The term “rat” is commonly used to refer to any rodent when, in fact, rodents are a superfamily that includes many different relatives. Inside this, there are rats and mice, known as the Muroidea family. These creatures share many characteristics but also many differences in their physical appearance and behavior.
Those of the Rattus genus, the most well known being the roof rat and the Norway rat, are considered direct relatives and “true rats”; whereas the pack rat, is not actually a rat! Arizona is home to many of these rodents and, as they have become a plague, you may want to check out how to identify them.
The Rattus rattus Linnaeus, commonly known as “Roof rat” is the smallest of them all. The complexion of this animal is tiny, though it has a long tail. As they come from rain forests of Southeast Asia, they are good for climbing different surfaces, like wires. They do not like the cold, so Arizona is a nice warm place for them to live. If you find rat excrement and noises in the roof, your house may be infested with these rodents. Roof rats dig through wood, insulation, and pipes; dense vegetation also attracts them. As they can swim, roof rats sometimes use sewage lines to move to other places. They are usually found in desert city areas in Arizona like Phoenix, Yuma and Tucson.
Norway rats, close relatives of the roof rats and also known as “old world rats” or “brown rats” are less common than roof rats, but still a threat. They differ in color, as the Norway rat is brown or reddish, and the roof rat is black. While roof rats prefer living in high places, such as roofs, attics, and trees, their Norway relatives would rather stay in the ground; they build their dens alongside rivers and streams, underneath buildings or in garbage dumps. They are also a common pest in farms, as they settle in barns, kennels, and silos.
Pack rats, on the other hand, are not considered true rats as they belong to the Neotoma genus, they are a different species. There are over 20 species of pack rats, from the Arctic to Central America. The species found in Arizona is the White Throat Wood Rat, also known as “woodrat” and “new world rat”. They usually build dens with vegetation and wood, and they hoard bits and pieces as protection, such as leaves, chewed plastic and paper, and any object they can find.
Certainly, it is important to identify these plagues in order to keep them at bay. Originally from Europe and Southeast Asia, rats were introduced in the USA by trading ships in the 17th century, and they rapidly spread across the country. Roof rats, Norway rats, and Pack rats prefer the hot and sunny Arizona as their living space. Make sure you take all the sanitary measures to keep these rodents out of your property.
You’re outside on the porch, enjoying a cup of coffee when you hear the lazy drone of a flying insect nearby. You might think nothing of it, maybe absentmindedly swat at it before you feel that hot, stinging, and likely familiar pain.
In 2001 to 2010, an estimated 10.1 million Americans visited emergency departments for non-canine bite and sting injuries, and that doesn’t account for everyone that just stayed at home while their faces were red and swollen!
As you take one last look at the culprit merrily buzzing away, you might wonder – was it a bee, or a wasp?
Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the two.
If you were stung more than once, it was likely a wasp. Female bees can sting only once (male bees don’t), as it is ultimately fatal for them when their stinger gets ripped from their bodies and left in ours – but wasps can sting multiple times to their hearts content, and they’re also by far the more aggressive
creatures, often chasing their prey for hundreds of yards.
While both are territorial, and while bees do sting when provoked, they tend to focus on flowers and not on people peacefully sipping coffee on their porch.
Both bees and wasps belong to the insect order Hymenoptera. There are more than 100,000 species of wasps, including the common yellow jacket wasp that can be found in Arizona. They have yellow and black stripes, and are often mistaken for honey bees. In fact, most experts think that people coming in to complain about a honey bee sting, were in fact bitten by a yellow jacket.
While both insects are yellow with black markings, wasps are shinier, have a brighter yellow color, and thinner waist. They have smoother bodies, while bees are hairier. They also have rounder legs versus the flatter legs honey bees have.
As for their nests, wasps have no wax-producing glands so instead they create nests that are a paper-like substance from wood pulp. Bees on the other hand build their hives in cavities that are protected from the elements, like hollow walls, trees or attics. When honey bees build their nests in your home, the damage done isn’t usually structural – however, when they do leave to find a new home, the honey and wax comb left behind will ruin drywall,
insulation and sliding, so it’s always best to ask an expert.
While most people know bees are essential to the environment, not all wasps are bad – wasps can act as a natural pest control, preying on crop-killing insects. So if you find what you think are honey bees or wasps on your porch, make sure you have an expert come by and take a look – so you can sip your coffee in peace.
Arizona is home to many different fearsome creatures, some of which have fangs and stingers, and that creep, crawl or slither. The black widow spider is one of the most common inhabitants of the valley which contains 22 different kinds of these arachnids.
The Black Widow is a creature that receives its name for its particular reproductive pattern and cannibalism: females, which are larger and stronger than males, eat their mates after copulating. These females can be easily identified by their characteristic 1.5-inch-black bodies with a red dual triangle-shaped mark on their abdomen. Males are smaller and weaker as their only function is to inseminate the females. Black widows search for dark, cool places to build their spider webs and lay their egg-sacs, usually on corners, on the floor, under patio furniture, around a barbecue, inside mailboxes, toys lying on the floor, and also in the outdoors, inside shrubs or vines. Black widows spread very fast as a female can lay up to 750 eggs (inside up to 9 egg-sacs) several times throughout summer. However, only some of the spiderlings survive, as the fittest prey on their weaker siblings.
Contrary to popular belief, these spiders actually hide from humans and do not attack unless they feel their shelters or offspring are being threatened. In case someone accidentally puts their hand in a black widow’s web, the spider will automatically bite that person. Black widow bites consist of two red spots that mark the area where the spider pierced the skin and injected the neurotoxin into the nervous system. The symptoms are mainly pain, muscle cramps, nausea and in extreme cases, trouble breathing. In order to prevent these unfortunate encounters, it is useful to learn how to identify these venomous spiders and to keep the house and surrounding vegetation clean and free of debris and clutter.
Though black widows are the deadliest spiders in the USA, they inject a little amount of venom when they bite a human, so people do not generally die from these bites. Nevertheless, if you are bitten by a black widow, call the local authorities immediately for help. In order to keep these creatures away from your home, make sure you keep others pests away, such as crickets, roaches, and mosquitoes, their favorite meals. In cold weather and drought, black widows look for refuge indoors, so make sure you keep your floors free of clutter!