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How to identify and stop common pests living in your yard

Everyone worries about bugs and insects once they get into houses, but the truth is, before they even get into your house, they find shelter in your yard.

Cleaning up those safe harbors for pests can help prevent a home invasion. Here are tips for eliminating annoying pests in your backyard:

Black widows

(Public Domain Photo)

Where to find them: Black widows are more prevalent in Arizona than many of us realize. There are other types of stinging spiders – such as the brown recluse – but they’re not often found in this state.

They can be found close to the ground in areas around garages, under the edging on stucco at the bottom of exterior walls or at the bottom of concrete block fences or walls.

What they look like: On the underside of female spiders are two red triangles in what resembles an hourglass shape. Overall, they’re black or very brown in color.

How to get rid of them: If you find them, squash and kill them and spray the area of their webs with pesticides. It’s a good idea to vacuum the area as well as they can produce egg sacs that hold hundreds of little spiders.

Always check items taken from a garage or shed before bringing them into the house.

Wear protective clothing when dealing with them.

Once you find them, you may want visits from a pest control service. But you can also clean up possible areas in your garage or home that attract spiders, including under tables and beds or in closets.

Bark scorpions

(Public Domain Photo)

Where to find them: Bark scorpions are almost an “only in Arizona” critter that thrives in the Sonoran Desert, but can also be found in northern Mexico and on the border with Texas. They’re most prevalent when night-time temperatures rise above 68 to 70 degrees.

In your yard, you find them sometimes when the area has been disturbed by construction or when you bring home pots of plants from a nursery with scorpions living in them. Sometimes, they are on the underside of stucco exterior walls or piles of leftover pavers or building materials and also nesting among the fronds in palm trees or in saucers under clay pots on your patio.

What they look like: They aren’t insects or bugs, but they’re related to them. They have pincers, a curved tail and are a pinkish, translucent color. They can be very tiny but can reach two to three inches in size.

How to get rid of them: To keep them out of the house, seal all cracks and crevices they might use to squeeze in. Improve the weather stripping around doors and windows. Seal the gaps around air conditioner hoses and cable boxes.

Keep landscaping well-trimmed near the house and prune branches away from the roof. Clean up the clutter in your yard and the messes in the garage.

Scorpions eat crickets and roaches, so, if you find those bugs in your house or on your property, eliminate them. Contrary to what some people say, scorpions can be killed with chemicals, so call an exterminator.

If you’re bitten by a scorpion, the area of the bite may be numb for 48 hours. Children or older people may need to see a doctor for an anti-venom treatment.


(Public Domain Photo)

Where to find them: Ants multiply quickly in springtime and summer. Although most homeowners get most upset about ants in the kitchen, no one wants big ant piles out in the yard either as it increased the possibility of a human getting stung.

What they look like: There are many sizes and colors of ants in Arizona, including tiny ones that can invade kitchens and crawl into containers of food.

How to get rid of them: Seal all cracks and openings into buildings including around windows, doors, pipes and plumbing. Remove all moisture sources and repair roof and plumbing leaks.

Although we have a dry climate, it doesn’t take much moisture to attract ants or any bug. Most of us have built-in sources of water on our property, such as drip irrigation systems.


(AP Photo)

Where to find them: Many people get irritated by the chirping of crickets. However, crickets are also a common food source for scorpions and spiders and, whenever you have a food source in a messy backyard, you’re increasing the chance of attracting other pests.

Crickets are omnivores that usually eat plants, fungi, dead bugs and – when food is scarce – each other. The landscaping around Phoenix-area homes provides ample food and water for crickets.

Our plants and our mild climate also provide nesting sites and breeding conditions. Left uncontrolled, cricket populations can increase rapidly.

Crickets have plenty of places to nest, but they prefer damp, moist areas. Crickets need daytime hiding places to avoid drying out and overheating, especially in the Arizona heat.

Often, crickets’ hiding places become their nesting sites. Common nesting sites include under the cusp of stucco siding, meter boxes and block walls that surround Arizona homes.

What they look like: House crickets are a yellowish-brown or tan color and are typically just shy of one-inch in size.

How to get rid of them: If you hear them in your house, you need to call a pest control service.

Outside your home, clean out stacks of lumber or rocks where they might be hiding. Seal any openings or cracks near ground level around your house.

Check the seals on doors outside your home and be sure that screens on windows and doors are intact and fit correctly.

For more homeowner advice, DIY tips and videos, and information about all the projects around your house, home, castle or cabin, visit Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information at

And if you are in need of a quality contractor you know you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at – Arizona’s most-trusted referral network.

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