Insects and Rodents In Various Regions of the Country
Every region of the country is inhabited with rodents, insects and other vermin, many of which can cause significant damage to homes if not eradicated. Some can spread disease and be dangerous or even deadly to humans and pets.
Pest inspections are usually conducted independently of whole house inspections, but home inspectors should be familiar with the types of pests in their area that can cause property damage. Even though a home inspection doesn’t normally include pest inspections, it’s a good idea for inspectors to know the signs of pests so he or she can inform the client of their presence. The more information an inspector can offer clients, the more valuable his or her services.
Termites, which can cause serious structural damage to homes, are found in virtually every state in the U.S. There are also other types of pests typically found in homes that vary by different regions of the country. Here’s an overview of the rodents and insects and the damage they cause that home inspectors are most likely to come across in these parts of the country:
Northeastern United States
The Northeast region includes the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The most common household pests found in this part of the country are:
- Ants. Ants are considered the number one nuisance pest in America. There are more than 700 species of ants in the U.S., most of which can pose health threats to humans through food contamination. Carpenter ants, which are found in cool, damp climates, are notorious for causing serious damage to property by tunneling through wood to build their nests.
- Mice. An estimated 35% of households in the Northeast have rodent infestations. In addition to spreading disease, mice can damage property by gnawing through wood, drywall and even electrical wire insulation, which can create a potential fire hazard.
- Rats. According to the National Pest Management Association, the Northeast has the highest percentage of homes infested with rodents than anywhere else in the country. Some of the more serious infectious diseases spread by rats include hantavirus, salmonella, murine typhus and meningitis. Because rats are larger and stronger than mice, they do more damage. They’re often found nesting in insulation in a home’s attic. Rats are also commonly found in cellars, walls and cupboards.
- Bed Bugs. Bed bugs are found in mattresses, furniture upholstery, carpeting and linens. Bites from bed bugs don’t transmit disease, but scratching the bites to stop the itching can cause serious infections. Bed bugs can, however, cause allergic reactions and breathing problems.
The states of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota are collectively referred to as the Midwest. As with the Northeast, rats, mice and bed bugs are among the most common household pests. Spiders, which enter homes through tiny cracks in foundations, are another species of insect commonly found throughout the Midwest. Although some spiders are poisonous, they generally don’t harm humans unless they feel threatened. Spiders are generally considered to be helpful. If possible, spiders should be moved outdoors, where they’ll devour other insects and keep them from entering the home.
The Southern U.S.
The states of Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas make up the South. Here are some of the region’s more common household pests:
- Carpenter ants, whose bites cause painful blisters, are often found in warm, damp Southern climates. As with termites, their tunneling can also cause serious structural damage to wood-framed buildings.
- Cockroaches, although they don’t cause structural damage, often carry diseases that can harm a home’s inhabitants.
- Disease-carrying rodents are also a serious problem in the South. It’s estimated by the National Pest Management Association that 30% of Southern households have rodent problems, which is second only to the Northeast.
- Bats roost and nest inside buildings to be near easy sources of food and water. Entering through gaps or cracks, loose vent covers or missing roof shingles, they also find attics, chimneys,and crawl spaces to spend the winter months. Although generally not aggressive toward humans, they can scratch or bite when they feel threatened. They are, however, considered dangerous, since they carry and spread rabies.
The Western United States
The Western region of the U.S. is made up of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. The household pests found in various parts of this vast region of the country include spiders, ants, bed bugs, field mice, deer mice, roof rats and Norway rats. Other insects commonly found in the West include disease-spreading fleas and wasps with their painful and, in some rare cases, even deadly stings.
Many of today’s home inspectors include infrared cameras as a part of their inspection toolkits. There are also thermal imaging devices available today that can be attached to mobile phones or tablets. Used to detect hot and cold spots within a building, infrared cameras can sometimes spot the presence of pests. Being mammals, rodents radiate body heat. Thermal imaging will often reveal families of rats, mice or other rodents living within the walls, basement, attic or other areas of the home.
Since damp areas are normally cooler than other parts of the house, thermal imaging will also usually show the presence of moisture, which can indicate colonies of mosquitoes or other insects.
Whether or not a thermal imaging camera is used during the course of a home inspection, it’s a good idea for inspectors to be on the lookout for signs of pests. The presence of insects and rodents can cause or be signs of serious property damage, as well as pose a health threat to a home’s occupants. Although pest inspections generally aren’t a part of a home inspection, making the client aware of your findings will allow him or her to decide whether a pest inspection is needed.
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**Note: Photo above is courtesy of Jared Belson.