Is That a Brown Recluse Spider?

Brown recluse spider

There are two spiders in Michigan with dangerous venomous bites: the black widow and the brown recluse. The black widow may be more famous, but the brown recluse tends to be scarier. At least you always know a black widow when you see it! These spiders, on the other hand, tend to look like every other little brown spider. So, of course, they’re the first thing you think of when you see any little brown spider. 

If you don’t want to freak out about every brown spider, you should learn how to spot a brown recluse by sight. This isn’t as hard as it might sound! There are actually quite a few ways to tell a Brown recluse apart from other spiders. You just have to know what to look for. Next time you spot a spider, look for each of the following “tells.” If the spider looks like the brown recluse below, then you’ll know to watch out for it:

Is that spider a brown recluse? Infographic

Still not sure whether you’re looking at a brown recluse spider? VERY sure you’re looking at one and want help removing it right away? Just want help removing your spiders, no matter what they are? 

No matter your spider problem, Griffin Pest is your solution. We’ll remove spiders, figure out how they got in, and make sure they can’t get in again. You won’t have to worry about dealing with spider infestations–venomous or otherwise–ever again.

 

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Can That Bug Hurt Me?

Venomous Brown Recluse Spider

The first thing you probably think whenever you see a weird-looking bug is “can that thing hurt me?” That momentary feeling of fear never really goes away (take it from us). When you see an insect (or spider, or wasp, etc.), you’ll probably freak out for a second. That’s ok! But if you learn what you’re looking at, you can also stop freaking out a second later.

We want to help you stop freaking out (because isn’t that what pest control is for, in the end?). That’s why we’re categorizing the freakiest bugs (and spiders, and wasps…) according to how both how dangerous they are and how painful their bites or stings are. Hopefully after reading this, you won’t feel quite as scared by the whatever-it-is you see on your porch. Well… after a second, at least.

Spiders

There are two medically-significant spiders in Michigan: the northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus) and the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa). These two spiders are venomous, and their bites are considered very dangerous. Northern black widow spiders are black with a prominent red, hourglass-shaped marking their abdomens. Brown recluse spiders are a uniform tan color with a darker, violin-shaped marking behind their heads. Northern black widows are native to Michigan and relatively common. Brown recluses are not.

Various other Michigan spider species may bite, but those bites are not serious and certainly not life-threatening. Black widow and brown recluse spiders are very rare, and even when they happen they are often not serious. These two spiders are both very shy by nature, and would always rather avoid conflict than lash out. If you see a northern black widow or brown recluse, keep your distance and remain calm. They will not hurt you unless they’re provoked.

The verdict:

Dangerous–YES, but it’s very unlikely.

Painful–YES, but, again, only if they bite you–which is very unlikely.

Fire  ants can be threatening because they have a stinger and occasionally use it on people

Ants

There are thousands of species of ants living in Michigan. Though some of Michigan’s ants (such as carpenter ants) are major nuisance pests, very few are dangerous. Even the flying ants that occasionally seem to swarm around structures aggressively won’t attack people. In fact, most ants lack the capability to attack humans, even if they wanted to (and they don’t). There are two ants that could potentially harm you if you encounter them: Fire ants and Velvet “ants.”

Fire ants are distributed in the southern US, but they are inconsistently reported in Michigan. These small, brown-red ants can be threatening because they have a stinger and occasionally use it on people. Fire ant stings contain a venom that may affect the nervous system or prompt an allergic reaction. Stings aren’t usually serious, but if one person is stung numerous times or has an intense allergic reaction they could be. Velvet ants aren’t actually an ant at all; they’re a species of wasp. Speaking of…

The verdict:

Dangerous–NO, except in very specific circumstances.

Painful–YES. A fire ant’s sting is about as painful as a common wasp’s.

Wasps

There are several species and subspecies of wasp and yellowjacket in Michigan. The most common wasps are the common paper wasp and european paper wasp. There are twelve species of yellow jacket in Michigan, including German yellow jackets, Eastern yellow jackets, and Baldfaced hornets. These wasps and hornets tend to resemble “classic” wasps as you’d recognize them. They have yellow-and-black striping, hard, almost metallic-looking bodies, and translucent wings. The bald faced hornet tends to have pale or white striping instead but otherwise looks similar.

Wasps are territorial and capable of delivering numerous painful stings, but these stings aren’t medically dangerous unless you’re allergic. In most cases, you shouldn’t be afraid of wasps, but you should remain aware of them. Wasps may also make nests near your property. Wasp nests are made of various plant debris stuck together and hung from awnings or rafters. Wasps may defend their nests rather aggressively. If you see a wasp’s nest near your home, do not approach it. Bee and wasp nest removal can be dangerous and should only be conducted by  professionals.

The verdict:

Dangerous–NO, unless you’re allergic.

Painful–YES, wasp stings can be very painful, especially if they sting you multiple times.

Ticks

Unfortunately, ticks are very common in Michigan, especially in rural or forested areas. Ticks are most common during the summer, but they’re active in the spring and fall, as well. The most common Michigan ticks are the American dog tick, Blacklegged tick, lone star tick, and brown dog tick. Ticks feed on blood and find hosts by climbing bushes and then latching onto passerby. They feed by attaching to people and sucking blood for several hours.

Tick bites don’t generally hurt, though they may itch. Unfortunately, however, ticks are still probably the most legitimately dangerous pest on this list. Ticks can host and transmit several serious diseases to humans. The Blacklegged tick is one of the primary transmitters of lyme disease in Michigan. These ticks may also transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and more. Ticks don’t transmit a disease unless they’re attached to a host for 24 hours or more. If you find a tick on your body, remove it immediately.

The verdict:

Dangerous–YES. Although tickborne diseases are rare in Michigan, they are quite serious.

Painful–NO. You might not even notice a tick bite, which is part of the problem.

We may not ever “cure” your fear of creepy-crawlies, but hopefully this provided some context. While there are dangerous pests in Michigan, there’s also plenty you can do to prevent them from hurting you. Now that you know what to look for, you know what to avoid and when to get help.
We’re happy to be that happy, should you ever need it. If you have a pest problem, dangerous or otherwise, give Griffin a call anytime. We’ll help you stop freaking out–it’s what we do.

What You Should Know About the Black Widow in Michigan

Black widow on web

There is perhaps no spider as well-known and feared as the Black widow. You’ve probably never seen a Black widow before, but you’d be able to identify one immediately. The spider and its deadly venom loom so large in the collective imagination that they enjoy a near-mythical status. If you see a Black widow in a movie or tv show, you know it’s a bad omen.

Fortunately, however, the Black widow isn’t mythical. It’s not bad luck, a harbinger of evil, or any other creepy stuff like that. It’s just a spider, and like every other spider, it can be understood, anticipated, and controlled. Here’s everything you should know about understanding Black widows in Michigan, including how to keep them away from you.

What is a Black Widow?

What is a Black Widow?

Black widow spiders are a type of spider belonging to the Latrodectus genus. There are three species of Black widow spiders in North America. The only one of these three species ever encountered in Michigan is the Northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus). This spider is about 1.5” long and .25” in diameter, making it about the size of a paper clip. They are completely black except for the infamously distinctive red hourglass-shaped marking on their abdomen.

Northern black widows also have a series of red spots along the middle of their abdomens. Some may possess white stripes on their abdomens. Northern black widows tend to build large, expansive webs which they use to catch prey and tend to eggs. They build these webs in low-lying areas near where they can catch insect prey. You may find them around window wells, garages, pools, grills, or wood piles. They tend to be most active between April and October.

Where Did Black Widows Come From?

Black widows are native to the US. The Northern black widow can be found throughout the eastern US. The spider is frequently encountered in Michigan, particularly in the Western lower peninsula and in forested or rural areas. Like other spiders, Black widows gravitate toward any environment where they have a steady source of prey. They build webs in and around areas insects like flies frequent. They’re also attracted to dark, dry areas where they can hide easily.

If you have Black widows near your home, it’s because they’re successfully hunting near you. Spiders like Black widows often build webs near passageways other pests use to enter your home. When smaller pests attempt to access your home for shelter, the Black widow catches and eats them. Black widows may also build webs outside in any shady, sheltered areas where they can catch food. Black widows may occasionally hide in shoes, so be careful if you think you have an infestation.

Black widows are considered the most venomous spider in North America

Why Are Black Widows a Problem?

First, the scary stuff: Black widows are considered the most venomous spider in North America. Black widow venom is reportedly 15 times more potent than a rattlesnake’s (though they can’t administer as much). The neurotoxin that makes up Black widow venom is called “latrotoxin.” Latrotoxin attacks the nervous system, which can be extremely painful. Black widow bites can cause nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, weakness, and more. In extremely rare cases, the bites can be fatal.

Now, to calm you down: Black widow bites are extremely rare. The Black widow is naturally shy and timid–even for a spider. They would always rather retreat and escape than bite a threat. Black widows will only bite if they’re very startled or they feel they have no other choice. Even if they do bite, they often don’t inject their venom. All you usually have to do to avoid Black widow bites is avoiding antagonizing the spiders.

What Can We Do About Black Widows?

Keeping Black widows away from your home means depriving them of the things they want. Black widows want food, shelter, and dry, warm hiding places. Northern black widows will eat pretty much anything small enough to get stuck in their webs. That means flies, mosquitoes, beetles, arthropods like centipedes, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and even other spiders. If you can prevent other pests from getting into your home, you’ll deprive Black widows of their food.

Black widows require warm and dry environments to stay active. They prefer temperatures of 70 degrees or warmer. They’re surprisingly good at seeking out these warm environments, especially when outdoor temperatures begin dropping. Finding and patching up drafts, especially in your basement, will help keep Black widows out. Finally, you should clear the clutter both indoors and outdoors. Black widows seek out shelter to hide and build webs inside. If they find plenty of cover in your yard, they’ll creep ever closer to your home.

Normally, this is where we’d tell you not to be afraid of the pest we just wrote about. Here, we understand what a silly suggestion that is. Black widow spiders are very frightening. Even now that you understand them, you probably can’t shake that fear. But now that you’re armed with this knowledge, you can also do something with that fear.

If you want help keeping Black widows out of your home, give Griffin a call any time. We’ll keep any kinds of spiders away–even the scary ones.

Pest Horror Stories of Michigan

Fishing Spider

It’s Halloween, and we’re Michigan’s pest control company. You know what that means. Last year, we explored some of the most frightening, upsetting, and down-right ghoulish pests in Michigan. But that’s not spooky enough for this year! After all, who knows if you’ll even ever run into any of those pests. No, this year we wanted to focus on something a little closer to home.

These are four of the most horrifying, sickening, and spooky pest stories ever encountered in Michigan. The type of stuff that makes even our blood, with all its pest-crusading experience, run cold. Oh, and they all happened in the last eight years. Some of them are still happening. Happy Halloween!

Pizza-loving Rats Overrun Redford

Just this April, residents of the Redford township had to deal with a rather specific problem: pizza-loving rats. According to the news report, a veritable rat plague descended on the Detroit suburbs. The townwide infestation grew so out of control that rats seriously damaged people’s homes. And the source of the problem? A nearby Little Caesar’s dumpster that was too small. Security footage revealed the poorly-maintained dumpster had become a rather popular hotspot for furry pizza fans.

At its worst, people actually saw large rats carrying off pizza down the streets in broad daylight! One resident said he saw swarms of rats scatter whenever he started his car in the morning. Apparently, the problem was not new; one resident had a picture of a squirrel eating pizza from 2010! The longer the problem went unaddressed, the worse it became. This rather unappetizing story just goes to show you how pest problems never stay contained. The longer they go on, the more people they’ll affect–until they’re the scourge of an entire town!

Bed bugs shut down the mail

Bed bugs Shut Down the Mail

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail… but they didn’t account for bed bugs. Detroit has a history of bed bug problems. There were 605 reported bed bug infestations in Michigan’s largest city in 2017. This frightful number gave Detroit the dubious distinction of being the #3 most-infested city in the country. Believe it or not, however, the problem isn’t actually as bad as it has been. Back in 2010 (we know, not long enough ago), Detroit had a bed bug problem of literally disastrous proportions.

So just how disastrous is disastrous? Well, in 2010 entire business buildings had to be evacuated because of how infested they were. If that’s not bad enough for you? How about this: Detroit’s mail service stopped delivering mail to parts of the community. Mail carriers feared the bugs were actually sneaking into the mail in infested buildings and spreading via mail delivery. The fear is warranted: bed bugs love spreading by hitchhiking on unwitting travelers. It’s part of why they’re such a huge issue in major urban centers today.

Michigan’s Monster Spider

In June 2018, workers on a boat in Elkhart (near the Michigan border) discovered their vessel had a stowaway. A… rather large stowaway. Specifically, they found a fishing spider of unusual size. It was six inches long. It was… six inches long. For reference: US dollar bills are about six inches long. An iPhone is only about five inches long. Spiders should not be six inches long. And it was on a boat.

Luckily (for these boating workers, and all of us, really) fishing spiders are harmless. They also don’t usually get that big… though, obviously, it does happen. Fishing spiders live near water so they hunt waterborne insects and sometimes even small fish. We’re… guessing that six-inch spider caught some fish. Fishing spiders catch this prey by feeling for ripples the prey makes along the water. When they sense these ripples, they race across the surface of the water to catch up to their target. Ok, that’s enough. We’re moving away from fishing spiders now. And water. Forever.

Flying ants take over Michigan

Flying Ants Take Over Michigan in a Day

No, that heading is somehow not hyperbole. It just happened, in fact: we wrote about it just last month. For one day, around labor day, flying ants suddenly appear in overwhelming numbers. The frightening flying members of Formcicidae family darken windows, cover cars, and menace unsuspecting pedestrians. It happens like clockwork at almost exactly the same time every year, and with nearly the same ferocity. Even more bizarre, the ants tend to vanish just as quickly as they appeared.

Of course, as with everything else in nature, there’s an explanation. In this case, the explanation is breeding (nature has… patterns). Flying ants are the reproductive caste of ant colonies. They swarm so they can seek mates and spread out to form new colonies. Around labor day happens to be the time of year when many ants happen to swarm at once. It also always happens on a clear, sunny day when it’s not too windy. The ants seem to disappear because, for the most part, they die! Flying ants basically only live to reproduce. Again, patterns in nature.

Did you notice any other patterns in these stories? Other than the fact that they all made your skin crawl, we mean. No matter how horrifying or inexplicable the pest story may seem, there’s always an explanation. That’s how pest infestations work: there’s always a reason they happen, and there’s always a way to stop them.

If you need help stopping a pest infestation, give Griffin a call. Our experts are ready to exorcize even the most horrifying, incomprehensible, evil pest infestations. Yes, even if they somehow involve giant fishing spiders. We’ll do it! Just… try not to get giant fishing spiders. For us.

The Pests in Your Basement this Fall

Seal openings in your home to keep pests out.

Fall is prime pest season. All kinds of pests know winter is coming, and they’re scrambling to sneak into a warm place. Basements are a pest’s favorite hiding place. They’re dark, damp, temperature-controlled, and secluded. You’ll deal with more pests in fall than you do during other seasons. You’ll find more pests in your basement than you will in the rest of your home. You… probably see where this is going.

It’s unavoidable: all kinds of pests are going to try to get into your basement this fall. They’ll sneak, squeeze, and scramble in from any tiny opening they get as if their lives depend on it. Just because you can’t stop them from trying doesn’t mean you have to let them succeed, however. If you take action now, even the most audacious autumn pests won’t be able to bug you this fall. Here’s what you’re up against, and how to come out on top.

Silverfish

Silverfish are small, wingless insects with silver-grey, segmented bodies and bristled tails. They require highly humid environments to survive, so they’re a common basement-dweller all year long. During fall, they’re particularly attracted to your basement as a source of warmth. Silverfish prefer environments that are 70 to 80℉. They feed on starchy materials like wood, paper, glue, and linen. The silverfish in your basement probably huddle beneath a food source in a particularly damp, warm area.

If silverfish can’t access moisture, they’ll dry out and die. Try to figure out where the high humidity in your basement comes from. Look for drafts coming from windows, door frames, hatches, or vents. Make sure your sump pump works properly and doesn’t leak. While you’re at it, look for plumbing leaks and other sources of stray humidity, too. Controlling humidity won’t just help with silverfish; it’ll help repeal all kinds of other pests, too. Pests like…

cockroaches in your basement this fall

Roaches

Like silverfish, roaches are very attracted to humidity. They’ll often seek out kitchens, bathrooms, or basements in order to access the moisture they need to survive. The most problematic roach in Michigan–the German cockroach–also highly prefers warm temperatures. Like rodents (we’ll get to them), they’re very good at following the warmth back to its source. Once inside, roaches tend to hide near food sources during the day and come out to forage at night.

Unlike silverfish, roaches don’t stick to one area in your basement. Instead, they’ll migrate throughout your home. Since they’ll go anywhere, you’ll have to check everywhere. Look for plumbing leaks under sinks, against basement walls, and near utility lines. Roaches love hiding near leaks and food, so depriving them of cover helps, too. Elevate boxes and other storage materials and keep them in dedicated, organized spaces. The clearer and cleaner the floor, the fewer places roaches will have to hide.

Spiders

Michigan’s many spider species have similar habits: they follow the food. The best way for spiders to feed in fall is by following their prey into overwintering locations. Whether you have orb-weaving or hunting spiders, chances are they’re in your home chasing prey. Michigan’s spiders can’t survive winter without taking drastic steps, so infiltrating your home kills two birds with one stone. Spiders are highly proficient climbers, so they can find access points from any angle or elevation.

Spiders generally build their nests near bug “highways” in your home, where they’re most likely to catch prey. In fact, by tracking down webs you can track down these “bug highways” and do something about them. Look for access points such as small cracks and crevices near the cobwebs in your home. Patching these gaps denies pests a way in and spiders a food source at the same time. Keeping your basement clean and cobweb-free will help disrupt spider hunting, too.

mice and rats in your basement this fall

Rodents

Rats and mice are the fall pest to watch for. Rodents are extremely attuned to changes in temperature and air pressure. As soon as they feel summer temperatures changing, they start preparing for winter. They have to: rodents and mice need to spend winter in warm places in order to survive. As such, rats and mice spend pretty much all fall looking for ways into warm structures. Unfortunately, they’re… very good at it.

Rodents can actually track warm drafts or food smells around a home’s perimeter until they find small openings. Rodents primarily find openings near utility lines, window and door frames, and vents. Check around these areas and seal them off with caulk or steel wool as necessary. Replace old weatherstripping and worn vent covers. Finally, vacuum, mop, and sweep your home diligently all fall and winter. It’s difficult to keep rodents from smelling your food, but you can keep them from getting it.

Even in the midst of pest season, it’s important to remember: keeping your basement pest-free is never impossible. It might seem like there’s “always another way in,” but there’s not. If you keep following pest control tips like these, you can make your basement a pest-free zone.

If you ever need help removing your current pests or keeping future ones out, give Griffin a call. We’ll help make sure you can enjoy your fall to the fullest–without worrying about pests in your basement.

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.