How to Get Rid of Common Household Pests
Whether you are seeing pests in your bathroom, kitchen, basement, or any other room of your home, it's likely that you're wondering how to get them out. It might be easier to find information about bed bugs and wasps, but what about silverfish, springtails, and wolf spiders? Learn about common household pests that you might have encountered in the past or currently see in your home by exploring our pest library.
Household Pest Library Shortcuts
The main reason that you see bugs in your bathroom is easy to remember: moisture. Bugs love moisture and are attracted to any areas where it exists. The best case scenario for an insect is somewhere that has moisture or humidity, and food. With that, they aren’t likely to move out any time soon, even if it means sharing space with you. Some bugs end up in sinks or tubs because they simply fell in and can’t get back out. Others came in on their own accord and avoided these traps all together.
Small black bugs found in bathrooms are usually sewer flies or drain flies. They look like tiny black bugs with wings and tend to appear around drains in tubs and sinks. The presence of these flies is usually an indicator that a plumbing problem exists. Drain flies can surface in very large numbers when they make their way indoors. They breed in organic matter that is in a late stage of decay and is often found breeding inside of sewers and drains.
Stink bugs are another common invader within residential homes in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. Similar to the behavior of ladybugs and boxelder bugs, they make their way into humanmade structures by hibernating or what is called “overwintering,” within wall voids seeking out warmth in the fall. They find entry points between cracks and crevices around the exterior of your home that may not be visible at first glance.
The particles and sludge that builds up in sewers are their preferred food sources, making easy to access plumbing a cockroach paradise. In our area, you will mostly find American and German cockroaches. They are not pests that get trapped in sinks and bathtubs. In bathrooms, you can find them pretty much anywhere from cabinets to toilets and under sinks or vanities. In addition to debris, cockroaches love human food and toothpaste.
If you are ready to purchase pest control for spiders in your home, you should be prepared to select the type of company and their program features to meet your exact needs. Any pest control company should be able to answer the following questions, which will guide you to make an informed decision.
- Treatment Method- Are they using chemicals indoors or outdoors? Are they using pesticides according to their labels? How will the treatment be applied? Why did they select this approach?
- Types of Spiders Treated- Do they cover the spiders that you have in your home? What additional types of spiders will they treat if they enter your home?
- Coverage Period- How long will they cover your home from spider activity?
- Guarantee- How far are they willing to go to eliminate spiders from your home?
If a company cannot answer even one of these questions, you should rethink about how reputable they are. We suggest also checking the company’s website and reading their online reviews as well. There is no set price across the pest control industry for spider control, but you could expect to pay between $150 and $300 dollars to solve an immediate spider problem in your home. Depending on the severity of the problem, additional services may also be needed or you may also need a recurring maintenance plan.
Wolf spiders are primarily hunters such as wolves, which is where they get their name. They are most notorious for emerging at night to actively hunt for small insects or even other spiders. Wolf spiders have 8 strong legs that can propel them to move fast and accurately, and for this reason, they do not create webs. There is no need to lure in prey when they can attack and hunt on their own.
Because they are master hunters, wolf spiders will hide in places such as under chairs and tables when in the home. If they wander indoors, they are likely to remain indoors due to the lack of competition and potential abundance of nutrients. You will know that you have wolf spiders in your home when you physically see them. The fact that they are very large and move quickly make them easily visible and sometimes scary.
Take the following measures to avoid cockroaches in your home:
- Sweep the floor in your kitchen on a regular basis to remove fallen crumbs.
- Wipe under kitchen appliances and over counters to ensure all food residue is gone.
- Move food in easily opened packaging such as cereal boxes, into sealed containers.
- Lift food left in dog bowls each night.
- Use a bathroom exhaust fan or dehumidifier to limit excess moisture.
- Keep bathroom floors clean and sweep under the counters and sinks on a regular basis.
- Eliminate as much clutter as possible such as paper bags and cardboard.
If you find cockroaches in your home, only professional pest control intervention will be able to eliminate and control the infestation. You can vacuum up cockroaches as you see them until a pest control professional arrives.
Spider crickets are easily identified by their chirping and long, thin, bent legs. Contrary to popular belief, there is no difference between camel crickets, cave crickets, spider crickets, sprickets, and cave wetas. All of these names are referring to the same insect, called Diestrammena asynamoraI. Although they may look intimidating due to their size and ability to jump and move quickly, spider crickets are fairly harmless to humans and pets.
Spider crickets are also known as hump-back crickets or camel crickets due to their hump-back appearance. They are light to dark brown and sometimes have bands on their 6 legs. Spider crickets measure about ½ - 1 ½ inches long, making them rather intimidating when found in your home. Spider crickets can be easily identified by their large, bent legs that allow them to jump long distances with ease.
You can find spider crickets living amongst other household pests in places such as garages, basements, crawl spaces, and under woodpiles. Anywhere that high levels of moisture exists can attract spider crickets.
Silverfish are about ½ to ¾ of an inch long and can be gray or brown. They can be found in basements, bathrooms, and garages, searching for moisture in a dark space. Since silverfish are nocturnal, they can go for a while without being noticed and unfortunately for homeowners, they can reproduce quickly, which allows them the potential for exponential growth while residing in your home.
Centipedes are easily identified by their multitude of legs and ability to quickly dart around rooms. They are especially drawn to basements because of the moist, dark environment that often exists. Adult centipedes are yellowish to dark brown, often with dark markings, and up to two inches long. The body is flattened with 15-177 body segments which typically have one pair of legs each. They have one pair of slender antennae. Sealing off possible entry points such as cracks and crevices in the foundation of your home, pipes, windows, and doors can prevent infestations.
Spiders are usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think about bugs in your basement. There are several types of spiders that are commonly found in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which include the wolf spider, brown recluse spider, and cellar spider. Spiders are drawn to basements due to the dark, damp conditions that exist. In general, spiders have 8 legs (four pairs). They have two body regions: a cephalothorax (fused head and thorax) and an abdomen, which are joined together by a narrow waist. Most spiders have six or eight simple eyes in various arrangements. Spiders spin their webs by producing silk secreted as a liquid that hardens on contact. They are actually beneficial because they eat almost every other tiny bug in your basement. If you are creeped out and cannot stand their presence, Cooper can eliminate and control spider populations within your basement and home.
Millipedes are usually misidentified as centipedes. Unlike centipedes, millipedes have legs in pairs except for their first three legs which are not paired. They are slow moving and tend to curl up into a spiral when disturbed. Millipedes need a lot of moisture so they can usually be found in hiding under objects during the day and in areas where there is decaying plant life—like compost—which is their primary food. Millipedes tend to enter structures accidentally and are completely harmless.
Fleas originate anywhere outdoors where there are high temperatures and moisture. This means crawl spaces, mud, and grass are ideal breeding grounds for these nasty creatures. Pets can pick up fleas as a result of coming in contact with wild mammals like squirrels, raccoons, and feral cats. Dogs playing in public dog parks are also at a high risk of flea exposure because of other dogs not being properly treated by their owners. After feeding on a host such as your dog, they then spread by laying nearly 50 eggs per day within the dog hair!
Infestations begin to spread through the house as their eggs fall off your pet as it moves through the home and the yard. Once they enter your home, it is nearly impossible to try to remove them without professional pest control intervention. Please use professional flea extermination in NJ or PA to control an infestation in your home.
Because pets are the main carrier or fleas, it’s imperative that you regularly administer flea treatments. Big box retailers such as PetSmart and Petco carry several brands of products that you can buy to reduce the risk of flea and tick hosting on your dog.
Use a flea comb to comb your dog’s fur when they come indoors after spending extended amounts of time outdoors or in public areas. Doing so can help you catch fleas before they become a larger problem. Call your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding pet care.
Daddy longleg is not an established name for any specific insect, but is a nickname originating in the United States due to their unique appearance. When someone says that they see a “daddy longleg,” they are unknowingly referring to Opilionids arachnids, which is not a spider at all, and more closely related to scorpions. They are also called “harvestmen” because some say that their legs resemble scythes used by farmers to harvest their crops.
Their distinguishing feature are their thin, long legs that elevate them far above the ground below. Daddy longlegs have 8 legs that spur off of their small, single segment body.
Common Household Spiders that aren’t Dangerous
There are several different species of spiders that can be found in many New Jersey and Pennsylvania homes. However, most are harmless and are only seen as a nuisance rather than a threat.
Common household spiders you don't need to worry about include:
- Cellar spider
- American House Spider
- Jumping Spiders
- Wolf Spiders
The only type of spider in this part of the country that can pose harm to you and your family if it makes its way into your home is the Black Widow.
If you happen to find a Black Widow in your home, it’s recommended to call a pest control professional to have it removed safely. Female Black Widow spiders are aggressive and will bite in defense, especially if she is defending her eggs. Black Widow bites can cause fever, increased blood pressure, sweating, and nausea. As long as proper medical treatment is sought promptly, fatalities from a Black Widow bite is unlikely.
As with many pests, pantry pests tend to harbor near their food source and for pantry pests that includes the food in your cupboards. There are a few different types of pantry pests that might be lurking in your cabinets, but the most common ones are moths and small beetles, including weevils.
Indian Meal Moth
The markings of the Indian Meal Moth makes it easier to distinguish from other pantry pests. According to Penn State University, the forewings of the moth are “reddish brown with a copper luster on the outer two-thirds, but whitish gray on the inner or body ends. The hind wings lack distinctive markings and are more or less uniformly gray.”
There are a variety of beetles that can make their way into your home and pantry but the most common pantry beetles are saw-tooth grained beetles and flour beetles and grain weevils. Saw-tooth grain beetles prefer flour, pasta, and cereal whereas the flour beetles like to eat flour, cereals and meal.
Weevils are small, reddish-brown beetles with an elongated snout and are often found in kitchen cupboards and pantries. Unlike many other types of grain pests, they do not feed on processed food products such as flour, corn meal, pasta, etc. Instead, weevils attack whole grains, beans or seeds. For example, wheat weevils, also known as the grain or granary weevil, prefer whole wheat, oats, rye, barley, rice and corn, as well as a variety of whole beans. Weevils can sometimes hard to detect within a pantry.
Silverfish will make their ways indoors to find shelter and food. Once they have established themselves in a home, they can live there for a long period of time without much food. Since they are nocturnal, they can go for a while without being noticed and unfortunately for homeowners, they can reproduce quickly, which allows them the potential for exponential growth while residing in your home.
If you currently have found silverfish in your home, it can be difficult to get rid of them without the use of pesticides because of their elusive behavior. A few ways to address your current silverfish infestation is to have a pest control professional design a treatment protocol specifically for your home. From there, the technician will treat areas in your home where active (or suspected to be active) silverfish populations are as well as treat cracks and crevices.
There are some DIY methods that you can do to reduce your silverfish populations as well. First and foremost, reduce environmental elements that are appealing to silverfish like clutter. Reducing clutter and storage of cardboard boxes, and keeping up with maintenance and sanitation will give the silverfish few places to hide and reduce their food sources.
Earwigs are long, slender insects anywhere from 5-25mm in length. Their most distinctive feature are the “forceps” or pincers on the end of their abdomen. Earwigs are a nocturnal insect that typically hide in small, dark and damp crevices during the daytime hours. They become active at night where they search for different insects and plants to feed off of. There are a few different species of earwigs that are found in the Northeast, but one of the most common in our area is the European earwig.
They are usually found within wooded or grassy areas but can also be seen around outdoor lights at night. If the earwig feels threatened, they can squirt a foul-smelling yellow liquid in defense.
Earwigs are often recognized by the pincers on the back of their abdomens, and although the myth states they will enter your ear canal to lay eggs, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
Earwigs typically use their “forceps” for defense against various predators and sparing with other earwigs. Depending on the species of the earwig, the pincers can be used for catching prey or in a mating ritual. Even though the pincers on earwigs aren’t dangerous to humans, if they happen to pinch your finger, it may be unpleasant.
Identification Carpet beetles feed on a variety of dried organic products and cause no harm to people. Adult varied carpet beetles are about 1/16” to 1/8” long, and oval in appearance. They are easy to distinguish because they have gray, yellow, orange, brown, white, and/or black spots on their backs. The larvae are about 3/16” to ¼” long and wider at the end of the body than the head. They are cream colored with dark horizontal bands and sparse hairs throughout the body.
Biology & Behavior There is one generation of carpet beetles per year, and adult beetles are very short lived (about 14 to 44 days). Adult carpet beetles feed on pollen, and can enter from the outside. Adult carpet beetles found on window sills or by windows are usually indicative of a carpet beetle population that is established indoors. If a carpet beetle population is established indoors, it is important to conduct a thorough inspection to locate and remove the breeding source if possible.
Most residential homes have very low levels of carpet beetle activity, and most homeowners do not notice the existence of carpet beetle or larvae in their homes until they start looking for other pests (mainly bed bugs). Carpet beetles cause no harm to people.
Cockroach baits are very easy to use. Unlike liquid sprays, they don’t require any mixing,or preparations to areas where they are placed (no need to empty cabinets, cover counters, etc.) are typically not necessary. Many baits are available in a child-resistant plastic container making it family friendly and pet safe. Furthermore, the stations are odorless and have essentially no volatility. Bait gels are also very common, come ready in a self-application tube, and are easily applied.
Boric acid is a white, inorganic powder chemically derived from water and boron that has been used to battle cockroaches for all but a century. It is one of the most effective agents used against cockroaches, however most people use it incorrectly and end up wasting their money and effort in the process. Like the bait stations, Boric acid is odorless and doesn’t contain any volatile solvents. The powder is generally considered to be a low-risk material and is used in many consumer products like mouthwash, laundry additives, and toothpaste. However, the concentrations required to kill cockroaches is much higher than what is used in products like toothpaste. For this reason, it is important that it not be applied to open surfaces or counter tops, especially those used to prepare food. Should any residue get on these surfaces, wipe it off with a wet cloth.
Despite the fact that centipedes and millipedes might make your skin crawl and be a nuisance, they do not cause structural damage, and centipedes can be beneficial in eliminating other pests in your home. Neither carries disease, however if they feel threatened centipedes have the ability to bite, causing a reaction similar to that of a bee sting.
Centipedes like to live in dark, damp, and humid places. If that sounds like your basement, it might be time to get a dehumidifier if you don’t want to attract centipedes. Even though millipedes are also attracted to dark, damp, and humid places, they typically prefer to stay outside in the soil and typically only migrate inside if conditions outside become too dry and they are seeking moisture. Unfortunately, if millipedes should choose to move indoors, it can be by the thousands.
Aside from reducing moisture/humidity conditions within your home, it is important to eliminate entry points by caulking cracks and crevices, along with making sure windows and doors are fit tightly. You should also clean your yard of potential hiding spots for the pests such as overgrown weeds, densely landscaped areas close to the home, rocks, boards, leaf piles, etc.
Springtails are primarily an outdoor insect associated with damp conditions and humidity, feeding on molds, pollen, algae, fungi, and decaying plant matter. They are found in a variety of habitats such as rotting wood, soil, leaf litter, under bark, rotting wood, and other areas of high moisture. When conditions are suitable, large masses of springtails may move indoors typically in bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and the soil of potted plants. Populations often soar when hay is placed out to establish the growth of grass.
If you find one or two springtails here and there you can simply vacuum them up, remove them by hand, or wash them down the sink. Persistent activity that they are breeding in large numbers outdoors. In some cases altering the conditions that favor springtails can reduce these numbers. Follow these tips to reduce moisture and other factors that make your home attractive to springtails.
• Reduce moisture and excess organic matter around the foundation of your home, in potted plants, and gardens
• Keep vegetation from crowding the structure
• Seal (caulk) any cracks that could serve as entryways around window and door frames, doors, utility entry points, or water spigots
• Bag lawn clippings or rake them up along with dead thatch in the lawn
• Remove hay placed out to promote the growth of new grass or new lawns.
• Let soil dry slightly between watering and be sure not to overwater
• Keep mulch at least 18” away from the foundation
• Repair areas where water rot exists i.e. window frames, door frames, roof leaks etc.
• Keep gutters clean and running freely
• Be sure downspouts have extensions so they don’t drain at the base of the foundation
• Correct moisture or humidity conditions that may exist in basements, crawlspaces, or attics
• Dry out areas associated with moisture and/or humidity with a fan or dehumidifier
• Don’t over water potted plants or allow drain water to stand in saucers between watering
Insects, rodents, squirrels, flying squirrels, bats, and birds are all pests that breed, nest, and destroy gutters on homes. Gutters are high up and generally undisturbed, which makes them the ideal place for wildlife to live. Clogged gutters that collect debris and standing water are an immediate issue when it comes to insect control. Even if your gutters are not clogged, exposed gutters encourage wildlife to build nests and gain access into your attic by destroying your roof.
- Mosquitoes - When gutters are left open, debris from falling leaves and other vegetation clog up the water flow. Without anywhere to go, rainfall sits and continues to collect in the gutters. In general, mosquitoes are attracted to stagnant water in large or small quantities such as ponds, rain water collected in buckets around your home, in bird baths, and on plastic play sets in your back yard. Clogged gutters offer that same environment which is potentially more dangerous if your gutters aren’t cleaned regularly.
- Rodents - Exposed and debris-filled gutters provide easy access into your home. In conjunction with squirrels, rodents can cause significant damage to your home. Their droppings and urine left behind create hazardous conditions for the health of you and your family.
- Squirrels - Gutters help squirrels find gaps that are easily torn through to get into attics which are safe spots, located away from the outside weather and predators. Problems arise when they create significant damage to the outside of your home, insulation inside of your attic, and by chewing through electrical wires. Like rodents, squirrels produce droppings and urinate very often which causes unsanitary conditions, not to mention the potential to ruin items stored in your attic.
- Birds - Birds create nests within gutters. Their droppings can stain your gutters and roof, creating a health hazard. Once you remove a bird’s nest from an unprotected gutter, nothing is stopping another bird or animal from creating a new nest in the same spot. Without completely blocking off the gutter, birds build nests year after year.
- Other Insects - In addition to mosquitoes, multiple other pests such as carpenter ants, termites, centipedes, millipedes, and stinging insects including wasps thrive in gutters. Most pests prefer moist areas where they are generally left alone without the threat of predators.
Some bugs fly, some crawl, and some jump. It’s less likely that you’ll find the jumping kind in your house, but when you do, it can be very stressful. Getting close enough to figure out what kind of pest you’re dealing with is not only difficult due to their size, but also nerve racking when you’re anticipating the jump.
A flea infestation is caused by a host animal unknowingly carrying the fleas indoors. Fleas need a host to survive whether that be a pet or other critters such as mice or squirrels. If you do not have pets and you’re experiencing fleas, it’s frequently the sign of a bigger problem with rodent infestations within the home. According to the National Pest Management Association, fleas “have incredibly powerful legs that can springboard them as high as 8” vertically, which is over 150 times their height. If humans could do this, we would be able to leap over skyscrapers.” When fleas jump, they attach themselves to a host whether it be your dog, cat, or even your own shoes and pant legs.
Springtails are tiny pests that infest moist areas of your home as well as swimming pools, hot tubs, crawl spaces, mulch, and other outdoor areas. You’ll know that you have springtails when you see large groups of small dark insects that jump. Although springtails are not destructive and do not cause harm to humans or pets, homeowners find them alarming because of the large numbers that occur seemingly out of nowhere.
Fungus gnats are small flying pests commonly found indoors, hovering around houseplants. They lay eggs in moist organic debris or potting soil, feeding on the roots of plants. Fungus gnats do not cause structural damage, eat plant leaves, or bite. Even though they are relatively harmless, fungus gnats are considered a nuisance by most homeowners that do not want to have to deal with their presence indoors. They live within the top 2-3 inches of soil within a potted houseplant and will remain relatively close to the plan during their lifespan.