Nobody likes to discover a colony of creepy bugs scuttling across his counter, or, even worse, crawling through his bed at night. But the fact of the matter is that most of us will, at one time or another, have to deal with an insect infestation within our homes. In fact, most people have a number of different insects hiding in the dark corners of their homes right now. Luckily, many of the most common insect home invaders are easily recognised and, with a little bit of know-how and perseverance, eventually eliminated.
Easily one of the most commonly found bugs within the house, there are many different species of ant that find their way indoors and flourish. Sugar ants, also called pharaoh ants, are a relatively tiny species (1/12 to 1/16 of an inch in length) that easily colonise any house where dirty dishes, food scraps or crumbs are left sitting around. Carpenter ants, though slightly less commonly found indoors, are much larger (1/4 to ½ of an inch) and can lead to structural damage. The easiest way to control ant populations within the home are to keep surfaces and floors clean of food, crumbs and stale water. Also, there are a wide variety of commercial ant pesticides/poisons on the market.
Cockroaches are extremely hardy home-dwellers, and often hard to spot, as they quickly vanish the moment the lights are turned on. There are many species of household cockroaches, ranging anywhere from 3/8 of an inch to 1 ½ inches long. Cockroaches are one of the most despised household insect, since they crawl all over food and contaminate it, are hard to eliminate once established and simply look disgusting. Though many people move into apartments or houses where roaches are already established, the best way to prevent these ugly critters from making their home in your home is to keep your place clean. That means, just like with ant prevention, don't leave any food scraps or dirty dishes lying around. There are also many different kinds of cockroach insecticides approved for use within the home.
Possibly one of the most disturbing revelations is to discover you are sleeping with tiny bloodsucking bugs in your bed. Bed bugs are flat, brown insects, which grow to about ¼ of an inch in length. They are active year-round, usually during the night, and feed on blood through a piercing they create in the skin. Hiding during the day in the cracks and seams of furniture, bed bugs usually enter the home via "clothing, baggage, or second-hand furniture," according to Washington State University's "Household Insects" publication. Pyrethrin pesticide spray is the usually used to eliminate bed bug infestation.
Most cat or dog owners have had to deal with fleas in the home, at one time or another. Fleas typically enter the home via pets that are allowed outdoors, and can quickly establish themselves throughout the house. These tiny brownish-red bugs are characterised by their ability to jump and their armoured body, making them nearly impossible to squash. While they prefer the shelter of your dog/cat's fur, a major infestation will usually lead to irritating bites on the legs. The best way to prevent fleas is to keep your pets indoors, but, as this is not always possible, there are several brands of flea treatment that you can buy from your local veterinarian. However, major infestations may require bug bombing of the entire house.
It is nearly impossible to keep flies of one kind or another, most commonly the house fly, from entering the home. The best you can usually do is to limit their opportunities to enter by using screens on your windows and doors. To keep fly populations to a minimum it is essential that they do not have access to rotting food, where they will lay their eggs. So it's best to keep your kitchen clean. In the rare circumstances that fly populations become a problem beyond a flyswatter's control, light traps, fly tape and/or commercially available pesticides are an option.
- GreenShare: University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program: Fact Sheets: House Flies
- Clemson University: Clemson Entomology CE Sheets: Household Insects
- Pennsylvania State University: Free Publications: Identifying Common Household Insects in Pennsylvania
- University of California: Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program: How to Manage Pests: Pests of Homes, Structures, People and Pets