14 Common House Bugs and How to Deal with Them, According to an Insect Expert

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a child trapping a spider in a glass jar
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Is it just us or does every season seem to involve a new, special pest to contend with? Good news: Our expert-informed list of common house bugs—featuring information on how to identify them and how to deal with them—might just be your ticket to a happier and less creepy-crawly home. From ants and houseflies to cockroaches and spiders, here’s everything you need to know about these little critters.

Meet the Expert

Timothy Wong is the technical director at MMPC, a top-rated pest control company in New York City specializing in environmentally safe methods and technologies. He has over 20 years of pest control experience, holds professional licenses in NY, NJ, PA, and MA, and has published papers on bed bugs and pest control methods.

The 15 Best Mosquito Repellents to Keep Those Pesky Bugs Away

ants crawling on the ground.
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1. Ants

  • How to Identify Them: Chances are good that you know what an ant looks like, but if you want a professional description, Wong tells us that “ants are small and slender with three body segments, six legs, elbowed antennae [and] a pinched waist that helps distinguish them from termites.” Typical household ants are black or brown and between 1.5 to 3 millimeters in size. it’s also worth noting that you’re unlikely to see just one crawling around, since these guys tend to travel in groups (i.e., trails).
  • Where They’re Common: If you have a problem with common household ants, it’s highly likely to be located in your kitchen, where they can feast on stray crumbs.
  • Are They Harmful? Per Wong, household ants can contaminate food. The risk of sickness from inadvertently consuming household ants is pretty low, but they can carry bacteria (and we can probably all agree that the thought of eating anything still crawling is a little creepy).
  • How to Deal with Them: When it comes to tackling a household ant problem, your best bet is to first “find and eliminate their food sources [and then] clean up ant scent trails using detergent and water, or vinegar and water,” says Wong. Additionally, if they’re getting through any cracks or gaps in floorboards, doors or windows, you’d be wise to seal those up.
a house fly.
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2. House Flies

  • How to Identify Them: If there’s something buzzing around that’s gray and about the size of a pencil eraser it’s most likely a common housefly. (Take a closer look, if you wish, and you might notice “four black stripes on the thorax and red compound eyes.”)
  • Where They're Common: Once again, your kitchen is going to be ground zero for this type of problem—especially around garbage bins and other areas where food waste is present, says Wong.
  • Are They Harmful? While the odd housefly may seem to be nothing more than a nuisance, the expert tells us that they can contaminate food (and in a more serious way than, say, your average household ant). In fact, a 2018 systematic review published in BMC Health concluded that “house flies carry a large number of pathogens which can cause serious infections in humans and animals.” Yikes.
  • How to Deal with Them: The pest control pro says that the best way to manage a housefly problem is by taking the garbage out at night and keeping the kitchen and food areas as clean as possible in order to get rid of bad smells that attract the pests. If you have a bad infestation on your hand, fly traps or flypaper are recommended for catching and eliminating them.
a mosquitoe on a persons skin.
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3. Mosquitoes

  • How to Identify Them: At the risk of stating the obvious, mosquitoes are long, slender flying insects with long, thin legs and needle-like mouthparts—and while the size varies by species, most are between 3 and 7 millimeters in length. Indeed, this particularly familiar pest is most often found during the warm summer months and is particularly easy to recognize no matter where you live.
  • Where They're Common: Mosquitoes can and will fly indoors when given the opportunity (i.e., through an open door or window with a busted screen). That said, they’re typically an outdoor, backyard kind of problem and if they’re traveling into your home frequently, it’s likely because they have a nest out back.
  • Are They Harmful? This is an unequivocal yes—namely because their bites are not only itchy and uncomfortable, but “can transmit diseases like West Nile and Zika virus,” explains Wong.
  • How to Deal with Them: “Eliminate standing water sources that mosquitoes use to breed. Keep doors and windows closed, especially during dawn and dusk, to prevent them from getting inside and use the airflow from fans to repel them.” And for backyard and outdoor infestations, you might want to consider professional pest control services or fogging treatments.
a cockroach on the ground
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4. German Cockroaches

  • How to Identify Them: German cockroaches are a small cockroach species commonly encountered inside the home. Per Wong, “they have oval-shaped bodies with six spiny legs, long threadlike antennae, and two pairs of wings but can not fly.” They are typically light brown or tan in color with two dark stripes behind the head (though we doubt you want to take that close a look) and range from 13 to 16 millimeters in size.
  • Where They're Common: These guys tend to turn up in warm, humid areas like kitchens and bathrooms, but can also sometimes be found in toaster ovens (ew) and heat-producing electronic equipment. Oh, and if they’re brazen enough to roam around when the lights are on or the sun is shining, you most certainly have a pretty bad problem.
  • Are They Harmful? According to Wong, German cockroaches may contaminate food and trigger allergies. The medical experts at WebMD confirm that these pests “carry several diseases, including salmonella, which can cause food poisoning, and E. coli, which can cause gastrointestinal illness. In addition, cockroaches can trigger allergies and asthma attacks in some people, especially children.” In other words, they might not bite, but they’re pretty gross.
  • How to Deal with Them: “Eliminate their food sources by keeping kitchen and bathroom areas clean, fixing any leaks, and storing food in airtight containers,” says Wong, adding that it’s also advisable to “seal cracks, crevices, and entry points with caulk, and apply gel-based cockroach baits near hiding spots, like under sinks and behind appliances.”
a single cockroach.
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5. American Cockroaches

  • How to Identify Them: Yet another cockroach species, American cockroaches are the big ones (think: 30 to 54 millimeters) that you might encounter in your home. “They have oval-shaped bodies with six spiny legs, long threadlike antennae, and two pairs of wings that can fly when temperatures are high,” says Wong.
  • Where They're Common: American cockroaches are attracted to areas with high levels of moisture and humidity, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, boiler rooms, and other mechanical rooms.
  • Are They Harmful? Much like the German cockroach, American cockroaches carry bacteria and pathogens. As such, their presence in your home might trigger allergies and result in contaminated food.
  • How to Deal with Them: The advice for eliminating this type of roach is similar to the recommendations for the German cockroach: “Keep your home clean, seal entry points, and reduce moisture sources.” Additionally, the expert says that it’s a good idea to identify all of the areas where pipes are entering your home and make sure that they’re fully sealed with caulk or sealant, since American cockroaches love to nest in boiler rooms. (And if the above advice doesn’t solve the problem, it’s time to contact pest control.)
several fruit flies on an old lemon.
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6. Fruit Flies

  • How to Identify Them: Fruit flies have tiny tan or brownish-yellow bodies, usually with large red compound eyes and black stripes on the abdomen. (Note: these details are pretty hard to see since they are no bigger than 3 to 4 millimeters in size.)
  • Where They're Common: As the name suggests, fruit flies are drawn to overripe fruits and vegetables, which is why you are most likely to encounter them flying around your kitchen (i.e., near your fruit bowl, compost bin, kitchen trash or sometimes drowning themselves in your wine glass).
  • Are They Harmful? “Fruit flies are more of a nuisance pest,” says Wong. (And if you’ve ever had dozens of them flying around your home and dying in your evening drink, you’d agree.)
  • How to Deal with Them: The professional’s advice includes strategies we’ve personally found to be successful, such as “removing overripe or rotting fruits and vegetables, cleaning drains and garbage disposals, and catching them with DIY vinegar traps.” When it comes to cleaning drains, we’ve found that pouring boiling water, followed by bleach down the kitchen sink is quite effective at eliminating a common source of the problem.
large ants.
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7. Carpenter Ants

  • How to Identify Them: If you have ants that look like they’ve been taking steroids, they might be carpenter ants. “Carpenter ants are much bigger than typical household ants (about 7 to 16 millimeters) and have large mandibles which they use to excavate tunnels in wood,” explains Wong. In other words, these are particularly, um, juicy looking ants…and they’re not interested in your food scraps.
  • Where They're Common: Carpenter ants build their nests inside wood, usually in areas prone to moisture like windows and decks, but can occasionally do so indoors if a water leak or other factors that create a hospitable environment are present.
  • Are They Harmful? Carpenter ants don’t pose any health threat to humans, but the expert tells us that they can do quite a bit of damage to wood structures by excavating tunnels (and that might cost you a pretty penny to repair if the problem goes untreated).
  • How to Deal with Them: “Locate areas of activity—ideally find out where they’re nesting—and then use ant baits or insecticidal dust to help get rid of them,” says Wong. Additionally, addressing moisture issues (i.e. fixing leaks and reducing dampness) is essential in order to resolve the issue and make sure it doesn’t return.
a spider trapped under a glass.
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8. House Spiders

  • How to Identify Them: House spiders are small, brown spiders with a round, mottled abdomen and eight long, thin legs that are tan with many dark stripes. In other words, if there are smallish arachnids hanging around that fit this description, you’ve created a welcome environment for house spiders (but more on that later).
  • Where They're Common: House spiders are most commonly found in secluded areas, like corners, closets or anywhere else that isn’t heavily trafficked.
  • Are They Harmful? “House spiders are not harmful to humans, don’t bite and can actually help control other pests,” says Wong. Though if you have arachnophobia (raises hand), too many sightings can certainly cause some emotional distress.
  • How to Deal with Them: House spiders prey on other pests, so their presence might be an indication of another insect problem. As such, it’s critical to identify other insects that might be plaguing your home and eradicate them, as this will deprive the house spiders of their food source. Furthermore, cleaning and decluttering will also help remove potential hiding spots for spiders. “Use a vacuum with a hose attachment to remove existing spiders and their webs,” says Wong. And maybe toss the bag out with the trash tout de suite, lest babies be born inside your vacuum cleaner.
a bed bug.
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9. Bed Bugs

  • How to Identify Them: Bed bugs (shudder) are about 4 to 7 millimeters long and approximately the size of a small apple seed. They have a wide dorsal plate behind their head called the pronotum, which flares out on both sides. Brace yourself now, but the expert says that “before feeding, they’re brown, flat, and oval-shaped, [but] after feeding, their abdomen becomes swollen and elongated with a reddish hue.”
  • Where They're Common: Per their name, you’re most likely to find bed bugs hiding in the cracks, crevices and seams of beds, mattresses, and bedding. That said, they have also been known to dwell, at least initially, in the cracks and crevices of sofas, rocking chairs or pretty much any type of furniture where they have access to fresh blood.
  • Are They Harmful? Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. However, they feed on blood at night and their bites usually leave itchy red bumps. Most importantly, perhaps, Infestations can be emotionally distressing and, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of American Medicine,can even cause symptoms of PTSD in some individuals. Worse still, the expert tells us they are particularly challenging to eliminate.
  • How to Deal with Them: As previously mentioned, bed bugs are very tricky to get rid of by yourself. As such, the expert recommends contacting a professional immediately. The full scoop? “If it’s a very early infestation, you may be able to get rid of them by vacuuming thoroughly and using a mattress encasement. Clothing and bedding should be washed and dried on high heat. If you suspect bed bugs due to getting bites at night or recent travel, get a certified canine bed bug inspection to find out if you have bed bugs and where they are hiding.”
a beetle on a carpet.
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10. Carpet Beetles

  • How to Identify Them: Carpet beetles have oval-shaped bodies with a hard shell and short, clubbed antennae. They are generally 2.5 millimeters in size, but their color varies by species. As for their larvae—they look like fuzzy little caterpillars. (Cute?)
  • Where They're Common: Carpet beetles are most commonly found in (you guessed it) carpets, but also hang out in closets and any other area where clothing and fabrics are stored.
  • Are They Harmful? Adult carpet beetles are creepy-crawly, but ultimately harmless. However, their larvae can cause significant damage to the carpets, fabrics, and clothing they chow down on.
  • How to Deal with Them: Per the expert, infested clothing and fabrics should be washed or dry-cleaned, while carpets rugs and upholstered furniture should be thoroughly cleaned per the manufacturer’s instructions and vacuumed to remove any eggs or larvae that might be present.
termites chewing wood.
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11. Termites

  • How to Identify Them: Termites are narrow, soft-bodied insects with six legs, straight antennae and a broad waist that distinguishes them from ants. Three major types to look out for are worker termites, which are pale white and have no eyes; soldier termites, which have elongated heads and large, dark jaws; and reproductives (i.e., alates) that have dark bodies with two sets of transparent wings. 
  • Where They're Common: There’s really only one place you will find termites, and that’s infested wood. That said, the expert tells us that some species—subterranean termites, specifically—can be found in mud tubes that connect infested wood back to their underground colonies.
  • Are They Harmful? Yes, but not to your person. Instead, termites cause significant structural damage to homes and buildings by eating through wood.
  • How to Deal with Them: This is not a problem you should try to tackle yourself. The damage done can be significant and the infestation quite hard to control without the help of a qualified pest control company that can administer targeted termite treatment and implement ongoing prevention measures.
two moths creating a hole on a sweater.
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12. Clothes Moths

  • How to Identify Them: Clothes moths are tiny moths about the size of a pea (6 to 8 millimeters, to be precise). They have furry heads with long antennae and wings fringed with hairs, but you’re most likely to recognize you have a problem when you unearth your winter clothing and find all your favorite sweaters have holes in them.
  • Where They're Common: Clothes moths are found in closets, attics or anywhere else that clothing is stored. They prefer natural fiber fabrics, which sadly means your finest wool and cashmere is on the menu.
  • Are They Harmful? Clothes moths aren’t harmful to humans in the sense that they don’t bite and won’t do a thing to your body, but their larvae chew holes in clothing and fabrics—usually the nicest ones—which means you might find yourself breaking the bank to buy a whole new wardrobe if you don’t nip the problem in the bud.
  • How to Deal with Them: Wong recommends using mothballs, cedar wood, or lavender sachets to repel the moths, and placing infested clothing in sealed bags to be washed and dried on high heat in order to kill their eggs and larvae. (And if your natural fabrics can’t take the heat, your only alternative is a pretty hefty dry cleaning bill.)
a small silverfish.
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13. Silverfish

  • How to Identify Them: Silverfish are, as the name suggests, slippery and silvery. These are small, carrot-shaped insects—about 13 to 25 millimeters in size—with long antennae, six short legs, and bristle-like appendages on the rear.
  • Where They're Common: Silverfish prefer dark, humid areas so you’re most likely to find them in basements, bathrooms and poorly-lit closets, particularly those that have been recently filled with clothing that was taken out of storage.
  • Are They Harmful? Silverfish are generally considered a nuisance pest, but may occasionally damage books, paper, and clothing if the situation gets out of control.
  • How to Deal with Them: The best way to tackle a silverfish problem is to “reduce humidity in the area, fix any water leaks and remove clutter,” says Wong, adding that “you can also apply diatomaceous earth or boric acid in areas where silverfish are active to help get rid of them.”
a centipede crawling.
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14. House Centipedes

  • How to Identify Them: Per the expert, house centipedes are yellowish-brown in color with three dark gray stripes on their back and long, flattened bodies with prominent antennae and 15 pairs of long legs. (From our experience, they’re pretty unmistakable if you’ve ever seen one sprinting across the floor.)
  • Where They're Common: House centipedes tend to prefer damp areas like basements and bathrooms. Also, if you live in a ground floor or garden level apartment you’re far more likely to see them than, say, someone in the penthouse suite up above.
  • Are They Harmful? House centipedes are not harmful to humans and are, in fact, helpful in that they prey on other pests, says Wong. (Though if you have ever lifted up an article of clothing you discarded on the floor and found one the length of your pinky finger scurry out from under it, you might disagree…just saying.)
  • How to Deal with Them: “Like spiders, the best way to deal with house centipedes is to first get rid of the insects that they prey on, such as ants, roaches, bed bugs and spiders,” says Wong. You can also welcome them because they’re doing you a pest control favor—but if you’re a little freaked out by all those legs and the speed at which they move across your floor, we suggest you follow the above advice and also take measures to seal up entry points and reduce dampness to deter them.

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