Florida is, without a doubt, one of the best places to live for many people. In general, we enjoy a lower cost of living than our northern neighbors; we have the corner market on theme parks and attractions (water parks, roller coasters, and characters, oh my!); and the weather - the weather is a dream come true for residents and visitors alike!

Unfortunately, part of what makes Florida wonderful for people also makes it ideal for a host of other critters, as well. With its sub-tropical climate, high levels of humidity, and abundant plant life, Florida is home to large variety of less-than-desirable rodents, birds, insects, and other creatures that attempt to make their way into homes. 

Pests can be a serious problem for any homeowner. Some of them can bite or sting, some of them are poisonous, some can be destructive to your home, garden or yard, and some can even carry diseases that can be harmful to you or your pets. Some of the most common creatures we encounter here in Florida are mosquitoes, ants, fleas, ticks, grasshoppers and cicadas, beetles, bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets, beetles, termites, weevils, bedbugs, spiders, mice, rats, and the dreaded cockroaches, just to name a few. We even have larger species that can be considered "pest" or "nuisance" animals, such as possums, raccoons, snakes, and yes, even alligators, depending on where in Florida you live.

It should be noted that some species of these animals are misconstrued as pests, and are actually quite useful, as they will eat actual pests. For example, the common black racer and garter snakes may look scary slithering in your garden, but they're actually non-venomous and quite beneficial, as they eat bugs and small rodents that can carry diseases. Similarly, the large yellow and black spiders, or golden silk orb weavers (colloquially known as banana spiders), can give you quite a fright when you see them building their large webs outside; however, they are considered to be non-aggressive, and they actually eat all kinds of insects from flies to locusts! 

For some homeowners, though, the presence of pests means a constant battle with nature, as many of these species will often attempt to seek shelter within homes, sheds, carports, garages, and yards. What can you do to protect your home? While no home in Florida will ever be able to completely withstand every insect out there, there are things that you can do to keep your home relatively safe and pest-free.

It all starts inside your home. Most pests are seeking basic needs, like food, so here is where good housekeeping standards definitely come in handy. Be sure to clean up right away after meal prep or eating, putting leftovers away and getting scraps to the garbage can. Be sure that crumbs and spills get wiped up too! Keep non-perishable pantry staples, like rice, flour, or sugar, in airtight metal, ceramic, or plastic containers so that critters can't smell them. Perishable food should be stored in refrigerator when possible. If your outside trash can lids aren't very sturdy, secure them with bungee cords to prevent critters from knocking them over to get what's inside.

Some insects eat mold, mildew, or fungus instead of people food. With our increased humidity, it's much easier for those things to grow here. If you struggle with mold or mildew in your home, it might be beneficial to purchase a dehumidifier to help control the moisture levels in your house. Make sure you empty the collection bin often to avoid having that extra water evaporate right back into the air.

Seal up any points of entry that insects and nuisance animals might use to gain access to your home. Some of them only need a quarter inch of space or less to make their way inside. Be sure to check window seals and weatherstripping often. Caulk or spackle can be used to seal up any small cracks you might find. 

There are many kinds of commercial insecticides, poisons, and traps widely available if you do find your home threatened by beasties. Remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions, and to exercise extreme caution if there are children or pets present in your home who could accidentally be exposed to toxic or harmful substances. Keep the number for Poison Control handy if you do experience an emergency (1-800-222-1222).

What happens if you lose the battle with nature and you experience a full-blown infestation? Whether it's roaches or ants, bedbugs or termites, these creatures are notoriously difficult to get rid of once they've set up shop. This is when you call in the big guns and hire a local pest control company. These professionals will have the tools, knowledge, and experience to help you rid your home of your unwanted guests. Some of them even have preventative treatment and maintenance plans that can help keep the critters out. While there are many great companies that provide pest control services in Hernando County, we at The Hardy Team recommend the following companies: Citarella Termite & Pest Management, Global Pest Control, and Tropicare Pest Control.

For larger nuisance animals, well, things can get a little trickier.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Consrvation Commission, or FWC, defines a nuisance wildlife as any wildlife that "causes (or is about to cause) property damage, presents a threat to public safety, or causes an annoyance within, under or upon a building." A lot of basic nuisance animals, like possums or raccoons, can be removed safely and humanely by a local wildlife trapper. However, there are many species that are protected by Florida law and must be removed by trappers with special licenses, or may not be removed at all. To learn more about which species are protected and how to go about safely removing them from your property, visit the FWC website guidelines on nuisance animals

In the relatively rare event that you encounter an alligator or bear on your property or in your neighborhood, the FWC has a hotline for each animal: 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) and 888-404-FWCC (3922), respectively. Under no circumstances should you ever approach either of these animals. Call the FWC for instructions.

Dealing with pests and nuisance wildlife is part of living in Florida. However, by taking preventative measures, applying good housekeeping practices, and arming yourself with knowledge, you can tackle those pesky pests and keep them out! When you need an assist, call in the pros!  A good pest control company will help eradicate present threats and prevent future ones from happening.