The Most Poisonous Pests in Michigan

Northern Black Widow close-up

Animal poison tends to be as provocative as it is scary. Somebody asks us about poison almost every single day. Usually by asking “is that thing poisonous?!” The answer is almost always “no…” almost always. There are several poisonous animals and pests in Michigan. Some of them are even highly poisonous.

We think one of the reasons why animal venom is so feared is because it’s not very understood. Pest venom isn’t a human killing superweapon. In fact, it’s usually not even really meant for use on humans. Instead, poison is a natural part of some animal adaptations. They use it to hunt, defend themselves, and scare away predators. Here are some examples of the most poisonous pests in Michigan, along with what their poison is specifically. Hopefully, understanding poison a little better will help make it a lot less scary.

Black Widows in Michigan

The Northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus) is the only venomous spider native to Michigan (Brown recluse spiders are not native). Like other black widows, it’s also one of the most venomous spiders in the country. Widow venom is fifteen times more toxic than rattlesnake venom, though spiders deliver far less in a given bite. In terms of pure potency, widows are probably the most venomous animal in Michigan.

All Widows possess venom called latrotoxin. Latrotoxins act on presynaptic nerve membranes and can trigger an illness called “latrodectism.” Latrodectism triggers a release of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and GABA. Releasing these neurotransmitters triggers pain, followed by muscle cramps, sweating, nausea, and possible vomiting. Severity and length of symptoms depends on the bite location and how much venom the spider transmitted. Northern black widow bites are very rare. Even when they do occur, the spiders rarely administer venom to humans.

paper wasps

Paper Wasps in Michigan

People tend not to think of wasps as “poisonous,” but their venom is why stings hurt! The most venomous wasp in Michigan is also our most common: the European paper wasp (Polistes dominula). As the name implies, the European paper wasp isn’t native to Michigan. Paper wasps first came to America in 1981 and spread quickly by hijacked native wasp’s nests for themselves. Today, paper wasps have established themselves as an invasive species in Michigan. It’s may not be native, but it’s here to stay.

Paper wasp venom is painful because it targets the nervous system on a cellular level. Enzymes and proteins in the venom break down cell membranes when introduced into the bloodstream. When neuron cells break down, they send a signal that they’re damaged–pain–to the brain. Wasp stings also deliver norepinephrine, which stops blood flow to prevent the venom’s potency from deluding in the bloodstream. Finally, they introduce hyaluronidase and MCDP to spread venom further around the site of the sting.

Eastern American Toads

Eastern American and Fowler’s Toads

Believe it or not, Eastern American (A. a. americanus) and Fowler’s (Anaxyrus fowleri) toads are among the most poisonous animals in Michigan. Toad venom is primarily defensive in nature. These toads possess venom-producing “Parotoid Glands” right behind their heads. These glands secrete a chemical steroidal venom called Bufotoxin onto the toad’s body as a predation deterrent. Bufotoxin looks like a milky white liquid film that coats the toad’s skin. If toads look wet, they might be secreting their toxin!

Bufotoxin is more deadly to small predators than it is to people. When ingested, Bufotoxins can trigger serious cardiac, neurological, and gastrointestinal problems. Eventually, Bufotoxin can even target the central nervous system and cause heart attacks or seizure. When merely handled, however, Bufotoxin usually only causes a mild skin rash or allergic reaction. Bufotoxin may also irritate eyes and mucous membranes on contact. Don’t let your pets chase, kill, or eat the little toads in your yard!  

eastern massasauga snake

Eastern Massasauga Rattle Snake

The Eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) is the only venomous snake in Michigan. Massasauga are capable of injecting a highly toxic venom through their bites. In fact, massasauga venom is considered more potent than most other rattlesnake venom. Like black widow spiders, however, massasaugas generally inject less venom during a bite than most snakes. Venom is a valuable resource for rattlesnakes, and its resource-intensive to reproduce. Consequently, most massasauga bites are “dry bites,” which contain no venom.

Eastern massasauga venom contains a specialized digestive enzyme. When this enzyme enters the bloodstream, it disrupts blood flow and prevents blood clotting. When venom is injected into the smaller prey massasauga feed on, it causes fatal internal bleeding. It can also incapacitate prey and destroy tissue. Massasauga venom is not fatal to humans, but it can be extremely harmful. Fortunately, massasauga bites are rare. Massasaugas are highly cautious, even shy or docile snakes. They would avoid rather avoid or run from a conflict than lash out.

 

As you can see, venomous pests use their venom for hunting small prey and defending themselves. None of Michigan’s pests are going to go out of their way to poison you; just the opposite, in fact. As always, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of venomous pests, but you shouldn’t have to fear them.

Of course, that’s easier said than done… especially if poisonous pests are around your home. If you’re worried you have a potentially-precarious pest predicament, give Griffin a call right away. We have everything we need to keep you safe from Michigan’s most poisonous pests.

Rainy Day Pests to Watch Out For

Rainy day pests to look out for

Rain is a welcome change of pace in spring time, especially since it helps push away the winter grey. As you might expect of any meteorological change, however, rain can also be disruptive. Spring is a already a transitional time of year. Flora and fauna are struggling to adapt to the changing season. When rain disrupts this process, it can create some awkward circumstances.

The most unwelcome of these awkward circumstances would have to be the pests. When rain disrupts their behavior, all kinds of pests may end up in places where they wouldn’t normally be. Places like your home. Here’s what to expect from pests after a long rain, why, and how to react.

Cockroaches

cockroachCockroaches need moisture and humidity to stay alive, so they’re naturally attracted to moist and humid places. The problem is, the moist and humid places where they naturally congregate also tend to be vulnerable to flooding. Millions of cockroaches live in sewers, gutters, or drain pipes. When we get heavy rainfall in the spring, these places flood. Flooding forces cockroaches out of their homes and into new places – like your home!

After periods of heavy rain, it’s common to find cockroaches in your kitchen, bathroom, or basement. These roaches are probably flooding refugees that snuck up your drains or through cracks in sills or frames. Once inside, roaches look for food, shelter, and moisture. They love to squeeze under tight hiding places like boxes and furniture, where they can hide until night time. Unfortunately, once cockroaches get inside, they’re in no hurry to leave. They’ll stick around as long as they have access to food and shelter.

Snakes

snakeSnakes tend to come out after rain for several reasons. First, most snakes naturally live close to water. When rainfall floods the banks of rivers and streams, the snakes are forced to seek higher (and drier) ground. Snakes also have to come out after rain to warm back up. As cold-blooded reptiles, snakes rely on sunlight to keep their internal body temperatures up. After days of clouds and rain, snakes get desperate to get warm.

Particularly severe rainy conditions may even force snakes into your home. As dry shelter becomes less and less available, snakes have to get creative if they want to survive. They’ll twist and contort themselves to fit through small cracks and crevices to enter basements and attics. They may even follow other pest-refugees while they’re hunting and stumble into your home inadvertently. Unlike cockroaches, snakes don’t typically stick around after the rain stops, but you might find them in your yard nearby.  

Spiders

spiderFor most pests, heavy rainfall is a nuisance. While it can be a nuisance for spiders, too, it can also be an opportunity. The busiest insect hunters in the world aren’t about to stop their grind for a little rain. After all, the itsy bitsy spider wins out in the end, even in the nursery rhyme. They go where their prey goes, no matter what. That means, when it rains, they’ll follow their prey into your home.

Spiders want to build their webs wherever they think they can catch prey. They’ll find the places where other pests get into your home – window sills, baseboard cracks, etc. – and set up shop there. Often times, spiders already living nearby during rain will move inside to follow prospective prey. Other times, their homes will get wiped out by flooding, just like their prey. Either way, expect to see more spider activity when it rains.

Termites

TermitesEveryone knows termites eat wood. What fewer people know is, ironically, termites are more attracted to moisture than they are to wood. When you think about it, it makes sense: eating wood has to be thirsty work. Termites need moisture to survive, just like everything else. If they get too dried out while they’re munching away at wood, they’ll die. Termites prefer to strike at wet food, so they can keep hydrated while they work.

Obviously, all wood is wet when it’s getting rained on. During rainy periods, termites may seize the opportunity to attack wood sources that are normally dry. The wetter the wood, the easier it is for termites to chew through it. Rain is a great deal for termites–as long as they can survive it. Just like other pests, termites can easily drown in flooding. They may also target wood that lets them avoid this danger.

 

We know this is probably kind of a bummer. You were just looking forward to being done with winter, and now you have all this to worry about? Maybe April really is the cruelest month! Well, the good new is you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Give Griffin Pest Solutions a call any time you’re worried about a pest infestation. We can make sure your home stay pest-proof this spring and beyond. Rain or shine, Griffin has your back.

How Does Wildlife Survive the Winter?

How Does Wildlife Survive Winter?

If you think preparing for winter is a big hassle for you, imagine how it is for animals. They don’t exactly have the resources you do. Like a home. Or clothes. So how could they possibly get through a winter without freezing to death? How do they make sure their babies get through winter?

The answers are more varied, creative, and effective than you’d think. Life finds a way, after all. Here’s how four of Michigan’s most common wildlife species hustle their way through the coldest months of the year. After reading what these poor animals go through, you’ll never think about your home the same way again!

Squirrels

squirrels fatten up and stash food to survive winterAs soon as temperatures drop, squirrels scramble to collect as many nuts, berries, and seeds as they can get their paws on. You’ve probably seen the common eastern grey squirrel race around stashing every crumb of food that isn’t nailed down countless times. They stash their foraged horde in several hidden caches for when they need it. They’ll return to the stashes (well, the ones they actually remember) to snack all winter.

At least, they’ll go back if if they don’t gobble up the food they find before they get a chance to stash it. Squirrels are known to eat their entire body weight in a week or less in fall! By winter, most squirrels fatten up so much it’s a wonder they can move at all! Squirrels need that fat to keep them warm. Although they sleep a lot to conserve energy, very few squirrel species hibernate in winter. Even the fattest squirrel needs to wake up and munch a midwinter snacks to stay warm and healthy.

Skunks

skunks burrow under structures in groups in order to survive winterSkunks don’t horde like squirrels do, but boy do they eat. Skunks spend fall hunting and eating insects, worms, lizards, snakes, mammals smaller than them, and more. All this eating builds thick layers of fat to insulate the skunk from the cold. When winter begins, skunks usually find burrows by digging under natural or manmade cover. Many skunk species create large, multifamily burrows and keep each other warm via proximity.

Contrary to popular belief, skunks don’t hibernate in winter. During the coldest times of the year, they enter a state of reduced activity called torpor. Torpor functions similarly to hibernation. The skunk enters a deep sleep, during which its metabolism drastically slows down. The big difference is, torpor doesn’t last. Like squirrels, skunks have to wake up and eat multiple times during winter to survive. When skunks wake up, they’ll take whatever food they can get. Skunks might react defensively if encountered after waking up. If you think you have a skunk spending winter under your porch, be careful!

Moles

moles dig deep underground to survive winterOk, we know we said these animals solve their winter problems creatively. But, look, creativity isn’t really what moles are all about. These mammals do one thing, and they do it very well: they dig. Moles don’t stop digging, even after the ground freezes in winter. Instead, they just dig deeper. Some mole species may dig as deep as 30 inches into the earth. They can also dig complex burrows deep underground to hunt and trap their food. Like squirrels, they may even store food in these burrows for when they need it in winter.

Most mole species seldom return to the surface during winter. They may not even be able to burrow through the hard ground. Instead, they remain in their burrows all season, relying mainly on earthworms, grubs, and subterranean insects for food. Moles rise back up through the ground as temperatures rise and the surrounding earth softens again. Sometimes, they may even return to the surface before snow melts completely.

Snakes

snakes congregate together in shelters called hibernaculums to survive winterAs if winter wasn’t bad enough, snakes have to contend with an extra challenge: their cold blood. As reptiles, snakes rely entirely on their surroundings to regulate their body temperatures. And they don’t even hibernate! How could something like that possibly survive winter? Instead of hibernating, snakes enter a torpor-like state of reduced activity called “brumation”. Brumation is an extreme slowing of a snake’s metabolism. During brumation, snakes can survive without eating or drinking for long periods of time. They still can’t survive freezing temperatures, however.

Before they enter brumation, snakes have to find or make an overwintering site called a “hibernaculum”. Brumating snakes are completely vulnerable while they sleep, so the hibernaculum has to be hidden. It can’t be out in the open, either, or the snakes would freeze. Usually, snakes burrow under existing cover like hollowed-out logs, porches, or rocks. Snakes often make hibernaculum nests in large groups, to keep one another warm. Like skunks, brumating snakes wake up periodically to seek food on warm days.

 

As tempting as sleeping the winter away sounds, we’re guessing you’re pretty grateful you’re not wildlife right about now. Considering how much work winter survival is, it’s hard to begrudge the pests sneaking into your home this season. Just because you understand it doesn’t mean you have to tolerate it, however.

If you have pest problems anytime this winter, give Griffin Pest Control a call right away. We’ll make sure to take care of the problem, so you can get back to surviving the winter your way–in style.