No matter how clean you keep your home, you’ll probably have a run-in with a household pest at some point. Some can endanger your health (or your sanity). And other pests can do lasting damage to your home or possessions. Below, check out the most common household pests — and how to get rid of them. Don’t overlook little spots on your bed (on page 10).
Ants build nests in your lawn, in dry soil, or under paving. They often enter your home to find food, reports pest control company Ehrlich. Nearly 1,000 ant species exist in North America. Carpenter ants, specifically, can damage your home by hollowing out wood for nesting.
How to get rid of ants: Seal off where they entered the home. (Look for small piles of dirt around holes in soil or exterior walls for clues.) Then, clean up any sticky residue on surfaces and cover any food. Lifehacker recommends using ant bait to wipe out the colony.
Next: These pests love your damp spaces.
2. Camel crickets
Also known as cave or spider crickets, camel crickets seek out dark, damp places (often a basement, shed, or crawlspace). The Washington Post reports they tend to gather in large numbers. When scared, they’ll jump — often directly at what scared them. They also eat fabric, carpet, wood, cardboard, dust, and plants (in addition to fungus and each other).
How to get rid of camel crickets: The Post calls camel crickets as “accidental invaders” who show up because your home resembles their natural habitat. Seal or caulk any openings into the house’s lowest level. Also, try to keep your basement dry, clutter-free, and well-lit. You may even want to invest in a dehumidifier.
Next: Some recommend you actually KEEP these pests.
These scream-inducing pests prefer dark, damp places, explains Apartment Therapy. Centipedes come out at night, and they move quickly. Fortunately, they have little interest in humans.
How to get rid of centipedes: Apartment Therapy says to leave centipedes alone because they eat other bugs. Their venom kills cockroaches, flies, moths, termites, and even bedbugs. Plus, they don’t carry diseases, destroy the house, or eat your food. If you do want to get rid of them, then try to eradicate the pests they eat. Use a dehumidifier. Clear damp debris, like leaves, from the exterior perimeter of your home.
Next: These pests seem to survive anything.
These insects like to live in warm homes, kitchens, and wall cavities, according to Ehrlich. Cockroaches often come out after dark to feed. With a legendary ability to adapt and survive, they can carry E. coli and salmonella. If you see one, more are likely nearby.
How to get rid of cockroaches: Good Housekeeping reports that most Americans encounter either German or American varieties of this pest. Figure out which you have, and call professionals if you can’t get rid of them. Clean up leftover food and don’t leave out dishes. Put out bait, and seal entry points.
Next: These pests can bother your pets, too.
These small, flightless insects feed on blood and can carry diseases. Both pets and humans can track fleas into the house. In fact, fleas can jump on you outside and then ride into your home. Once there, they can multiply and bite you and your pets.
How to get rid of fleas: You’ll need to get rid of the fleas on your pets, as well as eradicate them from your home. You can use special foggers. You can also use a powder-based product to kill fleas without releasing toxic fumes inside. (Of course, follow your vet’s instructions for removing fleas and treating pets with preventative medication.)
Next: These pests eat other bugs.
Spiders are arthropods with venomous fangs. Ehrlich reports that thousands of spider species live in North America. They don’t spread disease, and they do eat other pests. But most homeowners don’t like spiders. Some people even have arachnophobia, which goes far beyond a simple dislike for the creatures.
How to get rid of spiders: Apartment Therapy notes you can use pesticides to minimize spiders. But you can also get rid of them by decluttering (giving them fewer places to get comfy). You can vacuum and dust more often. And you can clean the exterior of your home to discourage them.
Next: Some people find these pests cute.
Ehrlich notes that house mice remain active year-round. They nest inside walls and furniture, and they also spread disease.
How to get rid of mice: If you suspect an infestation, you’ll want to call a professional, who will seal off entry points, destroy nests, and remove existing mice. PestWorld reports mice can breed rapidly and adapt quickly to changing conditions. But you can help prevent an infestation by clearing clutter and ensuring proper drainage outside your home.
Next: These pests can spread dangerous diseases.
Mosquitoes are technically small flies that consume blood. Researchers have found over 150 species in the U.S. Mosquitoes usually become a problem as temperatures rise. They also transmit diseases like West Nile virus, malaria, and Zika.
How to get rid of mosquitoes: They often enter through windows and doors, so it’s a good idea to utilize screens. Since mosquitoes develop in water, it’s a good idea to eliminate water sources. If you have an infestation, call a professional.
Next: These pests can ruin your clothes.
Moths can do real damage around your home. They destroy sweaters, but also gnaw on rugs and carpets. Apartment Therapy reports that moths lie low in dark corners. They don’t often fly around your house. And it’s the larvae, not the adult moths, that munch through wool.
How to get rid of moths: Apartment Therapy advises professional help for an infestation. You can discourage moths by regularly shaking out clothes, cleaning closets, and washing clothes. Don’t ever put away dirty knitwear. Vacuum your carpets. And use a pheromone trap to attract male moths and end breeding. Repel moths from clothes with cedar balls or lavender sachets, and seal seasonal clothing in airtight bags when not in use.
Next: Don’t overlook little spots on your bedsheets.
10. Bed bugs
These parasitic insects feed on human blood. In addition to hiding in your bed, they also hide in cracks and crevices, according to Ehrlich. Bed bugs may not destroy your home, but Ehrlich reports that “bed bug infestations are the source of extensive stress and psychological trauma for many Americans every year.”
How to get rid of bed bugs: As one of the most challenging pests to eradicate, you should call a professional with experience controlling bed bugs. Alert your property manager if you live in an apartment or condo. Bed bugs can move quickly, so you may not be the only one with a problem.
Next: These pests can infest your plants.
Gnats are tiny flies, as The Washington Post reports. But they get their own entry because they are so annoying. Researchers have identified many kinds of gnats, including the fungus gnat, which like houseplant soil (especially if you overwater). According to Orkin, some species seek out food debris in garbage disposals or on overripe fruit.
How to get rid of gnats: The Post recommends you keep outdoor potted plants outside. If your indoor plants get infested, let the soil dry out before you water again. And keep fruit in the refrigerator instead of on the counter. Orkin notes that gnats can threaten your health because they transport pathogens. You can use traps to catch adults, but not larvae.
Next: A pest-free home is worth its weight in gold — and “silver.”
These wingless insects may look harmless. But silverfish can do a lot of damage. They aren’t poisonous and don’t transmit diseases, says Terminix. But silverfish will eat most household items, including books, wallpaper, insulation, cardboard, and even fallen human hair.
How to get rid of silverfish: Limit these insects’ foods sources by keeping dry goods and pet food in airtight containers. Vacuum floors and upholstery regularly. Use a dehumidifier in damp areas, and line dirt floors to control moisture. Seal any openings, ensure your gutters are clean, and make sure you maintain the paint on your house.
Next: These pests can do thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your home.
Termites count among the U.S.’s most destructive pests, according to Ehrlich. The average termite damage to a home totals about $7,000 to $8,000. And most home insurance policies don’t cover it. They can feed on wood 24 hours a day.
How to get rid of termites: Terminix notes the most common signs include wood damage behind floors and walls, discarded wings near entry points, and mud tubes where the ground meets your home. Most people only spot an infestation after it has become severe. You can replace damaged wood and fix moisture in a crawl space, but ultimately you’ll need the help of a professional for a permanent solution.
Next: Get out your swatter ASAP.
There are many kinds of flies. And Ehrlich reports these pests can carry bacteria, including Salmonella or E. coli. (Flies can also spread diseases like typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery.) Orkin reports that every time a fly lands, it sloughs off microbes that can even cause bloodstream infections, diarrhea, food poisoning, or meningitis. Even a small fly problem left uncontrolled can turn into a major infestation.
How to get rid of flies: You can prevent a fly infestation by keeping doors and windows closed, adding screens to windows and doors, and keeping your garbage cans clean and securely fastened. Also, try to keep surfaces clean. PestWorld recommends contacting a professional if you suspect a fly infestation. They can inspect your home, determine the kind of fly, and figure out the best course of action.
Next: These pests can do damage to your home.
Rats are rodents that nobody likes to see around their house. Ehrlich characterizes black rats as common in the U.S. If they find their way into your home, they can damage insulation, chew through joists and walls, and cause fires by chewing on electrical cables. Like other pests, rats can also transmit diseases.
How to get rid of rats: Orkin reports that infestations can prove difficult to confirm. Rats prefer to hide, so the most obvious sign is a sighting of a dead or living rat. You may see rat droppings, or dirt or grease marks along walls and floorboards. If you suspect rats, consult a professional. You can buy traps, but they’ll only catch one rat and won’t effectively address an infestation.
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