6 Venomous Pests in Austin

close-up of a wasp on a flower

Mice, roaches, and bed bugs run through the homes of Austin’s city dwellers, but pests hidden in Austin’s less urban areas often have a venomous bite (or sting). Protect your family and pets from these six venomous pests in Austin. 

When removing venomous critters from your home, keep yourself safe and hire a professional Austin exterminator. DIY pest control isn’t always ideal, especially when the consequences are a trip to the emergency room. DIY pest control is often safer when used as a preventative measure before venomous pests are present. 

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including these six venomous pests:

  1. Black Widow Spider
  2. Brown Recluse Spider
  3. Fire Ants
  4. Snakes
  5. Striped Bark Scorpions
  6. Wasps
Black widow spider
Photo Credit: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

1. Black Widow Spider

Rosie from A Bug’s Life may seem like a charming black widow spider, but you don’t want to make friends with any black widow spiders lurking near your home. 

All black widow spiders are venomous, but male black widows aren’t a threat to humans. It’s the female black widows you need to protect yourself from. 

The female black widow has a distinct look that’s hard to miss –– a shiny black body with a red hourglass pattern on the underside of her bulbous abdomen (and her long, lanky legs deserve the lead role in a horror movie). 


The black widow’s venom is reportedly 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. Bites produce nausea, chest pain, and muscle aches in humans. The bites are rarely fatal but can be fatal to small children, the elderly, and small pets.  

Hiding Spots

These venomous spiders hide in dimly lit, cluttered areas such as garages, basements, sheds, attics, and closets. 

Before you try to get rid of black widow spiders, you need to dress for success (or in this case safety):

  • Wear protective clothing, including thick gloves, pants, and boots. Black widow spiders can move fast when they’re under attack. 
  • Spray the spider with a spider-killing pesticide that stuns and kills the spider on contact. Several home improvement stores sell these products. 
  • Apply the pesticide spray to the egg sacks. Do not attempt to squish the egg sack; otherwise, you might release a swarm of baby black widow spiders. 
  • Call a pest control professional if you have a severe black widow infestation in your home or yard. 
  • Clear clutter to eliminate the spider’s hiding space (and the hiding space of the bugs it eats).  
  • Keep bugs out of your home so that the spider has low access to food. 
  • Keep shrubs and tree limbs trimmed back and away from the house. 
  • Sweep, vacuum, or dust empty webs.
  • Seal off cracks and crevices where black widows (and bugs) might enter your home.
  • Repair broken window screens and door screens.  
  • Clean undisturbed areas where spiders might hide, such as underneath furniture or behind bookshelves. 
  • Store firewood away from the house. Check firewood before bringing it indoors. 
  • Apply a pesticide barrier around the home to keep out spiders and the bugs they eat. 
  • Position sticky traps where black widows are likely to frequent. The spider will get stuck in the trap and die. 
Photo Credit: PeteMuller / Canva Pro / License

2. Brown Recluse Spider

The black widow isn’t the only venomous spider Austinites need to remain wary of –– the brown recluse spider is another creepy crawler. 

The brown recluse spider might look like any brown spider, but the violin pattern on its cephalothorax (where its legs attach to the body) gives it away. The broadest part of the violin pattern begins at the top of the spider’s head, behind its eyes. The thin neck of the violin point’s toward the spider’s abdomen. 

Most spiders have eight eyes, but the brown recluse spider has six eyes (hopefully, you won’t ever be close enough to count the eyes). One pair of eyes is in the front, and the other two pairs are on each side of its head, positioned slightly higher than the front pair. 


The brown recluse spider rarely kills people, but it can cause serious harm. The venom can destroy blood vessels, tissues, and nerves. The skin tissue may die, and if the spider releases a lot of venom, it may extend into the muscles. 

Its bite is usually painless, and some people may not know a spider bit them. Pain and discomfort may occur a few days after the initial bite. Depending on the level of venom injected, the wound may expand over several days or weeks, developing into a blister, ulcer, or open sore as the tissue begins to die. 

If you suspect a brown recluse spider bit you, talk to your doctor right away to develop a treatment plan. Monitor the bite for any changes and report the changes to your doctor. 

Some people may have a severe or life-threatening reaction to a brown recluse spider bite, especially children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. Severe reactions include fever, chills, rash, vomiting, and dizziness. 

Hiding Spots

Brown recluse spiders hide in dry, dark, undisturbed areas. You’re most likely to find a brown recluse spider hiding in boxes, cellars, basements, or beneath rocks and woodpiles. 

To get rid of brown recluse spiders, get the right spider spray:

  • Spray the spider with a pesticide labeled for brown recluse spider control. The chemicals will stun and kill the spider on contact.
  • Hire a pest control professional if your home or yard has a severe brown recluse infestation. 

Preventing brown recluse spiders is similar to preventing black widow spiders: 

  • Clear clutter to eliminate dark hiding spaces. 
  • Keep up with general pest control so that the spider has low access to food. 
  • Keep shrubs and tree limbs trimmed back and away from the house. 
  • Sweep, vacuum, or dust empty webs.
  • Seal cracks and crevices where spiders (and bugs) might enter your home.
  • Repair broken window screens and door screens.  
  • Clean undisturbed areas where the black recluse might hide, such as underneath furniture. 
  • Store firewood away from the house. Check firewood before bringing it indoors. 
  • Remove debris in the yard where the spider might find a dark hiding place. 
  • Apply a pesticide barrier around the home to keep out spiders and the bugs they eat. 
  • Keep storage boxes sealed shut. 
  • Position sticky traps where spiders are likely to frequent. The spider will get stuck in the trap and die. 
Fire Ants - Pests in Austin
Photo Credit: NguyenBinh735 / Pixabay

3. Fire Ants

Fire ants are aggressive warriors, and they can quickly turn an outdoor picnic sour. Your kids and pets can’t safely play outside when an army of fire ants occupies the lawn. One wrong step and a swarm of angry fire ants could send someone to the emergency room. 

A great way to determine whether your lawn has fire ants is the presence of fire ant mounds. These soil mounds lead into their underground nests and typically appear dome-shaped. The mound may look aerated or sandy and does not have an entry hole because the ants usually enter the mound through the sides or via underground tunnels. 


When a fire ant mound is disturbed, the colony erupts from the ground and attacks the perceived threat with aggressive bites and venomous stings. 

A person’s reaction to a fire ant attack varies depending on their sensitivity to the venom, and the number of bites received. Some people may experience minor skin irritation that fades without treatment, while others may experience a life-threatening reaction within minutes of the attack.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: 

  • Sudden difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Swelling of the tongue

If you or someone you are with experiences an allergic reaction or severe swelling from fire ant bites, seek medical attention right away. 

Hiding Spots

Fire ants prefer building their nests in sunny, open areas, which is why they’re often attracted to yards. They’ll sometimes build their nests in electrical boxes. Electrical housings provide warmth during the winter, protection from heavy rains, and an undisturbed nesting site year-round.  

Water puts out a fire, and hot water “puts out” fire ants. That’s one of the ways to get rid of fire ants

  • Do the Texas Two-Step: Follow the Texas Agrilife Extension Service’s recommended two-step approach: First, broadcast a bait insecticide across your entire yard. Treat individual mounds with a mound drench, granule, bait, or dust insecticide for step two.
  • Pour hot water over the mounds: Approximately 3 gallons of very hot water (almost boiling) will eliminate about 60% of the mounds treated
  • Hire a pest control professional: If the fire ant infestation is severe or the fire ants are nesting in electrical housing, call in a pro. 

Once you manage to remove a fire ant colony, it doesn’t mean your lawn is immune. Fire ants can return to your yard in full force if you’re not careful. Here are some ways you can prevent them from invading your home and yard: 

  • Seal cracks and crevices where fire ants might enter the house. 
  • Remove available food sources, such as fruit that’s fallen from a tree. 
  • Remove available water sources, such as empty flower pots or buckets.
  • Keep the mowing height low (fire ants like the protective cover that tall grass offers). 
  • Apply a bait-formulated insecticide to the yard.
Coral Snake - Poisonous Pest

Photo Credit: Coral snake / Bernard DUPONT / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Snakes

Did you know there are no snakes in Ireland? You can’t say the same for Austin. Not all snakes in the Lone Star State are venomous, but the four in Central Texas that are a risk to humans and pets are the coral snake, rattlesnake, copperhead, and cottonmouth

Coral snake: These snakes are small and slender. They have brightly colored red, yellow, and black bands encircling their body. Some non-venomous snakes have the same colored bands, but the difference is in the order of the colors. 

Here’s an easy way to recognize Texas’ coral snake–– “Red next to black is a friend of Jack; red next to yellow will kill a fellow.” Keep in mind this rhyme does not apply to coral snakes worldwide. 

Rattlesnake: Texas is home to several species of rattlesnakes, with the western diamondback rattlesnake being the most widespread in the state. Rattlesnakes have a small rattle at the end of their tail, which they use to warn predators to back off. 

Copperhead: The three copperhead subspecies in Texas are the Southern copperhead, the broad-banded copperhead, and the Trans-Pecos copperhead. The broad-banded copperhead is the most common in Central Texas. Look out for the copper-colored, hourglass-shaped bands across its body. 

Cottonmouth: The western cottonmouth is the only cottonmouth subspecies recognized in Texas. Also known as “water moccasins,” cottonmouths live in aquatic systems, such as coastal marshes, ponds, rivers, and streams. A cottonmouth has a stocky build and is dark brown to black. The inside of its mouth is white (hence the name cottonmouth), which it bares when threatened. 


Being bit by a coral snake, rattlesnake, copperhead, or cottonmouth is rarely fatal, but it is dangerous. If you’ve been bit by a venomous snake, seek medical attention immediately. 

Avoiding treatment increases the possibility of death. Children, older adults, and people who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to serious harm from a snake bite.  

Hiding Spots

Snakes seek shelter in places that protect them from predators while also keeping them close to food. They often hide in piles of brush, rocks, and debris. Sometimes, snakes will find their way inside the home. 

Remember: If you live near a water ecosystem, beware of cottonmouths. 

How to get rid of snakes? Help is just a call or click away. This isn’t a DIY job.

  • Always hire a pest control pro to remove a snake for you, whether it’s a venomous or non-venomous snake. Non-venomous snake bites can lead to an infection if left untreated. 
  • Do not attempt to remove a freshly killed or decapitated snake, as they can still bite and inject venom (just like a dead bee or wasp can still sting you). 
  • Remove hiding spaces in the yard, such as rocks and brush piles.
  • Keep vegetation short around the house; otherwise, the snakes might sneak inside. 
  • Seal holes around the foundation where a snake might slither in. 
  • Keep rodents under control. If your home has a mouse or rat problem, it may attract snakes. 
Striped Bark Scorpions - Poisonous Pests
Photo Credit: k.draper / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

5. Striped Bark Scorpions

Thought spiders were the only eight-legged pest that could hurt you? Think again. Scorpions can put the bravest people in a fright with their ferocious stinger and alarming pincers.  

Texas is home to approximately 20 scorpion species. The most common scorpion here in Bat City is the striped bark scorpion. This arachnid is a pale yellowish-brown with two dark stripes down the length of its abdomen. It’s most active at night so that it can preserve water and regulate body temperature (but don’t let that keep you from sleeping). 


The striped bark scorpion is venomous, and its sting can be painful. But its sting is rarely life-threatening. Children and the elderly are vulnerable to more complicated reactions. Seek medical attention right away for people who have a life-threatening allergic reaction to the scorpion’s venom. 

Hiding Spots

Scorpions prefer dark, damp areas that offer protective coverage. They’ll hide under furniture, in bathrooms, or inside shoes when they’re indoors. You might find them in wood, rock, or brush piles when they hide outdoors.

How to get rid of scorpions? Just point and shoot:

  • Spray the scorpion with a pesticide labeled for scorpion control. Many scorpion control products will kill the pest on contact. 
  • Hire a professional pest control service to manage a scorpion infestation. 
  • Store firewood outdoors and away from the house. 
  • Seal cracks and crevices that lead into the house.
  • Keep window screens and door screens in good condition.
  • Install door sweeps.
  • Eliminate clutter indoors.
  • Remove trash, logs, rocks, and other outdoor objects that shade scorpions from the sun.
  • Practice regular pest control to eliminate the scorpion’s food source. 
Wasp closeup
Photo Credit: Ralphs_Fotos / Pixabay

6. Wasps

Paper wasps and yellow jackets are the most common wasp species flying around Texas. 

When your yard has a wasp nest, it can make outdoor activities very worrisome. A wasp that flies up your shirt can be stressful and painful, or a wasp attracted to sweet foods can ruin your picnic. 

Whatever you do, don’t disturb a wasp nest. A threatened wasp releases a pheromone that makes nearby wasps more aggressive. And because these fliers live in colonies, one angry wasp can alert the entire nest to attack. Ouch!


Some people may have a minor reaction to a wasp sting or local swelling. A wasp sting can be fatal to people who are allergic to the wasp’s venom. 

Seek immediate medical attention if a person allergic to wasps is stung or enters anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that must be treated immediately.  

Hiding Spots

Wasps build nests in various places, as long as they’re protected from predators and harsh weather. They’ll often build their nests where they have a horizontal base to hang the nest from, such as ceilings, tree branches, or overhangs. They can also make their nest in the ground, hidden away in holes created by other animals. 

You don’t want to get stung while trying to get rid of wasps, so it’s best to call in reinforcements. 

Keep yourself and your family safe from angry wasps by hiring an Austin pest control company to remove the nest for you. Spraying the nest with water, setting it on fire, hitting it with an object, or spraying it with a pesticide will anger the colony and put others in danger. 

  • Remove sugary food sources around your home, including fruits and hummingbird feeders. 
  • Keep doors and windows closed; otherwise, a wasp might fly into your home. 
  • Seal cracks and crevices where wasps might enter the house.
  • Seal garbage cans and compost bins to prevent wasps from finding rotting food.  
  • Cover holes in the ground where wasps might build their nest. 

When to Hire a Pest Control Pro

The safety of DIY pest control varies depending on which of Austin’s most common pests you are battling. If you have the proper safety gear and pesticides, you might be able to remove a black widow spider safely. On the other hand, you never want to remove a venomous snake on your own. 

The best way to keep you and your family safe is to hire a pest control exterminator to remove the pest for you, even if it’s a venomous spider. And don’t forget about hiring a pest control professional to perform general pest control –– most venomous pests feed on small insects, which could turn your bug-ridden home into a hunting ground. 

Main Photo Credit: Wolfgang_Hasselmann / Pixabay

Jane Purnell

Having lived in the rural countryside and bustling city, Jane Purnell is familiar with a wide variety of critters sneaking into the home, including mice, spiders, cockroaches, snakes, and stink bugs. She practices a proactive approach (Integrated Pest Management) to keep pests out of her home.