Check out our pest identifications below:
The identification of insects is not fundamentally different from the identification of birds, fish, mammals, flowers, trees or any other form of life. It is simply a matter of knowing what to look for and being able to see it. Insect identification is made difficult by the tremendous number of different species.
Like all living things, insects are grouped together based on similar characteristics. The Animal Kingdom is divided into Phylum. The Arthropod Phylum contains animals that have an external skeleton. It is divided into four subphylum; the largest is the Insecta, or insects. It, in turn, is divided into twenty-six orders. The orders are then divided into families, which are divided into genus.
The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile, formerly Iridomyrmex humilis) is a dark ant native to northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. It is an invasive species that has been established in many mediterranean climate areas, inadvertently introduced by humans to many places, including South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Easter Island, Australia, Hawaii, Europe, and the United States.
They have been extraordinarily successful, in part, because different nests of the introduced Argentine ants seldom attack or compete with each other, unlike most other species of ant. In their introduced range, their genetic makeup is so uniform that individuals from one nest can mingle in a neighboring nest without being attacked. Thus, in most of their introduced range they form “supercolonies”. “Some ants have an extraordinary social organization, called unicoloniality, whereby individuals mix freely among physically separated nests. This type of social organization is not only a key attribute responsible for the ecological domination of these ants, but also an evolutionary paradox and a potential problem for kin selection theory because relatedness between nest mates is effectively zero.” In contrast, native populations are more genetically diverse, genetically differentiated (among colonies and across space), and form colonies that are much smaller than the supercolonies that dominate the introduced range. Argentine ants in their native South America also co-exist with many other species of ants, and do not attain the high population densities that characterize introduced populations.
Little Black Ant
The Little Black Ant (Monomorium minimum) is a species of ant. Members of the species are tiny and shiny black in color. These ants are pests that are usually found outdoors or in wood inside a home that causes it to decay.
Workers are 1/16th inch in length and the queens are 1/8th inch in length. They use recruitment to deal more effectively with large prey. They form colonies with multiple queens.
Ant eggs laid by the queen can take just 10 days to hatch. Winged ants may fly away and start a new colony if the current colony is overpopulated.
Carpenter ants are large (¼–1 in) ants indigenous to many parts of the world. They prefer dead, damp wood in which to build nests. Sometimes carpenter ants will hollow out sections of trees. The most likely species to be infesting a house in the United States is the Black carpenter ant, Camponotus pennsylvanicus. However, there are over a thousand other species in the genus Camponotus.
Carpenter ants can damage wood used in the construction of buildings. They can leave sawdust like material behind that provides clues to nesting location.
In at least nine Southeast Asian species of the Cylindricus complex, such as Camponotus saundersi, workers feature greatly enlarged mandibular glands. They can release their contents suicidally by rupturing the intersegmental membrane of the gaster, resulting in a spray of toxic substance from the head, which gave these species the common name “exploding ants”.
Its defensive behaviors include self-destruction by autothysis. Two oversized, poison-filled mandibular glands run the entire length of the ant’s body. When combat takes a turn for the worse, the ant violently contracts its abdominal muscles to rupture its body and spray poison or glue in all directions. The ant has an enormously enlarged mandibular (abdomen) gland, many times the size of a normal ant, which produces the glue. The glue bursts out and entangles and immobilizes all nearby victims. The termite, Globitermes sulphureus has a similar defensive mechanism.
The pavement ant, Tetramorium caespitum, is a common household pest. Their name comes from the fact that they usually make their homes in pavement. They are distinguished by two spines on the back, two nodes on the petiole, and grooves on the head and thorax.
During early spring, colonies attempt to conquer new areas and often attack nearby enemy colonies. These result in huge sidewalk battles, sometimes leaving thousands of ants dead. Because of their aggressive nature, they often invade and colonize seemingly impenetrable areas. In summer time the ants dig out the sand in between the pavements to vent the nests.
The pavement ant is dark brown to blackish, and one-eighth inch long. It will eat almost anything, including insects, seeds, honeydew, honey, bread, meats, nuts, ice cream and cheese. The species does not pose a public health risk, but can contaminate food and should be avoided.
Fire ants are a variety of stinging ants with over 280 species worldwide. A typical fire ant colony produces large mounds in open areas, and feeds mostly on young plants, seeds, and sometimes crickets. Fire ants often attack small animals and can kill them. Unlike many other ants, which bite and then spray acid on the wound, fire ants only bite to get a grip and then sting (from the abdomen) and inject a toxic alkaloid venom called Solenopsin, a compound from the class of piperidines. For humans, this is a painful sting, it hurts, a sensation similar to what one feels when burned by fire—hence the name fire ant—and the aftereffects of the sting can be deadly to sensitive individuals. The venom is both insecticidal and antibiotic. Researchers have proposed that nurse workers will spray their brood to protect them from microorganisms.
Fire ants nest in the soil, often near moist areas, such as river banks, pond edges, watered lawns and highway edges. Usually the nest will not be visible as it will be built under objects such as timber, logs, rocks, pavers, bricks, etc. If there is no cover for nesting, dome-shaped mounds will be constructed, but this is usually only found in open spaces such as fields, parks and lawns. These mounds can reach heights of 40 cm (15.7 in).
Colonies are founded by small groups of queens or single queens. Even if only one queen survives, within a month or so the colony can expand to thousands of individuals. Some colonies may be polygynous (having multiple queens per nest).
The pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis) is a small (2 mm) yellow or light brown, almost transparent ant notorious for being a major indoor nuisance pest, especially in hospitals. The origin of this “tramp” ant is uncertain, although favoured alternatives include West Africa and Indonesia. The Pharaoh ant has been introduced to virtually every area of the world including Europe, the Americas, Australasia and Southeast Asia. Pharaoh ants are a tropical species but they thrive in buildings anywhere, even in temperate regions provided central heating is present.
Unlike most ants the Pharaoh ant is polygynous, meaning its colonies contain many queens (from 2 to over 200). An individual colony normally contains 1000–2500 workers but a high density of nests gives the impression of massive colonies. Colonies also lack nestmate recognition so there is no hostility between neighbouring colonies. Pharaoh ants lack the normal cycle of reproduction observed in most ants; they are able to produce sexual reproductive individuals as required. Laboratory colonies exhibit weak reproductive cycles but this cannot be assumed to be the natural condition. Colonies reproduce by “budding”, where a subset of the colony including queens, workers and brood (eggs, larvae and pupae) leave the main colony for an alternative nest site. Budding is the major factor underlying the invasiveness of Pharaoh ants. A single seed colony can populate a large office block, almost to the exclusion of all other insect pests, in less than six months. Pharaoh ants have become a serious nuisance pest in hospitals, rest homes, apartment dwellings, hotels, grocery stores, food establishments and other buildings. They feed on a wide variety of foods including jellies, honey, shortening, peanut butter, corn syrup, fruit juices, baked goods, soft drinks, greases, dead insects and even shoe polish. Also, these ants gnaw holes in silk, rayon and rubber goods. In hospitals, foraging ants have been found in surgical wounds, I.V. glucose solutions, sealed packs of sterile dressing, soft drinks, water in flower displays and water pitchers. These ants are capable of mechanically transmitting diseases and contaminating sterile materials.
Bed bugs are primarily nocturnal insects that feed exclusively on blood. Adult females can lay 1-5 eggs per day. Eggs hatch approximately 7-10 days after being deposited by the female. Development from egg hatch to adult takes approximately 1 ½ -2 months but can take longer depending upon environmental conditions and food availability. Surprisingly, individual bed bugs do not seek a blood meal everyday and may go several days to a week (or more) between each blood meal. Bed bugs are believed to be mostly inactive between blood meals, harboring in their secretive resting places. Bed bugs are not limited to the bed or the bedroom but instead will disperse throughout a structure. Bed bugs are very resilient and can easily survive for several months or more without a blood meal.
Bed bugs belong to the family of insects known as Cimicidae. All members of this family of insects feed exclusively on blood which they require in order to develop and reproduce. There are a number of closely related species in this family that feed on birds, bats and other animals. However, the species most adapted to living with humans is the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, which is found world wide. The immature bugs go through five developmental stages before reaching maturity. A blood meal is required between each stage. As the immature bed bugs develop they continue to become larger and darker until reaching adulthood. Under favorable conditions (70-90°F), bed bugs can complete development (from egg to adult) in one and half – two months. Cool temperatures or limited access to a blood meal may extend the developmental period. Adults will typically live for just under a year. The adult females typically deposit up to 5 eggs per day depositing them in a wide variety of locations, both on and away from the bed. An adult female may lay up to 500 eggs during her lifetime.
Bed bugs are nocturnal insects and lead a very cryptic lifestyle. As a result, bed bugs are often present for weeks or even months before a single bug is ever seen by the occupants of an infested structure. They live in cracks and crevices associated with bed frames, head boards, mattresses and box springs. However they also will disperse away from the bed and can live between or beneath floorboards, carpeting, under decorative moldings, in or under furniture, behind picture frames, inside wall voids, etc. There is virtually no crack too small for this insect to occupy. It is from these secluded cracks and crevices that the bugs emerge during the night-time hours to feed on their sleeping host. The bites are typically painless and often go undetected.
Bed bugs differ from many other blood feeding pests such as mosquitoes, fleas, etc. in that both adult males and females, as well as all of the immature stages, feed on blood. Once they have fed they return back to their hidden resting places. In the absence of a host, bed bugs can continue to survive for many months without a blood meal. In fact it has been reported that in some cases bed bugs can survive 18 months or more without feeding.
Africanized Honey Bee
Africanized honey bees (AHB), known colloquially as “killer bees” or Africanized bees, are hybrids of the African honey bee, Apis mellifera scutellata (not A. m. adansonii see Collet et al., 2006), with various European honey bees such as the Italian bee A. m. ligustica and A. m. iberiensis. These bees are relatively aggressive compared to the European subspecies. Small swarms of AHBs are capable of taking over European honey bee hives by invading the hive and establishing their own queen after killing the European queen.
In areas of suitable temperate climate, the survival traits of africanized queens and colonies outperform western honey bee colonies. This competitive edge leads to the dominance of African traits. In Brazil, the africanized hybrids are known as Assassin Bees, for their habit of taking over an existing hive of European bees; this habit is most evident when the hive being attacked has a weakened queen, so not all hives are equally vulnerable, and overall rates of hive usurpation can reach 20%.
A bumblebee (or bumble bee) is any member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae. There are over 250 known species, existing primarily in the Northern Hemisphere. Bumblebees are social insects that are characterized by black and yellow body hairs, often in bands. However, some species have orange or red on their bodies, or may be entirely black. Another obvious (but not unique) characteristic is the soft nature of the hair (long, branched setae), called pile, that covers their entire body, making them appear and feel fuzzy. They are best distinguished from similarly large, fuzzy bees by the form of the female hind leg, which is modified to form a corbicula; a shiny concave surface that is bare, but surrounded by a fringe of hairs used to transport pollen (in similar bees, the hind leg is completely hairy, and pollen grains are wedged into the hairs for transport). Like their relatives the honey bees, bumblebees feed on nectar and gather pollen to feed their young. They are often confused with the carpenter bee.
Yellow jacket or yellow-jacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as “wasps” in other English-speaking countries. Most of these are black-and-yellow; some are black-and-white (such as the bald-faced hornet, Dolichovespula maculata), while others may have the abdomen background color red instead of black. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, small size (similar to a honey bee), their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side to side flight pattern prior to landing. All females are capable of stinging which can cause pain to the person that has been stung. Yellowjackets are important predators of pest insects.
Wasps have narrow waist with slender bodies, cylindrical legs, and appear shiny with smooth skin. The most common wasps encountered by people are: Yellowjackets, baldfaced hornets, and paper wasps. Wasps only sting to defend their colony &/ themselves. This involves an injection of protein venom causing pain and sometimes other reactions. Wasps have the ability to sting multiple times because they are able to pull out their stinger with out injury to them self. If stung by a wasp the stinger will not be left behind. Wasp venom differs from bee venom so having a severe reaction to one species does not mean you’ll have a severe reaction to the other. Most individuals will have a mild reaction to wasp stings. Mild reactions symptoms include: itching, burning, redness that may last up to a week. Local mild reactions can be treated with ice or commercial ointments that help relive itching & pain. Allergic reactions include: swelling away from initial site, hives, rash, head-aches, and stomach upset.
Eastern carpenter bees are approximately one inch long and often mistaken for bumble bees. The latter have wide, hairy, yellow bands in the middle of the abdomen. By contrast, the abdomen of the large carpenter bee is shiny and black with few (if any) hairs or yellow bands. Females can sting if they are disturbed. Their pollination ability is questionable-they can remove nectar without pollinating the plant by cutting small holes in flowers. Unlike females, males have a large yellow/white spot on the front of the face and are stingless. Large male carpenter bees can be highly aggressive when defending their territory.
There is one generation of carpenter bees produced per year. Adults emerge from old tunnels in April or May and mate. Females then dig a tunnel, dropping sawdust on the ground under the hole. The tunnel entrance is almost a perfect circle. Wood piles, unpainted fence posts, fascia boards, eaves and decks are the preferred places of attack, and soft woods are favored over hard woods. The tunnel is perpendicular to the wood surface for the first one to two inches, makes an abrupt right angle turn, and then runs parallel to the grain of the wood for four to six inches.
Unlike many social wasps and bees, which feed their young on an as-needed basis, the large carpenter bee is a bee that lays an egg and fills the tunnel with enough pollen for the larva to complete development. She then seals off the chamber by making a thin wall from chewed wood pulp. The process is repeated five to seven more times in the same tunnel.
Adults emerge in August, overwinter in the tunnel and the cycle is repeated. Old tunnels may be reused or extended further into the structure. They are often confused with the bumble bee.
The boxelder bug frequently becomes a nuisance pest around homes and buildings near plantings of the boxelder, Acer negundo. In heavily infested areas, they sometimes are associated with ash (Fraxinus spp.) and maple (Acer spp.). This insect species is distributed throughout eastern United States west to Nevada. Freshly laid eggs are straw yellow and turn red as the embryo develops inside. First instar nymphs are approximately 1.3 mm in length, wingless (with black wing pads) and have bright red abdomens. The legs and antennae are black. The nymphs become darker red as they mature through the five nymphal instars. The brownish-black adults are about 12 mm long and somewhat flattened on the top. Three longitudinal stripes on the thorax and the margins of the basal half of the wings are reddish orange. The adult’s abdomen is also reddish orange.
There are typically five kinds of cockroaches commonly found in the Northern United States. They vary somewhat in appearance, reproductive capacity, and habits. We will be discussing the following: German Cockroach, American Cockroach, Oriental Cockroach (or Water bugs), Brown-banded Cockroach, and the Pennsylvania Woods Cockroach (or Woods Roach). Please click on the links or pictures to learn more about that species. Generally speaking, they are all rather large, flattened insects, brownish or dark in color and fast moving. Roaches seek concealment in the daytime and also when disturbed at night. They may be carried into homes in boxes, egg cartons, beverage cases and produce such as potatoes. In apartments and other large buildings, they readily migrate from one place to another along water pipes.
The German roach is a very common species and usually found in kitchens and/or bathrooms (drawn to heat & humidity). The adults are comparatively small (about 1/2 inch long), tan in color and often occur in large numbers. The immature – nymphs, have dark markings which make them appear dark brown to black.
The American roach is reddish-brown and is the largest of the common roaches (about 1-1/2 inches in length at maturity). It is found more often in food establishments, although houses and apartments near such establishments can frequently become infested.
The Oriental roach is also large (about 1 inch in length) and shiny black or very dark brown. It is often called a “water bug” or “black beetle.” This species is frequently found in dampness and may enter homes through sewer openings. It may likewise live outdoors during the summer months and move from home to home.
The brown-banded roach is a southern species but is often found in Indiana. It resembles the German roach in size but differs in habits. It may infest the entire home, rather than confining itself to the kitchen or where there is food. Infestations usually start from luggage, furniture or other materials shipped from one place to another.
Earwigs are typically nocturnal and hide in small, dark, moist areas during the daytime. During the summer, they can be found around damp areas such as near sinks and bathrooms. They tend to gather in shady cracks, openings or anywhere they can remain concealed during the daylight. Good places for them to hide include compost, mulch, pine straw, waste bins, picnic tables, patios, lawn furniture, window frames or anywhere they have access to small cracks that can potentially provide a hiding place. For protection from their predators, some species squirt foul smelling liquid from scent glands located on their abdomen and it simultaneously uses its pincer in defense.
Flea is the common name for small, bloodsucking, wingless insects. Adult fleas, which feed on the blood of their hosts, are surface parasites on the skin of humans and other mammals and, less often, on birds. Fleas are found all over the world. Their eggs are laid under carpets, in the folds of tapestry, in refuse piles, and in other places that provide safety and adequate nutrition. In 6 to 12 days the eggs hatch, becoming larvae with biting mouth parts. After a few days of voracious feeding upon organic refuse, the larvae spin cocoons and enter a pupal stage. The adult flea emerges from the cocoon in a few weeks. Adult fleas, which are slightly more than 0.3 cm (more than 0.1 in) long, have broad, rather flat bodies, short antennae, and piercing and sucking mouth parts; their eyes are either minute or absent. Their long, powerful legs enable them to leap relatively high into the air.
Several flea species infest household pets and domestic animals. The dog flea and the cat flea are two of the most common species, both of which are parasites also on human beings, poultry, and livestock. The human flea, the species frequently found most on people, is distributed throughout the world, but is uncommon in the United States. The dog flea, cat flea, and human flea are all intermediate hosts of a common cat and dog parasite, the cucumber tapeworm. Tapeworm eggs are deposited in fecal matter, and some of these eggs may cling to the hair of the primary host. Fleas swallow the eggs, which then undergo some development in the flea. If an animal or person accidentally swallows an infected flea, an adult tapeworm develops in the new host. The rat fleas, in the Tropics and in Europe, are important carriers of bubonic plague. The sticktight flea is another common pest, noted for its habit of clinging tenaciously to its host. Dog eczema is usually associated with the presence of fleas.
Kudzu bugs….sounds a little too good to be true, right? Unfortunately, In the case of the Kudzu Bug, it’s actually not good news at all. In 2009, northeastern Georgia reported 9 counties that the critter had been spotted in. By the next year, it had made its way in to 60 counties that kudzu bugs were found in kudzu patches, soybean fields and on other plants as well. Yes, soybean fields. Therein lies the bad news.
Kudzu bugs are about ¼” long, olive green colored with brown specks, and have a hard shell. While in the spring and summer they’re busy eating plants, in the fall, they’re starting to look for a nice cozy place to spend the winter. Where would that be, you might ask? Probably under rocks, leaves, etc. BUT…be warned! They’ve been known to find their way in to homes…much like ladybugs do. They particularly like congregating in masses on light colored surfaces, such as siding or fascia boards. They also like light colored clothing as well as humid or damp conditions inside.
This creature is hard to control because of the sheer number of the bugs as well as the fact that they are mobile and may scurry or fly away quickly, avoiding pesticide.
These pests, like the Lady Bug, are spreading fast across the United States. Especially in the Southeast, our climate makes a perfect breeding ground for these bugs.
Ladybug (Asian Lady Beetle)
Coccinellidae is a family of beetles, known variously as ladybirds (UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa), ladybugs (North America) or lady beetles (preferred by some scientists). Lesser-used names include ladyclock, lady cow, and lady fly.
They are small insects, ranging from 1 mm to 10 mm (0.04 to 0.4 inches), and are commonly yellow, orange, or scarlet with small black spots on their wing covers, with black legs, head and antennae. A very large number of species are mostly or entirely black, grey, or brown and may be difficult for non-entomologists to recognize as coccinellids (and, conversely, there are many small beetles that are easily mistaken as such, like tortoise beetles).
Coccinellids are found worldwide, with over 5,000 species described, more than 450 native to North America alone.
A few species are pests in North America and Europe, but they are generally considered useful insects as many species feed on aphids or scale insects, which are pests in gardens, agricultural fields, orchards, and similar places. The Mall of America, for instance, releases thousands of ladybugs into its indoor park as a natural means of pest control for its gardens.
A common myth is that the number of spots on its back indicates its age. NOT true.
Millipedes, often referred to as “thousand-leggers,” are commonplace around structures. They occasionally become pests when they migrate into buildings from their usual habitat outdoors. While millipedes sometimes enter in large numbers, they do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases, nor do they infest food, clothing or wood. They are simply a nuisance by their presence.
Most millipedes are brownish or blackish, wormlike, segmented and slow moving. Each body segment has two pairs of very short legs. Millipedes that commonly invade buildings are about 1/4 – 1 inch long and tend to coil up like a watch spring when disturbed. They do not bite, unlike some centipedes which have one pair of legs per body segment and tend to be faster moving.
In nature millipedes are scavengers and feed mainly on decaying organic matter. They occasionally feed on young plants but the damage inflicted is seldom significant. Millipedes have high moisture requirements and tend to remain hidden under objects during the day.
Around buildings they are common under mulch, leaf litter, compost, boards, stones, flower pots, and other items resting on damp ground. Another frequent hiding place is behind the grass edge adjoining sidewalks and foundations. Adult females lay up to a few hundred eggs in soil, leaf litter, etc., and the immatures pass through a series of molts, gradually increasing in size.
Millipedes often leave their natural habitats at night and crawl about over sidewalks, patios, and foundations. At certain times of the year, especially during autumn, they may migrate into buildings in great numbers. Fall movement into structures appears to be accidental, occurring in the course of searching for humid overwintering sites. Migration into buildings also is common during spring and summer, in conjunction with periods of excessively wet or dry weather.
Millipedes often invade crawl spaces, damp basements and first floors of houses at ground level. Common points of entry include door thresholds (especially at the base of sliding glass doors), expansion joints, and through the voids of concrete block walls. Frequent sightings of these pests indoors usually means that there are large numbers breeding on the outside in the lawn, or beneath mulch, leaf litter or debris close to the foundation. Because of their moisture requirement, they do not survive indoors more than a few days unless there are very moist or damp conditions.
Mosquito, common name for any of about 2000 species of two-winged insects. They are found from the tropics to the Arctic Circle and from lowlands to the peaks of high mountains. Mosquitoes have long, slender wings and are unusual among flies in having small scales over most of the wing veins. The body is narrow. The long antennae have numerous whorls of hair, short in the female and long and bushy in the male. In one large group of mosquitoes, the mouthparts of the female are long, adapted for piercing and for sucking blood. The male, which feeds on nectar and water, has rudimentary mouthparts. Females of this group prefer the blood of warm-blooded animals. When they bite, they inject some of their salivary fluid into the wound, causing swelling and irritation. Many inject infectious microorganisms and thus transmit such diseases as malaria, yellow fever, dengue, and filariasis.
Female mosquitoes lay their eggs only in water; some species lay their eggs in running water, others in woodland pools, marshes, swamps, estuaries, or in containers such as rain barrels. The larvae are known as wrigglers because of their wriggling motion in the water. A large number of mosquito eggs and larvae are destroyed by small fish. Mosquitoes may be controlled by eliminating their breeding places or by spraying these places with oil or insecticides.
The typical species is most abundant in warm regions. The common house mosquito of the United States is a carrier of encephalitis. Other species are responsible for the spread of yellow fever and dengue. Several species of a related group transmit malaria. This group is characterized by palpi, or sense organs, on the mouthparts that are as long as the sucking tube in both the male and the female. The wings of these mosquitoes are spotted with white and dark areas. These mosquitoes rest with the head and sucking tube parallel to the surface on which they are resting and with the body bent at an angle to this surface; other mosquitoes, including the common house mosquito, rest with the body parallel and with the head at an angle to the surface.
Another species, the Asian tiger mosquito, has caused health experts concern since it was first detected in the United States in 1985. Probably arriving in shipments of used tire casings, this fierce biter can spread a type of encephalitis, dengue fever, and other diseases. Hardy and resistant to pesticides, it may be difficult to control.
Pillbugs / Sowbugs
Sowbugs and pillbugs are similar-looking pests which are more closely akin to shrimp and crayfish than to insects. They are the only crustaceans that have adapted to living their entire life on land. Sowbugs and pillbugs live in moist environments outdoors but occasionally end up in buildings. Although they sometimes enter in large numbers, they do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases, nor do they infest food, clothing or wood. They are simply a nuisance by their presence.
Sowbugs and pillbugs range in size from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and are dark to slate gray. Their oval, segmented bodies are convex above but flat or concave underneath. They possess seven pairs of legs and two pairs of antennae (only one pair of antennae is readily visible). Sowbugs also have two tail-like appendages which project out from the rear end of the body. Pillbugs have no posterior appendages and can roll up into a tight ball when disturbed, for which they are sometimes, called “roly-polies”.
Sowbugs and pillbugs are scavengers and feed mainly on decaying organic matter. They occasionally feed on young plants but the damage inflicted is seldom significant. Sowbugs and pillbugs thrive only in areas of high moisture, and tend to remain hidden under objects during the day. Around buildings they are common under mulch, compost, boards, stones, flower pots, and other items resting on damp ground. Another frequent hiding place is behind the grass edge adjoining sidewalks and foundations.
Sowbugs and pillbugs may leave their natural habitats at night, and crawl about over sidewalks, patios, and foundations. They often invade crawl spaces, damp basements and first floors of houses at ground level. Common points of entry into buildings include door thresholds (especially at the base of sliding glass doors), expansion joints, and through the voids of concrete block walls. Frequent sightings of these pests indoors usually means that there are large numbers breeding on the outside, close to the foundation. Since sowbugs and pillbugs require moisture, they do not survive indoors for more than a few days unless there are very moist or damp conditions.
The House Mouse (Mus musculus) is one of the most numerous species of the genus Mus commonly termed a mouse. It is a small mammal and a rodent. Laboratory mice belong to strains of House Mice and are some of the most important model organisms in biology and medicine; they are by far the most commonly used genetically altered laboratory mammal. House mice have an adult body length (nose to base of tail) of 7.5–10 cm (3.0–3.9 in) and a tail length of 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in); the weight is typically 10–25 g (0.35–0.88 oz). They vary from white to grey, light brown to black, with short hair and a light belly. The ears and tail have little hair. The hind feet are short compared to Apodemus mice, only 15–19 mm (0.59–0.75 in) long; the normal gait is a run with a stride of about 4.5 cm (1.8 in), though they can jump up to 45 cm (18 in). The droppings are blackish, about 3 mm (0.12 in) long, and have a strong musty smell. The voice is a high-pitched squeak.
Roof Rat, “Rattus rattus”
The Black Rat (Rattus rattus) (alt. Ship Rat, Roof Rat, House Rat, Alexandrine Rat, Old English Rat) is a common long-tailed rodent of the genus Rattus (rats) in the subfamily Murinae (murine rodents). The species originated in tropical Asia and spread through the Near East in Roman times before reaching Europe by the 6th century and spreading with Europeans across the world. Today it is again largely confined to warmer areas, having been supplanted by the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) in cooler regions.
Despite its name, it exhibits several colour forms. It is usually black to light brown in colour with a lighter underside. A typical rat will be 15–20 cm (5.9–7.9 in) long with a further 20 cm (7.9 in) of tail. It is nocturnal and omnivorous, with a preference for grains and fruit. Compared to the Brown Rat, it is a poor swimmer, but more agile and a better climber, tending even to flee upwards. In a suitable environment it will breed throughout the year, with a female producing three to six litters of up to ten young. Females may regulate their production of offspring during times when food is scarce, throwing as few as only one litter a year. R. rattus lives for about 2–3 years. Social groups of up to sixty can be formed.
Black Rats (or their ectoparasites) are able to carry a number of pathogens, of which bubonic plague (via the rat flea), typhus, Weil’s disease, toxoplasmosis and trichinosis are the most well known. In the 1920s in England, several colour variations were bred and shown alongside domesticated brown rats. This included an unusual green tinted variety. Today however, very few people keep Black Rats as pets. Most pet rats (or fancy rats) are domesticated brown rats.
Peromyscus maniculatus is a rodent native to North America. It is most commonly called the Deer Mouse, although that name is common to most species of Peromyscus and is fairly widespread across the continent, with the major exception being the southeast United States and the far north. Like other Peromyscus species, it is a carrier of emerging diseases such as Hantaviruses and Lyme disease. It is closely related to Peromyscus leucopus, the White-footed Mouse. Deer mice are nocturnal creatures that spend the day time in areas such as trees or burrows where they have nests made of plant material. The individual litters of deer mice are contained by the female mother in an individual home range. The deer mice do not mingle in groups with their litters. During the development stages, the mice within one litter interact much more than mice of two different litters. Although deer mice live in individual home ranges, these ranges do tend to overlap. When overlapping occurs, it is more likely to be with opposite sexes rather than with the same sex. Deer mice that live within overlapping home ranges tend to recognize one another and interact a lot.
The Norway rat is also known as the house rat, brown rat, wharf rat, sewer rat, water rat, and gray rat. The Norway rat is the most widely-distributed rat species in the United States, being found in all the states. The Norway rat is larger, stronger, more aggressive, and better adapted for producing young and surviving in colder climates that the roof rat and other rat species.
The Norway rate has a stocky body, weighing between 12 and 16 ounces as an adult. The body fur is coarse and ranges from reddish to grayish brown with buff-white underparts, but there are many color variations including black Norway rates.
Breeding peaks for the Norway rat are normally in the spring and fall of the year, decreasing during the hot summer and the cold winter. After mating and a gestation period of about 22 days, the mother rat gives birth to a litter of 8-12 pups. The average female rat has 4 to 7 litters per year and may successfully wean 20 or more pups annually.
Rats require about 1 ounce of food daily. They prefer food with high carbohydrate and protein content although almost any type of food will be taken. Rats require ½ to 1 ounce of water daily when feeding on dry foods, but need less if their food source is moist. Unlike mice, rats cannot survive for very long without free water.
Scorpions are predatory arthropod animals of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. There are about 2,000 species of scorpions, found widely distributed south of about 49° N, except New Zealand and Antarctica. The northernmost part of the world where scorpions live in the wild is Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in the UK, where a small colony of Euscorpius flavicaudis has been resident since the 1860s. The word scorpion derives from Greek – skorpios.
Scorpions have quite variable lifespans and the actual lifespan of most species is not known. The age range appears to be approximately 4–25 years (25 years being the maximum reported life span in the species Hadrurus arizonensis). Lifespan of Hadogenes species in the wild is estimated at 25–30 years.
Scorpions prefer to live in areas where the temperatures range from 20 °C to 37 °C (68 °F to 99 °F), but may survive from freezing temperatures to the desert heat. Scorpions of the genus Scorpiops living in high Asian mountains, bothriurid scorpions from Patagonia and small Euscorpius scorpions from middle Europe can all survive winter temperatures of about -25 °C. In Repetek (Turkmenistan) there live seven species of scorpions (of which Pectinibuthus birulai is endemic) in temperatures which vary from 49,9 °C to -31 °C.
They are nocturnal and fossorial, finding shelter during the day in the relative cool of underground holes or undersides of rocks and coming out at night to hunt and feed. Scorpions exhibit photophobic behavior, primarily to evade detection by their predators such as birds, centipedes, lizards, mice, possums, and rats.
Scorpions are opportunistic predators of small arthropods and insects. They use their chelae (pincers) to catch the prey initially. Depending on the toxicity of their venom and size of their claws, they will then either crush the prey or inject it with neurotoxic venom. This will kill or paralyze the prey so the scorpion can eat it. Scorpions have a relatively unique style of eating using chelicerae, small claw-like structures that protrude from the mouth that are unique to the Chelicerata among arthropods. The chelicerae, which are very sharp, are used to pull small amounts of food off the prey item for digestion. Scorpions can only digest food in a liquid form; any solid matter (fur, exoskeleton, etc) is disposed of by the scorpion.
The scientific name for the species is Lepisma saccharina, due to its tendency to eat starchy foods high in carbohydrates and protein, such as dextrin. Frequently called silverfish, fishmoths, carpet sharks or paramites, they are small, wingless insects in the order Thysanura. However, the insect’s more common name comes from the insect’s distinctive metallic appearance and fish-like shape. While the scientific name can be traced back to 1758, the common name has been in use since at least 1855.
Silverfish are nocturnal, elongated and flattened insects typically 13–25 millimetres (0.51–0.98 in) long. Their abdomen tapers at the end, giving them a fish-like appearance. The newly hatched are whitish, but develop a greyish hue and metallic shine as they get older. They have three long cerci at the tips of their abdomens, one off the end of their body, one facing left, and one facing right. They also have two small compound eyes, despite other members of Thysanura being completely eyeless, such as the family Nicoletiidae.
Like other species in Apterygota, silverfish completely lack wings. They have long antennae, and move in a wiggling motion that resembles the movement of a fish. This, coupled with their appearance, influences their common name. Silverfish typically live for two to eight years.
Silverfish are a cosmopolitan species, found in Africa, North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and other parts of the Pacific. They inhabit moist areas, requiring a relative humidity between 75% and 95%. In urban areas, they can be found in basements, bathrooms, garages, closets, and attics.
Reproduction and life cycle
The reproduction of silverfish is preceded by a ritual involving three phases, which may last over half an hour. In the first phase, the male and female stand face to face, their trembling antennae touching, then repeatedly back off and return to this position. In the second phase the male runs away and the female chases him. In the third phase, the male and female stand side by side and head-to-tail, with the male vibrating his tail against the female. Finally the male lays a spermatophore, a sperm capsule covered in gossamer, which the female takes into her body via her ovipositor to fertilize the eggs.
The female lays groups of less than sixty eggs at once, deposited in small crevices. The eggs are oval-shaped, whitish; about 0.8 millimeters (0.031 in) long, and take between two weeks and two months to hatch. Silverfish usually lay fewer than one hundred eggs in their lifetime.
When the nymphs hatch, they are whitish in color, and look like smaller adults. As they molt, young silverfish develop a greyish appearance and a metallic shine, eventually becoming adults after three months to three years. They may go through seventeen to sixty-six molts in their lifetime, sometimes thirty in a single year, which is much more than usual for an insect. Silverfish are among the few types of insect that continue to molt after reaching adulthood. The lifespan of a silverfish varies from two to eight years.
American House Spider
The common house spider, sometimes called the American house spider, is an extremely common spider in North America and South America, as its name suggests. They build their tangled web in secluded locations, which can also house eggs contained in one or more spherical sacs. Their behavior on webs is quiet and efficient.
They are generally dull in appearance, with patterns consisting of brown shades for coloration, often giving a vague spotted appearance that is particularly noticeable on the legs. Their average body size is a quarter-inch (9 mm) long, but they can be an inch (2.5 cm) or more across with legs outspread. These traits combined allow the spiders to blend into the background and escape notice.
Like some other species of the family Theridiidae, P. tepidariorum shares a body shape and size that makes it similar to widow spiders, which have venom that is classified as potentially dangerous.
A male and female often share the same web for longer periods, and several females often build their webs in close proximity. However, several females will fight each other on an encounter. This species can live for more after a year after reaching maturity. Each egg sac contains from 100 to more than 400 eggs, with a single female producing up to 17 egg sacs. The hatchlings remain in the mother’s web for several days.
The assassin spider Mimetus puritanus (Mimetidae), and various jumping spiders such as Phidippus variegatus or Metacyrba undata prey on this species. The assassin bug Stenolemus lanipes (Emesinae) feeds apparently exclusively on spiderlings of this species.
Latrodectus Hesperus, the Western black widow spider or Western widow, is a highly venomous spider species found in western regions of the United States of America. The female’s body is 14–16 millimeters in length and is black, often with an hourglass shaped red mark on the lower abdomen. The male of the species is around half this size and generally a tan color with lighter striping on the abdomen. The population was previously described as a subspecies of Latrodectus mactans and it is closely related to the northern species Latrodectus variolus. The species, as with others of the genus, build irregular webs, the strands of which are very strong down below. The female’s consumption of the male after courtship, a cannabilistic and suicidal behaviour observed in Latrodectus hasseltii (Australia’s redback), is rare in this species. Male Western widows may breed several times during its relatively shorter lifespan. These spiders are very dangerous and should be handled by a professional.
Brown Recluse Spider
The brown recluse spider or violin spider, Loxosceles reclusa, is a well-known member of the family Sicariidae (formerly placed in a family “Loxoscelidae”). It is usually between 6–20 mm (¼ in and ¼ in), but may grow larger. It is brown and sometimes an almost deep yellow color and usually has markings on the dorsal side of its cephalothorax, with a black line coming from it that looks like a violin with the neck of the violin pointing to the rear of the spider, resulting in the nicknames fiddleback spider, brown fiddler or violin spider. Since the violin pattern is not diagnostic, and other spiders may have similar marking (i.e. cellar spiders and pirate spiders), for purposes of identification it is far more important to examine the eyes. Differing from most spiders, which have eight eyes, recluse spiders have six eyes arranged in pairs (dyads) with one median pair and two lateral pairs. Only a few other spiders have 3 pairs of eyes arranged this way (e.g., scytodids), and recluses can be distinguished from these as recluse abdomens have no coloration pattern nor do their legs, which also lack spines. This spider is very dangerous and should only be handled by a professional.
Pholcus (Granddaddy Long Legs)
The Pholcidae are a spider family in the suborder Araneomorphae. Some species, especially Pholcus phalangioides, are commonly called granddaddy long-legs spider, daddy long-legs spider, daddy long-legger, cellar spider, vibrating spider, or house spider. Confusion often arises because the name “daddy long-legs” is also applied to two distantly related arthropod groups: the harvestmen (which are arachnids but not spiders), and crane flies (which are insects).
Pholcids are fragile spiders, the body being 2–10 mm in length with legs which may be up to 50 mm long. Pholcus and Smeringopus have cylindrical abdomens and the eyes are arranged in two lateral groups of three and two smaller median contiguous eyes. Eight and six eyes both occur in this family. Spermophora has a small globose abdomen and its eyes are arranged in two groups of three and no median eyes. Pholcids are gray to brown with banding or chevron markings. The shape of the Pholcus and Smeringopus’s body resembles that of a peanut shell.
The Wolf Spider common household pest in the fall when they are looking for a warm place to overwinter. They are commonly found around doors, windows, house plants, basements, garages, and in almost all terrestrial habitats. They do not spin a web but roam at night to hunt for food. Wolf spiders are often confused with the brown recluse, but they lack the unmistakable violin-shaped marking behind the head. The wolf spider is shy and seeks to run away when disturbed.
Description: Wolf spiders range from about 1/2 inch to 2 inches in length, hairy, and are typically brown to gray in color with various markings or lines. Wolf spider mothers carry their large egg sacs around with them. When the young spiderlings hatch they climb onto their mother’s back and ride around until partially grown. Wolf spiders are not poisonous.
This true bug in the insect family Pentatomidae is known as an agricultural pest in its native range of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Recently, the BMSB has become a serious pest of fruit, vegetables and farm crops in the Mid-Atlantic region and it is probable that it will become a pest of these commodities in other areas in the United States.
BMSB becomes a nuisance pest both indoors and out when it is attracted to the outside of houses on warm fall days in search of protected, overwintering sites. BMSB occasionally reappears during warmer sunny periods throughout the winter, and again as it emerges in the spring.
Adults are approximately 17 mm long (25 mm = one inch) and are shades of brown on both the upper and lower body surfaces (Fig. 1). They are the typical “shield” shape of other stink bugs, almost as wide as they are long. To distinguish them from other stink bugs, look for lighter bands on the antennae and darker bands on the membranous, overlapping part at the rear of the front pair of wings. They have patches of coppery or bluish-metallic colored puntures (small rounded depressions) on the head and pronotum. The name “stink bug” refers to the scent glands located on the dorsal surface of the abdomen and the underside of the thorax.
The eggs are elliptical (1.6 x 1.3 mm), light yellow to yellow-red with minute spines forming fine lines. They are attached, side-by-side, to the underside of leaves in masses of 20 to 30 eggs.
There are five nymphal instars (immature stages). They range in size from the first instar at 2.4 mm to the fifth instar that is 12 mm in length. The eyes are a deep red. The abdomen is a yellowish red in the first instar and progresses to off-white with reddish spots in the fifth instar. Protuberances are found before each of the abdominal scent glands on the dorsal surface. The legs, head and thorax are black. Spines are located on the femur, before each eye, and several on the lateral margins of the thorax.
Termites have an incredibly long history. They have lived on Earth for more than 250 million years. While termites can be helpful in breaking down rotting wood in the environment, these wood-destroying insects also can cause extensive damage to our modern day structures. Occasionally, referred to as “silent destroyers,” termites may leave few readily observable signs of activity as they consume wood, drywall, sheetrock and various other forms of building materials used in construction of walls, ceilings and floors. Experts estimate that termites damage more than 600,000 homes in the United States annually. In fact, termites cause more damage to U.S. homes (annually) than tornadoes, hurricanes, wind, and hail-storms combined. Each year, U.S. residents spend an estimated $5 billion to control termites and repair termite damage. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), control methods and repairs for damage caused by Formosan termites – the most destructive species of subterranean termite – account for more than $1 billion of this total.
Eastern subterranean termite
Reticulitermes flavipes, the eastern subterranean termite is the most common termite found in North America. These termites are the most economically important wood destroying insects in the United States and are classified as pests. They feed on cellulose material such as the structural wood in buildings, wooden fixtures, paper, books and cotton. A mature colony can range from 20,000 workers to as high as 5 million workers and the queen of the colony lays 5,000 to 10,000 eggs per year to add to this total.
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Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids; like scorpions, spiders and mites. All members of this group have four pairs of legs as adults and have no antennae. Adult insects have three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae. Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks usually take several days to complete feeding.
Ticks have four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph and adult. After the egg hatches, the tiny larva (sometimes called a “seed tick”) feeds on an appropriate host. The larva then develops (molts) into the larger nymph. The nymph feeds on a host and then molts into an even larger adult. Both male and female adults find and feed on a host, and then the females lay eggs sometime after feeding.
Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs (not from trees). When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump. Ticks found on the scalp have usually crawled there from lower parts of the body. Some species of ticks will crawl several feet toward a host. Ticks can be active on winter days when the ground temperatures are about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are two groups of ticks, sometimes referred to as “hard” ticks and “soft” ticks. Hard ticks, like the common dog tick, have a hard shield just behind the mouthparts (sometimes incorrectly called the “head”); unfed hard ticks are shaped like a flat seed. Soft ticks do not have the hard shield and they are shaped like a large raisin. Soft ticks prefer to feed on birds or bats and are seldom encountered unless these animals are nesting or roosting in an occupied building.
American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
One of the most frequently encountered ticks is the American dog tick, also sometimes known as the wood tick. The larvae and nymphs feed on small warm-blooded animals such as mice and birds. The adult American dog tick will feed on humans and medium to large mammals such as raccoons and dogs.
Unfed males and females are reddish-brown and about 3/16-inch long. Females have a large silver-colored spot behind the head and will become ½-inch long after feeding or about the size of a small grape. Males have fine silver lines on the back and do not get much larger after feeding. Males are sometimes mistaken for other species of ticks because they appear so different from the female.
In Illinois, the adults are most active in April, May and June. By September, the adults are inactive and are rarely observed. The American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
The lone star tick is primarily found in the southern half of Illinois, although it can occasionally be found further north. Larvae, nymphs and adults will feed on a variety of warm-blooded hosts, including people. The larva is very tiny, only a little larger than the period at the end of this sentence. The nymph, the most common stage found on people, is about pinhead-sized. Adults are about 1/8-inch long and brown. The adult female has a white spot in the middle of her back. Because they are so similar in size, the lone star tick is sometimes misidentified by laypersons as the blacklegged / deer tick (see below).
The lone star tick is most active from April through the end of July. Although it can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the lone star tick is not as likely to transmit the disease as the American dog tick. This tick also may transmit tularemia and ehrlichiosis to humans. The lone star tick is not believed to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), but may be associated with a related bacteria species that has not been completely identified.