Summer is the time for relaxation for many families. Some will hang around the house while others will want to get outside and play. There may be trips to the neighborhood park, a day trip to one of our local state parks, and even vacation time away from home and travel to unfamiliar areas.

Along with the fun and planning, there is always a need to review safety issues with family members, especially children. There are a few pests in our Texas area for which we really need to be on the lookout. A little knowledge and keen awareness can save a lot of pain, a ruined outing and possibly a trip to the doctor’s office.

I’d like to focus on particular pests that tend to be the most poisonous, may cause painful reactions, ones that there’s a good chance you may encounter, and the habitats in which they are likely to be found.

One that is particularly personal to me is the asp caterpillar, as I was stung by one as a child. I remember the pain, almost passing out, and having to go to the doctor’s office while I was visiting my grandparents. I felt badly for days. If you have tree-climbing kids or grandkids, show them pictures and remind them to look on tree trunks and branches before climbing. As the summer goes on, there will be increased chances of running into one of these harmless looking creatures that can cause anywhere from mild pain and stinging all the way to anaphylaxis.

Fire ants are another poisonous pest that can really put a damper on an outing. Adults and children need to pay close attention to the ground when walking in unimproved areas. Show your kiddos the mounds and have them walk around an area and scout it out before running and playing. Again, these poisonous insects are worse after a rain and can cause anything from a quick sting to an ankle covered with stinging, burning bites that might turn into pustules within a day or two.

Spiders are also a must to look for as you and the kids venture outside to play in garages or on porches as well as in inside and outside closets/storage buildings. The two you really want to watch for are the black widow and the brown recluse. It is probably a good idea to get a picture of each spider and have to family get familiar with its features and characteristics. There are so many spiders around us that are good species that help get rid of other pests, and we don’t want to kill or be afraid of them all. So it is important for each family member to study the pictures and gets familiar with what each spider looks like and be on the lookout.

Scorpions are a pretty scary looking pest and most kids will readily recognize them if they know where to look. Scorpions love wood, trees, rocky areas, closets and attics. Scorpions can be minimized by using periodic pest control treatments inside the home. The stings can be minimally painful or range from extreme pain and numbness to difficulty breathing.

Darla Horner Menking is an outdoor enthusiast and Herald correspondent. Contact her at

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