry conditions. Otherwise, it can live up to a little more than a year.
DEER TICKS (aka BLACKLEGGED TICKS)
Number of Legs: 8
Deer ticks, about the size of a peppercorn, are essentially blood-suckers. Female deer ticks latch onto a host—mice, dogs, deer, birds, you?—and feast on their blood for four to five days. Which would be bad enough but the ticks transmit bacterial diseases including the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.
MOSQUITOES
Number of Legs: 6
Bzzzzzzzz. Yep, those darn mosquitoes. Want to keep them away from you? Stop breathing! Mosquitoes detect carbon dioxide in the air, so the more you breathe, the more likely you are to attract a one. And, while you’re at it, shower regularly. Moisture and odors also attract mosquitoes, so sweating and wearing cologne/perfume will lead to more bites.
SOW BUGS
Number of Legs: 14
Seen one of these insects, aka pill bugs, roly-polys, or doodlebugs, in your house? You’ve got cause for worry. The darn pests usually travel in packs of hundreds and thousands. Odds are you have a mold or mildew problem. Sow bugs feed mainly on dead and decomposing plants.
LADY BEETLES (aka LADYBUGS)
Number of Legs: 6
They’re not just darling, but actually beneficial, feeding on mites, scale insects (orchard and garden pests) and aphids (those pests that destroy house plants). Lady beetles lay their eggs near prey so larvae will have a nearby food source.
CARPENTER ANTS
Number of Legs: 6
The most common species of ant in Westchester, the carpenter ant does its handiwork without tools but with sharp teeth. Carpenter ants don’t eat wood but “excavate” galleries to build nests, leaving behind a sawdust-like material called frass.
CENTIPEDES
Number of Legs: 30-200
Centipedes eat bedbugs, termites, silverfish, spiders, and roaches; they are prey for a great many vertebrates and invertebrates including mongooses, mice, salamanders, beetles, and snakes. When disturbed, they will most likely run for cover.
EASTERN SUBTERRANEAN TERMITES
Number of Legs: 6
What social creatures. The eastern subterranean termite lives in societies, called colonies, sharing resources and dividing labor. It feeds on paper, books, cotton, and, yes, wood.

 

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