Household pest identification


No homeowner wants to have pests in their home, but unfortunately infestations can occur even in the cleanest of homes. Pests inside a home carry the risk of disease or structural damage to the property. Proper extermination of household pests starts with correct identification.

If you are noticing signs of pests within your home, learn to identify the most common household pests so you can take the proper steps to eliminate and prevent infestations.


Rodents, most commonly mice and rats, affect thousands of homes every year. Most homeowners identify rodent infestations from the signs the animals leave behind. Droppings are the most common indication of a rodent infestation. Small droppings measuring between one-eighth and one-fourth inch indicate the presence of mice. Rats leave larger droppings measuring between one-fourth and one-half inch. Other signs of rodents include boxes of food with chew marks, gnaw marks on wood, wires or other household belongings and a musky aroma in the home.


Cockroaches are medium- to large-sized insects identified based on their broad, flattened bodies and long antennae. Four out of seven cockroach varieties commonly infest homes. German cockroaches have two dark stripes on the pronotum, the section behind the head, and grow to approximately one-half-inch in length. Brownbanded cockroaches are the same size as German cockroaches, but have light-coloured bands on the abdomen, wings and pronotum. Oriental cockroaches, sometimes called water bugs, measure just over 1 inch long and have smooth, dark bodies. American cockroaches grow to 2 inches, are red-brown in colour and have a figure eight pattern on the pronotum.


Ants, small insects with segmented bodies and prominent jointed legs, commonly enter homes where they find food. Ants come in a variety of colours, including black, red, yellow and brown. Most ant varieties do not live in the house, but rather forage in the home for food to take to an outdoor nest. One variety, carpenter ants, can live in the wood of a home. Most homeowners recognise an ant infestation when they see the insects in their homes.


Homes may be infested with houseflies or fruit flies. Houseflies are the most common flies found in homes, according to the National Pest Management Association. They have small oval-shaped bodies, grow to approximately a quarter-inch and have large, red-coloured eyes on dark grey bodies. Fruit flies are tiny tan-coloured insects that grow no more than an eighth-inch. They are found near decaying fruits and vegetables, their primary food source. Both types of flies carry disease and should be controlled if possible.


Homeowners rarely see termites when facing an infestation, because these insects work hard to protect themselves from exposure to air outside of their tunnels. However, the reproductive varieties of termites will leave the nest or walls of the home to find a new place to breed. These resemble ants, with dark, segmented bodies. Unlike ants, termites have straight antennae and thick waists with a soft body. Worker or soldier termites, which do not reproduce, are white in colour.