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Pennsylvania’s Top 5 Pests

Pests are everywhere! Some like House Mice and Termites are commonly known, while others are of the more exotic variety, and let's be honest, they're a little bit frightening. They come in all shapes and sizes with four legs, eight legs, wings, fur, and fangs. If we let our imaginations go wild, they become the creepy things that lurk in our nightmares, waiting to pounce upon the unsuspecting sleeper.

Most infestations are manageable and can be taken care of without the need to call a professional. But there are times when calling a professional is your only option. When you do, you'll want someone who has taken the time to become licensed and knowledgeable about the best methods to rid your space of unwanted "guests".

The most common pests inhabiting Pennsylvania's homes are those listed and described below. Surely you have met one or two of them.

#1 Blacklegged (deer) ticks

Young nymphs may be the size of a pinhead and can grow to one-eighth of an inch as an adult. They are known for feeding on deer during the winter and will bite humans primarily during the spring and summer when people spend more time outdoors. They can spread viruses such as Lyme disease which was first detected in 1976 in Lyme, Connecticut when an unusually large number of children suffering similar symptoms came down with an unidentified illness. Blacklegged ticks are usually found in the eastern United States especially in the Northeast. They frequent wooded areas and fields and are commonly found around homes and buildings in secluded or rural areas.

#2 House mice

House mice typically seek shelter and food within our homes, will eat almost anything and build nests in areas such as wall insulation and packing materials. They quickly reproduce and can bring fleas and mites into homes. A female house mouse can give birth to a half dozen babies every three weeks and can produce up to 35 young per year. House mice are not only a nuisance, but they can pose significant health and property threats. Any structural holes should be sealed, and homeowners should inspect for droppings or gnaw marks on a regular basis.

#3 German cockroaches

The German cockroach is a small species of cockroach, typically about 1.1 to 1.6 cm long. Its color varies from tan to almost black, and it has two dark, roughly parallel, streaks that run behind the head to the base of the wings. The most common cockroach species, German cockroaches will eat almost anything. They find their way into new structures by hiding in cardboard boxes, grocery bags, and secondhand appliances. A large German roach population will produce a foul odor. They prefer to live in warm, humid places such as kitchens and bathrooms. They have also been known to spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, seven human pathogens and six kinds of parasitic worms. Practicing good sanitation and eliminating excess moisture will help to prevent a German cockroach infestation.

#4 Termites

With hard, saw-toothed jaws, termites can and will inflict significant structural damage to properties over time. They can eat wood 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Termite infestations can mean possible financial ruin for a homeowner. Termites are active across the state, from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg and from Philadelphia to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Generally, termites swarm on a warm day after a rainfall. Swarms may occur during the winter in heated buildings. An infestation of termites often remains undetected until it is too late and there has already been major structural damage. If you want to prevent termites, be sure to avoid water accumulation near building foundations and eliminate any wood contact with soil. For an in-depth look at the destructive power of these pests, check out NPMA’s Tiny Termite House.

#5 Flies

Horse flies and house flies tend to be the most annoying pests. Horse flies are approximately one inch long and feed on the blood of humans and animals. Female horseflies inflict a painful bite from their scissor-like mouthparts. A horsefly bite will usually become red, swollen and itchy. Although they rarely result in an allergic reaction, horsefly bites can become infected and require medical attention. Aside from being a buzzing nuisance, House flies are strongly suspected of transmitting at least 65 diseases to humans, including typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, poliomyelitis, yaws, anthrax, tularemia, leprosy, and tuberculosis. Flies regurgitate and excrete wherever they come to rest and thereby mechanically transmit disease organisms. The common housefly can live up to 28 days. Be wary of horse flies when near wooded areas or bodies of water and quickly dispose of any trash to avoid a house fly infestation, house flies frequent trash cans, decaying flesh, rotting food and manure.

Should you find it necessary to call on a professional, you'll want to be sure they are licensed by the State of Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recognizes the following classification of applicator licensing:

  • Commercial Applicator – Necessary if:
    • Pesticide application will take place on property not owned or rented by applicator or employer.
    • Restricted use pesticides are being applied to property owned by applicator or employer but not applied to crops.
    • Pesticides are applied to apartments of 4 or more units, golf courses.
  • Private Applicator – Necessary if an individual’s plans to purchase and apply restricted use pesticides for producing an agricultural commodity on land owned or rented by the individual or their employer.

Anyone seeking a license can start the process by visiting the Certified Training Institute's Pesticide Division. You'll find all the information necessary to obtain or maintain a Pennsylvania Pesticide Applicator License. The courses are offered online and available anytime 24/7 from any computer or even your smartphone!

Online Pesticide Professional Education
State-approved video courses are available 24/7


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