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How to identify bugs in the house

Updated April 17, 2017

Identify which types of pesky household insects are invading your home prior to contacting the exterminator. Most home-invasive insects are easily distinguished from each other. If not, characterise the bugs by identifying traits and determining where the majority of the infestation is occurring.

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  1. Collect the bugs for identification. It is useful to obtain several types of each insect in case identifying features are not clearly visible on one specimen. Locate the insect and grasp it gently with the hands or tweezers. Place it in a collection jar. Shallow jars allow easy viewing of the insect. Smaller pests such as termites and ants can be gathered using an aspirator. Place a label on each jar stating when and where you found the bug.

  2. Identify the bugs you have collected. There are seven basic indoor insects: cockroaches, silverfish, firebrats, ants, termites, fleas and bedbugs. Specimens should be sorted by common characteristics. Larger insects that have flattened bodies, large antennae and a shield-shaped area behind the head are cockroaches. Silverfish and firebrats are wingless creatures with a broad head that tapers towards the tail. They also have long antennae and three bristles at the end of the tail. Ants and termites may be difficult to distinguish and should be grouped together for further inspection. Group together extremely small insects and identify them as either fleas or bedbugs.

  3. Differentiate the species of bugs that are infesting your home. Use a magnifying glass to examine the bug specimens. If you discover that you have cockroaches, learn which species of cockroach you have collected. Cockroaches that invade homes are generally either German roaches or brown-banded roaches. German roaches have two dark stripes on the back of the head, while brown-banded roaches have lighter stripes across the abdomen and wings.

  4. Distinguish firebrats from silverfish. Firebrats are grey and lack the metallic quality found on silverfish. They also have darker spots and bands rather than the even colouring of the silverfish. Silverfish live in damp environments, while firebrats thrive in hot environments.

  5. Ants and termites are similar in appearance but can be easily distinguished upon close inspection. Unlike termites, ants have a constriction about their waist called a petiole. Winged ants have larger forewings than hind wings, while termite wings are the same size.

  6. Fleas have bodies that are flattened from side to side. They are dark brown and wingless. Fleas will jump with slight aggravation. Fleas can be found on pets and pet bedding and in carpets. Bedbugs are extremely small, flat insects. These oval insects are often found in mattresses and furniture. Bedbugs are brown in colour before feeding and their flattened bodies are easily recognisable. After feeding, their bodies are red in colour and appear swollen.

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Things You'll Need

  • Collection jars
  • Tweezers/forceps
  • Magnifying glass
  • Aspirator

About the Author

Heather Monroe has been writing for Demand Studios since March, 2009. Heather enjoys blogging about California's beautiful Inland Empire and its rich history. She has also published her own line of greeting cards and tee-shirts. Although she got a bit of a late start, Heather is pursuing a degree in Journalism.

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