How to Identify Home Insects

Updated February 21, 2017

Once insects move into your home, they become pests. Knowing how to identify these insects can help you learn how to eliminate them from your home. One way includes removing what insects need -- a place to live, food and water. Find out why the insect entered your home. Identifying these pests correctly can assist you when deciding whether to use a non-chemical procedure to eliminate the insects, or whether the use of a pesticide would be better.

Locate the petiole or first part of the abdomen of an ant in your house with a magnifying glass. The odorous house ant, named because of the rotten coconut odour it emits when crushed, and the carpenter ant will each have one node on the petiole. Other ants you may find in your house include Pharaoh ants, red imported fire ants, southern fire ants and thief ants, and they all have two nodes on their petioles.

Measure the approximate size visually of the odorous house ant and inspect its colour. Adult odorous house ants have a dark brown or glossy black colouring, measuring 1/8 inch long. Carpenter ants measure 1/4 to 1/2 inches with a black colouring or a combination of red and black. The small, 1/16-inch Pharaoh ants have colours ranging from yellow to orange, red imported ants have reddish bodies and can be 1/16 to 1/5 inches long. Southern fire ants have a yellowish-brown head and thorax along with a black abdomen. Gold hairs cover their bodies. Southern fire ants can be 1/8-inch to over 1/4-inch in length. Tiny thief ants all grow to 1/32-inch in length, and have yellow to light brown colouring.

Notice where the house ant travels and what it eats. Odorous house ants love proteins and sweets, and congregate around heaters and water pipes, nesting in wall openings. Carpenter ants hang around window frames and enjoy eating sweets. Pharaoh ants enjoy proteins, fats and sweets and travel in your home along plumbing pipes and electrical wires, nesting behind baseboards, wall openings, folds of clothing and in hollow curtain rods. Southern fire ants eat grease, proteins, sweets and almonds. Find these fire ants in crawl spaces, under carpets and in holes in walls. Besides stealing food from other ants, thief ants feed on proteins, greasy foods, sweets and can crawl inside of packaged foods. Locate colonies of thief ants behind baseboards, in cabinets and holes in your walls. Thief ants also use electrical wires to travel to rooms throughout your house and enter electrical sockets.

Discover bed bugs hiding in locations of your house, such as behind picture frames, inside upholstery, in your mattress seams and box springs and behind wallpaper.

Inspect the bodies of bed bugs; you will find they have no wings with flat, oval bodies and a dark-red or rusty red colouring.

Examine your bedding for small, round, red-brown or red stains and smears. Bed bugs feed on your blood on your exposed skin and leave their excretions along with some blood on your sheets.

Identify recluse spiders by their brown colouring, 3/8-inch length body, six equal sized eyes in three pairs and fine hairs on their abdomens and legs.

Locate recluse spiders in dark places of your home, including closets, basements, attics, storage boxes, behind your furniture and within your shoes and clothing.

Notice any white or grey, sticky silk webs usually found in the corners of your home. Avoid looking behind the webs to keep from startling these spiders, to prevent getting bitten. Recluse spiders build silk webs to hide behind during the day rather than using them to capture prey, and then they look for insect prey during the night. Brown recluse spiders can live as long as two years in your home, existing without food or water for six months.

Observe how a brown recluse spider bites just once as a last defensive action before being killed. The bite feels like a pin prick, and usually leaves a small red mark followed by a small, white blister and swelling around the blister. Some experience stinging and then major pain after the bite. Note that the brown recluse spider bite will leave a 1 1/2 by 2 3/4-inch lesion or smaller, which appears red, then blue-white in colour surrounded by red. Expect to heal successfully from a brown recluse spider bite. The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program states that only about 10 per cent of people receive scarring and tissue damage from the venom of the brown recluse spider when bitten.


Maintain a clean kitchen and dining area by keeping your floors, counters and sinks free of food. Keep your appliances clean also, as well as behind your refrigerators.


See your doctor if a recluse spider bites you to receive an antibiotic treatment to kill bacteria, although it does not affect the venom. Brown recluse bites can take a long time to heal, providing a danger to the elderly, children and those in poor health. Get rest, use an ice pack for your bite wound swelling and keep the affected limb elevated.

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About the Author

Chyrene Pendleton has been a business owner and newsletter editor for more than seven years. She is a freelance writer with over 25 years experience and teaches a variety of topics, including alternative health, hair care and metaphysics. Pendleton is a certified television show producer, radio talk-show host and producer, and a computer programmer with a bachelor's degree in computer science.