How-To Identify Common Household Pests
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Typically, bed bugs are oval-shaped and flat, with a reddish-brown exterior. They are usually no larger than a sunflower seed, measuring from 3 to 5 mm long. Their reddish coloring is more prominent after feeding on the hosts blood, and will often appear swollen.
Signs of Bed Bug Infestation
- Seeing them: It’s a common misconception that bed bugs are not visible to the naked eye – this is not the case. Bed bugs are visible at all stages of its life-span. They are roughly the size of a sunflower seed.
- Bites: Bed bug bites are visible a few hours after the pest feeds and appear as small red bumps, typically in clusters, on the skin (rash-like). Bites can be a sign of bed bug activity, though other signs should be found since red bumps can be caused by a variety of factors.
- Fecal Stains: After a blood meal, bed bugs will return to their home-base to sleep and defecate. Bed bug feces (poop) is often described as looking like a felt tip marker stain, ‘bleeding’ into the fabric of your pillowcase, sheets, or the mattress itself.
- Skin shedding: Young bugs will shed their skin as they grow, leaving behind a case skin. Presence of these sheddings can indicate bed bug presence in the home.
While small, termites are visible to the naked eye and can range in size from ¼ to ½ of an inch long. Worker termites are typically lighter in color, appearing more white than swarming termites, which are darker. True to their name, swarming termites can be identified by a prominent set of wings.
Signs of Termite Infestation
- Sagging floors/hollow wood: Termites burrow into wood, weakening the material which can result in sagging floors and hollow wood. You can identify this by knocking on a section of wood on the interior/exterior of your home – does it sound hollow? This could be a sign of infestation.
- Shelter tubes (mud tubes): These mud tunnels/tubes are visible on outer/inner walls of the affected structure. Termites use these tunnels to avoid predators, store food, and to maintain a dark/humid environment. Keep a watchful eye for these tunnels.
- Termite swarms: Most noticeably, you may see a swarm of winged termites in your home or above the soil that surrounds your home. This swarming is temporary, but if seen, call a pest control specialist immediately.
Carpenter ants range in color from dark-brown to black, yellow, orange, and/or red depending on the specific species. These pests have polymorphic workers, therefore, ants within the colony can range in size from as small as 6mm to 20mm long. The queen is usually the largest ant of the colony, and is wingless.
Signs of Carpenter Ants Infestation
- Seeing them: Visual presence of carpenter ants inside your home or commercial building is the most obvious sign of infestation. The carpenter ant can travel long distances in relation to their nest to forage for food.
- Wood shavings: It’s a common misconception that when forming a nest, carpenter ants eat the surrounding wood – this is not the case. carpenter ants will ‘polish’ the wood they penetrate, leaving wood-shavings outside of the nest hole. This debris resembles pencil shavings.
Bees, Wasps, Hornets
Arguably one of the most recognizable pests in the U.S., stinging insects range in size, color, and variety of factors depending on their species. Bees are best identifiable by their signature black and yellow stripes. Wasps are also known for black and yellow stripes; their slim bodies and long wings differentiate them from bees. Hornets are typically larger than both bees and wasps, reaching 1-1.5 inches long. Hornets are reddish brown and have two sets of wings, one more than both the wasp and the bee. Hornets are described as the more aggressive species of the stinging insects.
Signs of Bee, Wasp, and/or Hornet Infestation
- Bee Nests: Can be found in the walls of a house or commercial building, in the ground, or within other cracks of the property. Bee nests are usually comprised of loose materials in the surrounding areas; dried leaves, grass, and even porch furniture cushions. Keep in mind that there are nearly 20,000 different species of bees, all which nest differently. Have questions? Call Enviro for help identifying types of bees.
- Wasp Nests: Like hornets, wasp nests are made from a paper-like material or mud. Mud wasp nests are built in protective locations, like porch ceilings, rafters and are typically not very big. Paper nests can be found in a variety of locations like any crack or crevice of a building, overhangs, and even kid’s jungle gyms.
- Hornet Nests: Hornets create their oval-shaped nests by combining their saliva with wood to create a paper-like exterior. The nest is typically a light gray, and can be found in covered areas (ex. attic space, tree tops, etc.).
Roaches have 6 long legs which appear to have hair-like spikes, outlining each leg. Their body is a reddish-brown, oval-shaped, flat, and can reach 3 inches in length. Roaches also have two long antennae which help the roach to navigate terrain and identify/avoid obstacles.
Signs of Cockroach Infestation
- Daytime spotting: Since cockroaches are a nocturnal insect and prefer to be active at night (eating, breeding), seeing a roach during daylight hours can be a sign of infestation.
- Odor: A serious roach problem can be identified by a musty, oily smell which is produced when a large number of cockroaches (both alive and/or dead) are present. This odor can even alter the taste of some foods.
- Feces: American cockroach droppings vary in size and appearance depending on the age of the roach. Feces from a young roach can resemble coffee grounds. Droppings from adult roaches are cylindrical in form and blunt on either end; often found in cabinets, drawers, and basements.
Extremely small and nearly invisible, fleas are only about ¼ inch in length. They are typically reddish-brown, with the red being more pronounced after a blood meal. They are hard-bodied and flat. Fleas do not have wings, but use their 6 legs to jump long distances (up to 6 feet).
Signs of Flea Infestation
- Abnormal pet behavior: Excessive scratching, hair loss, and red rash on your pet’s skin can all be signs of a flea infestation. Flea bites will leave small red bumps on the skin, resulting in persistent scratching.
- Seeing fleas on your pet: If you can see fleas moving between your pet’s hair, it’s likely a flea infestation is present. It’s important to contact your veterinarian for flea treatment options, as larvae and eggs may also be present.
Covered in short, gray/black, or light brown hair, the house mouse has small eyes and ears and can grow to reach between 7 and 8 inches in length (tip of nose to tip of tail). Deer mice, also common in Pennsylvania, differs from standard house mice. A deer mouse has large black eyes and large ears. They are shorter in length than house mice, reaching 7 to 10 cm.
Signs of Mice Infestation
- Seeing mice: Both deer mice and house mice are similar regarding infestation identification. Seeing mice, mice nests or objects around the house that appear to be chewed are all signs of a mouse problem.
- Mouse feces: The most common sign of mice in the home or building is feces. Mouse droppings in cylindrical in shape and pointed at either end (not to be confused with roach droppings). Droppings can be found in cabinets, drawers, pantries, or near/behind appliances. Mouse feces is a known carcinogen, so be sure to call Enviro at (814)-359-2600 for treatment options.
Recognizable to most Pennsylvanians, the stink bug can range in size from 11 to 17 mm in length (depending on the age of the bug). Notorious for finding their way into homes, stink bugs have a unique body that resembles a standard shield-shape. An adult stink bug is grayish-brown with long antennae.
Signs of Stink Bug Infestation
- Seeing the bug: Seeing large gatherings of stink bugs on the warm side of your home or commercial building is the most common sign of infestation.
- Foul odor: As the name suggests, if stink bugs find their way into the home, you may notice a strong odor. The bugs produce this odor when they are threatened, or killed. The odor is produced from a gland on the stink bug abdomen.
- Damaged plants: Stink bugs are not harmful to humans or pets. However, as an agricultural pest, stink bugs can cause severe damage to plants and/or crops. They are especially fond of vegetable plants and fruit trees.
Ah, mosquitoes – your favorite summer-time pest. While the size of mosquitoes varies based on species, most mosquitoes common to the U.S are only ½ inch in length. They have slim bodies and long, thin legs. Mosquitoes are notorious for being blood-sucking insects. They penetrate the hosts skin with a needle-like mouth called the proboscis.
Signs of Mosquito Infestation
- Standing water: If you live near a pond, lake, swamp, or other form of standing water, you are more likely to face a mosquito infestation. This is because mosquito eggs need water to hatch. Aside from bodies of water near the exterior of a building, keep a watchful eye on indoor plants with water-catching dishes.
- Buzzing & bites: Audible buzzing and consistent irritating/itchy bites are another common sign of mosquito infestation.
Asian Lady Beetles (Lady Bugs)
Lady bug beetles can be multicolored, ranging from deep red, bright orange, and yellow. The most noticeable characteristic are the black dots that cover the round, outer shell. With over 5,000 species of Asian lady beetles in the world, no two are exactly the same.
Signs of Asian Lady Beetle Infestation
- Mass numbers: The appearance of large gatherings of lady bugs on the exterior or interior of the home or commercial building is the most obvious sign of infestation. Lady bugs will typically congregate in the corners of window frames, building overhangs, and even interior walls and ceilings.
- Seasonal gatherings: Many property owners wonder why their home/building is targeted every year, same time of year, for lady bug gatherings. When lady bugs find the perfect over-winter nook, they produce an attractant pheromone that keeps them returning year after year.
Millipedes come in a variety of body shapes and sizes, ranging from 2 mm (0.08 in) to around 35 cm (14 in) in length, and can have as few as eleven to over a hundred segments. They are generally black or brown in color, although there are a few brightly colored species, and some have aposematic coloring to warn that they are toxic.
Signs of Millipede Infestation
*Habitats: Millipedes are generally harmless to humans, although some can become household or garden pests, especially in greenhouses where they can cause severe damage to emergent seedlings.
*Defense: Most millipedes defend themselves with a variety of chemicals secreted from pores along the body, although the tiny bristle millipedes are covered with tufts of detachable bristles.
Their size can range from a few millimeters in the smaller ones to about 30 cm (12 in) in the largest ones. Centipedes are elongated metameric creatures with one pair of legs per body segment. Despite the name, centipedes range from 30 to 354 legs. They normally have a drab coloration combining shades of brown and red.
Signs of Centipede Infestation
*Habitat: Centipedes can be found in a wide variety of environments. They prefer dark, cool, covered areas.
*Behavior: Centipedes are known to be highly venomous, and often inject paralyzing venom. A key trait uniting this group is a pair of venom claws or forcipules formed from a modified first appendage. Centipedes are predominantly carnivorous.
Earwigs have characteristic cerci, a pair of forceps-like pincers on their abdomen, and membranous wings folded underneath short, rarely used forewings, hence the scientific order name, "skin wings".
Signs of Earwig Infestation
*Behavior: Mostly nocturnal and often hide in small, moist crevices during the day, and are active at night, feeding on a wide variety of insects and plants.
*Habitat: Damage to foliage, flowers, and various crops is commonly blamed on earwig.