Fleas, ticks, wasps, ants, spiders, mosquitoes — you name the pest, and Kansas City has it. The same balmy summers that make for thick lawns and backyard barbeques come with the unwanted byproduct of bugs. The worst backyard pests in Kansas City have six legs (or more), can sting or bite or, at the very least, look disgusting!

    If you have backyard intruders — and chances are you do — you can take steps to zap them or send them scampering off. Let’s look at the worst of the lot.


    This bloodsucker makes the top of the list because ticks transmit more diseases to humans than any other insect — and Missouri has them. The most common here, the American dog tick, carries Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and other infections. Ticks can make pets sick and kill them, and as temperatures warm, we’re seeing more of them. The CDC reports double the cases of tick-borne diseases in the past 10 years. Keeping them out of your yard is a top priority. Bifen IT, Onslaught, and Permethrin help control ticks outdoors. Keeping a well-maintained yard is also crucial.


    They buzz, and you swat. They land, and you slap. Beyond being irritating, this flying insect also carries disease. West Nile Virus, though relatively rare, can be deadly. Add to the list zika, malaria, and dengue fever, and it’s no wonder mosquitoes rank as the deadliest creature on the planet. The best preventative steps are to keep your yard clean and do not leave standing water where larvae hatch. Consider a commercial spray that contains sodium lauryl sulfate. DEET products work on skin and clothing.

    Want to avoid chemicals? Surround your patio or deck with mosquito-repelling plants. The scent of petunias, mint, lavender, and chrysanthemums really bugs mosquitoes. They also hate rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and garlic.


    Usually mentioned in the same breath as ticks, this tiny parasite likes the shady and moist areas of your yard. Because they feed on any warm-blooded creature, they will quickly attach to your dog, your cat, you, your kids, and your backyard guests. Left untreated, fleas can kill your pet. Flea-transmitted disease in people is rare in the U.S., but doctors are seeing more of them. This lowliest of creatures was responsible for wiping out half the population of Europe in the Black Death of the 14th century. Sprays, powders, pet collars, and ointments are readily available. Look for ones containing carbonyl.

    Wasps, Bees, Other Stinging Insects

    When these armed insects are around, we don’t care if they’re a wasp, a hornet, a yellow jacket, or a dirt dauber. We just know they sting, it hurts, and we don’t want them on our property. They belong to the insect order of Apocrita and 58 varieties call Missouri home. The best way to be rid of them is with sprays containing tetramethrin. The task is best left to the bravest and fastest member of the family because when the spray hits the nest, they’re going to come out, well — mad as a hornet.

    A word about bees and wasps. Although bees are from the same family as wasps, they’re less aggressive unless their hives are threatened. Otherwise, they’re content buzzing around and performing the crucial job of pollinating flowers. Since these bugs are essential to our food chain, it’s best to call a beekeeper if you find a hive. The aggressive Africanized or “killer” bee has not made its way to Missouri. And while wasps may bug you, they also eat the pests that feed on your vegetable plants.


    Like Rodney Dangerfield, spiders “don’t get no respect.” Even though most of them rid our yards of flies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches, their reputation is sullied by a few bad eggs. Think the black widow and the brown recluse, which bite can hurt you. The black widow is common across Missouri and likes to hide under rocks, logs, and in your garden shed. The brown recluse, which also calls Missouri home, prefers to hang out in your closet or sock drawer. A direct shot of commercial bug spray will kill a spider, but because they’re arachnids rather than insects, routine bug sprays won’t keep them away. A smack with a flyswatter does just as good.

    You can control the worst backyard pests in Kansas City with pesticides and with some homemade natural remedies. But when you feel your family’s health is at risk — call in the pros!

    Looking to learn more about lawn care and gardening in Kansas City? Visit our Kansas City Lawn Care page.