Name that Critter: Identifying Common Household Pests

Aside from being a nuisance, household pests can cause damage to property and can even be harmful to pets and humans. While many of these critters are harmless, there are some that should be closely monitored. The problem lies in most homeowners’ inability to identify and distinguish one pest from another. Although it is obvious to tell a spider from an ant, many people don’t realize that there are in fact many types of species that inhabit houses. For instance, brown recluse spiders are venomous and territorial, but if you didn’t know that they have a violin shape figure on their backs, you could easily mistake them for a non-venomous species.

To stay protected and to best eliminate the problem, proper pest identification is a must-have skill. Fortunately, you don’t need to be an expert to do this. A brief overview of some of the most common pests should be more than enough help, although it would be wise to contact a pest control professional if you are unsure of the issue. Likewise, if you are dealing with venomous or dangerous animals, it will be in your best interest to hire a pest control specialist for help.

Common Household Pests and How to Identify Them

  • Ants – The most common species tend to be Pharoah, Pavement, and Carpenter. Pharaoh and Pavement ants are smaller and will either appear dull yellow or reddish brown. They typically take residence in kitchens and bathrooms due to the warm, humid conditions present in these rooms. Carpenter ants are larger than their counterparts and are black. They can be found in areas where wood is present (fireplaces, trees, stumps).
  • Cockroaches – Oriental, American and German cockroaches are the most common, and they can easily be identified by color and location. Oriental and American species typically have dark color variations and prefer to inhabit cool, dark spaces. You may find them in under soil or steps. German cockroaches are more of a nuisance, as they tend to be concentrated in areas where food is present. Marked by a dark stripe that runs the length of their torso, these are often found in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Spiders – There are many species of spiders, some of which are harmful to humans. Daddy Long Legs are very common, but a non-threat. They are characterized by a small body with long thin legs. They build their webs in corners and crevices, which is why most homeowners come into contact with them. Black Widows and Brown Recluses are the spiders you want to be wary of; they are venomous and their bites can potentially be fatal if left untreated. Black widows are easily identified by two small red marks on the underside of their stomach, which is large and shiny. Brown Recluses are territorial and tend to stay in shaded areas. They have a violin-shaped marking on their torso and attack when threatened.
  • House Mouse – Small with colors ranging from gray to light brown. Much smaller than rats, mice tend to have unusually large ears. They nest in dry, warm areas. Bedding, insulation, and furniture all make perfect homes for these pests.
  • Scorpions – Scorpions can be harmful to infants and the elderly, learning how to identify them and remove them is crucial to your safety.


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