Whether you’ve lived here for years or you’ve just copied your keys, it’s wise to learn about the 12 common pests in Austin and how to get rid of them (let’s hope you didn’t pack any bed bugs during the move).
Austin continues to grow fast as a tech hub – Bat City is the second-fastest growing city in Texas and the fastest-growing large metro in the U.S. While the downtown and immediate suburbs are built out, go a few miles east or west – or 12 miles north or south – and wildlife may pay your home or apartment complex a visit at night.
This means common Austin pests range from city dwelling mice, rats, grackles, roaches, and ants, to less urban pests like raccoons, opossums, deer, and even scorpions. What you don’t have to worry so much about in Austin are mosquitoes – because of the bats – but more on that later.
No matter where you live in the booming Austin area, a severe pest invasion can damage your home and lead to costly repairs. Termites will turn your home’s wood into a mighty meal, and raccoons in the attic can damage electrical wiring.
We’ll show you how to get rid of 11 common Austin pests (in A-Z order) via DIY methods and when to call a pest control pro when your best efforts fail or you just want to call in the experts.
The little bugs that stole your picnic sandwiches at your old home are the same bugs stealing your barbecue in Austin.
More than 250 species of ants crawl throughout Texas, but here are the common ants you’ll find here in Austin:
- Fire ants
- Carpenter ants
- Acrobat ants
- Little black ants
- Rover ants
How to Control Ants
When you need to control ants in your home or yard, it’s smart to identify the ant you’re dealing with first. Why? Because not all ant species will respond to the same control methods. Fire ants, for instance, won’t surrender the battle unless you put specific control measures in place (but more on that below).
Here are some general ant-management tips for protecting your home (and cupboards):
- Fix leaky pipes and water-damaged wood. Carpenter ants and acrobat ants love to nest in moist areas.
- Trim tree and shrub branches that brush up against the home.
- Seal cracks and crevices.
- Scrub your counters. Ants release pheromones along their foraging trail to help guide other ants (kind of like leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs). Scrub the counter with vinegar, baking soda, or a commercial cleaner to throw off the scent.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth where you suspect ants are living or wherever you don’t want them crawling. Diatomaceous earth is a natural, eco-friendly control method.
- Apply a chemical insecticide to the nest. Always read and follow the product’s instructions and keep children and pets away from the treated area.
Dealing with a case of fire ants? Fire ants are aggressive pests with painful bites. Here are two different ways you can get them under control:
- Do the Texas Two-Step: Follow the Texas Agrilife Extension Service’s recommended two-step approach: Broadcast a bait insecticide across your entire yard for step one. Step two calls for treating individual mounds with a mound drench, granule, bait, or dust insecticide.
- Douse fire ants with hot water: Keep it natural and eco-friendly by pouring hot (almost boiling) water over the mounds. Approximately 3 gallons of very hot water will eliminate about 60% of the mounds treated.
2. Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are tiny hitchhikers that will follow you from place to place if you’re not careful. They’re especially rampant in apartment complexes where they can travel from room to room.
Here’s why you don’t want a bed bug problem: They suck your blood at night, and they’re challenging to get rid of. The thought of small bugs enjoying you as a meal is enough to cause anxiety at night, and the stress of getting rid of them is a burden for homeowners and renters.
If you find any of the following on your furniture, such as a mattress, office chair, or couch, you may have a bed bug problem.
- Black dots soaked into cushioned furniture (looks like a dot made by a marker tip)
- Pinhead-sized, pearl-white eggs that cling to surfaces
- Molted, translucent skin shells
How to Control Bed Bugs
If you suspect your home has a bed bug problem, DIY control methods aren’t going to cut it this time. You’ll need to call in a professional bed bug exterminator if you’re going to rid your home of bed bugs once and for all. How much does bed bug treatment cost? You’ll likely pay $917 to $1,917 for professional bed bug treatment.
The good news is that there are ways you can help prevent bed bugs from infesting your home:
- Store items in plastic containers.
- Don’t store items under your bed.
- Remove clutter from the floor.
- Use dust mite covers on your bed.
- Vacuum regularly.
- Keep clothes off the bed.
- Check for bed bugs in new spaces (such as a hotel, dorm room, or friend’s house).
- Wash clothes and clean luggage after traveling.
- Wash bedsheets on the highest setting.
- Avoid picking up free furniture from curbs and dumpsters. Your free furniture may be bringing freeloader bed bugs into your home.
- Keep your bedsheets off the ground.
Even though cockroaches serve a valuable environmental role as decomposers, it’s OK to keep their jaws off your Gourdough’s donut and away from your kitchen. Why? Because these stealthy critters can carry diseases (such as Salmonella), cause allergic reactions for some people, and trigger asthma. In a nutshell, you don’t want these pests anywhere close to you or your food.
The three most common cockroaches you’ll find in Austin are:
- American cockroaches
- Brown-banded cockroaches
- German cockroaches
How to Control Cockroaches
When a large cockroach family is living inside your home, the best way to get the bugs out for good is to hire an Austin pest control company. Some DIY methods might target a few cockroaches, but these methods usually don’t offer effective pest control against a severe infestation.
If you suspect individual cockroaches are sneaking indoors, there are a few ways you can protect your home from the intruders:
- Shut doors and windows that lead to the outdoors.
- Caulk any cracks and crevices where cockroaches might enter. Seal these areas tight –– cockroaches can squeeze through the slightest gap.
- Remove outdoor items accumulating water, such as buckets or empty flower pots.
- Repair leaking pipes and faucets.
- Seal your compost pile.
- Store food away at night.
- Empty and clean pet bowls daily.
- Shut trash cans.
- Keep firewood piles away from the house.
- Place sticky traps where cockroaches are likely to forage.
- Install door sweeps to prevent roaches from crawling underneath.
- Place bait stations where cockroaches are likely to forage. Remember to remove alternative food sources; otherwise, the cockroaches are less likely to consume the bait.
- Apply gel baits, dusts, or powders to cracks and crevices.
Caution: Whenever using a chemical insecticide or bait, always read and follow instructions, and keep children and pets away from the treated area.
Despite Austin’s status as a dog-friendly city, that doesn’t mean your pup (or cat) is immune to Austin’s pests. A flea infestation in your Austin yard can make its way into your pet’s fur and, ultimately, into your home.
If you suspect your pet is suffering from these blood-sucking parasites, use a flea comb to separate the fur and inspect the skin. Fleas look like tiny darkish specks against the skin (and if you see the speck move, you’ve found a flea).
Not only can fleas cause your pet to have itchy, red, and flaky skin, but an infected flea can transmit tapeworms if your pet swallows the flea while grooming. Infected fleas can also transmit tapeworms to humans, but the probability of a human accidentally swallowing a flea is very low.
How to Control Fleas
Ask your veterinarian about the best flea treatments for your pet. If your pet has fleas, fleas might also be infesting your home. Here are some steps you can take to eradicate these pests indoors:
- Vacuum all carpets and floors and throw away the vacuum bag.
- Vacuum the car if your pet has been for a ride recently.
- Wash pet bedding and soft toys. Repeat washes may be necessary if fleas are still present.
- Wash cushioned items your pet enjoys sleeping on, including couch pillows, blankets, bedsheets, and rugs.
- Continue the flea treatment plan recommended by your vet.
Sometimes a pet brings fleas in from the outdoors. If your yard has a flea infestation, your control options include:
- Outdoor pesticides
- Insect growth regulators (IGRs)
- Proper lawn maintenance
The bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge aren’t controlling the city’s mosquito problem as much as we’d hope. Terminix ranks Austin among the top 25 cities impacted by mosquitos.
So why aren’t bats helping us out? Because bats prefer to eat hearty meals, like beetles and moths, over chowing down on tiny mosquitoes that don’t provide much energy.
As you explore the wonders and weirdness of Austin, don’t forget to pack the bug spray. These blood-suckers will pinch your skin and can transmit mosquito-borne viruses, including West Nile Virus.
How to Control Mosquitos
When mosquitos are preventing you from enjoying your Austin yard, it’s time to win it back:
- Remove all standing water from your property. Mosquitos depend on standing water to lay their eggs. Standing water is often in birdbaths, empty flower pots, and buckets.
- Add a fountain or waterfall to your pond to increase air circulation and water flow.
- Replace outdoor light bulbs with “bug lights,” which are less inviting to mosquitoes.
- Clean your rain gutters.
- Hire an Austin pest control professional who can eliminate eggs, nests, and adults.
Mice and rats are carriers of bacteria and pathogens that can affect human health, and it’s not unusual to find Mickey and Minnie overstaying their welcome here in Central Texas.
Rodents can’t keep their whiskers out of trouble. They’ll chew up pipes and wires and contaminate stored food and food prep areas.
So what’s attracting rodents to your home? If you’ve been reluctant to take out the trash or your compost bin is open, you’re sending an open invitation to rodents.
When nesting outdoors, rodents prefer to remain out of sight of predators. They’ll typically nest in dense vegetation, tree stumps, and woodpiles. They prefer secluded spaces when nesting indoors, such as attics, crawlspaces, wall voids, and basements.
How to Control Rodents
If your home is in the grips of a severe rodent infestation, it’s best to call in a professional exterminator. But if you’re playing cat and mouse with one or two rodents, here’s what you can do:
- Cut off their food supply. Remove trash daily, seal the compost bin, and store food in airtight containers.
- Seal your trash cans and compost bin.
- Organize storage areas and remove clutter.
- Clean out your rain gutters.
- Seal cracks and crevices where rodents might enter and exit.
- Set humane traps where you suspect rodent activity.
- Empty and clean pet bowls daily.
- Install door sweeps to prevent mice from squeezing into your home.
When Austin’s summers get hot and dry, the scorpions head indoors to cool off. The most common scorpion in Austin is the striped bark scorpion. Its sting is rarely fatal, but some people may experience an allergic reaction. The sting can also be dangerous for children and older adults.
So, where might scorpions be hiding in your home? Scorpions prefer to hide in dark, damp areas with protective coverage, such as under furniture, in bathrooms, or inside shoes. So before you slip on your sneakers, peek inside to ensure safe travels for your toes.
Does the thought of scorpions in your home give you the heebie-jeebies? Keep these arachnids at bay with these control measures:
- Seal entryways into the house.
- Keep window screens in good condition.
- Eliminate clutter indoors.
- Remove trash, logs, rocks, and other outdoor objects that shade or protect scorpions.
- Keep firewood outdoors.
- Install door sweeps.
- Hire a pest control professional to apply insecticides indoors and outdoors. If you apply the chemicals on your own, make sure to use insecticides labeled for scorpion control. Always read and follow instructions.
Eek, spiders! They’re just as spooky as their distant cousins, scorpions. While most spiders are helpful gardeners that eat pesky bugs, some spiders are venomous and dangerous to humans and pets.
The spiders you don’t want anywhere near your home are the black widow and brown recluse spider. Although black widows and brown recluse spiders rarely kill people, you must seek medical attention right away if one of them bites you.
If spiders are frequent visitors indoors (both the friendly kind and the venomous), it might mean they’re feasting on an existing insect infestation.
How to Control Spiders
Some spiders visiting your home are harmless, but regardless, no one wants to find a long-legged spider in their bathtub at night.
Follow these tips to keep spiders out of your Austin home:
- Clear clutter to eliminate hiding spaces for spiders and the bugs they eat.
- Keep bugs out of your home so that it’s less attractive to spiders.
- Keep trash and compost in sealed bins.
- Store food in airtight containers.
- Keep shrubs and tree limbs trimmed back and away from the house.
- Sweep, vacuum, or dust cobwebs.
- Seal cracks and crevices where spiders (and bugs) might enter your home.
- Keep window and door screens in good condition.
- Clean undisturbed areas where spiders hide, such as underneath furniture or clutter.
- Hire a pest control professional to exterminate a severe spider infestation or existing bug infestation.
If you suspect termites are munching on your home, this is a pest problem you don’t want to ignore. According to Orkin pest control, a homeowner with termite damage in their home will pay an average of $3,000 in repair costs.
Termites love to turn your home’s wood into a bottomless brunch. Whether the wood is dry, wet, or rotting, they won’t let a single scrap go to waste.
Don’t confuse winged termites for winged ants. If you think a swarm of termites is flying carpenter ants, you’re in for a surprise. Termites and ants have two pairs of wings, but here’s the difference: Termites have two pairs of wings of equal size, while ants have a pair of wings that’s longer than the other pair.
How to Control Termites
If termites have invaded your home, you’ll need the help of professional pest management. An exterminator can apply insecticides around the home’s perimeter or perform fumigation. If fumigation is required, you’ll need to leave your home for a few days.
How much will professional termite treatment cost? You’ll likely pay from $275 to $863 for termite treatment, with most homeowners paying $558.
The best way to manage termites is to prevent them from chewing in the first place. Here are some ways you can protect your home:
- Remove food sources within 25 feet of the house, such as mulch, wood debris, and stumps.
- Ensure your home’s foundation has good drainage (some termite species crave moisture).
- Store firewood away from the house.
- Hire an Austin pest control pro to apply a preventative insecticide.
If you grew up surrounded by nature, pulling ticks off your body becomes as normal as swatting flies. But blood-sucking ticks should never be dismissed. Why? Because an infected tick can cause severe health issues for humans and pets.
Ticks are vectors for various diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, canine tick paralysis, and Lyme disease.
Approximately 850 tick species exist worldwide, and they all look a bit different. The blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick) is one of the most common ticks in Austin.
How to Control Ticks
Whether you want to prevent ticks from invading your lawn or you’re already dealing with an infestation, here’s how you can get rid of ticks:
- Remove the tick’s habitat. Ticks love moist, shady areas of the yard with overgrown vegetation. Don’t let your grass grow too tall, and remove vegetation around your walkways and near the yard’s edge.
- Establish a barrier with rocks or mulch. Creating a barrier around frequented areas, such as patios or a playground, limits the tick’s ability to mobilize. Ticks like to climb on vegetation where they can wait for something to cling onto (either your clothes or an animal’s fur).
- Keep small critters off the lawn. Ticks are often brought to the yard via small animals, like mice and voles. Keep these animals out of your yard by removing desirable nesting areas and storing firewood away from the house.
- Build a fence. White-tailed deer are another common tick carrier. Keeping these animals off your lawn will help prevent ticks.
- Apply acaricides. Acaricides are pesticides that kill ticks and mites. Remember to read and follow all application instructions.
- Place tick tubes in areas where you suspect mice activity. Tick tubes are filled with permethrin-treated cotton balls that the mice collect, and the permethrin kills the ticks.
What’s that noise up in the attic? It might be a ghost, but it also might be a raccoon living rent-free. When animal visitors become a problem, it’s time to put some control measures in place. Maybe an unwelcome opossum is attacking your chickens, or Fido keeps battling a skunk.
And we can’t forget about Texas’s small state animal, the armadillo. These critters will tear up your lawn if left unchecked, searching for grub.
How to Control Wildlife
Appropriate control methods will vary depending on the animal invading your property. Controlling opossums won’t be the same as controlling moles. For general wildlife control, here are some measures that can help:
- Modify the environment. Remove water, food, and shelter (such as cutting back dense vegetation or removing birdbaths).
- Modify bird feeders so that the seed doesn’t fall on the ground.
- Install a fence that blocks wildlife from entering.
- Set live traps to capture the animal. Leaving an animal in the trap for too long is inhumane, so check the trap frequently. Keep in mind that the type of trap and how you set it up will vary depending on the animal you’re trying to trap.
- Use pesticides carefully. Toxicants are available, but you must handle them with extreme care. Improper use could lead to non-target animals or children consuming the toxicant.
- Call a wildlife control expert who can remove the animal safely and humanely.
If you suspect the animal has rabies, do not attempt to remove the animal yourself. Call an animal control expert right away and bring all pets and people indoors. Alert your neighbors as well.
Maybe your home isn’t dealing with a full-fledged pest invasion, but rather, the occasional uninvited visitor. Have you had one too many screams from finding earwigs or kissing bugs crawling around the house? If you’re leaving out food or not sealing your trash, your home is especially inviting to foraging bugs.
Common critters invading Austin homes include:
- Kissing Bugs
How to Control Occasional Invaders
No one wants bugs creeping into their home. Here’s how you can make your home less inviting to Austin’s bugs:
- Don’t skip on regular lawn care. Bugs sneaking in from the outdoors are often attracted to an unkempt lawn.
- Seal your compost bin and trash bins.
- Store your food in airtight containers.
- Sweep the floors and clean the counters of crumbs.
- Install door sweeps.
- Seal cracks and crevices where insects might enter or exit.
- Keep window and door screens in good condition.
DIY Pest Control vs. Hiring a Professional Exterminator
Is DIY pest control an effective way to manage pests? It depends on the pest you’re dealing with and the severity of the infestation.
DIY pest control can be effective against some pest infestations, such as outdoor ants or mice stealing your food. On the other hand, a large infestation of cockroaches or scorpions almost always requires professional pest control solutions.
For some pests, DIY pest control is not a reliable option. Leave termites, bed bugs, and rabid wildlife to the experts.
How a Lawn Care Pro Can Keep Away Pests
Pests need three things to survive: Food, water, and shelter. If your yard provides these necessities, pests looking for a new home might gravitate toward your lawn, with some pests eventually moving indoors.
Tall grass, dense vegetation, standing water, old stumps –– how can a pest resist? Hire a local Austin lawn care professional to tidy up your yard and keep the pests at bay. Leave your lawn care to the pros while you enjoy your favorite spots in Austin.
Main Photo Credit: A mole in a yard / Beeki / Pixabay