What kind of bug is THAT?Missy Henriksen
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Identifying your occasional pest infestation
Have you ever spied a bug dashing across your kitchen floor or
scurrying under a baseboard and thought, “What in the world is
that?” It’s clearly not a “common” pest like, say, a cockroach or spider. It’s something… different.
If you’ve ever had this experience, the bug in question likely
falls in a category we call “occasional
As their name implies, occasional invaders are pests that, on
occasion, may find their way into our homes, but are not as common
as frequent household pests, such as ants, rodents or termites.
Some occasional invaders pose more serious threats than others.
To determine the risk to your family, you will need to identify the
species. A trained pest professional will be able to properly
identify a pest species and its threats, but you can also use this
guide to do your best at determining what may be lurking within
- What to look for: Boxelder bugs are black with distinct
reddish or orange markings on their dorsum and have an elongated,
somewhat flattened shape.
- Where you’re likely to spot them: These bugs get their
common name from the fact that they are often found on and around
boxelder trees. These occasional invaders congregate on the south
sides of buildings, where the sun hits, and may migrate indoors
during the fall. You might see them in small cracks and crevices in
walls. They’ll reemerge in the spring.
- Watch out for: Boxelder bugs are not known to bite, but their
piercing-sucking mouthparts can occasionally puncture skin,
producing a red spot similar to a mosquito bite. When crushed,
boxelder bugs may leave a reddish orange stain from their fecal
material that can result in discoloration of curtains, drapes,
- What to look for: Centipedes are sometimes called
"hundred-leggers" because of their many pairs of legs. They are
yellowish to dark brown with darker stripes.
- Where you’re likely to spot them: Centipedes are typically
found in areas of high moisture. Indoors, this means they hang out
in damp basements, crawlspaces, bathrooms, or potted plants.
- Watch out for: House centipedes have poison jaws with which
they inject venom into their prey. If handled roughly, some larger
species can inflict a painful bite that can break human skin and
causes pain and swelling, similar to a bee sting.
- What to look for: Millipedes are often confused with
centipedes, but tend to look more “wormlike” in appearance. They
are sometimes called “thousand-leggers” and are blackish or
brownish, sometimes with red or orange patterns.
- Where you’re likely to spot them: Most millipedes are
nocturnal. They are typically found in areas of high moisture and
decaying vegetation, such as under trash, in piles of grass
clippings or piles of leaves. Millipedes do not usually survive
indoors for more than a few days unless there are high moisture
conditions and a food supply is present.
- Watch out for: Some millipede species give off a foul-smelling
fluid through openings along the sides of the body. Underscoring
the importance of millipede control, this fluid can be toxic to
small animals and pets, and can cause small blisters on
- What to look for: Earwigs have elongated, flattened bodies and
forcep-like cerci that are used to defend themselves and capture
prey. They are generally reddish brown to black.
- Where you’re likely to spot them: Earwigs tend to occur in
groups. They feed on plants and prefer moist, shady locations.
- Watch out for: Contrary to folklore, earwigs do not crawl into
ears at night. They do not spread diseases, but their menacing
appearance can be alarming.
- What to look for: In the case of house crickets, you’re more
likely to hear them before you see them. They are known for their
loud chirping which is caused by rubbing their front wings together
to attract females.
- Where you’re likely to spot them: House crickets are active at
night and usually hide in dark warm places during the day. They are
often attracted to electric lights in larger numbers, sometimes by
the thousands, and rest on vertical surfaces such as light poles
and house walls.
- Watch out for: Crickets can feast on fabrics and carpets,
eating large areas, leaving holes and they are especially attracted
to clothes soiled with perspiration.
- What to look for: You may know these dark brown or black bugs
as “rollie-pollies,” named for their habit of rolling into a ball
when disturbed. They are easily recognized by their back, which is
made up of seven hard individual plates.
- Where you’re likely to spot them: Pillbugs are most active at
night. They live in moist locations and are usually found under
damp objects such as trash, rocks, or decaying vegetation, where
they remain hidden during the day to reduce water loss. They
sometimes find their way indoors via door thresholds, especially
around sliding glass doors. A home invasion typically means there
is a large population immediately outside the building.
- Watch out for:Pillbugs cause no damage and are considered a
nuisance pest indoors.
- What to look for: Silverfish get their name from their silvery,
metallic appearance and fish-like shape and movements. They have no
wings, but are able to run very fast.
- Where you’re likely to spot them: Silverfish are typically seen
in moist, humid areas in the home, such as bathrooms, basements,
and attics. Silverfish can live up to a year without food, but
require a high-humidity environment.
- Watch out for: These bugs feed on paper items like wallpaper
and books, glue, clothing and foods including flour and rolled
oats. They tend to hide their presence from humans, which means any
damage they have caused could go unnoticed as well.
If you are concerned about occasional invaders getting in your
home, there are
some simple steps you can take to help prevent them from
gaining access. If you suspect an infestation of an occasional
invader pest, work with a licensed pest
professional to properly identify the species and determine the
best way to treat the problem.