Effective pest control comes from properly identifying pests. Home Front’s Learning Center provides information on the most common pests including their biology, behaviors and characteristics. Select a category below, or scroll down to learn about a certain pest.
The argentine ant is one of the most common species in the country. It enters homes to look for food or water particularly during hot/dry weather or to escape their flooded nests during rainy season. It is brown in color and is primarily a sweet eater. It is one of the most difficult ants to control because it has a tendency to set up multiple satellite colonies to ensure domination over a greater area. They are found crawling around electrical outlets, kitchen counters and bathroom ceilings.
Also known as ginger ants, red ants and tropical fire ants, these ants have painful bites. Aggressive and venomous, fire ants will bite predators multiple times and can kill small wildlife or domestic animals. They can also eat through rubber wire insulation. When these guys bite, it hurts! They can be 2 to 6 millimeters and dark-reddish in color. Fire ants typically build mounds of earth in yards.
These ants stink when you step on them. They are also known as stink ants and coconut ants, odorous ants are brownish-red and can be from 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. They build colonies under rocks and inside walls. They also appear to tolerate both hot or cold temperatures.
Pavement ants are a very common house pest. These ants will sometimes live in the harborage of larger ants, feeding on their hosts’ young. They are approximately 2.5 to 4 millimeters long and can be dark brown to blackish in color. Deriving their name from building nests in pavements though they also nest under rocks, under floors, or in walls.
Only 2 millimeters in size, these tiny golden-amber ants require a warm climate to survive. They do however thrived in temperate areas where central heating is available. They hide their nests in well protected areas such as wall voids. A single colony can support several million worker ants.
These tiny ants sometimes go undetected for weeks. Commonly seen around the kitchen sink or pantry, they also feed on cheeses, meats and are attracted to greasy food. Their name was derived from the fact that they nest near other ant nests from which they steal food and also because they feed off the larvae of other ant species.
The house spider is about 9 to 10 millimeters in size with a leg span reaching up to 60 millimeters. They are brown and have a round abdomen with darker markings and spin silky webs around prey which can be beetles, earwigs, cockroaches and other insects. They select web locations at random and if the location does not ensnare prey, they will abandon it and find a new place for construction.
Brown Recluse Spider
Despite the name, brown recluse spiders can be brown, grey or deep yellow in color. The venomous brown recluse, with a dark brown fiddle-shaped marking is about ½-inch long. They feed on other insects, preferring soft-bodied insects, hunting prey at night. At sun-up they drag their food to spin irregular off-white webs in dark secluded areas. Their bites can be hazardous to humans. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately.
Black Widow Spider
Black widow spiders bite are toxic to humans and can cause severe allergic reactions. Female black widows are about ½-inch long, and shiny black with a red hourglass marking on their underside. Some have a red or orange patch on the top side of their abdomen. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately.
They’re large, dark colored (usually in black, grey and brown patterns), and hairy ranging from 1 to 30 millimeters in length. They look much scarier than they actually are appearing more robust. Wolf spiders aren’t typically associated with webs. Inside homes they often hang out near windows, doors, house plants, or storage areas often relying on camouflage for protection.
These spiders spin expansive, elaborate organized flat orb webs. They eat other insects that get caught in their webs. They can get big, with bodies 1½-inches long and even longer legs. They are usually colored in dark brown to bright orange or yellow but re most distinguishable by the white cross-shaped group of dots on their abdomen. As their name suggests, garden spiders often live in gardens, trapping flies in their intricate webs. They also frequently engineer webs attached to fences or exterior walls.
About the same size as brown-banded roaches, the German cockroaches have two brown stripes running the length of their wings. They are about an inch or 2/3 of an inch long. Generally smaller than other species, they easily hide and fit in small areas evading humans. Because they love fermented foods, they are regularly found in unsanitary kitchen or bathroom conditions.
Dark brown, glossy and about an inch long, oriental cockroaches are similar to the Floridawoods cockroach. Preferring dark and moist habitats, they seek out warm damp areas indoors. They flourish in basements and storage areas where they can stay close to the ground. They eat decaying organic matter and prefer starches.
This type of cockroach is among the largest seen in homes. Usually between 1- to 2-inches long, reddish-brown in color with yellowish figure eight pattern on the back of their head. With wings, American cockroaches like to fly outside. They are scavengers with a special taste for warm damp places, water and alcoholic beverages. They like to eat just about anything including decaying matter and other insects.
Often mistaken for German cockroaches, brown-banded roaches are distinct with two light bands across the back of their dark brown bodies. These roaches are normally a little over an half-inch long. They prefer to live in dry environments and eat starchy foods such as wallpaper glue and book bindings. Because of this they often set up shop inside walls and furniture.
Generally over an inch long at maturity, smokey-brown cockroaches are large species cockroaches that are winged and brown in color. They live outside feeding primarily on plant matter. In flight at night, they fly toward sources of light. They prefer warm climates but live in concentration in moist concealed areas.
Wasps are insects that may look like but are neither bee nor ant. Varying species come in different sizes from 1.3 centimeters up to 3.5 centimeters. They have little to no hair. Frequently these pests build hanging honeycomb-shaped nests from eaves, overhangs, and tree branches. They live on other insects, overripe fruits, sugary drinks and human food and food wastes. Generally, many wasps sting and can be more painful than bee or scorpion stings.
Mud daubers are a type of wasp that build their nests from mud. In these mud tubes they protect their larvae and food storage. These tiny insects don’t sting but they can be a nuisance nonetheless. They are also known as”dirt diggers,” “dirt divers,” or “mud wasp.”
Fleas are external parasites that feed on blood and live on furry animals such as dogs and cats. They measure about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch and are dark reddish brown in color. They are most commonly carried into the home by pets. Fleas can cause serious medical conditions such as skin irritations and are vectors for diseases transmitted among animals and from animals to humans such as stomach flu, tapeworms and the Bubonic Plague.
Ticks are also external parasites that live off the blood of mammals and birds much like fleas although they are a little bit larger in size. They can be 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch long, appearing flat until totally engorged with blood after a feeding. Ticks can transmit diseases such Lyme disease through their saliva.
Contrary to its name of having a hundred (“centi”) feet or legs (“pes, pedis”), centipede have varying number of legs. Their body is composed of segments with each body segment having a pair of legs which can be anywhere from ten to a hundred. Their color is usually a combination of brown and red. Centipedes can be found in a variety of environments but prefer to seek out damp places. Under rocks or leaves and damp basements are common places where they are found. They feed on insects and spiders and can bite humans with their large jaws.
Scorpions vary in size from 9 millimeters to 21 centimeters. They are distinctive because of their pair of claws and segmented tail characteristically curved forward over their back with a venomous stinger. Most species’ sting is relative to a bee sting. They eat spiders, insects, and other scorpions. Nocturnal, they hide in shoes, blankets, drawers, and under rocks during the day.
Earwigs are unsightly and can be serious garden pests. They cause damage to different crops, flowers and foliage. They have amber bodies with yellow legs, and sometimes head indoors after rains. They like to hide in moist crevices during the day and are most active at night for feedings. Often called pincher bugs, they primarily eat decaying matter but do not pinch.
Yellowish-brown and about one-inch long, house crickets are somewhat related to grasshoppers. They are heard more often than they are seen. They create a distinctive chirping sound, especially in the dark. They are happy to be outside but will stray toward warm interiors. Generally harmless to humans although can bite when captured, the main damage crickets do is chewing on carpets, clothing, paper and some food.
Also known as fishmoths or carpet sharks. These pests like to eat matter with polysaccharides like paper, photos, glue, starch, and textiles. They are silvery-white, cone shaped, resembling fish in its body shape, appearance and movements. They are about ¾- to ½-inch long and are nocturnal and flee from light.
Despite the name that suggests a thousand feet (mille means “thousand” and pes “foot” in Latin), millipedes do not have that much although there are rare species that have 750 legs. Commonly they have between 36 and 400 legs. Their bodies are dark and tubular, but vary in color and size from a half inch to 12-inches in more exotic locales. Millipedes live in moist soils, usually covered by plants, rocks, or leaves, and eat decaying organic matter.
Formally as armadillidiidae but sometimes called “roly-polies” or “potato-bugs.” They are dark segmented critters about ¾-inch long belonging to a family of woodlice. They have the ability to roll into a ball when threatened hence their nickname. They feed on decaying plant matter and live in damp areas. They prefer to be underneath the cover of leaves or rocks, but can also be found under boxes in damp, ground level basements or storage rooms.
Adult pantry moths grow to 8-10 millimeters long and have a winsg span of 16-20 millimeters. They infest dried fruits and grain products including rice, pastas, flour, beans, etc. Moth maggots are able to eat into unopened packaging so keep food sealed in glass or plastic containers to keep them out. Larvae leave white silken cocoons and cocoon webbing which are usually found far away from the infested area.
Shiny white larvae of clothing moths are considered serious pests because they eat and destroy fabrics and furs deriving nourishment from them. Clothing moth adults are white, about a half inch long, and flee from light. All wool and fur clothing will need to be dry-cleaned before treatment.
Aphids are considered to be among the most destructive insects on cultivated plants in temperate regions. They are small insects varying in length from 1 to 10 millimeters that live on plants and flowers using them for food and harborage. They suck the juice out of plants with long slender mouths and secrete a sticky substance called honeydew. Signs of damage made by aphids include curled and distorted leaves.
Slugs & Snails
Snails are mostly found in gardens and ground cover where they can cause damage to garden plants. Signs of slug and snail damage include holes in plant leaves or leaves entirely missing. They will stay in high moisture areas in order to survive.
Mice are rodents that are similar to rats but generally much smaller. They measure 7 inches from nose to tail with ears relatively bare of hair and color varying from white to grey and light brown to black. Despite poor eyesight, mice get by with a very keen sense of smell and hearing. They can squeeze through small holes coming into homes by slipping through open doors, attics or vents.
Sharing almost the same characteristics as mice but distinguishable by their size, rats are large rodents. They can grow up to 16 inches in length from nose to tail with a blunt nose, small eyes and ears, and a tail shorter than its body. The most common rats in the U.S. are the Roof rat and the Norway rat. They are responsible for damaging wood by gnawing and carry many infectious diseases.