University of Maryland Extension

FAQs- Insect Pests

an ant and a termite
Photo: termite (left) and ant

Back to FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions              Click on Question to View the
                                                            Answer

We had two swarms occur near our home this week of some type of winged insects. Could they be flying ants or termites?

We have no pets in our home but yet my husband and I are being bitten by fleas.  Where are they coming from and how are they getting into our house?

I suspect that we have a termite infestation. How do we find a reputable pest control company?

Our kitchen is inundated with fruit flies. All of our fruit is kept in the refrigerator, we have cleaned off the counter and put drain cleaner down the kitchen sink.  We even tried a home remedy (water, apple-cider vinegar, and a drop soap) placed in a bottle. But, they continue to persist. What else can we do?

How concerned should I be about carpenter ants? I am assuming that is what I am seeing as sometimes I find one or two large black ants inside my home. Does that mean I have a nest inside?

Why does a group of ladybugs gather on the ceiling of my laundry room each fall?

A box of pasta in my pantry was infested with the larvae of some type of insects. Also, I have seen some small moths flying around.  I immediately disposed of the pasta and scrubbed out the cupboards. I had some other items in the closet but did not see any evidence of infestation so did not throw those packages away. What should I do at this point?

Every day I have been seeing these tiny dark, winged bugs flying and landing near the lights in the evening and the windows during the daytime. They are beetle-like and have a hard shell. I moved the couch away from the wall and found what I believe to be larvae along the baseboard. What are they and how can I get rid of them?

If I use a black light insect trap that 'zaps' or electrocutes mosquitoes will I have less of a problem? Are they really effective?

We had two swarms occur near our home this week of some type of winged insects. Could they be flying ants or termites?

It is fairly common to see swarms of ants or termites. Ant and termite swarmers have distinct features that set them apart for identification. Ants have elbowed antennae and a pinched waist. Termite swarmers have straight antennae and straight waists. If necessary you can send us a question with a digital photo attached of the insects. If the swarm happened inside a structure, it can be an indication that the colony is nesting somewhere in the structure. It would then be appropriate to have a pest control company come to do an inspection. If it happened outdoors away from the foundation, there is no need to be overly concerned.

We have no pets in our home but yet my husband and I are being bitten by fleas.  Where are they coming from and how are they getting into our house?

Most likely you have one or a few unwanted critters living in a crawl space, attic, an unused fireplace, or some other such area close or inside your home. The key to controlling the fleas is discovering where the animals are living and relocating them. Some pest management companies trap wildlife and there is a list of wildlife control cooperators on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website. After they are relocated or trapped, tightly seal up any possible entry points into your home.

I suspect that we have a termite infestation. How do we find a reputable pest control company?

Selecting a pest control company is difficult. Begin with recommendations from friends and neighbors. Shop for a pest control company as you would for a doctor or any other professional service. Most companies provide free estimates, at which time they discuss a treatment plan, cost, and warranties. Compare recommended treatment programs and estimates among several companies. A number of termiticides are registered for termite control; use of different compounds and formulations varies among companies. Companies should fully disclose information on the chemical that they will be using in the treatment. Companies that are members of the Maryland Pest Control Association and the National Pest Control Association have access to all current treatment practices. You can check a company’s reputation by calling the Better Business Bureau. Make certain that the company has an active certification license from the Maryland Department of Agriculture Pesticide Regulation Section. If you have had a termite problem, it is wise to purchase a contract that includes an annual inspection and re-treatment if necessary. Termite control is difficult and each infestation is unique. The best company can do the best job and still not completely solve the problem.

Our kitchen is inundated with fruit flies. All of our fruit is kept in the refrigerator, we have cleaned off the counter and put drain cleaner down the kitchen sink.  We even tried a home remedy (water, apple-cider vinegar, and a drop of soap) placed in a bottle. But, they continue to persist. What else can we do?

Once a structure is infested with fruit flies, all potential breeding areas must be located and eliminated. You have taken some steps in the right direction but obviously, have overlooked a problem area.  Finding the breeding site takes some detective work. Potential sites include wet sponges, mops or towels, drip pans under the refrigerator, garbage disposals, and recycling bins. All that is needed for development is a film of fermenting liquid. Spilled juice or a piece of rotting fruit, even an old potato in the back of the pantry can sustain a large population of flies. Fruit flies also enter homes through screens so make sure screens fit tightly and are in good repair.  Keep using the cider vinegar trap to trap the adults.  Insecticides are not recommended.

How concerned should I be about carpenter ants? I am assuming that is what I am seeing as sometimes I find one or two large black ants inside my home. Does that mean I have a nest inside?

Carpenter ants usually nest outside in wood piles, rotting trees or other sites with older or rotten wood. It is very common to find some in the house on occasion especially in the spring as workers travel from the nest to find food.  Occasionally, they will nest inside if there is a moisture problem and a suitable site exists. Look for a sawdust-like material called frass near moisture-damaged wood. If there is a nest indoors, in addition to treating it, you need to figure out and correct the moisture problem. Any wood that is compromised by moisture should be replaced. 

Why does a group of ladybugs gather on the ceiling of my laundry room each fall?

These are multicolored Asian ladybird beetles, a non-native ladybug. They are considered a nuisance as well as beneficial insects. In the fall they look for overwintering sites for the winter inside homes and buildings but during the growing season, they help to control pests like aphids. Adults secrete an aggregation pheromone, which attracts other adult beetles to an overwintering site. Prevent entry by sealing or caulking any cracks, crevices or holes in the exterior walls and especially around windows and doors. Simply vacuum them and dispose of them outdoors. You can then clean the area where they congregate with a cleaning solution.

A box of pasta in my pantry was infested with the larvae of some type of insects. Also, I have seen some small moths flying around.  I immediately disposed of the pasta and scrubbed out the cupboards. I had some other items in the closet but did not see any evidence of infestation so did not throw those packages away. What should I do at this point?

Sounds like an Indian meal moth infestation. The best way to control pantry pests is to find the sources of the infestation and then to discard the items.  Unopened cardboard boxes and plastic bags may contain moths or larvae so they need to be opened and checked. Wipe all shelving down with warm soapy water and vacuum crevices to remove eggs and larvae. Store pantry items in containers with tight-fitting lids, such as glass jars with rubber seals, or plastic with tightly sealed lids. An alternative is to store these items in the refrigerator or freezer until the infestation is under control. You also have the option of using pantry pest traps sold in hardware and garden centers. This is a monitoring tool only and is not for control. 

Every day I have been seeing these tiny dark, winged bugs flying and landing near the lights in the evening and the windows during the daytime. They are beetle-like and have a hard shell. I moved the couch away from the wall and found what I believe to be larvae along the baseboard. What are they and how can I get rid of them?

We believe you have an infestation of carpet beetles, a very common pest found in homes. There are several different species of carpet beetles. The two most common in this area are the varied carpet beetle and the black carpet beetle but control for both of these beetles is the same. What you found behind the couch were indeed the larvae. Inspect for and properly launder or dry-clean any infested items such as clothing, woolen items, carpets or rugs. Thoroughly vacuum carpeting, along baseboards, under and behind furniture and in closets. Then dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag when you are finished. It probably will be necessary to repeat the vacuuming process at least a couple more times and in the future do not allow pet hair or dust particles to accumulate in the area.

If I use a black light insect trap that 'zaps' or electrocutes mosquitoes will I have less of a problem? Are they really effective?

No, these devices are not effective. In fact, they can increase your insect population. They attract and kill numerous harmless and beneficial insects reducing food for birds and decreasing the numbers of natural enemies that prey on garden pests. They also do a poor job in attracting female mosquitoes, who are the ones that bite. 

Please send us a question at Ask the Experts if you have a insect pest question you would like answered. Digitial photos can be attached to your question.

Back to Top

Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2017. Web Accessibility