How to identify Cockroaches?
Cockroaches can measure over 50 mm (2 in) length, with tropical species tending to be larger than those found in other climates. Cockroaches have six legs, two antennae and some have wings. However, most winged cockroaches are not particularly adept at flying. Read more about what a cockroach looks like.
Cockroaches belong to Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda, Class Insecta and Order Blattaria. Some species invade human dwellings and are considered pests. Others are beneficial to the environment as important recyclers of decaying organic material. The pest cockroaches can be carriers of various diseases because they are commonly found near waste deposits or in the kitchen, where food is present. Restaurants may also experience cockroach infestations.
Cockroaches emit unpleasant odors and may also produce sound. The Madagascar hissing cockroach is the most famous of these vocal cockroaches, although more common species may produce quieter clicking or chirping noises.
Cockroaches can wreak havoc on your home. To win the war in cockroach control, here’s what you should know:
- Entry: Cockroaches can enter your home in many different ways, from the outside through cracks and crevices, vents, sewer and drain pipes. We even bring them in on products like grocery bags, boxes, purses and on our person!
- Ideal environment: Your home is an ideal breeding ground for certain pest species of cockroaches. With plenty of food, warmth, water and nesting sites, they can remain active all year round.
- Reproduction: Cockroaches reproduce quickly. For every one you see there can be many, many more hiding and multiplying behind your walls.
- Evasiveness: Because cockroaches typically are nocturnal, if you’ve seen one, you probably haven’t seen them all. The few cockroaches you see by day could mean they were likely forced out by overcrowding; a possible sign of severe infestation.
- Allergies/Asthma: The debris created by cast-off cockroach skins, dead bodies and droppings can aggravate allergies, especially in children and sensitive individuals.
Do-it-yourself ineffectiveness: Cockroaches are better at hiding than you are at finding them, and their eggs are naturally protected from many over-the-counter insecticides. Without special equipment, materials and know-how, cockroach control can be a losing battle.
Ant control can be difficult, but there are some things you should know about how ants’ behavior can lead to big headaches for you and your home:
- Entry: Ants can enter through even the tiniest cracks, seeking water and sweet or greasy food substances in the kitchen pantry or storeroom areas.
- Scent trails: Ants leave an invisible chemical trail which contains pheromones for others to follow once they locate the food source.
- Nest locations: They can nest about anywhere in and around your house; in lawns, walls, stumps, even under foundations.
- Colony size: Colonies can number up to 300,000 to 500,000, and whole colonies can uproot and relocate quickly when threatened.
- Colony Lifetime: A colony can live a relatively long lifetime. Worker ants may live seven years, and the queen may live as long as 15 years.
Do it yourself effectiveness: Most do-it-yourself ant control approaches kill only the ants you see. Some truly effective treatments can penetrate and destroy nests to help prevent these pests from returning. Also, home remedies don’t account for the fact that different kinds of ant infestations require different treatments.
Ant Life Cycle
The ant life cycle has four distinct and very different life stages: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. This is known as complete metamorphosis. It generally takes from several weeks to several months to complete the life cycle, depending upon the ant species and environmental factors.
A female ant that successfully mates with a male ant will become a queen ant that lays eggs. Fertile queens select a sheltered place to begin a nest (colony) and begin laying eggs. Ant eggs are very small – only about a half of a millimeter in diameter. The eggs are also oval, white and transparent.
After about 1-2 weeks in the egg stage, a grub-like, legless ant larvae hatches. This stage has a voracious appetite, and the adult ants spend much of their time feeding the larvae with food and liquids they digest and regurgitate.
After the larvae molts and shed their skin, they change into the pupal stage. Pupae appear somewhat like adults except their legs and antennae are folded and pressed against the pupal body. Initially, ant pupae are usually white, but slowly become darker in color as they age. Depending upon the ant species, pupae may be housed in a protective cocoon.
Once the pupal stage is complete, the adult ant comes on the scene. At the time of emergence, the adult ant is fully grown, but darkens in color as it ages. Adult ants are one of three different colony castes; queens, workers or males. Queens are fertile females that lay all the eggs in a colony. Workers are females that do not reproduce, but do gather food; feed the larvae; and maintain and clean the nest. Workers are wingless, and it is the worker stage that is seen foraging around for food or defending the colony from intruders. The male ants are winged, but their only job is to mate with the queens during the swarming process.
Eight legs, two body regions, no wings or antennae.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Some spiders like moisture and are found in basements, crawl spaces and other damp parts of buildings. Others like dry, warm areas such as subfloor air vents, upper corners of rooms and attics. They hide in dark areas.
They feed on insects, other spiders and any other prey they are able to subdue.
Females produce an egg sac from which emerge spiderlings. Spiderlings undergo a series of molts and eventually become adults. Males of many spider species court the female. For example, male jumping spiders perform elaborate dances to attract the attention of a female. Mating can be a dangerous event for males, since they may become a meal for the female afterwards.
Tens of thousands of spider species have been identified throughout the world. These arachnids have eight legs and two body segments. Spiders have three or four pair of eyes. Many spiders have poor vision, but some species of spiders, such as the jumping spider, have exceptional vision.
Spiders do not have chewing mouthparts and commonly utilize digestive enzymes in their saliva to break prey down before consuming it. Additionally, the gut of a spider is too narrow to allow for consumption of large food particles. Almost all spider species are predators, although one plant-feeding species has been documented.
Spiders are capable of producing silk that is elastic, adhesive and strong. This silk is used to spin webs as well as to construct egg sacs and line spider dwellings. The size and shape of spider webs vary by species: some are orb-shaped, while others are funnel-shaped; some webs are orderly, while others appear haphazard. Some spider species live in burrows rather than webs, while others are free ranging and take refuge in crevices.
How Do They Get in the Home?
Spiders commonly enter homes in two primary ways: entering through open, poorly screened windows and doors and through cracks and gaps around door and window frames. Most of the time, spiders come inside the home looking for prey. The other common method of entry is accidentally hitchhiking inside boxes, on outdoor items and numerous other things that are brought inside a home or business. Contact your pest management professional if you find spiders in your home. Your pest management profession will conduct an inspection and a create a comprehensive control plan that is based on the inspection findings.
Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the cockroach order Blattodea. Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic. However, the first termites possibly emerged during the Permian or even the Carboniferous. About 3,106 species are currently described, with a few hundred more left to be described. Although these insects are often called “white ants”, they are not ants.
Like ants and some bees and wasps from the separate order Hymenoptera, termites divide labour among castes consisting of sterile male and female “workers” and “soldiers”. All colonies have fertile males called “kings” and one or more fertile females called “queens”. Termites mostly feed on dead plant material and cellulose, generally in the form of wood, leaf litter, soil, or animal dung. Termites are major detritivores, particularly in the subtropical and tropical regions, and their recycling of wood and plant matter is of considerable ecological importance.
Termites are among the most successful groups of insects on Earth, colonising most landmasses except for Antarctica. Their colonies range in size from a few hundred individuals to enormous societies with several million individuals. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with some queens reportedly living up to 30 to 50 years. Unlike ants, which undergo a complete metamorphosis, each individual termite goes through an incomplete metamorphosis that proceeds through egg, nymph, and adult stages. Colonies are described as superorganisms because the termites form part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself.
Termites are a delicacy in the diet of some human cultures and are used in many traditional medicines. Several hundred species are economically significant as pests that can cause serious damage to buildings, crops, or plantation forests. Some species, such as the West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis), are regarded as invasive species.
Learn the signs to look for to determine if you might have a termite infestation.
Termites cost Americans more than $5 billion in damage each year and most insurance plans don’t cover the damage.
Facts & Identification Information
Termites are often called the “silent destroyer” because they may be secretly hiding and thriving in your home or yard without any immediate signs of damage. All termites consume cellulose-based plant materials. Unfortunately, all homes, regardless of their construction type, can provide cellulose food for termite infestation.
Termite Scientific Name
There are three major types of termites found in the United States: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. They all belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the class Insecta, and the order Isoptera. There are over 2,000 different species, which all have distinct scientific names.
Three of the more common home-invading termite species are Eastern subterranean termites, Pacific dampwood termites, and Southeastern drywood termites. Their scientific names are Reticulitermes flavipes, Zootermopsis angusticollis, and Incisitermes snyderi, respectively.
Termites range from 1/4 to 1/2 an inch in length. The queens and kings are larger, capable of reaching over one inch long. The workers are typically soft-bodied and pale-colored. Flying termites, also called reproductives, have two pairs of prominent wings. Learn more about what a termite looks like.
In the summer months, reproductive flying termites leave their mature colonies to mate and pair off. After this, the couples lose their wings, become queens and kings, and create new colonies. Immature termites develop to fill one of three roles: workers, soldiers, or reproductives. Some species of termite queens lay millions of eggs each year. Read more about the termite life cycle.
Workers are responsible for gathering and feeding the colony members, maintaining the nest, and caring for young. Soldiers protect the termite colony using their large mandibles to fend off predators. Reproductives are the only sexually mature members of the colony, aside from queens and kings. Read more about termite colonies.
organic fiber found in wood and plant matter. Wood makes up the majority of the pests’ diet, although termites also eat other materials such as paper, plastic, and drywall. Most species prefer dead wood, but some termites feed on living trees.
Each type of termite has its own dietary preferences. Subterranean termites prefer softwoods, but may invade most species of wood. Dampwood termites generally stay close to the ground, but will choose moist, decaying wood anywhere it is found. Drywood termites are often found in attics and require little moisture in the wood they eat.
A termite’s mouth is capable of tearing pieces of woody material. This ability is what causes concern in human dwellings: while termite workers only measure approximately 1 cm to a few millimeters in length, their feeding habits are capable of causing costly damage to property. House foundations, furniture, shelves and even books are all possible feeding sites for termites. Read more about what termites eat.
Commonly, termites live in wooden structures, decayed trees, fallen timber, and soil. Habitats vary among species as some termites require different amounts of moisture. The pests are found in greater numbers in tropical regions where living conditions for termites is optimal.
Subterranean termites are the most abundant variety and can be found throughout the United States. Both dampwood and drywood species are generally more localized in the Southern states.
Subterranean termite homes are usually formed in soil. Within these mounds, termites build elaborate tunnel systems and mud tunnels through which they access above-ground food sources. Drywood termites live within the wood they consume and oftentimes infest walls and furniture.
When a colony has matured, winged, swarming termites can be seen around windows and doors. Winged termites are highly attracted to sources of light and are most active in springtime. After mating, these termites locate a new breeding site and create another colony, spreading infestations throughout multiple locations in the case of drywood termites.
Termites are detritivores, or detritus feeders. They feed on dead plants and trees. What Is the Termite Diet? Termites eat materials containing cellulose, but the specific termite diet varies by species. Depending on the species’ need for moisture, termites may eat dead plants and trees, including materials used in buildings, carpet, insulation and wallpaper, plastic, fabric, or animal feces.
According to the CDC, worldwide, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases. These diseases can be spread to humans directly, through handling of rodents, through contact with rodent feces, urine, or saliva, or through rodent bites. Diseases carried by rodents can also be spread to humans indirectly, through ticks, mites or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent.
The primary strategy for preventing human exposure to rodent diseases is effective rodent control in and around the home. This is achieved by eliminating any food sources, sealing even the smallest entries into homes, and successfully trapping rodents in and around the home.
What are roof rats? Roof rats – also called black rats or ship rats – are smaller than Norway rats, but cause similar issues. This rodent gets its name from its tendency to be found in the upper parts of buildings. The roof rat is thought to be of Southeast Asian origin, but is now found throughout the world, especially in tropical regions.
Roof rats are primarily nocturnal. They forage for food in groups of up to ten and tend to return to the same food source time after time. These rats follow the same pathway between their nest and food.
Roof rats live in colonies and prefer to nest in the upper parts of buildings. They can also be found under, in and around structures.
Roof rats secured their place in history by spreading the highly dangerous bubonic plague. Though transmission is rare today, there are still a handful of cases in the U.S. each year. Roof rats can also carry fleas and spread diseases such as typhus, jaundice, rat-bite fever, trichinosis and salmonellosis.
The house mouse is the most common rodent pest in most parts of the world. It can breed rapidly and adapt quickly to changing conditions. In fact, a female house mouse can give birth to a half dozen babies every three weeks, and can
House mice prefer to eat seeds and insects, but will eat many kinds of food. They are excellent climbers and can jump up to a foot high, however, they are color blind and cannot see clearly beyond six inches.
House mice live in structures, but they can survive outdoors, too. House mice prefer to nest in dark, secluded areas and often build nests out of paper products, cotton, packing materials, wall insulation and fabrics.
Micro droplets of mouse urine can cause allergies in children. Mice can also bring fleas, mites, ticks and lice into your home.
Norway rats are believed to be of Asian origin, but are now found throughout the world. These rats can cause damage to properties and structures through their gnawing. Norway rats have smaller eyes and ears and shorter tails.
Norway rats are primarily nocturnal and often enter a home in the fall when outside food sources become scarce. These rats are known to gnaw through almost anything – including plastic or lead pipes – to obtain food or water. Norway rats are social rodents and build burrows close to one another.
Outdoors, Norway rats live in fields, farmlands and in structures. These rats frequently burrow in soil near riverbanks, in garbage and woodpiles, and under concrete slabs. Indoors, Norway rats often nest in basements, piles of debris or undisturbed materials. Rodents can gain entry to a home through a hole the size of a quarter.
Norway rats can cause damage to structures through their gnawing and eating. These rats are also vectors of diseases including plague, jaundice, rat-bite fever, cowpox virus, trichinosis and salmonellosis. In addition, Norway rats can contaminate food and introduce fleas into a home.
Bed bugs are parasitic insects of the cimicid family that feed exclusively on blood. Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug, is the best known as it prefers to feed on human blood. Other Cimex species specialize in other animals, e.g., bat bugs, such as Cimex pipistrelli (Europe), Cimex pilosellus (Western United States), and Cimex adjunctus (entire Eastern United States). The name bed bug derives from the preferred habitat of Cimex lectularius: warm houses and especially near or inside beds and bedding or other sleep areas. Bed bugs are mainly active at night, but are not exclusively nocturnal. They usually feed on their hosts without being noticed.
A number of adverse health effects may result from bed bug bites, including skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic symptoms. Bed bugs are not known to transmit any pathogens as disease vectors. Certain signs and symptoms suggest the presence of bed bugs; finding the adult insects confirms the diagnosis.
Bed bugs have been known as human parasites for thousands of years. At a point in the early 1940s, they were mostly eradicated in the developed world, but have increased in prevalence since 1995, likely due to pesticide resistance, governmental bans on effective pesticides, and international travel. Because infestation of human habitats has begun to increase, bed bug bites and related conditions have been on the rise as well
Diagnosis of an infestation involves both finding bed bugs and the occurrence of compatible symptoms. Treatment involves the elimination of the insect (including its eggs) and taking measures to treat symptoms until they resolve.
Bed bug bites or cimicosis may lead to a range of skin manifestations from no visible effects to prominent blisters. Effects include skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic symptoms.
Although bed bugs can be infected with at least 28 human pathogens, no studies have found that th e insects are capable of transmitting any of these to humans. They have been found with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and with vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), but the significance of this is still unknown.
Occasional invaders are insects and other arthropods that sporadically enter structures, sometimes in large numbers. If you’ve been invaded by pests that are not covered in our other fact sheets, chances are you’ll find the information here.
By far the most common problem with occasional invaders is that they become an annoying nuisance. Some can bite, pinch, secrete foul odors, damage plants, stain indoor furnishings, and damage fabrics. Even after they are dead, the problem may continue. The bodies of dead insects can attract other pests that feed on them, and the bodies, shed skins, secretions and feces of insects can cause allergic responses and trigger asthma.
Whether they’re insects, mites or arthropods, occasional invaders typically live and reproduce outdoors. They invade structures when conditions indoors are better for them than outdoor conditions. It is important to know the conditions that prompt invasions of unwanted pests. Altering environmental conditions can make structures inhospitable for pests, and is an important component of integrated pest management.
PILLBUGS and SOWBUGS (Isopoda)
Also known as isopods, woodlice and roly-polies, these creatures are not insects but crustaceans more closely related to shrimp, crabs and lobsters. Most Isopods are gray to brown in color and about one-fourth of an inch long with seven pairs of legs. Pillbugs can roll into a ball when disturbed. Sowbugs have two tail-like appendages that form a tube to suck up water.
Like many occasional invaders, isopods need lots of moisture. They live in damp places – under rocks, logs, leaves and mulch where they feed mostly on rotting plant matter. Moisture-seeking pillbugs and sowbugs invade structures but do no damage indoors. To prevent infestation, seal cracks in the structure’s foundation, install door brushes to fill gaps beneath doors, and correct moisture problems. As much as is practical, reduce moisture and vegetation around the foundation.
MILLIPEDES (Diplopoda) and CENTIPEDES (Chilopoda)
While millipedes don’t have a thousand legs as the name suggests, they do have two pairs of legs per body segment — distinguishing them from centipedes which have one pair per segment. Both creatures typically have 30 or more pairs of legs, are light brown to black in color, and about an inch long.
Most millipedes are cylindrical, slow-moving plant-feeding creatures that can curl up and release foul-smelling secretions when disturbed. Centipedes have flattened bodies and typically move faster. One species, the house centipede (Scutigeracoleoptrata), is an exceptionally long-legged and fast-running predator of insects and spiders. Centipedes also possess appendages capable of injecting venom into their prey, like the fangs of spiders. While most centipedes are too small to penetrate human skin, the house centipede, as well as larger desert and tropical species (Scolopendra spp.), can inflict wounds similar to bee stings.
Both millipedes and centipedes live in damp places; under rocks, logs, leaves and mulch. When conditions aren’t suitable in the wooded areas where they are abundant, millipedes sometimes embark on mass migrations and enter homes in large numbers. They enter in search of moisture, food and shelter, but like sowbugs and pillbugs, they often die indoors because moisture and food sources are insufficient. In contrast, the house centipede can live and reproduce in moist basements, cellars, crawlspaces and bathrooms where spider and insect prey are plentiful.
Exclude these multi-legged pests by inspecting and sealing foundation cracks. For centipedes, it can be beneficial to control the spiders and insects they feed on. Moisture control indoors and around the foundation is also important in controlling occasional invaders.
is much longer than the other three pairs of legs. Larval (first immature stage) mites have three pairs of legs.
Clover mites will feed on grasses, weeds, fruit trees and other plants. Newly landscaped and well-fertilized lawns are conducive to large clover mite populations, presumably due to the lack of predator species and/or an abundance of food.
The mites are most active in cooler weather (less than 75 F). In spring, eggs are sometimes laid in cracks and crevices in foundations and CLOVER MITES (Bryobia spp.)
This tiny mite sometimes enters homes and other buildings by the thousands, causing panic among residents. They do not bite or cause health-related problems, but can be a nuisance.
Clover mites are smaller than a pin head. They can be red, green or brown in color and leave a red stain when smashed. The front pair of legs around siding, window and door frames. In fall, they enter structures to lay more eggs, to molt (shed the exoskeleton), and for shelter. They spend the winter in protected spaces such as the voids in block, brick, walls and window frames, and emerge from these in late winter or early spring.
Prevent clover mites from entering by sealing cracks and gaps in foundations, walls, window and door framing. Reduce vegetation around the foundation, and limit fertilizer use. Once indoors, clover mites are best eliminated by vacuuming them, though sticky traps (insect monitors) and contact pesticides such as those containing pyrethrum or pyrethrins also can be used. Timely foundation perimeter treatments with residual pesticides can help control invasions
If you suddenly discover tiny, grayish-white bugs in your home that jump when approached, chances are you have springtails. Growing to little more than one-eighth of an inch long, these primitive insects can easily pass through foundation cracks and gaps. And like so many other invaders, moisture — or the lack of it — triggers springtail invasions.
These primitive insects can be amazingly abundant in soil and other moist substrates; tens of thousands can be present per cubic foot. Their diet includes algae, bacteria, fungi and decaying plant matter. When soil around foundations becomes saturated with water, springtails may flood through foundation cracks and into basements and crawlspaces. This may occur even in winter when melting snow floods the soil. They also can enter along pipes and drains, and in potted plants brought indoors. They can climb foundation walls and are attracted to lights.
Although springtails may enter homes in large numbers, they usually die indoors, lacking sufficient moisture, humidity and food for survival. Remove them with a vacuum cleaner. Sealing foundation cracks and gaps, correcting moisture problems, and not over-watering plants will help prevent springtail invasions.
Earwigs are brown, flat-bodied insects, up to three-fourths of an inch long. On their tail ends are pincerlike appendages used for capturing prey, for defense and mating. Earwigs can bite and pinch people who handle them, but are otherwise harmless. Their ability to bore through the ears to lay eggs inside a person’s brain is a popular myth.
Earwigs are most active at night and are attracted to lights. They rest in moist cracks and crevices by day, coming out at night to feed on a wide variety of items including mold, fungi, algae, plants, insects, spiders, fruits, vegetables, meats and garbage.
Earwigs abandon drought-stricken ground to enter structures in search of moisture. To avoid invasions, reduce outdoor lighting as well as moisture and vegetation around the foundation. Foundation perimeter treatments with residual insecticides and/or baits labeled for earwig control can help reduce earwig populations
The chirping cricket is music to some ears (especially those of female crickets), but annoying to others. Crickets hide in cracks and voids in the ground, around foundations, in woodpiles, under rocks and debris, becoming active at night to chirp (males only) and to feed on a variety of foods including plants, fruits and vegetables, and other crickets.
Commonly found indoors, the house cricket (Achetadomesticus) is tan in color and up to an inch long. Capable of living and reproducing indoors, house crickets are often found in the warmest parts of the house. They will consume human and pet foods, are attracted to fermenting liquids (vinegar, beer, etc.), are common around trash dumps, and occasionally do incidental damage to fabrics. They are attracted to lights at night.