Sharing a home is nice if you and your housemates get along just fine. It is not quite so much fun, however, if your houseguests are taking advantage of your hospitality by eating you out of house and home, causing widespread destruction, and generally making your life very unpleasant. In fact, if your houseguest ticked any of these boxes, you would probably kick them out pronto.
Yet many of us share a home with all manner of pests and turn a blind eye. Mice raid the kitchen cupboards, cockroaches scuttle out of sight until night falls, and bed bugs treat us as an ‘eat-all-you-can’ twilight buffet. Some pests are relatively benign, but many, like rats and mice, cause long-term health problems and are unhygienic, but even if spiders are not life threatening, do you really want to lie in bed at night watching a colony of spiders run riot on your bedroom ceiling? No, I thought not!
Eradicating bugs and pests can be difficult, but if home remedies prove to be unsuccessful, you need to call in the professionals or speak to your landlord ASAP. Pest Control agents are used to dealing with all kinds of noxious pests, so you are in safe hands. In the meantime, in case you are having trouble identifying your unwelcome houseguests, here is a quick rundown of the most common pests found in US homes.
Fleas are a menace. The common household flea typically hitchhikes its way indoors on your beloved pooch or cat. Fleas are bloodsucking parasites. They prefer your pet’s blood, but if you are around, they are not averse to snacking on you, too. It is easy to tell when you have a flea infestation because you will be bitten all over and covered in red, angry bites. In warm weather, fleas breed at a phenomenal rate.
Fleas are dangerous because they can spread blood-borne disease. They are also very difficult to eradicate because flea eggs can lie dormant for months at a time. Simple household remedies such as diatomaceous earth and baking soda will fix a small flea problem, but if the entire house is crawling with fleas, call in an expert. Do not forget to treat your pets, too!
Bed bugs are a huge problem. They travel from one location to another via clothing and luggage, so it is common to pick up bed bugs after staying in a hotel. The difficulty is that not everyone reacts to bed bug bites, so you may not even be aware there are bed bugs in your home until someone else stays over.
Small populations of bed bug hiding in minuscule cracks and creases in the bed. They emerge after dark to feast on human hosts, gorging on blood and crawling around the bed. The female bed bug lays eggs after each blood feast, so the more she feeds, the more eggs she lays. Male bed bugs are also quite keen on mating once they have fed, so it doesn’t take long for two greedy bed bugs to produce a very large extended family.
You can treat bed bug infestations with diatomaceous earth, but it is a good idea to destroy your bed and wash everything in the room on a hot wash. Unfortunately, using diatomaceous earth will take some time kill bed bugs, so if you are being eaten alive each night, call in a pest control expert.
Mice are sweet little creatures, but a mouse infestation can cause serious damage to your home. Mice chew anything and everything. They will destroy piles of newspapers, chew through fabric and baseboards, and crawl into your walls to build nests for their babies. They are also more than happy to raid your pantry for food, destroy electrical wiring, and nest in the attic.
Mice carry ticks and fleas, so a mouse infestation is often the precursor to a flea problem. As many of us know to our cost, ticks can cause Lyme disease, which is becoming an increasingly common health problem in the US.
You will soon know if you have mice. Have you heard strange scurrying noises in the walls at night? In most cases, strange sounds in the walls, attic or ceilings are not signs of paranormal activity. No, you have mice. Mousetraps might work for a few pesky rodents, but if your mice are causing serious damage, you need an exterminator.
Rats are nowhere near as cute as mice, but no less destructive. Rats, like mice, love to chew and gnaw. Their teeth never stop growing, so they continuously chew on anything and everything. Rats make just as much mess and are very attracted to human food. Unfortunately, rats spread disease, fleas, and are a serious health hazard. Rats were responsible for millions of deaths in the Middle Ages, so let that be a lesson to you.
Don’t ignore a rat problem. Rats leave droppings behind, greasy marks along the walls, and footprints. They also make a lot of noise when chewing drywall, wood, and anything else they can get their sharp little teeth on. You may not see an actual rat unless you are overrun with them, but if you spot any of the above signs, Mr. Rattus Norvegicus has moved in with his children, grandchildren, and extended family.
Cockroaches inspire horror in most people. There is nothing worse than the sight of a nasty little roach scuttling across the floor and disappearing beneath a cabinet. Roaches are everywhere. In fact, in the event of a nuclear holocaust, cockroaches will probably be the last creatures left on our dying planet. American cockroaches are usually found in the kitchen and the basement whereas German cockroaches are fond of the bathroom.
You shouldn’t turn a blind eye to cockroaches. They are a huge health risk, contaminating food and causing serious allergies. The problem with cockroaches is that they are very difficult to kill. It is impossible to eradicate cockroaches without specialist help, so don’t try using bug sprays or a swatter, and if you start seeing cockroaches in the day (they are naturally nocturnal), you really do have a problem!
Ants are extremely common. Common ants are less of a hazard and more of a nuisance, but fire ants can sting and carpenter ants love to chew wood, which will ultimately damage your home beyond repair.
Ants tend to be more common in warm weather. They follow pheromone trails, so look out for ant pathways around baseboards. It is not uncommon to see one or two ants in warm weather, as they often come in from outdoors in search of food, but if you are seeing a large number of ants, you have an infestation. Ants are on the lookout for food, so don’t leave food lying around and empty refuse bins regularly. Keep floors and countertops clean and don’t give them any excuse to take up residence in your kitchen.
You can use ant powder or gel to deal with a small ant colony, but a larger colony, especially a fire ant colony, needs to be treated by professionals.
Termites cause millions of dollars of damage every year. A termite colony will eat away wood and destroy your home from the inside out. Termites can also chew through concrete, so nothing is sacred. Many homeowners don’t notice termites until they have caused considerable damage. Because they chew wood from the inside out, it is not always apparent termites are eating through the structure of a property. However, you may hear them at night, so be alert to strange sounds in wooden furniture, under floors or in the walls.
If you live in a part of the world where termites are common, have your property inspected for termites every two or three years. This is one time when prevention really is better than cure.
Wasps are nasty creatures and if you have ever been stung by a wasp, you won’t want them living anywhere near your home. Wasps often build their nests in roofs or under decking, which usually leads to confrontations with humans. In the late summer, wasps are unpredictable and punch drunk on fermenting fruits. They are aggressive and highly likely to sting. The last thing you need when holding a family BBQ in the backyard is a swarm of angry wasps.
If you spot an increasing number of wasps around your home, you may have a nest somewhere, so look closely in the attic, around the eaves, and in garden outbuildings. Homeowners should never try to deal with a wasps’ nest alone. When wasps feel threatened, they swarm, and being stung hundreds of times is often fatal. Do not put you or your family at risk. Instead, call in an exterminator as soon as possible.
These are the main household pests to look out for, but there are others, including silverfish, beetles, and spiders. Be vigilant and if you suspect you may have a problem, seek professional help.
Disclosure: This blog received a form of compensation for this publication. All opinions are my own.