For some people, working in the landscape gives that peace of mind that cannot be found anywhere else. The landscape is a place where you can listen to birds sing, enjoy seeing and smelling the flowers; overall just keeping in touch with nature. The sad truth is that there are unwelcomed biting and stinging pests living in your landscape. There are pests such as snakes, fleas, ticks, wasp, mosquito, yellow jackets, hornets and spiders.
It is often said that the only good snake is a dead snake. This statement is far from the truth, there are good snakes that will not harm you; they will try to escape from you. There are others that will only make an attack if they are feeling threatened. But it is best to avoid all snakes if you are not able to properly identify them in the landscape. Although fleas may not be a major issue in the landscape, they can be a nuisance for landscapers. Fleas get all their food from sucking animal blood. If fleas are present in the landscape, it means that there are pets nearby. Fleas can stay in the pupal case until a host is available. Many people find it hard to effectively control fleas. To successfully control fleas, treat pets, the inside of the home, and the landscape where the pets visit all at the same time. In addition, ticks are sometimes found in the landscape. Tick bites can be irritating and can cause Lyme disease. If ticks are present, spray animals and the landscape; keep vegetation short and avoid over-irrigation.
Equally important are the many species of wasp in the landscape. Some are social while others are solitary and tend to have a bad reputation. Likewise, yellow jackets has a bad reputation; they will defend their nest aggressively and inflict painful stings. They are daytime hunters and live in underground social nests. How can I forget the bald face hornets and the European hornets? Bald face hornets are black and white in color, active during the daytime, and can be aggressive. On the contrary, European hornets are brown and tan in color, active at night, usually live near woods, and generally not aggressive even at their nest. Also, it is important to note that the red and black velvet ant which is really a wingless wasp can also inflict a painful sting on landscapers.
Additionally, spiders are very prevalent in Florida’s landscape because of its warm weather. Not all spiders are harmful; many eat insects, which normally would become pests in the landscape. In fact, the venomous spiders to avoid are brown recluse, brown widow, and black widow. Be care not to blindly push your hands under debris or rocks. It would be beneficial to wear gloves if a spider is known to be in your work area. Finally, mosquitos can also become a nuisance in the landscape. The larvae live in standing water, adult females feed on blood, while adult males feed on nectar.
For more information on pest and other horticulture related topics, contact Grantly Ricketts at UF/IFAS Extension in Osceola County at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 321-697-3000.