High Plains Pests: Habitats, Dangers, and Prevention

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Storm season and warmer weather have settled over the High Plains in recent weeks. Although these may bring rain or comfortable days to spend on local activities and attractions, summer can also mean an influx of insects and other pests.

What are some of the most common pests in the High Plains? Which are dangerous? Where are they found?

Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension has published not only a field guide, but several reports regarding insects and other pests found around the High Plains. MyHighPlains.com referenced university reports to find background information on some of the most common household pests in the High Plains.

Common Pests on the High Plains

Drawing pins

pest name What does it look like? Is it dangerous? Where are they found?
Bed bug Bed bugs are not known to transmit
or spread the disease, depending on the
Environmental Protection Agency (APE),
but they can cause other health problems.
They can be found in cushions and curtains, under loose wallpaper, near the seams and tags of mattresses and box springs, and in bed frames and headboards.
Photo credit: CDC

The spiders

pest name What does it look like? Is it dangerous? Where are they found?
brown recluse Adult brown recluse spider Yes.
Although these spiders often coexist with humans without incident, bites can be serious and painful. Bites can also cause secondary infections, skin ulcers, and sometimes life-threatening complications.
They can lay eggs and live in cluttered closets, garages, crawl spaces and attics.
southern black widow Black Widow Yes.
A bite may cause a pale, red, swollen mark in the center. Within hours, a person can experience severe pain that can last for several days. Other symptoms may include tremors, nausea, leg cramps, abdominal pain, sweating, muscle loss, and increased blood pressure.
Can be found in protected outdoor areas or in structures open to the outdoors. Also, they can be found in woodpiles, garages, basements, shrubbery, crawl spaces, and other rarely disturbed areas.
Tarantula Theraphosidae aphonopelma No.
Although tarantulas can release hairs that can irritate the skin, eyes or nose, their bites are not dangerous. They can also be safely kept as pets.
Tarantulas often live in burrows or in natural cavities under rocks or logs.
Photo credit: Texas A&M University

Fleas and ticks

pest name What does it look like? Is it dangerous? Where are they found?
common chip A chip Yes.
Fleas can be a source of irritation and disease. Although common fleas do not usually live on humans, they can bite people who handle infested animals. The bites can be small, red and itchy and usually cover the ankles and lower legs.
Fleas often jump on passing animals, such as cats and dogs, and can be found in fur, pet bedding, and carpets.
Lone star tick Lone star tick Yes.
Ticks such as the Lone Star Tick can spread a range of tick-borne viruses such as Heartland and Bourbon viruses. They can also cause skin infections.
These ticks often attack deer, cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, dogs and humans.
Photo credit: Texas A&M University


pest name What does it look like? Is it dangerous? Where are they found?
American cockroach American cockroach, Periplaneta americana Linnaeus (Blattodea: Blattidae), adults and nymphs.  Photo by Drees. Cockroaches can contaminate food and kitchen utensils, which can spread germs as well as odors. American cockroaches are more common in commercial buildings and sewers, and live primarily outdoors. Adults can fly.
oriental cockroach Blatta orientalis, oriental cockroach Cockroaches can contaminate food and kitchen utensils, which can spread germs as well as odors. Oriental cockroaches prefer cooler, ground-level places such as basements, crawl spaces, and generally humid areas.
german cockroach German cockroach, Blattella germanica (Linnaeus) (Blattaria: Blattellidae).  Photo by Drees Cockroaches can contaminate food and kitchen utensils, which can spread germs as well as odors.
German cockroaches can transmit germs and are associated with allergies and asthma.
German cockroaches are the most prolific of indoor cockroaches and are prevalent in townhouses, apartments, and restaurants.
Photo credit: Texas A&M University

Pest prevention and pesticides

The EPA has published several lists of tips focused on preventing pest infestations, as well as how to safely use pesticides when needed.

Pest prevention tips:

  • Remove sources of food, water and shelter.
  • Store food in sealed plastic or glass containers. Garbage containing leftover food should be placed in well-covered bins. Regularly remove trash from your home.
  • Fix leaky plumbing and don’t let water pool anywhere in the house. Don’t let water collect in containers under your houseplants or refrigerator. Do not leave your pet’s food and water overnight.
  • Clutter provides places for pests to breed and hide and are difficult to get rid of. Get rid of things like piles of newspapers, magazines, or cardboard.
  • Close off areas where pests can enter and hide. For example, caulk cracks and crevices around cabinets or baseboards. Use steel wool to fill the spaces around the pipes. Cover all holes with wire mesh.
  • Learn about the pests you have and the options for controlling them.
  • Check the packages or boxes for pests before bringing them into your home.

Safe and correct use of pesticides:

  • Keep pets and children away from areas where pesticides have been applied.
  • After taking preventative measures, you can use baits as the first line of chemical defense against insects or rodents.
    • These are often effective and can be used with little risk of exposure to the pesticide, as long as they are kept out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Other relatively low risk pesticides are available for some pests. Consult your local cooperative extension service office for recommendations specific to your area.
  • Pesticides not contained in baits or traps should generally only be applied to targeted areas, not sprayed throughout the room.
  • Use misting devices only when absolutely necessary.
  • Always read and follow the instructions and safety warnings on the pesticide label.
  • Use ready-to-use products (ie, no mixing necessary) whenever possible.
  • If you hire outsiders to help control pests, have them find and correct the source of the problem before applying pesticides.
    • For example, you may need to repair a leaking toilet to remove a water source.
    • Ask them to use crack and crevice baits and treatments when possible.
  • Only apply chemicals approved for household use.
    • The label will indicate where the chemical can be used.
    • Write down the name and EPA registration number of any chemicals used by anyone you hire. You will need this information if you decide to research more information about the pesticide.
    • The pest control operator must be able to provide information about the chemical, such as the safety data sheet.

The EPA has also published additional resources such as its Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety.

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