No homeowner wants uninvited guests of the creeping, crawling variety to take up residence in their home. Not only are bugs and other pests repulsive to many homeowners, but some can cause thousands of dollars of damage.
In your home, watch for these five pests:
Tiny black ants typically are not a problem outside your home, but if they’ve discovered a food source inside your house, they can become a terrible nuisance. Ants live in colonies, so if you see one, you are likely to see many more. And because they are tiny and can easily pass through small cracks, it can be very difficult to get rid of them.
Why they cause problems: Ants are a pain, especially when long lines of them are marching across your kitchen countertops every day. Even after you kill many of them, more are likely to continue to return. Some homeowners go to extreme measures to try to rid their homes of ants: A Maine man recently burned down his parents’ home trying to exterminate them.
How to get rid of them: Without resorting to flames, there are a number of ways to get rid of ants, such as by sprinkling boric acid or lemon oil along cracks and crevices where the ants may be getting in. You can also try spraying a mixture or vinegar and water on areas where you see ants, or pouring vinegar on any anthills near your home.
These nocturnal insects are parasites that feed on human blood. While you’re asleep, bed bugs are awake—and looking for a way to latch onto you. Small and brown, bed bugs swell and turn a reddish color after feeding.
Why they cause problems: Bed bugs leave red, itchy bites on their victim’s skin, usually in straight rows. They don’t transmit diseases, but although they may not be dangerous, they are certainly bothersome.
How to get rid of them: On a regular basis, wash your bedding in hot water and dry it on your dryer’s highest setting. If you have an infestation, scrub the mattress (and any other infested surfaces) to dislodge the eggs, and vacuum the bed and surrounding areas with a vacuum attachment. If the infestation persists, you may need a new mattress altogether.
An especially creepy pest, cockroaches are dark brown insects that sometimes have long transparent wings. They prefer dark, damp places, such as behind the refrigerator, under sinks, and inside walls.
Why they cause problems: Cockroaches are unsightly and can leave behind unpleasant odors. They can aggravate allergies, especially in children and older people, and are known to carry diseases.
How to get rid of them: Keep your house clean and clutter-free, as piles of debris make the perfect hiding spots for cockroaches. In addition to regular cleaning, you can get rid of cockroaches by fixing water leaks and sealing up cracks or holes in the floors or walls. You can purchase cockroach traps at hardware stores, but if you think you have a large number of roaches, you may need to call in an exterminator to help you eliminate them from your home.
Tiny, irritating insects that cause itchy and sometimes painful bites, fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of animals—including people and pets.
Why they cause problems: Not only do fleas bite, but they reproduce very quickly, especially if there are pets in your home. If you’ve noticed fleas hopping about, you likely have not just one or two, but a full-on infestation.
How to get rid of them: If the fleas in your home were brought in by your pet, start by treating the pet to get rid of their fleas. Then, try store-bought flea traps and bug sprays to get the fleas out of your home. In addition, vacuum infested areas every day until the fleas are gone, discarding the vacuum bag each time. It’s also a good idea to steam clean your carpets, as the heat will kill many of the fleas.
These small insects are similar in size to ants and can cause extreme damage to the wood in your home. In fact, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage every year, according to the National Pest Management Association. Termites are usually more active in warmer climates, although subterranean termites—the termite species that lives underground—can be found in every state excluding Alaska. Termites can be found in any of your home’s wood, including the framing, furniture, and hardwood flooring.
Why they cause problems: Because termites eat wood, they can severely damage the structure of your home. And because they often eat wood from the inside out, they could be gnawing away at the structure of your home for months or even years before you realize it. If they damage structural components, such as floor supports or ceiling supports, your home and your safety could be in danger.
How to get rid of them: You can help prevent termite damage by taking certain precautions. For instance, keep lumber, firewood, and paper away from your home’s foundation or crawl space and remove stumps or wood debris near your house. Make sure that none of the wood on your home is in contact with the soil, and regularly check wooden decks and fences for damage.
Termites won’t cause damage immediately, but when left unchecked and allowed to infest your property, they can cause extensive destruction. If you suspect that you have a termite infestation, you should contact a pest control professional to eradicate the colony. They can use bait, chemical agents, or fumigation to rid your home of the termites so that you can start repairing any damage.
Don’t let your home become a haven for unwanted roommates. Look for signs of pests in every room of your house. The sooner you spot a six-legged problem, the sooner you can get it out of your home and your life!