Key points to help in identifying household insects
Proper identification is the first step prior to managing any pest. Submit photos and questions to Ask Extension if you need assistance.
In most circumstances, an infestation can be brought under control without hiring a pest control company.
Proper identification, sanitation, managing moisture in and around the home, vacuuming, sealing off insect entry points, proper firewood storage, using a dehumidifier are some examples of management techniques to help reduce or eliminate an indoor insect problem.
Avoid using pesticides indoors when at all possible to help minimize exposure. The risk of exposure to toxic materials is much higher indoors than outdoors. Insecticides do not break down indoors nearly as fast as outdoors. Indoors, pesticides are not exposed to degradation by temperature changes, wind, rain, soil microorganisms, etc.
Identification key for insect pests in and around the home
|Clothes Moths: 3/8 - 1/2 inch wingspan, buff-colored moth, found in closets, bedroom, etc.||Locate infested fabric, carpeting, etc. Check underneath wool rugs for larvae. Vacuum and shampoo rugs or dry clean clothes. Store cleaned fabrics in sealed bags or cedar chests.|
|Indian Meal Moth: 5/8 inch long moth, outer 1/2 to 2/3 of wings reddish-copper colored, usually found in the kitchen or pantry.||Locate infestation and dispose of infested material. Store food in airtight plastic, glass containers, or in the freezer. Check stored birdseed, pet food, and dried foods.|
|Drain Flies: tiny (2mm), gray, fuzzy, moth-like insect, found in bathrooms, near sinks.||Clean drains with enzyme cleaner; manually clean traps.|
|Fruit Flies: 1/8 inch long, tan-colored fly, red eyes, found in the kitchen, around bird cages, or recycling bins.||When possible, store fruit or vegetables in the refrigerator. Do not keep fruit or vegetables on counters for extended periods. Rinse cans and bottles for recycling.|
|House Flies: 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, dull gray flies, found in and around homes. (See also maggots).||Locate larval breeding sites and eliminate them. This includes timely removal of trash and keeping garbage cans as dry and clean as possible. To prevent adults from entering homes, tighten screens, windows, and doors. Seal all holes and entry points. Make sure all vents are tightly screened. Trap adult flies with baited fly traps or sticky fly tape.|
|Blow Flies, Greenbottle Flies, and Bluebottle Flies: Similar to house flies (see above), but metallic blue or green in color, found in and around the home. Breed in dead animals, feces, and/or garbage, depending on species.||Locate and eliminate the larval breeding site. Examples of breeding sites include a dead mouse, squirrel, or bird in the attic or chimney, pet feces in the yard, or dirty garbage cans. Locate and remove a dead animal. Timely removal and proper disposal of pet waste. Clean garbage cans regularly. Control of adults same as for house flies.|
|Cluster Flies: 3/8 inch long, dark gray, nonmetallic flies. Sluggish fliers, not related to garbage or manure. Larvae parasites of earthworms. May suddenly appear indoors around windows or lamps in the fall, spring, or winter. Adults enter homes in late August to overwinter and occupy attics and/or wall voids that are warmed by winter sun exposure (most often southern).||Prevention is the best control. In summer, seal up access openings. Place tight screens over vents. Caulk or seal cracks and holes. Inside the home, swat or vacuum any flies that appear.|
|Phorid Flies: Adults are about 1/64 - 1/4" in size.
This is one of several species of small black flies that may occasionally become pests in buildings. They breed in decaying organic matter of plant or animal origin.
|Removing or drying out the organic matter where the larvae live will eliminate the problem.|
|Carpet, Cigarette, and Drugstore Beetles: 1/4 inch or less, oval to round beetles, brown, multicolored, or black, found in any room. May fly to windows or lamps.||Vacuum all areas thoroughly. Put clean woolens away in sealed containers. Check stored food products and spices for infestations and dispose of infested material. Store all herbs, spices, and dried food products in airtight containers. Check for dead mice, old bee, or hornet nests, etc., in wall voids or attic. These beetles feed on dead insects and dead animals.|
|Bark Beetles: 1/4 inch or less, cylindrical, red, black, or brown in color, found around windows, lamps, woodpiles near the fireplace, especially in winter. Emerge from logs used for firewood.||Check fire wood logs for small, round holes in the bark. Only store enough firewood for a day or two in the home to help prevent the emergence of the beetles.|
|Wood Borers: 1/2 inch or larger, narrow, variously colored, long or short antennae, some metallic. Associated with firewood. May see sawdust under firewood and oval, or D-shaped exit holes in the bark of logs.||Only store enough firewood for a day or two in the home to help prevent the emergence of the beetles.|
|Flying Ants (Reproductive Form): small to large, brown to black, pinched waist, six legs, 2 pairs of wings. Found in basement, attic, kitchen, or other rooms in the home and outdoors.||Identify ants. Seal entry from outdoors. Use bait stations to control indoors. Granular baits and bait stations are available for outdoor use.|
|Termite Swarmers: Dark brown, 1/4 inch, 4 long wings of equal length, fluttery flight habit, indoors or outdoors. Reproductive forms of subterranean termites, usually emerge from areas of infestation.||Contact professional pest control company.|
|Fleas: 1/16 - 1/8 inch long, brownish-black
and flattened side to side. Wingless, but strong jumpers and bite.
|Thoroughly vacuum carpeting, upholstery, under furniture, and along baseboards. Dispose of bag when finished. Use product containing the insect growth regulator methoprene to control flea larvae. Follow all label directions. Contact your veterinarian for the best control of fleas on pets. If there are no pets in the home, raccoons or squirrels may be nesting in a chimney, attic, or under a porch.|
|Cave or Camel Crickets: large, over 1 inch, hump-backed, wingless, brown, with long antennae and legs, usually found in
the basement. Don’t chirp.
|Prevent entry by tightening screens,
weatherstripping doors, and windows.
Dehumidify basements. Use sticky traps labeled for cricket control. Keep pet foods and dry food products in tight containers.
|House or Field Crickets: large, over 1 inch, winged, black or brown, cricket-like, usually found in basement or ground floor. Chirp||Refer to cave or camel crickets above.|
|Springtails: tiny, 1/8 inch or less, gray to white insects, jump, in bathrooms, around flower pots, or areas of high humidity.||Dehumidify area. Clean mold and mildew. Allow media in potted plants to dry out between waterings or repot with fresh media.|
Running, walking, or crawling
|Millipedes: 1 inch or longer, dark brown, many short legs, curl up and die indoors, usually found in the basement or near the outside entry door.||Prevent entry into the home. Weather-strip doors, install new thresholds, caulk around basement window frames. Dehumidify damp basements.|
|House Centipedes: over 1 inch, grayish-yellow, with 3 longitudinal dark stripes, a pair of very long, slender antennae on the head, 15 pairs of long legs arranged along the sides of its body. Move rapidly, primarily found in basements, damp closets, and bathrooms. May be seen in any room or outdoors.||Predatory, feed on indoor insects and spiders. Escort outdoors.|
|Spiders: size variable, 8 legs, color variable, yellowish to black, smooth or hairy, may or may not have web.||Predators, they feed on insects and other spiders. Check for other insects in the house that may be sources of food for spiders. Many enter the house in the fall. Caulk and seal cracks around doors and windows.|
|Silverfish or Firebrats: flattened, about 1/2 inch with 3 tails, gray or tan, found in boxes, cabinets, bathrooms, near furnace, other warm areas, etc.||Dehumidify area, store books, and papers in sealed containers.|
|Earwigs: brown, 1/2 inch long, with pincers on the rear.||Occasionally enter home. Swat or escort outdoors. Keep debris, mulch, and other hiding places away from the house.|
|Carpet Beetle Larvae: 1/4 inch long or less, carrot-shaped, furry, found in closets, bathrooms, kitchens, etc.
Carpet Beetle Adults: 1/4 inch or less, oval to round beetles, brown, multi-colored or black, found in any room
|Vacuum all areas thoroughly. Put clean woolens away in sealed containers. Check stored food products and spices for infestations, and dispose of infested material. Store all herbs, spices, and dried food products in airtight containers. Check for dead mice, old bee or hornet nests, etc., in wall voids or attic. These beetles feed on dead insects and dead animals.|
Sawtoothed Grain Beetles: 1/10 inch, narrow, brown, 6 saw-like projections on each side of the thorax (middle section of the body), found in pantry, garage, any room in the house where grain, dried fruit, or birdseed may be stored.
Rice/Granary Weevils: 1/8 - 1/4 inch, narrow, reddish-brown to black, distinct snout. Rice weevil has 4 faint reddish to yellowish marks on wing covers (elytra). Found in the room in the house where whole and processed grain and grain products are stored. Rice weevils are attracted to light and can fly; granary weevils cannot fly.
Vacuum adult beetles. Locate infestation and dispose of infested material.
|Pillbugs and Sowbugs: 1/2 - 3/4 inch long, segmented, gray, oval some roll up into a ball. Usually found near the ground-level door.||Prevent entry into home. Weather-strip doors and new thresholds. Need moist environments, die quickly indoors.|
|Cockroaches: 1/2 inch or larger, brown to black, long antennae, flattened, kitchen and or bathroom, often seen at night.||Have species identified. Sanitation primary control. Use roach baits.|
|Booklice: very tiny (1-2 mm long), gray to light brown insects, some may be winged. They are found in or around stored papers and books.||Dehumidify area, store books, and papers in sealed containers.|
Ants: small to large, brown to black, pinched waist, six legs, usually in the kitchen, occasionally in other rooms.
|Identify ants. Block entry from outdoors. Use bait stations to control indoors. Granular bait and bait stations are also available for outdoor use.|
|Bird Mites: very tiny, mite-like, bite, come into house through windows, vents, etc.||Remove bird nests from gutters, vents, air conditioners, etc. Vacuum mites indoors.|
|Clover Mites: very tiny, reddish-brown, globe-shaped body, yellowish legs. The first pair of legs much longer than the other, held in front of the body. Crawl up sunny sides of buildings, enter through cracks, around windows, doors, and vents. Live primarily in lawns, feed on grass, cause no damage. Generally a problem in newer lawns and new home sites.||Vacuum any mites indoors. Exclude mites by caulking around window and door frames and any cracks. Use weather stripping where possible to keep them from crawling under windows. A temporary method of excluding mites is to seal up windows with masking tape.|
|Boxelder Bugs: red and black insects on the south side of the house, sometimes come indoors.||Tighten window screens, seal cracks, and screen vents. Vacuum indoors. No control is needed outdoors.|
|Multicolored Lady Beetles (bug): color variable, orange to red, some with spots, 1/4, round beetle, around windows, screen porches, side of the house on a sunny day in fall.||Sweep up indoors and release outside, harmless. Predators of aphids. Seal up entry points on outside of house.|
Maggot or caterpillar-like
|Fly Maggots (larvae of House or Blow Flies): whitish, 1/2 inch or slightly longer, no visible head, in the trash, crawling across the floor, possibly from fireplace or vent.||Locate the source of the infestation, possibly a dead bird or squirrel in the chimney, attic, etc., and remove.|
|Indian Meal Moth larva: whitish, 1/2 inch, brown head, in stored products, crawling up walls, etc.||Locate infestation and dispose of infested material. Feed on various stored products including: cereals, grain products, birdseed, dried fruit, etc. Store food in plastic or glass containers with tight lids|
|Flea Larvae: worm-like, whitish in color, and about 1/5 inch long when mature. Found in carpeting, cracks in hardwood floors, bedding of pets. (see also Fleas under Jumping)||Thoroughly vacuum carpeting, upholstery, under furniture, and along baseboards. Dispose of bag when finished. Use product containing the insect growth regulator methoprene to control flea larvae. Follow all label directions. Contact your veterinarian for the best control of fleas on pets. If there are no pets in the home, raccoons or squirrels may be nesting in a chimney, attic, or under a porch.|
Bees and wasps
|Large (up to 1.4 inches), brownish with dull orange stripes, may fly at night, strips bark from trees and shrubs, especially lilacs.||European Hornets: nest in hollow logs, trees, outbuildings, etc. Only true hornet in North America.||Control difficult, nest location may be difficult to find if near a wooded area. May need to consult professional pest control company for control.|
|1/2 - 1 inch, black and yellow, not fuzzy, aggressive, may nest in-ground or in a gray papery sphere attached to house, tree, or shrub.||Yellowjackets: tend to be a problem late summer into early fall. Can be aggressive around food late in the season.||Use wasp and hornet spray in the evening or early morning, while there is natural light. Read and follow label directions. Do not shine a flashlight directly on nest opening. If nesting in a wall void call a pest control operator, do not seal the opening to outside, as they may chew through interior walls.|
|1 inch, black with white or yellow markings, long legs, narrow waist, nests in a gray, papery sphere in tree or shrub.||Baldfaced Hornets: actually aerial nesting yellowjackets.||Leave the nest alone if it is in a secluded area. Use wasp and hornet spray in the evening or early morning, while there is natural light. Read and follow label directions. Do not shine a flashlight directly on nest opening. Call a pest control company if you do not want to attempt to control a problem nest yourself, have an allergy or sensitivity to stings, or there is difficult access to the nest.|
|1 inch, brown with various markings, long, thin legs, narrow waist, nests in papery exposed nest attached to eaves or porch||Paper Wasps: generally not aggressive.||Control is usually not necessary. If near entry or high traffic area, use a wasp and hornet spray in the evening or early morning, while there is natural light. Follow label directions.|
|Medium to large, hairy, black and yellow, common at flowers, nests in the ground.||Bumblebees: beneficial pollinators.||Control is not necessary. Bumblebees need to be protected.|
|Large bees (approx. 3/4 inch), shiny black abdomen, bore 1/2 inch round holes in wood. Males have a spot on their face and no stinger. Males fly around and establish mating territory, only appear threatening. Resemble bumblebees, but larger.||Carpenter Bees: feed on pollen and nectar, do not eat wood, only nest in it.||Treat holes with labeled insecticide, plug with a wooden dowel. Freshly painted surfaces tend to deter them. They prefer weathered or unpainted wood.|
|1/2 inch, brown, fuzzy bee, common on flowers, nests in trees, commercial hives, and occasionally in structures.||Honey Bees: gather pollen.||To remove swarms, contact a local beekeeper. If nesting in a wall in a home, contact a professional pest control company. After bees are killed, comb and honey should be removed promptly from wall voids to avoid attracting other insects and mice. There will also be a strong odor from the honey and dead bees. The honey may also seep through plaster walls.|
|3/8 - 2/3 inch, fuzzy bees, nest in loose soil in lawns, banks, etc.||Ground or mining Bees: pollinators, some parasitic on other insects, aerate soil.||Not aggressive. Males have no stinger. They establish a mating territory and only appear threatening. They are only around for a few weeks. No control is necessary.|
|Large (1 1/2 inches), black with yellow markings on the abdomen, hover above the lawn, non-aggressive, nest in loose soil.||Cicada Killers: feed on cicadas.||Control is generally not necessary.|
|1 inch long, blue-black wasp, yellow stripe on each side of the abdomen, fly over lawn during the day.||Mud Daubers, Potter and Mason Wasps: provision nests with spiders or caterpillars. Harmless.||No control is necessary.|
|1 inch long, blue-black wasp, yellow stripe on each side of the abdomen, fly over lawn during the day||Scoliid Wasps: not aggressive.||Parasites of white grubs. Can be seen in large numbers flying closely over lawns. They do not attack people. Control is not necessary. Adults are often seen visiting goldenrod flowers in late summer.|
Wood destroying pests
|Mud tunnels from ground to wood, up to 1/4 inch long, white, ant-like insects in wood, wood soft.||Subterranean Termites||Contact professional pest control company.|
|Brownish-black to black, 3/8 inch long, 4 translucent wings of equal length, fluttery flight habit, indoors or outdoors.||Subterranean Termite Swarmers: the reproductive form of subterranean termites, usually emerge from the area of infestation.||Contact professional pest control company.|
|Large brown to black ants, 1/4 - 1 inch, winged or wingless, in house, outdoors, or on trees, often near damaged wood, coarse sawdust.||Carpenter Ants: do not eat wood, only nest in it.||Locate the nest and treat, repair or replace damaged wood. Repair any water problem.|
|1/4 - 3/8 inch oval holes in wood, may be powdery sawdust, may hear chewing noise, generally in structural timbers or log homes.||Old House Borers: larvae are round-headed borers, cream-colored, 1 1/4 inch long when mature, with dark mouthparts. Adult beetles are 5/8 -1 inch long, black or brownish, slightly flattened, with long antennae.||Determine if the infestation is active. Contact a professional pest control company.|
|1/8 inch or smaller, round holes, possible fine sawdust, often in softwoods, structural timbers, pine flooring, imported furniture, bamboo fences, etc.||Powderpost Beetles (furniture or deathwatch beetles and false powderpost beetles): larvae cream-colored and much smaller than old house borers. Adult beetles 1/8 - 1/4 inch, brown to black, cylindrical or flat, and elongate (depending on species).||Determine if the infestation is active. Replace damaged wood if possible. Contact a professional pest control company.|
|1/2 inch round holes in wood, large bees with shiny black abdomen seen flying in the area or boring into wood.||Carpenter Bees: feed on pollen and nectar, do not eat wood, only nest in it.||Treat holes with labeled insecticide, plug with a wooden dowel. Freshly painted surfaces tend to deter them. They prefer weathered or unpainted wood.|
Selecting pest control companies and pesticides
Shop for a pest control company as you would for a doctor or any other professional service.
Begin with recommendations from friends and neighbors.
Most companies provide free estimates, at which time they discuss a treatment plan, cost, and of equal importance warranties.
Compare recommended treatment programs and estimates among several companies.
A number of termiticides are registered for termite control; the 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. The best company can do the best job and still not completely solve the problem.
Based on HGIC publication HG 41 Keys to Pests in and Around the Home, author Mary Kay Malinoski, Principal Agent, University of Maryland Extension (Retired). Compiled by Debra Ricigliano, HGIC