Human-Wildlife Conflicts: Insects

California is home to a variety of native insects and spiders found in rural, suburban, and urban areas. It is estimated that over 30,000 species are found in California and new species are still being discovered.

Insects and spiders provide many ecosystem services such as pollination of plants and crops, predation of other animals, seed and nutrient dispersal. They are also a key food source for many species, including other insects and spiders, birds, and mammals such as black bears and coyotes. They may cause potential conflict due to agricultural or property damage and concerns for human health and safety.

Prevent Potential Conflicts


Ants belong to the insect Order Hymenoptera, which includes bees, wasps, and sawflies. Most ant species form large colonies that consist of a variety of castes, each performing specific duties such as tending to eggs and larvae, waste removal, acquiring food, and protecting the colony. One distinct feature of ants is the lack of wings which are one of the characteristics of most insects, however there are exceptions to this. This allows them to maneuver underground and through vegetation more easily.

There are over 250 species of ants in California. They provide ecosystem services such as soil aeration, plant and animal decomposition, nutrient cycling, and pollination. Ants may cause potential conflicts due to damage to agriculture, property, or infrastructure, or when attracted to unsecured food sources.

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Bees and Wasps

Bees and wasps belong to the Order Hymenoptera. There are over 5,000 species of bees and wasps throughout California. Like ants, many bee and wasps species live in social groups called hives or nests. However, there are many solitary species such a leaf cutter bees and mud dauber wasps. While most bees and wasps are colored black and yellow, or red and yellow, there are species that are metallic in coloration.

Bees are one of the most recognized pollinators and have specialized "pollination baskets" where they collect pollen as they visit plants. Other physical characteristics add to their pollination specialization such as modified mouthparts and body hair. The European honeybee (Aphis mellifera) is one of the most well know bee species, though it is not native to California. California native bee species are more successful in the pollination of native plants in the state.

The most common wasps in California are paper wasps, yellowjackets, and mud-daubers. Wasps are predatory insects and are beneficial in controlling other insects and spider populations. They are important pollinators for agricultural crops and native plant species.

Bees and wasps may cause potential conflicts due to agriculture, property, or infrastructure damage if active hives or nests are present, or concerns to human health and safety if stung.

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There are more than 50 species of mosquitoes in California. Mosquitoes are an important key component of the food web, and many species are important pollinators. Several species of mosquitoes can transmit diseases to humans and animals such as West Nile, malaria, yellow fever, heartworm, and many more.

Mosquitos require aquatic habitats for laying eggs and larval development. Homeowners can reduce the population of mosquitos around their home by limiting access to standing water. This can be done by dumping any remaining water after watering plants, replace water in bird baths to avoid any egg hatching, and making sure rain gutters are free from debris and standing water.

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Spiders, Scorpions, and Ticks


There are over 1,000 species of spiders in California, including the venomous western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus) which is easily recognizable by its black coloration and the red hourglass on the abdomen. There are no known populations of the brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) in the state. Spiders are important in controlling insect populations, nutrient transfer through the food web, and have been known to eat birds and small mammals. If you find a spider in your house it can easily be removed by placing a glass over the individual and sliding a piece of paper between the glass and surface the spider is on and releasing outdoors.

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There are over 20 species of scorpions in California that can typically be found in warm, dry climates throughout the state. Scorpions are nocturnal, predatory animals that feed on a variety of insects, spiders, other scorpions and even small lizards, snakes, and mice. Potential conflicts may occur when scorpions are disturbed outdoors or if they find their way indoors. Take precautions outdoors when moving logs, brush, or other items that scorpions may be hiding under. To prevent scorpions from entering a house block any cracks, openings around doors, eaves, windows, and plumbing.

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There are more than 47 species of ticks in California, such as the pacific coast tick (Dermacentor occidentalis), western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus), and American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). Prevent potential conflict with ticks by wearing suitable clothing when outdoors to reduce the likelihood of getting bit.

Prevent Potential Conflicts

Wildlife Health Lab
1701 Nimbus Road Suite D, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
(916) 358-2790 |