The Most Common Household Pests and How to Recognize Them
Your home gives you a sense of pride and a safe, comfortable place to call your own. Common house pests can quickly change that sense of security. Pests can cause potential health problems for your family and damage to your home. They defecate inside your home, which is not only gross but also sometimes dangerous to your health. They can damage the structure of your home or chew on furniture and other belongings inside your home.
What is a household pest? Pests come in different forms, but many are either rodents or bugs. They infest your home and cause a host of potential problems. Pests can easily enter your home through small cracks and gaps, even if you don’t realize you have an issue. They can often live off very little and are difficult to kill. Getting rid of pests early is important in preventing them from multiplying and becoming an even bigger problem.
Identifying household pests and the diseases they cause helps you in preventing them from entering your home and getting rid of them if they do invade. While there are many pests in the world, some that vary by location, the following examples of pests are some of the most common ones you may encounter in your home. Learn to identify and prevent them before they take over your living space.
Every list of pests includes termites because they are widespread and can cause such significant damage. Termites are roughly the same size as black ants, but they’re much lighter in color. Subterranean termites are found in homes most often, and they can be found in all parts of the country. Termites live inside of walls and wood structures, making them difficult to spot
However, there are signs of termites, including:
- Swarming insects or wings left behind on windowsills from the swarmers
- Hollow-sounding wood throughout the home
- Mud tunnels coming out of your exterior walls or wood structures
- Blistering or sagging areas on the floor
- Unexplained cracks on walls inside your home
- Windows and doors sticking due to misshapen frames from the tunneling termites
- Buckling paint
Subterranean termites can eat 24 hours a day, so it doesn’t take long to cause major damage to your home’s structure. The damage can also spread to fence posts and other exterior structures.
This household pest causes more than $5 billion in damage to properties each year, according to the National Pest Management Association. In most cases, that damage is not covered by your homeowner’s insurance, so it’s important to prevent termites and get rid of them immediately if you detect them.
You can prevent termites by making your home unappealing to them. These tips will help:
- Repair damaged roofing that allows moisture in the roof.
- Check for moisture from the air conditioning unit to ensure it doesn’t get into your home’s foundation.
- Store items inside plastic boxes instead of cardboard, as the cardboard provides food for termites.
- Keep wood furniture away from walls, as they also provide a food source for termites.
- Use metal shelving instead of wood in storage areas when possible.
- Fix pipes to prevent moisture and damage that attract termites.
- Have old stumps removed, so they don’t attract termites to your yard.
- Replace wood mulch with rubber, gravel or plastic mulch, and leave space between the home’s foundation and the mulch.
- Use metal for fencing, or use wood treated to prevent termites on your fences.
- Stack firewood far away from your home or other structures. Elevate the woodpile if possible.
- Have a professional termite inspection to spot an infestation early.
Getting rid of termites is a job for a professional. It’s very difficult for homeowners to get rid of these pests on their own. Most DIY treatment options are ineffective. A professional can help get rid of the termites and prevent them from returning. They’ll also know how to use the chemicals and treatment options safely.
Chemicals are the traditional means of destroying these pests. Termites access your home from the ground since they live in soil. That means the ground around your home also needs to be treated. Choose a company experienced in treating termite infestations to ensure fast, effective management of the problem.
Mice and Rats
Almost 30 percent of homeowners in the U.S. experience rodents in their homes at some point. Generally outdoor dwellers, mice tend to gravitate toward homes as the weather gets cool in fall and winter, so they have a warm, cozy place in those cooler months. Mice can slip through very small spaces, which makes it easy for them to enter homes. They’re nocturnal, so you may not actually see the mice, but you can spot signs of them being in your home. Mice often build their nests in hidden areas. Common spots include behind appliances, in ceilings, in gaps inside the walls, in cabinets, boxes or storage containers. They will come out of those spots, particularly at night.
Signs of a mouse infestation include:
- Brown or black droppings about the size of a grain of rice, particularly along walls or under sinks
- Smudge marks along walls caused by contact with the mouse’s body
- Ammonia-like smell, especially in cabinets or other enclosed areas
- Scratching noises at night in the walls or ceilings
- Chew marks or damage from the mice on furniture, wires and other surfaces in the home
- Nests made of shredded materials
Mice can cause health issues and damage to your home. These rodents can carry many different diseases that can spread to humans. You can contract the diseases through contact with feces, saliva and urine of mice. Diseases can also spread through physical contact with mice or if you are bitten.
Hantavirus is a potentially deadly disease carried by rodents. The disease is thought to make humans sick after contact with contaminated mice nests or droppings. Hantavirus starts with chills, aches and fever and progresses to a dry cough, nausea, vomiting, headache and shortness of breath. The disease can cause death.
Mice can also spread salmonella. This becomes a problem when mice come into contact with food, countertops or other food prep surfaces. Salmonella causes fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
Another potential disease is Lymphocytic choriomeningitis. This viral disease causes aseptic meningitis, encephalitis and other neurological complications. You can develop the disease after contact with rodent urine, droppings, saliva or nests.
Rodents can also cause damage to your home because of their chewing. Their teeth never stop growing, so they tend to chew a lot. Some mice chew through electrical cords, which can cause malfunctions and even fires.
Rats cause similar problems as mice, including carrying diseases, contaminating your food and chewing through your belongings. Some diseases caused by rats include salmonella, rat bite fever, trichinosis, plague and leptospirosis.
Black rats are common in homes and grow to 16 to 24 centimeters in length. A rat’s tail is longer than its body and head. Other identifying characteristics include big ears, pointed noses and slender bodies. They can climb very well.
Some of the same signs as mice infestations can alert you to a rat problem. Those signs include rat droppings, scratching noises, rub marks on the walls, footprints, tail marks, chewing damage and nests. Rat droppings look like larger grains of rice.
Prevent rodents from entering your home by sealing up any cracks or gaps that could serve as an entry point. Even small openings can be large enough for rodents to enter. Gaps often exist around things like pipes, vents and cables, so seal around those areas well. Don’t forget about cracks and gaps higher on your home, as mice can climb. A brush strip along the bottom of doors helps close any gaps.
You can also minimize the risk of rodents by practicing smart food storage. Keep food in plastic containers, so it doesn’t attract mice. Clean up crumbs and other debris, including under your refrigerator and stove.
Once you have mice or rats, it’s important to get rid of them right away to prevent potential damage and health issues. Avoid using poison to handle the infestation yourself. Besides the potential danger from the chemicals, this option can cause the rodents to die in your walls, attic or other areas where you can’t find them. Letting a professional remove the rodents minimizes your contact with the disease-carrying animals.
Ants are more annoying than dangerous. They don’t generally cause physical damage to your home, and they don’t pass diseases to humans. However, they may crawl through dirty places before entering your home. Plus, they’re unsightly and just generally unsanitary to have in your home.
Ants can be quite a challenge to get rid of permanently. These tiny insects often start as just a few before quickly growing in number. You can spot an ant infestation easily. The ants don’t try to hide and are often in plain sight, particularly near doors or other points of entry and in areas with food. You may see a large group of ants surrounding a crumb or piece of food on the floor or counter.
You can prevent ants from getting into your home by:
- Sealing points of entry
- Cleaning up spills, especially sweet spills
- Sealing food in containers
- Cleaning your kitchen regularly to avoid attracting ants
As soon as you notice an ant infestation, call a professional to get rid of them before many more ants show up in your home. The pros can come up with an appropriate way to get rid of the pests based on the specific ant species invading your home. Some species of ants may not be attracted to the type of baits sold at the store. Professionals can also use any chemicals appropriately to keep your family and pets safe.
Flies buzz around your head, land on your plate and generally annoy you, whether at an outdoor picnic or indoors in your home. They may seem innocent enough, but flies can carry over 100 pathogens on their legs and mouths. The insects land on feces, trash and other surfaces covered in the pathogens. Those germs can cause a range of health problems, including cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, salmonella, dysentery and parasitic worms. Flies can also contaminate food.
You can easily spot flies in your home. Spotting maggots is another sign of a potential fly infestation, as they are the larval stage of flies. It’s common to have one or two flies, but if you notice a lot of the insects, it’s time to call for help in managing the pests. Managing the problem often requires finding the spot where the flies lay their eggs within the home. If you don’t get rid of the eggs, you’ll continue having a fly problem. The egg location is not always easy to find. A professional is experienced in locating and removing the eggs to get rid of the flies.
Preventing future fly infestations may require some updates to your home. Remove standing water and clean up trash and animal feces to help keep flies away from your home. Covering food and cleaning up spills immediately can also help keep flies away.
Cockroaches are resilient little pests that can survive in any environment. While they typically live outdoors, cockroaches often make their way indoors in search of food and water. They can go without water for a week and without food for a month. Their speed aids them in surviving in homes. Cockroaches often run into dark areas if you turn on lights. These pests can easily enter the home under doors, through garages and through basement windows. You can often find cockroaches in the bathroom, kitchen, basement and laundry room.
While they don’t cause a risk to the structure of your home, cockroaches present a potentially serious health risk to humans because of the 33 types of bacteria, six parasitic worm types and seven human pathogen types. They are very dirty with lots of germs all over their bodies. People with allergies and asthma may experience symptoms due to allergen proteins in cockroach saliva and droppings. Kids who live in homes infested with cockroaches have a higher risk of having allergies and asthma.
You can spot a cockroach problem with these signs:
- Scurrying when you turn on lights
- Droppings in dark areas like basements and behind items — droppings have blunt ends and ridges on sides
- Reddish or black-brown egg capsules behind appliances, in cabinets, in basements and in other hidden areas
- Increasing odor often described as musty
Because they are so resilient, it’s often challenging to get rid of cockroaches. Call an experienced pest removal service to handle the difficult task. The pros know which treatment options to use and how to apply them properly. The solution may involve fixing entry points, removing debris around the foundation, using bait and applying growth regulators that disrupt development.
There are many different species of wasps that vary in size and appearance. The general body type features a pinched waist. Wasps build nests in many outdoor areas, including eaves, shutters, light fixtures and play equipment. They can also build nests indoors in attics and other areas.
The wasps don’t cause physical damage to your home other than building their unsightly nests. They can be potentially dangerous if you’re allergic to the stings. Wasps aren’t generally aggressive, but they can sting if you bother their nests or otherwise appear to be a threat to them. At best, wasp stings are painful and annoying. At worst, you may have an allergic reaction that could be serious. Over 2 million Americans have an allergy to stinging insects.
Spraying or knocking down a wasp’s nest yourself is a quick way to get stung. Instead, call for help in getting rid of the nests. A pest professional gets rid of the existing wasps and the nests they build. Work with your pest management company to manage wasps to prevent them from rebuilding nests in or around your home.
Earwigs are insects that typically grow between 5 and 25 millimeters based on the specific species. They have pincers coming out of their abdomens, which make this insect look scary. The pincers are not poisonous, however. Earwigs can be smelly due to the pheromone produced by the insects. Some types of earwigs also produce a stinky liquid as a defense mechanism.
Earwigs tend to gravitate toward wet areas. They may live in cracks, logs, mulch and under rocks. They move quickly, especially if you move the ground covering they’re hiding under. When they live outdoors, the earwigs burrow into the ground during the winter. They may also enter your home as the weather changes. In the summer, you may notice them swarming your porch and patio, as they are attracted to lights.
The easiest way to find out you have an earwig problem is to see the insects. They don’t typically cause major problems indoors. You may notice the insects more outdoors in your garden and landscaping. If they do enter your home, you’re likely to see the earwigs in wet areas, such as kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms.
You can prevent earwig problems by getting rid of the areas they like. Since they like hiding in damp places, create a dry area between landscaping and your home to keep earwigs outdoors. You can create the zone by moving mulch, leaves and other organic material away from the house. Moving logs, stones, firewood and other potential hiding places away from the house is another way to minimize earwigs.
You can make your home less attractive to earwigs by making it dry. A dehumidifier can help cut down on moisture in areas like basements that tend to get damp. A professional pest management company can help you create a plan for controlling earwigs in and around your home.
Control Your Pest Problem
No matter what type of pest is bothering you, Cape Cod Pest Pros can help. Whether you suspect a problem or have a confirmed sighting of a pest, contacting us right away means your home can return to its comfortable, pest-free state sooner.
When you notice a problem, we start with a pest inspection to assess the situation. The inspection lets us determine if you do indeed have a pest problem. We can then determine the scope of the problem, the specific type of pest and any damage that has already occurred. We use the analysis to recommend a customized plan to solve your pest problem.
Some pest situations require only a one-time treatment to remove the bothersome bugs. Other situations require ongoing service for termites and other pests. We can help you prevent, control and remove termites. Our rodent clean-up services make your home a safer place to be.
It may be tempting to try handling pests yourself, but calling in a pro is the safest, easiest way to handle the bugs and rodents. We know how to handle specific pest threats effectively, so you get rid of the infestation as fast as possible without putting your family at risk with potentially dangerous chemicals. We also green solutions for your pest problems to give you peace of mind about the products used in your home.
For prevention of household pest problems, consider our quarterly service program. Every 90 days, we perform a general service on your home to address your specific needs. This service is one of the best ways to control and prevent the pests that plague your home. If you notice a problem between the quarterly visits, give us a call, and we’ll come out at no additional charge.
Contact Cape Cod Pest Pros now to address existing concerns or to prevent future problems.