Bugs and Mice in the Trash Can

Your kitchen trash can is a treasure trove for mice and insects. Because pests often invade homes in search of food, leaving your trash can improperly sealed or overflowing could make your kitchen the setting of a pest infestation.

These pesky invaders include: cockroaches, rodents, flies and ants.

Trash Can Pest Identification


There are several types of cockroach species, including the American cockroach, the brown-banded cockroach, the Oriental cockroachand the German cockroach. However, they all have similar physical features and behavioral characteristics that make them easy to identify as cockroaches:

  • Typically reddish-brown in color
  • Oval-shaped bodies
  • Usually between 2/3” and 3” in size
  • Can move very quickly
  • Prefer dark, moist areas


Although there are several types of rodents that are known to cause infestations, house mice and Norway rats are likely to invade kitchens. They are attracted to food, including any waste found in your kitchen trash can.

Here are some ways to determine what kind of rodent has infiltrated your kitchen trash can:

House mice:

  • Dusty gray, dark gray or light brown fur
  • Cream-colored bellies
  • Large ears
  • Pointed muzzles

Norway rats:

  • Bristly brown fur with dispersed black hairs
  • Lighter underside, with gray to off-white coloring
  • Small ears
  • Blunt muzzles


House flies and fruit flies are two bugs often seen around kitchen garbage cans. House flies are attracted to all kinds of food, while fruit flies are, fittingly, most interested in fruits and vegetables. Although there are several types of fly species, their appearances are similar and easily identifiable:

  • Often black, brown or yellow, but can also be other colors, such as green
  • Large, round, forward-facing eyes
  • Typically found near food or trash cans


Odorous house ants, Argentine ants and pavement ants are the species of ants you’re most likely to attract with uncovered kitchen waste. They are notorious for finding and feasting on food in your home, and kitchen trash cans are a main source. Odorous house ants tend to prefer sweet, sugary foods, while Argentine ants and pavement ants target more savory foods like meat, bread, oils and fats.

You can use these characteristics as a guide to help you identify ants in your kitchen trash can:

  • Six legs
  • Antennae
  • Typically, black, brown or red
  • Usually between 1/3 and 1/2 of an inch in size
  • Small “waist” and large abdomen 

What are the Signs of a Bug or Mouse Infestation in Trash Cans?

To determine if your kitchen trash can has become a hotbed for kitchen pests, there are several signs that may indicate a larger infestation:


  • Large brown insects seen scattering to hiding spots when you turn on the lights
  • Cockroach droppings or egg capsules
  • A “musty” odor produced by cockroach pheromones


  • Holes chewed through the walls and floor
  • Rodent droppings in cabinets, under the sink and near food items
  • Holes or gnaw marks on food packages
  • Rodent nests made from materials like fabric and shredded paper


  • Seeing the flies flying around or in your trash can
  • Hearing their telltale “buzzing” noise as they fly


  • Seeing either a single ant or a wide, easily noticeable trail of ants leading to and from your trash can

Where Do Trash Can Insects and Rodents Come From?

Kitchen trash cans are especially attractive to pests because they contain food items. Your discarded food wrappers, expired leftovers, produce and the bits of food you scrape off your plate could all be a tasty treat for a nosy pest.

Pests can enter your home through any openings to the outside. This can include any cracks, crevices or holes in the walls of your home as well as holes or tears in window or door screens.

How to Keep Pests Out of the Trash Can

By keeping your home well-maintained and your kitchen tidy, you can effectively discourage pests from feeding off of your kitchen trash can.

Here are some simple, helpful tips to keep your trash can pest-free:

  • Regularly dispose of trash in properly sealed receptacles to protect it from pests.
  • Ensure the area around the trash can is free of any crumbs or spills.
  • Seal any cracks or crevices around the exterior of the home with a silicone-based caulk, steel wool or a combination of both.
  • Repair damaged screens and install door sweeps.

Find a Pest Control Professional for Garbage Can Bugs and Mice 

Wondering how to get rid of insects in your kitchen? If you find any pests in the kitchen or suspect an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional. A qualified professional will conduct a kitchen inspection to identify the source of the problem and recommend a proper course of treatment. They will look for moisture accumulation from leaky pipes, signs of pest damage to food products in the pantry and more.