No matter how clean you keep your home, you’ll probably have a run-in with a household pest or two at some point. Some pests can endanger your health (or your sanity). And others can do real and lasting damage to your home or to the possessions you have inside it.
Below, check out the most common pests that can destroy your home — and find out how to get rid of them.
What are they? Ants are small insects related to wasps and bees, and they’re just as hated as household pests. Ehrlich reports that ants typically enter your home in search of food. They often build their nests in your lawn, in dry soil, or under paving. North America has close to 1,000 known ant species — including black house ants, carpenter ants, and garden ants — and they’re one of the most ubiquitous pests. Carpenter ants, specifically, can damage your home by hollowing wood out for nesting.
How can I get rid of them? Ehrlich recommends that you track down where they’re entering your house, and seal off the entry point. (You can look for small piles of dirt around holes in the soil or around exterior walls for clues.) Then, clean up any sticky residue on your work surfaces and cover any food that might attract ants. Lifehacker also recommends putting out ant bait to wipe out the colony. Or, you can hunt down the nest if that doesn’t work.
Next: These pests don’t just hide out in your bed.
2. Bed bugs
What are they? Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on human blood. In addition to hiding in your bed or your clothing, these tiny bugs also hide in cracks and crevices, according to Ehrlich. They 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.” That’s one of the reasons to take an infestation seriously and call a professional.
How can I get rid of them? Bed bugs are some of the most challenging pests to eradicate quickly. So you should call a professional with experience successfully controlling bed bugs. Especially if you live in an apartment or condominium complex, you should also alert the property manager. Bed bugs can move quickly from apartment to apartment, so you may not be the only one with a problem.
Next: These pests love damp spaces.
3. Camel crickets
What are they? Camel crickets, also known as cave crickets or spider crickets, seek out dark, damp places in your home (often in your basement, shed, or crawlspace). The Washington Post reports that they often congregate in large numbers. And when scared, they’ll jump — often directly at what scared them. Not only do they look like “mutant spiders,” but they can also eat fabric, carpet, wood, cardboard, dust, and plants (in addition to fungus and each other).
How can I get rid of them? The Post characterizes camel crickets as “accidental invaders” who show up because a part of your home resembles a natural habitat for them. To prevent them from entering, seal or caulk any openings into the lowest level of your home. Also try to keep your basement or crawl space dry, clutter-free, and well-lit. You may even want to invest in a dehumidifier. If you already have an infestation, calling an exterminator is a good idea.
Next: These arthropods eat other pests.
What are they? Everybody is familiar with centipedes, the creepy-crawly arthropods that show up occasionally around the house. Apartment Therapy reports that these scream-inducing pests prefer dark, damp places in your home. They come out at night, and they move quickly. Fortunately, however, they seem to have little interest in humans.
How can I get rid of them? Apartment Therapy reports that you should leave centipedes alone for one gross reason: They eat other bugs. Their venom can take out cockroaches, flies, moths, termites, and even bedbugs. Plus, they don’t carry diseases, chew through your house, or go after your food. If you do want to get rid of them, though, then try to eradicate the other pests they eat. Use a dehumidifier and install a better bathroom fan. Seal any cracks or crevices, and clear the perimeter of your home of damp debris like leaves. Or, call a professional if you suspect an infestation.
Next: These pests seem to survive anything.
What are they? Cockroaches are notorious insects that like to live in warm homes, kitchens, and wall cavities, according to Ehrlich. They often come out after dark to feed on whatever food they can find. Unfortunately, unlike some other pests, they can carry illness-causing E. coli and salmonella. They have a legendary ability to adapt and survive. And if you see one, there are probably more hiding somewhere else.
How can I get rid of them? Good Housekeeping reports that most Americans encounter just one or two types of cockroaches: German or American varieties. Figure out which kind you have, and call in professionals if you’re having trouble getting rid of them. Clean up spilled and leftover food, sort through your pantry, and don’t leave dishes on the counter or in the sink. Clear up clutter and put out bait, and seal entry points around your house.
Next: These pests can bother your pets, too.
What are they? Fleas are small, flightless insects that feed on blood. Fleas number among the pests that can carry diseases, so you don’t want to take their appearance lightly. Both pets and humans can track fleas into the house, according to The Balance. In fact, fleas can jump on you when you spend time in your yard, and then get a ride into your home. Once there, they can multiply and start biting you and your pets.
How can I get rid of them? You’ll need to get rid of the fleas on your pets, as well as eradicate the pests from your home. You can use specially-made foggers (though you may need one for each room of the house). You can also use a powder-based product to get rid of the fleas without releasing toxic fumes in your home. And of course, follow your vet’s instructions for removing the fleas from your pets and treating them with preventative medication to kill fleas.
Next: These pests can spread disease.
What are they? There are many different kinds of flies. And Ehrlich reports that whether they’re houseflies or fruit flies, these pests can carry a wide range of bacteria, including Salmonella or E. coli. (Flies can also spread diseases including typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and rotavirus.) Orkin reports that every time a fly lands, it sloughs off microbes that can even cause bloodstream infections, diarrhea, food poisoning, or meningitis. Flies can contaminate your food, and even a small fly problem left uncontrolled can turn into a major infestation.
How can I get rid of them? Orkin notes that 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 to make your home less appealing to these pests. PestWorld recommends contacting a professional if you suspect a fly infestation. A professional can inspect your home, determine what kind of flies you have, and figure out the best course of action to get rid of the pests.
Next: These pests can infest your plants or head for your kitchen.
What are they? As The Washington Post reports, gnats are tiny flies. But they get their own entry because of how annoying they are. Researchers have identified many different kinds of gnats. That includes the fungus gnat, which seeks out the soil of houseplants (especially if you overwater). According to Orkin, some species also seek out decomposing food debris in garbage disposals or on overripe fruit.
How can I get rid of them? The Post recommends that you avoid bringing outdoor potted plants indoors. If your indoor plants become infested, let the soil dry out for a few days 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. Plus, they can contaminate fruit and damage your houseplants. You can use traps to catch adults, but not larvae. If in doubt, call a professional.
Next: These pests nest in walls and cabinets.
What are they? Mice are pests of a very different kind — especially because they can cause damage to your house. Ehrlich notes that house mice remain active year-round. They nest inside walls and cabinets. And they can chew through your furniture as well as through packages of food. They can also spread disease.
How can I get rid of them? If you suspect an infestation, you might want to call a professional, who will identify and seal off entry points, destroy nests, and remove existing mice from your property. PestWorld reports that mice can breed rapidly and adapt quickly to changing conditions. But you can help prevent an infestation by clearing clutter, ensuring proper drainage outside your home, and keeping an eye out for signs of mice.
Next: These pests can spread dangerous diseases.
What are they? Mosquitoes are technically small flies, but they consume blood. Ehrlich reports that researchers have found more than 150 species in the United States. They bite and usually begin to become a problem as temperatures rise. They also transmit diseases such as West Nile virus, malaria, and Zika. Orkin reports that when they find their way into your house, mosquitoes typically rest in dark areas, and come out at night to bite you.
How can I get rid of them? Mosquitoes often come in through windows and doors. So it’s a good idea to put screens on them, and to keep them closed when you can. Orkin reports that mosquitoes develop in water, so it’s a good idea to eliminate any water sources favorable for mosquito breeding. If you have an infestation, call a professional.
Next: These pests can ruin your clothes.
What are they? Moths make the list of pests that can do some real damage around your home. They famously destroy sweaters, but can also chew their way through your rugs and carpets. Apartment Therapy reports that clothes moths lie low in dark corners. In fact, they don’t often take time to fly around your house and attract your attention. And it’s the larvae, not the adult moths, that munch through your woolens.
How can I get rid of them? Apartment Therapy advises that if you have an infestation, you need to call the professionals. But you can discourage moths from setting in by regularly shaking out all of your clothes and cleaning your closet. Stay on top of dry cleaning and hand-washing. And don’t ever put away knitwear that’s dirty. Vaccum your carpets at least once per week. And use a pheromone trap to attract the males and end the breeding cycle. Repel moths from your clothes with cedar balls or lavender sachets, and seal seasonal clothing in airtight bags when not in use.
Next: These pests can do damage to your home.
What are they? 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 can I get rid of them? 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.
Next: These pests can also damage your home.
What are they? Silverfish are small, wingless insects that may look harmless. But they can do a lot of damage around your home. Terminix reports that they aren’t poisonous and they don’t transmit diseases. But silverfish will eat a wide range of things around your house. That includes cereal, books, wallpaper, insulation, clothing, newspaper, cardboard, and even fallen human hair.
How can I get rid of them? Terminix recommends limiting these insects’ foods sources by keeping dry goods and pet foods in airtight containers. Vaccum floors and upholstery regularly to pick up crumbs. Use a dehumidifier in damp areas, and line dirt floors to control moisture. And seal any openings, ensure your gutters are clean, and make sure you maintain the paint on your house.
Next: These pests do eat other bugs.
What are they? Spiders are arthropods with eight legs — and fangs that inject venom. Ehrlich reports that thousands of different species of spiders live in North America. They don’t spread disease, and they do eat other pests. But most people don’t like having lots of spiders crawling around their home. Some people even have arachnophobia, which goes far beyond a simple dislike for the creepy-crawly creatures.
How can I get rid of them? Apartment Therapy notes that you can use pesticides to minimize spiders in your home. But you can also get rid of them by decluttering (and giving them fewer places to get comfy in the dark). You can try vacuuming and dusting more often to make spiders feel less welcome. And it may also work to clean the perimeter of the exterior of your home to discourage them from hanging around.
Next: These pests can do thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your home.
What are they? As for the ultimate in pests that can destroy your home, termites are tiny insects that 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, and they typically prove very difficult to exterminate without professional help.
How can I get rid of them? It’s important to get a professional involved if you see or suspect termites. Terminix notes that the most common signs of an infestation include wood damage below or behind floors and walls, discarded wings found near entry points, and mud tubes found where the ground meets your home. Most people only spot an infestation after it has become severe. You can replace damaged wood, get rid of decayed firewood, and fix moisture in a crawl space, but ultimately you’ll need the help of a professional for a permanent solution.
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