Texas has a deserved reputation as a rugged state, and it certainly has its fair share of wildlife that it's best to avoid when possible. Texas also scores high in the creepy critter department, with countless varieties of insects and spiders choosing to live in the Lone Star State alongside its human population. They range from harmless to potentially dangerous to people or pets, but it should be noted that most play an important role in the areas ecology, even if few of us would want to share our sleeping bags with one of them. Let's take a look at some of the multi-legged creatures that make their homes in and near ours.
These bugs are such a part of Houston life in particular, that they deserve that exclamation point. There are several varieties, including the American Cockroach and German Cockroach, and they're ideal habitat is the Texas Gulf Coast. Possibly much more alarming to the average person, is that cockroaches like to live around the same types of stuff we do, and our homes provide all the food, water, and shelter that cockroaches need in order to thrive. While no roaches in the Houston area pack a venomous bite (thankfully), cockroaches can spread diseases and their populations can explode overnight. Some people are also allergic to roaches, adding to a long list of why it's not a great idea to live around these unpleasant home invaders.
Fear of spiders is fairly common across the world, but most arachnids are a lot more helpful than harmful, playing a major role in controlling pest populations. That said, their are several types of spiders in Texas that can be harmful to us, and they are well worth keeping an eye out for. While all spiders have venom, only two species in the state are dangerous, and those are the from the recluse and widow families.
There are several different types of recluse spiders, but the one most Texans are familiar with is the dreaded brown recluse. Although they're tiny, the bite from a "fiddleback" as they're also known, can itch or sting, but it'll often be followed by intense pain, fever, and chills, before erupting into an ulcerating lesion. Having seen photos of the resulting wounds caused by their bite, I feel certain no one wants to be bitten by a brown recluse spider.
The second type of dangerous spider which makes its home here are several species of widow spiders including the southern black widow. They are fairly small at around one and a half inches, and the female southern black widow usually has a distinctive hourglass marking on its back. The bite of a black widow is extremely unpleasant and includes symptoms such as severe muscle cramps, spasms, intense pain, and tachycardia, although it's generally not fatal to a healthy adult.
Recluse and widow spiders are worth looking out for, and don't make nice cuddle buddies, so it's a good idea to keep an eye out for them.
Texas is home to many types of scorpions, and in Houston the most commonly encountered species is the striped bark scorpion. They're commonly found under rocks and other ground cover, and occasionally into human dwellings. Although usually not deadly, their sting isn't anything anyone wants to endure, because it causes reactions ranging from intense localized pain to abdominal cramps and difficulty breathing. Many Texans grew up being taught to shake out their boots before putting them on, and critters like the striped bark scorpion are a good reason to observe that practice.
3. Wasps and Bees
Texas is home to bees, most notably honey and bumblebees, which can both sting humans. Neither is extremely aggressive to people, and stings are generally a last line of defense, particularly with honeybees which can die after stinging a person or animal. Both types of bees dole out a painful sting which will typically swell for a few hours, but they pose a large risk to those who are highly allergic to them.
South Texas has plenty of different wasp species, including several different kinds of paper wasps, mud daubers, and the dreaded yellow jacket. Most wasps can sting, but yellow jackets have a particularly unpleasant reputation for aggression, and are best to avoid when possible. Wasp stings hurt pretty badly, but unless a person is stung multiple times or is allergic to their venom, the stings generally aren't going to cause more than pain and swelling. Still, who needs that in their lives? It's best to just avoid wasps and bees whenever possible.
Ants are everywhere in Texas, with over 200 species native to the state, and Houston has its fair share of the stinging creatures. These include carpenter ants, leaf cutter ants, fire ants, and pharaoh ants, which are often called "sugar ants" around here. Anyone who has ever experienced walking into a fire ant bed, and having hundreds of the angry creatures scurrying up their leg realizes they aren't a lot of fun to get stung by. Generally, ant stings are more painful and irritating than dangerous, but like other insect stings, some people can have a severe and life threatening allergic reaction to them. Recently Houston has become the home to an invasive species called Rasberry Crazy Ants, which are named after the exterminator who discovered their populations were exploding here. Houston attracts people from all over the country and world, and it seems to be attracting new species of insect life too.
While some people would have out of towners believe that Houston has mosquitos the size of small birds, providing anecdotes of the maligned insects flying off with small children, but there really isn't any need to exaggerate the vile nature of mosquitos. Quite bluntly, mosquitos suck. And it's blood they're sucking, so rather than just defensively stinging a person like a wasp or bee might, mosquitos are making a meal from us. Worse still, mosquitos are some of the most prolific carriers of disease in history, spreading fun stuff like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile virus among others. They're also responsible for spreading heart worms to dogs and cats, not even sparing the animals we tend to keep as pets. Cockroaches may be disgusting and reviled, but mosquitos have spread misery to humans and other mammals throughout history. Most people living in South Texas who spend much time outside seem to either bathe in bug repellent, or hope the mosquito control trucks drive through their neighborhoods regularly. Where's Dale Gribble when we need him?
Anyone who has spent much time in Texas or the Houston area understands that certain aspects of life here are inevitable. Like hot summers and erratic weather patterns, Texas has bugs, and lots of them. Learning to deal with the ones that are merely irritating, and avoiding those that can be dangerous is just part of life in this part of the country.
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