Texas Living

Friend or Foe: Which Critters Are Actually Dangerous to Your Home?

By Peter Simek 3.4.22

We think of our homes as our personal domains, protected spaces intended for our families and our pets. But the reality is we share our homes with all sorts of critters — some seen, others hidden.

Squirrels dart across our roofs, spiders spin webs in forgotten corners, and who knows what creepy-crawlers scurry about in the walls, attics, or under the floorboards. By some estimates, more than 100 insect species live in our homes, often unseen.

But not all the creatures that surround our homes are unwanted — some of these visitors can be beneficial. Find out which common household pests are friends and which are foes here.

Foe: Rabbits

They may be adorable, but rabbits can wreak havoc on your garden. They are quick, tough to catch, stealthy, and reproduce quickly. And when they find a juicy cabbage or bed of carrots in your garden, they will burrow and munch it all into oblivion. No wonder Peter Rabbit got under Mr. McGregor’s skin. Luckily, like Mr. McGregor, you can easily scare rabbits out of your garden with a little noise (or a fence).

Friend: Ladybugs

Gardeners know seeing these pretty red and blackspotted insects is the sign of a healthy garden — some go so far as to purchase and release the little guys into their garden each spring. They help gardens by feeding on aphids (up to 50 to 60 a day) as well as other invasive insects. That’s why they are considered one of the best natural pesticides out there. Spray your plants with water to attract ladybugs, and if one lands on you, carry it to a safe, dewy leaf — you’ve been visited by good luck!

Foe: Silverfish

You’ve likely encountered these tiny insects in your shower or on a bathroom wall. They are long and skinny with two large antennae. They like water and can live a year without food. They are also tough to catch since they can squeeze into tiny cracks and leap up to a half meter. No wonder they have been around since the Paleozoic Era. The good news is they are relatively harmless and don’t carry disease. However, they can damage clothing, books, and wallpaper.

common household pests

Friend: Garter Snakes

A snake in the grass is rarely a welcome sight, particularly in Texas, where rattlers, moccasins, and other venomous creatures are known to slither about. But the lowly garter snake is a good omen. They feed on slugs and snails that may be feeding on your garden or landscaping.

common household pests

Foe: Carpet Beetle

Like a character out of a horror film, carpet beetles are most likely to get you in your sleep — that’s because they’re attracted to blankets, pillows, and carbon dioxide. If their prickly hairs rub against your skin, you may experience an allergic reaction that looks similar to bedbug bites. Although they are not harmful to people, they will devour upholstery, carpets, and blankets.

common household pests

Friend: House Centipedes

With an array of tiny, striped legs and two massive antennae that surround a thin, wriggly body, house centipedes may look ugly — but these little guys help rid your home of more invasive creepy-crawlers, such as ants, silverfish, beetle larvae, and cockroaches. Plus, unlike other insects, they don’t nibble on paper, wood, or people.

common household pests

Foe: Cockroaches

There’s a reason why cockroaches are among the most dreaded insects to encounter in one’s home. While the bugs themselves don’t bite or contain poison or venom, these filthy creatures like to hang around in garbage piles, sewers, excrement, and animal carcasses, where they pick up viruses, bacteria, and parasites. As they scurry around your home, they can shed these onto floors, countertops, food, hairbrushes, toothbrushes — basically everywhere.

common household pests

Friend: Spiders

This won’t be good news to the arachnophobes out there, but spiders can be friendly cohabitants who help rid your home of other, more harmful insects. Most spiders are perfectly harmless to people — but they do consume about 10% of their body weight in insects every day. Outside, they can help protect your gardens from invasive insects. There are two exceptions to the friendly spider rule in Texas: the venomous black widow and brown recluse.

common household pests

Foe: Scorpions

Texas has 18 species of scorpion, though the striped bark scorpion is the only species that is found throughout the state. There are more found in the arid western part of the state, with Big Bend National Park home to a whopping 14 species of scorpion. The good news is that none of Texas’ scorpion species are deadly. Stings can produce moderate to severe pain, and anyone who is stung by a scorpion should monitor their condition in case they have an allergic reaction to the venom. The best way to keep these buggers out of your home is to makes sure cracks and crevices, especially around doors and windows, are sealed. They can also be attracted to brush, debris, and woodpiles near the exterior of your home.

common household pests

Friend: Opossums

Blame it on their ratlike tail, but opossum’s may be the homeowner’s most maligned best friend out there. They catch and eat cockroaches, rats, and mice. They can also help eradicate ticks, as well as other insects that can be harmful to your garden. If you have a few adorable little possums loitering around your yard, be grateful.

Another friend you want in your backyard? Bats! Learn why every backyard needs a bat box here.

© 2022 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance