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Common House Bugs: How to Identify Household Pests

Close-Up Of Hand Holding Cockroach Against House
Rawin Tanpin / EyeEm / Getty Images

There’s not much that can ruin a relaxing night at home more than the sight of an unknown bug scurrying across the floor. Common house bugs may be common by nature, but that does not make them any more welcome in our homes.

The key to getting rid of these unwelcome guests begins with proper identification. Even though you’re most likely not a pest control expert or an entomologist, you can still successfully identify the common home insects you’re dealing with and develop a plan of action.

How to properly identify common house bugs

Step 1: Ensure proper distancing and safety before doing anything

Although rare, some of the most common insects that make their way into homes can be poisonous and pose a risk to you, your family, and your pets. Before you start investigating, make sure you are keeping a safe distance.

Step 2: Take a picture of the bug and note its characteristics

Common house bugs are typically fast-movers who won’t stick around for long if they believe their life is at risk. Because of this, it’s important to try and snap a picture and get as much information about how the bugs move and look as possible. Additionally, pay attention to the times the bug is active and what it’s doing.

Step 3: Use the internet to look for similar pictures and descriptions

Search for common house insects and compare what you see against the pictures and traits you observe. Keep in mind that many common house bugs look similar, so look for specific distinguishing characteristics.

Step 4: Compare your location to where those common house bugs typically live

It’s important to compare your findings to the common house insects that live in your geographical area. If you think you’ve found a match, but that insect is not found in your area, it’s back to the drawing board.

Step 5: Seek professional help if you’re unsure or think you have an infestation problem

If you’re unable to properly diagnose the critters in your home, you may need to seek help from a pest control expert. Unfortunately, there are limited pest treatments that work for all bugs. A critical step to getting an infestation under control is identifying the creepy crawler.

What you need to know about common bugs you might find in your home

Ants

Row of ants on tablecloth

Chris Stein / Getty Images

What they look like

Ants are relatively skinny insects with six legs and two antennae that extend out the front of the body. There are several different ant species with variable sizes and colors. For the most part, ants are red, orange, or black and are between .05 and 2.5 centimeters. One of the easiest ways to identify ants is that they typically form long lines going to and from food sources. Some ants, like carpenter ants, can destroy parts of your home by eating wooden fixtures on your property.

Where ants will likely turn up

Unfortunately, ants are found on all continents except for Antarctica. These common house insects can be found outdoors or indoors year-round. Ants may keep their colonies outdoors and only travel inside in search of food. In other situations, though, ants may make their homes inside walls, attics, or basements.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Ants And Keep Them Away for Good

Termites

Close Up Of Termites

Arthit Thi-Ngakhruea / EyeEm / Getty Images

What they look like

Typically between a quarter-inch and a half-inch, termites are soft-bodied insects with six legs and two antennae that extend out of the front of the body. Depending on the job the termite does in the colony, their color may be black, red, or translucent. It’s easy to confuse termites with carpenter ants, but the major difference between the two is that termites have a long, continuous body with no noticeable segmentation.

Where termites will likely turn up

Much like ants, termites are found on all continents except for Antarctica. Termites are unlikely to emerge from the soil or your walls when they’re doing damage, which can make them hard to diagnose. Generally, you’ll know you have a termite problem based on the damage they’ve caused to your walls or structure.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Termites in Your Home, Step by Step

Cockroaches

Close-Up Of Cockroach

Michael Anlauf / EyeEm / Getty Images

What they look like

Cockroaches have flat, oval-shaped bodies with six legs, wings, and antennae protruding out of the front of their bodies. Color-wise, cockroaches are mainly brown and black. When fully grown, most cockroaches are around a half-inch to 2 inches in length, with the world’s longest measuring in around an impressive 6 inches in length.

Where cockroaches will likely turn up

Most likely, you’re going to find cockroaches in dark, moist areas of your home. These common house insects prefer such areas for living and for breeding. If you have attics, basements, old boxes, or junk in your garage, these are popular places you may find cockroaches.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Cockroaches

Mosquitos

Close-Up Of Mosquito

Tevarak Phanduang / EyeEm / Getty Images

What they look like

Mosquitos are flying insects that often carry germs and diseases. Mostly gray or brown in color, mosquitos average a quarter-inch to half-inch in length. While you may mistake a mosquito for a fly, the best way to distinguish between the two is by the mouth of mosquitos and their legs. Mosquitos have long legs and a long tube-like nose protruding from the front of the body that they use to suck blood from their prey.

Where mosquitos will likely turn up

You’re most likely going to see mosquitos around water or swampy areas. Typically, mosquitos prefer warm and humid tropical climates. While they like to spend their time outside, mosquitos often enter residences when you leave doors or windows ajar.

Read more: How To Keep Mosquitoes Away 

Spiders

common house spider on the floor in a home

CBCK-Christine / Getty Images

What they look like

Spider species may look different, but generally, they have similar characteristics. Spiders have eight long legs and a small central body. Colors and sizes vary greatly based on the type of spider you’re dealing with. These common house insects may be one of the biggest safety risks, as there are several poisonous species across the United States, including the black widow and brown recluse.

Where spiders will likely turn up

You can find spiders all across the United States and pretty much everywhere when it comes to your home and property. Generally, spiders will make webs in corners or between elevated surfaces. Spiders use their webs as homes and to mechanisms catch prey, but many species do roam in search of new areas to set up shop. Because of this, you could have a spider problem, even if you don’t see any webs.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Spiders, Step by Step

Bed bugs

bedbug approaching hand

John Downer / Getty Images

What they look like

Getting rid of bed bugs can be a challenge, but it’s absolutely necessary when they take up residence in your home. Bed bugs look like very small oval-shaped bugs that are brownish in color. These bugs look similar to ticks but are much smaller in size. Depending on the time of their last feed, bed bugs may be flat or have a balloon-like shape.

Where bed bugs will likely turn up

Despite the name, bed bugs can turn up all over your home. Yes, the primary place you will find them is in your beds, but you can also find them on furniture, in clothes, or nestling in your stored linens. Bed bugs can move and to other areas of your home if you’re not careful when dealing with an infestation.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Ticks

Close-Up Of Hand With Tick

Judita Juknele / EyeEm / Getty Images

What they look like

Ticks are six-legged or eight-legged common house bugs. The number of legs is dependent on the age of the bug. Size-wise, ticks are quite small and typically brown or black in color. Much like bed bugs, the shape of a tick depends on when they last fed. If they just ate, they will have a much fatter balloon-like shape. If they haven’t fed recently, they’ll appear to be quite flat.

Where ticks will likely turn up

Most tick species occur across the entire continental U.S. and in Hawaii. While some species are more likely in wooded areas, ticks are known to make their way into homes through open doors and windows or attached to humans and pets. On your body, ticks will most likely take up residence in warm, dark areas like your scalp or armpits.

Silverfish

Silverfish on paper

Leonid Eremeychuk / Getty Images

What they look like

As the name says, silverfish are silver (or grey) in color. These common house insects are long and slender, with three tail-like appendages that resemble antennae. Additionally, silverfish have long singular tails that come off the aft part of the insect’s body. The average length of a silverfish is between half an inch and three-quarters of an inch.

Where silverfish will likely turn up

While they can live and thrive in most climates, silverfish prefer dark, damp areas. In your home, you’ll likely find them scaling bathroom walls or living in the attic or basement. Additionally, these common bugs love damp clothing and paper. Much like termites, you can identify these critters by the trail of damage they leave. If you find large holes in clothing, files, or books, you may have a silverfish problem.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Silverfish

The bottom line

Common house bugs can cause extensive problems for new or existing homeowners. The first step in getting an infestation under control is properly identifying the bug, as not all insect and bug treatments are the same. While you might need the help of a pest control expert to identify the problem, you may also be able to diagnose your issue on your own.

Frequently asked questions

How do I get rid of the bugs in my house?

Getting rid of pests in your home starts with properly identifying the problem. From there, you can research the different containment or extermination products and strategies at your disposal.

What bugs can be mistaken for cockroaches?

The three most common bugs mistaken for cockroaches are crickets, water striders, and ground beetles.

What are some common house bugs?

Some of the most common house bugs you may run into are ants, termites, silverfish, ticks, spiders, bed bugs, mosquitos, and cockroaches. Depending on where you live in the world, some of these insects might be more prevalent.


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