A Quick Guide to Common Pests
Odorous House Ants: Deriving their name from the distinct coconut odor their crushed bodies emit, odorous house ants are tiny and dark brown to black. To find food, they travel together in long trails across indoor surfaces. Although they don’t bite or sting, they can be a nuisance once foraging begins and food contamination is possible.
Pavement Ants: Pavement ants will eat nearly everything humans eat – plus insects both alive and dead. They often enter homes in their quest for food, and can grow to large numbers in a short period of time, usually in a kitchen or on a patio. Their name is derived from their favorite nesting places: typically under sidewalks and driveways, and inside building foundations.
Carpenter Ants: Carpenter ants, which can grow to a size of half an inch in length, nest in moist wood such as rotting trees and stumps, as well as logs or boards on the ground. Indoors nests have been found in tubs, sinks, showers and dishwashers, under roofing, and in attic beams. They remove wood as they create galleries and tunnels. Once indoors, carpenter ants feed on meat and sugary foods.
Bedbugs are small, wingless, and feed exclusively on the blood of mammals. They gravitate to areas where people sleep, hiding near beds and futons, and then feed on their sleeping hosts by painlessly extracting a few drops of blood at a time. The feeding process injects a miniscule amount of bed bug saliva into the skin, which can result in allergic reactions.
Box Elder Bugs
Box Elder Bugs are a North American species of the true bug found primarily on box elder, maple and ash trees. They are dark brown or black and approximately half an inch long. They often become a problem when they try to move into homes during fall as they search for overwintering sites.
American Cockroaches: American cockroaches are active throughout the year, but they do not tolerate cold temperatures well. In homes, they live in basements and sewers, the source of their access to the indoors. They are also found in crawl spaces, cracks and crevices of porches and foundations. When disturbed, American cockroaches run rapidly and may fly. They feed on a wide variety of plant and animal material.
German Cockroaches: The German cockroach is one of the most common and prevalent cockroaches in the world, and prove to be significant year-round pests that contaminate food, spread disease and cause allergies. It is a scavenging omnivore that prefers starch, sugary foods, grease and meats. Being a nocturnal insect, they emerge at night to search for food and water.
Oriental Cockroaches: The oriental cockroach grows to a size of 1.25″ in length and has a one-year lifespan, during which the female can produce 150 offspring. Males have wings and will either run quickly or fly when disturbed; females, lacking wings, run only. Unlike others of their genus, oriental cockroaches cannot climb smooth surfaces. They remain indoors year-round, usually in cooler areas such as basements and crawl-spaces.
Mice: After humans, mice are the second most successful, resourceful mammal. Mice can fit through an opening 1/4 of an inch or larger, or about the width of a pencil. Mice will make their nests in many areas in and around the home, especially in stacked firewood, stones and bricks, and piles of leaves. Mice can contaminate food, spread disease and cause allergies.
Norway Rats: The Norway rat, also known as a brown rat or a common rat, will consume almost anything. They can grow as long as ten inches, with a tail the same length. They are usually active at night, are good swimmers both on the surface and underwater, but are poor climbers. They burrow and often excavate extensive systems. Rats damage property, spread disease and can bite.
Black Widow Spiders: Highly venomous, a bite from a black widow spider can cause muscle aches, nausea and difficulty breathing, but is rarely deadly to healthy adults. Black widows are nocturnal and typically non-aggressive, attacking only when their webs are disturbed. They can usually be identified by the red hourglass figure on their bodies.
Brown Recluse Spiders: The body of the brown recluse spider features a black line that looks like a violin, which has earned it the nicknames: fiddleback spider, brown fiddler and violin spider. The spider is venomous, and it’s bite can cause severe skin lesions, severe systemic symptoms and death. True to its name, however, the brown recluse isn’t aggressive and usually bites only when touched or tangled up in clothes, bath towels or bedding.
Wasps: Male wasps cannot sting, but females have a needle-like egg-layer which also serves as a defensive venomous stinger. Wasps often build nests under soffits, behind siding and shutters, any place that offers shelter from the rain. Because they are attracted to moisture and sweet odors, wasps will hover around sweat, perfume, dead insects, flowers, food and many other things found in the home.
Eastern Subterranean Termites: The eastern subterranean termite is the most common North American termite. They feed on cellulose material such as wood, wood fixtures, paper, books and cotton. A mature colony can range from 20,000 to five million workers, with the queen adding up to 10,000 eggs per year to the total. Eastern subterranean termites have no permanent nests and colonies remains mobile.
Beetles are by far the largest order of insects, with 350,000–400,000 species in four suborders, making up about 40% of all insect species and about 30% of all animals. These pests feed on household fabrics and materials such as silk, wool, fur, hair, bristles, and feathers. Species include the black carpet beetle, varied carpet beetle, common carpet beetle, and sometimes the clothes moth.
Clover mites can be a nuisance during the early spring and occasionally in the fall. They are very small, reddish-brown insects that appear only as moving dark spots to the naked eye. Sheer numbers, plus the resulting red-brown stain left behind if they are crushed, make them unwelcome visitors. The red stains are not blood, they are the mite’s body pigments.
House crickets are nocturnal and hide in dark, warm places during the day. When crickets find their way inside homes, they may damage cloth, carpet and other fabrics like wool, cotton, silk, and synthetics. Crickets can eat through large areas of fabric, and are especially attracted to clothes soiled with perspiration.
Earwigs are small insects characterized by having smooth elongated bodies that have pairs of horny, forcep-like abdominal appendages. During the hot and dry summer months, earwigs will try to migrate indoors. Earwigs prefer warm climates and dark and damp areas. If an earwig can find an entrance into your home or business, they can find an abundance of warm and damp areas to survive and reproduce.
Cat Fleas, as their name suggests, cat fleas normally attack cats, their host of choice. However they will feed on any blood host available, including humans. People sensitive to fleabites will develop large, itchy welts at the bite sites. The fleas serve as hosts for tapeworms that infect cats, dogs and humans, and flea larvae will feed on organic debris in pet bedding, furniture and carpeting.
Fruit or Vinegar Flies: Fruit flies can be a nuisance all year ’round, but they become especially active – and plentiful – during the late summer and into fall when fruits and vegetables reach maturity and are picked. In addition to tomatoes, melons and squash, fruit flies are also attracted to rotting bananas, potatoes, onions and other unrefrigerated produce. Females lay up to 500 eggs, and the larvae feed on the yeasts in the fruit.
House Flies: More than a nuisance, house flies can carry over 100 pathogens, including typhoid, cholera, salmonella, tuberculosis. House flies feed on a variety and high volume of foods, causing constant defecation which can contain the diseases. They are active only in the daytime, resting at night in the corners of rooms, ceiling hangings and other quiet places.
Phorid Flies: Phorid flies, also known as humpbacked flies, are small and resemble fruit flies. When disturbed, phorid flies typically run across surfaces instead of flying. Phorid flies are common in home kitchens and pantries as well as trash cans, dumpsters – wherever moist organic matter gathers. Because these flies frequent unsanitary conditions, they are a potential health concern.
Gnats are often found around produce and other food items. That is why they are often found on those food items as well as around trash cans, in sink drains and in garbage disposals. Gnats also like moist places such as over-watered plants and refrigerator drain trays. They are considered a nuisance by their presence in and around structures, especially when they appear in a large number.
Millipedes and Centipedes
Millipedes and centipedes are similar and both be a pests. If you have centipedes you probably have other insect problems. Millipedes can be found in rotting wood and leaf litter. Centipedes are found in areas where they are likely to find insects to feed on. The common house centipede is often found in bathtubs or other moist places.
There are many varieties of moles such as Eastern Mole, Star-Nosed Mole, Coast Mole, and Townsend’s Mole. The most noted characteristic of a mole is probably its webbed feet that are used like paddles to swim through the soil. It is this “swimming” motion that can sometimes inadvertently damage the roots of crops, plants and other shrubbery when they get too close to the surface.
The mosquitoes are a family of small, midge-like flies. Most are a nuisance because they consume blood from living vertebrates, including humans. In feeding on blood, some of them transmit extremely harmful human and livestock diseases. Mosquitoes detract from your outdoor enjoyment by their nuisance biting and the threat they pose of transmitting mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile.
They are neither silver nor fish. A silverfish or fishmoth is a small, wingless insect that prefers to dwell in dark, damp areas such as attics, bathrooms, kitchens and basements. They are especially attracted to paper and damp clothing. Commonly found in stored boxes in garages and sheds.
Bed Bug photo: By Gilles San Martin, via Wikimedia Commons
Box Elder Bug photo: via Wikimedia Commons
Cockroach photo: Joăo Estęvăo A. de Freitas