Coming across a small bug in your home is never a pleasant experience. While most household bugs are harmless, some can pose health risks, inflict structural damage, or, in worst-case scenarios, grow into a full-blown bug infestation. With the wide variety of bugs homeowners come up against, it can be challenging to identify them and fully understand the potential threat they pose. To help with this, we’ve compiled a list of the most common house bugs to look out for, along with some tips on keeping them out.
One of the most common household bugs is ants. These little workhorses are present across almost all 50 states and inhabit most continents. There are nearly 1,000 ant species in North America, and it’s only a matter of time until every homeowner will have to deal with these pesky infiltrators.
Most Common Species and What They Look Like
While there are many different species of ants, here are a few of the most common types encountered across the U.S.:
- Argentine ants: Have you ever stumbled upon a massive, living hoard of near-microscopic ants swarming all over your pantry or countertop? If so, you have come into contact with Argentine ants. These ants, also known as sugar ants, are tiny, around 1/16 of an inch, with short legs and shiny bead-like heads. They have some of the largest colonies by number, often infesting entire yards. These ants are drawn to sugar and sweet substances, attracting hundreds of ants to swarm over food sources. While most common in moist environments, these ants are pervasive and exist in most climates.
- Carpenter ants: These ants are dark black, with longer than average legs and antennae. They’re also slightly larger than the average ant and are one of the most destructive species you can come across. These ants burrow into damp or dead wood, creating extensive (and highly destructive) burrows. They’re common in wet wooded areas and hide in logs, stumps, and firewood. Unfortunately, they will also burrow into patios, walls, and any other wooden structure they can access.
- Pavement ants: These ants are the most common species in the U.S., and they have dark brown to black bodies, short legs, and wide visible pincers. They can often be seen nesting in large, sand-like mounds that protrude from cracks in pavement, driveways, or sidewalks. While these ants can cause foundation damage in extreme cases, they’re often considered a minor nuisance. If they find their way indoors, they can contaminate food, so you should keep all loose food and sugar in sealed containers.
- Odorous house ants: Easily the most noxious entry on this list, the most identifying characteristic of this ant is the foul odor that arises after you smash one of them. This odor smells like rotten coconut, banana, or pungent blue cheese. Otherwise, they’re smaller, have short legs, long antennae, and are light brown. These ants live in soil, trash, debris, or firewood and love to find their way into homes for food.
How Dangerous Are Ants?
While most ants pose no health threats to adults, pets, and children, they can contaminate foodstuff. Furthermore, some ant species can cause significant structural damage to your home, like carpenter or pavement ants. At worst, some ants can be highly hostile and inflict minor to severe injuries, such as fire or bull ants. While fire or bull ants are some of the nastiest you can come across, they’re far less common and confined to specific environments.
How To Prevent Ants
Preventing ants from infesting a home comes down to maintenance and good homeowner habits. Primarily, you should keep your yard neat, trim, and clean. An overgrown and unruly yard will give ants the perfect environment to settle into, then it’s just a matter of time before they make their way indoors. Things you can do outside to help further keep ants away are:
- Don’t stack firewood next to the house.
- Keep the lawn and garden free of trash and debris.
- Keep trash cans closed and sealed.
- Utilize insecticide or natural repellents on the perimeter of the home and property.
- Clean up and dispose of fallen trees, branches, and stumps.
- Keep grains, sugars, pet food, and cereals inside sealed containers.
Common, parasitic, and difficult to spot, bedbugs can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. While named after their favorite hiding spot, bedrooms, bedbugs, like fleas, exist in all manner of habitats and can get onto clothing, bedding, or luggage. They can live in many places, like airports, benches, and even movie theaters. Bedbugs, once attached, will quickly infest a bedroom mattress and begin feeding on its inhabitants, leaving behind small welt-like bites.
What Do Bedbugs Look Like?
Bedbugs are small, flat, round, wingless insects and about the size of an apple seed. Their color ranges from light to dark reddish-brown. Once fed, they will take on a darker tone, elongate slightly, and grow to a more ovular shape.
How Dangerous Are Bedbugs?
While bedbugs don’t pose any serious health risk, their bites can cause an allergic reaction in large numbers. Bedbugs also don’t pose any serious risk to the structure of homes. However, homeowners should quash infestations quickly, as bedbugs can reproduce rapidly and can be very difficult to dislodge.
How To Prevent Bedbugs
Preventing bedbugs begins outside the home. Homeowners should always check bedding and furniture they’re using while abroad — check the corners of the sheets and the back of the bed with a bright flashlight, looking for dark spots or bloodstains. Once back home, homeowners should vacuum all suitcases and wash all clothing or bedding in hot water. Furthermore, thoroughly check and clean the used furniture before bringing it into the home.
While living in all habitats across the country, cockroaches are most common in urban areas like cities. Cockroaches are widespread, pervasive, and resistant to all manner of removal and extermination. Even worse, roaches are known to carry disease and are prone to contaminating foodstuffs. Cockroaches can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare, as they can quickly grow to become an infestation if not managed right away.
What Do Cockroaches Look Like?
The appearance of cockroaches can vary across regions, but the common cockroach is about 2 inches long, with dark brown coloration. They have flat, ovular bodies with long antennae and legs. Most cockroaches possess the ability to fly, but they can’t do it well. Instead, they flutter about bumping into everything. Spotting a roach infestation early can be difficult, but homeowners can look out for shed wings, carapaces, and droppings.
How Dangerous Are Cockroaches?
The cockroach is one of the most dangerous on this list when it comes to health risks. With a well-deserved reputation as disease carriers, cockroaches can carry E. coli, salmonella, and over 30 other diseases. Cockroaches are also dangerous due to the nature of their infestations. They swarm buildings, multiply en masse, and are particularly difficult to remove once inside. Due to their diseases and how hard they are to dislodge, you should treat cockroaches immediately and aggressively once you spot one.
How to Prevent Cockroaches
Much like ants, keeping cockroaches away comes down to cleanliness. The first step is removing food and trash from the home and ensuring your kitchen is free of messes. Second, cockroaches primarily enter the home through cardboard or paper containers, so check cardboard boxes, paper bags, and similar containers when bringing them in. Finally, if the home is in an area prone to cockroaches, make sure that all cracks, holes, and crevices on the walls, foundation, and siding are sealed. This essential pest control practice will help keep them out. Homeowners should also regularly check and, if needed, replace the weather stripping on their windows.
With one of the fiercest-looking appearances and the scariest reputation on this list, earwigs can frighten homeowners upon seeing them scuttle across the floor. However, earwigs are harmless. The long-standing myth of them tunneling into the brain through the ear has been thoroughly debunked. Instead, these critters pose a more serious threat to houseplants and, more importantly, a homeowner’s garden. Earwigs primarily eat plant matter, often harming the leaves, roots, or body structure of plants.
What Do Earwigs Look Like?
Earwigs can grow up to an inch long, with thin bodies, wings, short legs, and a nasty pair of pincers. They’re dark brown, with striped abdomens, and can excrete a foul odor as a defense mechanism.
How Dangerous Are Earwigs?
Earwigs pose no serious health risks to humans or pets and do not carry diseases. Their pinches are not for show and do possess the ability to deliver a nasty pinch, but otherwise, they are harmless. Besides being a menace to gardens, earwigs cause no structural damage to homes.
How To Prevent Earwigs
Earwigs, like drain flies, are known to access homes through drainage and water systems. The bests steps a homeowner can keep these pests away are as follows:
- Regularly cleaning gutters.
- Set sprinklers and irrigation systems to water early in the morning so lawns dry throughout the day.
- Keep piles of leaves, mulch, debris, and other plant matter away from the house foundation and yard.
- Make sure all crawl space window screens are intact and free of holes.
Common throughout the summer months, flies are an ever-present nuisance across the globe. With over 16,000 different fly species in the U.S., there are plenty of these buzzing nuisance bugs to go around. However, you’re most likely to come across the common housefly, Musca domestica. Due to how common these bugs are, most people discount them as a simple nuisance. However, they can pose a serious threat to your health and can, in rare cases, even infest a home.
What Do Flies Look Like?
The common housefly is small, with a green-black body, short legs, transparent wings, and bright red eyes. Other common species are brown, green, or tan. All flies will boast six legs, large compound eyes, and a set of wings. All flies are easily identifiable by their telltale buzzing sound emitted when flying.
How Dangerous Are Flies?
While most homeowners discount flies as a minor annoyance, in reality, they can create severe health problems, especially if left unattended. Most flies harbor at least 65 illnesses, with salmonella, E. coli, shingles, typhoid fever, and cholera among the nastiest. While most flies do not bite or sting (with the notable exception of the horsefly), they instead land on food. After landing, flies regurgitate a gastric acid to dissolve their food and spread any diseases within their system.
While fly infestations of homes are uncommon, they can happen. A fly will often wander into a house drawn by the smell of food and then get stuck inside. So seeing one or two throughout the summer is generally no cause for concern, but if they continue to show up or appear in large numbers, or if any larvae are found, there is likely a full-on fly infestation.
How To Prevent Flies
Keeping flies out, especially in the summer, can be challenging. They’re fast, small, and constantly looking for ways inside. However, there are a few habits homeowners can get into to help curb this problem.
- Keep garbage bins closed and sealed.
- Ensure window and door screens are free of holes and tears.
- Do not leave windows and doors without screens open for extended periods.
- Do not keep uncovered food out.
- Keep countertops and kitchen surfaces clean.
Often confused with fruit flies, gnats are tiny, buzzing insects that can rapidly infest a home and turn into a harmful nuisance. Gnats are just as common as flies, existing in most habitats and plaguing almost every U.S. state. Gnats are far more prevalent in warm, wet areas, particularly liking places with large amounts of mold, decaying plant matter, and running water.
What Do Gnats Look Like?
Gnats are less than a quarter of an inch in length. They have elongated, thin bodies, long legs, and upturned, semi-transparent wings that are the lengths of their bodies. These small black bugs like to swarm, feed, and breed in massive groups, traveling throughout the air like a buzzing, agitating cloud.
How Dangerous Are Gnats?
Much like houseflies, people underestimate gnats’ threat to humans and livestock. While some gnat species are harmless, others are known to bite humans. The most common species of gnats that bite are buffalo gnats, deer flies, biting midges, and sand flies. In these species, it is usually the female that bites, needing to consume blood to lay eggs. When biting the skin of humans, these species can spread various diseases, such as pinkeye, to their victims.
How To Prevent Gnats
Gnats like rotted plant matter, moisture, and standing water. To keep their population under control, homeowners will need to reduce these elements in and around their homes as much as possible. Ensure that all sod, compost, and mulch are kept in containers and away from home. Homeowners should also ensure that their lawn is not overwatered and can dry between sprinkler or irrigation cycles. For inside the house, make sure to throw away fruit and vegetables right away while also keeping cooking areas clean and devoid of trash and food.
Often mistaken for ladybugs, lady Asian beetles are a common household pest that can infest your gardens and home. These polka-dotted pests like to invade homes in the fall, overwintering during the colder months and then jumping ship to your flowerbeds come springtime. While not harmful, they can quickly infest a home, becoming a nuisance that clusters around your windows, baseboards, and doors.
What Do Lady Asian Beetles Look Like?
These beetles look remarkably similar to ladybugs, sporting an orange to red wing cover, black dots, a black head, and a white “W” or “M” marking on their head. They have a round body, very short legs, and small antennae.
How Dangerous Are Lady Asian Beetles?
Lady Asian beetles are not harmful to humans, as they carry no diseases and are not poisonous. They can bite, but it’s described as a slight pinch and is not known to be harmful. Lady beetles can also irritate specific allergies, causing stuffy noses, watery eyes, and respiratory issues.
The most significant issues with lady beetles are their ability to multiply quickly and their noxious odor. A single lady beetle can lay upwards of 1,000 eggs, growing to full size and further reproducing in just a few weeks. These beetles will then release a pheromone to attract more beetles, resulting in an unpleasant chemical smell around the infested area.
How To Prevent Asian Lady Beetles
Lady Asian beetles are preventable by sealing cracks and holes in walls and siding, replacing weather strips, and patching holes in screens. Lady beetles also like to enter the home through plants brought in from the garden or lawn, so if you bring a plant inside, check it thoroughly for lady beetles and eggs.
While many spider species can make their way into homes, the most common variety a homeowner is likely to encounter is the common basement spider, or sometimes called the daddy long-legged spider. Many homeowners are off-put by spiders, primarily due to their stigma in popular culture, predatory instincts, and naturally unnerving appearance. However, these arthropods don’t deserve the rap; and are one of the more helpful species of spiders that pose little to no threat to humans. These creepy-crawlies are most often found in basements, closets, garages, and attics.
What Do Basement Spiders Look Like?
These spiders have thin bodies, long spindly legs, and white abdomens. They have brown coloration with darker legs. Their bodies are about a quarter-inch in length, with their legs at a whopping 2 inches.
Are Basement Spiders Dangerous?
Basement spiders are not venomous and are not known to bite humans. They do not carry any diseases nor cause any structural damage to a home. However, unlike most other spider species, basement spiders do not consume their webbing once they move on from the web, so this can result in dozens of cobwebs coating their habitat. These spiders also like to live next to one another, resulting in sizable infestations.
How To Prevent Basement Spiders
Preventing basement spiders is relatively easy. All a homeowner has to do is ensure cracks and openings in their basement walls are sealed with silicone caulk and keep screens in basement windows devoid of holes. They can remove webs, eggs, and spiders with a broom or vacuum.
While not the first odorous pest on this list, the stink bug is undoubtedly the most famous for its potent aroma. Also referred to as shield bugs, this foul-smelling bug can wreak havoc on a garden and leave your home smelling like cilantro and burnt tires.
What Do Stink Bugs Look Like?
Stink bugs are small, flat, and shaped roughly like a shield. They have six short legs, antennae, and wings. They primarily come in two colors, brown and green. Brown stink bugs usually have splotches of differing shades of brown, while the green variety is a bright solid green.
Are Stink Bugs Dangerous?
Stink bugs pose no threat to humans or pets, as they harbor no diseases and cannot do any damage to homes. They are known to bite, which can swell up and become irritated. They are also damaging to gardens and lawns. Stink bugs eat by draining the fluids from plants and can do severe damage in large enough numbers. Stink bugs are also known to congregate in homes during the colder months. When this happens, they can reproduce quickly, leading to an infestation.
How To Prevent Stink Bugs
Like many other entries on this list, homeowners can keep stink bugs at bay with good home maintenance, pest control strategies, and proper lawn care. Stink bugs are also drawn to standing water, such as pools, ponds, and birdbaths. Therefore, reducing this around your home and regularly cleaning permanent fixtures can help keep stink bugs away.
Household insects are common problems for homeowners. If not tended to, these pests can quickly become an infestation, causing harm to the home’s inhabitants and structural damage to the property. Keeping these tiny insect invaders out is easy; proper home maintenance and regular pest control are usually enough to avoid a serious pest problem. For those more resilient or invasive species, active steps like DIY traps or pest control companies can be used to remove the pest and reduce the damage they can cause.