Did you know that over 50% of all the animals on this planet are insects? And yet despite this, we don’t know much about them, or how many there really are. Experts estimate that there are between six to ten million bugs cohabitating with us here on Planet Earth, but it’s quite difficult to know for sure. And despite their ubiquitousness, few of us can identify these critters - or know how to discern between the friends and the foes.
If some of the less loved insects have ventured into your home, you probably won’t call an exterminator or a PMP (pest management professional) unless you think that you have a really serious infestation problem. Instead, you’ll either reach for the spray bottle of insecticide you keep under the kitchen sink or head off to the nearest hardware store to stock up on pest control products.
Friend or Foe? How to Tell What Kind of Bug Infestation You Have
The problem is that you may not know what kind of bug (or bugs) you’re dealing with. And that can be a problem. Some invasive insects are relatively easy to track down and eradicate, others not so much. It helps, then, if you can properly recognize the bugs that are ‘bugging’ you and deploy the appropriate measures.
So, to help you learn about the pests you’re dealing with, the bug experts here at Sterifab have compiled a shortlist of the most commonly misidentified bugs, with some tips on how to tell them apart . . .
Asian Lady Beetle
Often mistaken for the smaller (and more benign) ladybug, the Asian Lady Beetle is larger, more orange in color, and displays a greater number of black spots on its wings – 15 or so − compared to the five or six on a ladybug. Unlike their smaller ladybug cousins, the Asian Lady Beetle is far more aggressive and may well bite if touched.
Plus, they emit a very unpleasant odor, made even worse when they gather in numbers. The nasty smell is actually a pheromone designed to deter predators. However, this chemical not only leaves stains on furniture, upholstery, and rugs but also attracts other Asian Lady Beetles. Look for them in wall spaces, attics, garages, and enclosed porch areas.
Stink Bugs are fairly easy to spot. They are dark brown in color, with a pale underside, and look a lot like a medieval battle shield. Like the Asian Lady Beetle, the Stink Bug emits an unpleasant odor sometimes compared to rotting cilantro. According to Wikipedia:
“The stink bug's ability to emit an odor through holes in its abdomen is a defense”
mechanism meant to prevent it from being eaten by birds and lizards. However,
simply handling the bug, injuring it, or attempting to move it can trigger it to
release the odor.”
They will usually invade a home at the onset of winter and will look for any spot that seems safe, including drapes and window shades, behind radiators, in attics and warm basements, along bookshelves, and so forth.
Asian Camel Crickets
Time magazine claims that “upwards of 90% of cricket sightings across the U.S.” are, in fact, Asian Camel Crickets. Quite how these insects made their way here from their native Asia is unknown, but the good news is that they don't bite or present any threat to humans. So, you can stop calling them ‘jumping spiders’ because they are assuredly not spiders!
With their humpback appearance and their long back legs, these crickets are easy to spot, and they vary in color from light tan to dark brown. They can be found in virtually every part of a house, but they favor places that are humid and have high levels of moisture. This is why they like to live in basements. But they’re not bothered by the lack of light in such places since their long antennae allow them to feel their way around in the dark.
Odorous House Ants
Often confused with the ubiquitous Pavement Ant, Odorous House Ants are also quite small, measuring only 2.5 to 3.4 mm in length. And their black or dark brown bodies make them even harder to see. But step on one and you’ll quickly find out why they’re called ‘odorous’: they give off a smell, not unlike rotting coconut.
Unfortunately, these ants bite and they have a penchant for spoiling food, especially since they like to build their nests in safe, warm areas – e.g., kitchens and pantries. So, be sure to check spaces in the walls and floors of these locations. These ants usually make their way indoors via small openings around windows, doors, or in screens. Cracks in foundations or poorly sealed basement windows are also favorite points of entry.
Along with Termites, Carpenter Ants are every homeowner’s nightmare, especially since the latter love to make nests in wood. They prefer that the wood be moist, but dry will do just as well. This is why Carpenter Ant nests are generally found in and around bathtubs, sinks, as well as spaces behind dishwashers and in porch columns.
Their nests can be very hard to discover – one very good reason to call a PMP if you are serious about getting rid of them. These ants are very easy to spot; they are usually black and can grow up to an inch in length! And they leave tell-tale signs of their presence, such as small holes in a wall and the results of their housekeeping – wood shavings and insect body parts. Like termites, these ants can do enormous damage to a house, so deal with them as soon as you find them.
To the untutored eye, Cluster Flies are difficult to differentiate from ordinary house flies. And in the Summer they’re usually not a problem in homes. They prefer to spend their days breeding and hunting for their favorite food − earthworms. But they like to Winter in houses and will occupy attics, basements, under siding, and crevices within an interior wall. And if it gets warm enough, they’ll make their unwelcome way into rooms.