Common Pests

Subterrainean Termites

Termites feed on wood and nest under the ground, passing through safety canals burrowed above the ground to search for food. They invade homes by infesting wood that touches the soil, is untreated or where joints are not sealed correctly. They can cause extreme destruction and structural damage to a home.

Termites like moisture so keep sprinklers from splashing the side of your house. Keep soil from accumulating at the base of the foundation and keep brush and plantings away from air vents. The lumber that is used to repair damaged wood next to the soil or concrete should be pressure treated. A metal termite shield can be installed at the foundation of the home during construction. This will cause the termites to build on the outside of the foundation where they can be easily inspected.


Cockroaches adapt readily to a variety of environments, but prefer warm conditions found within buildings. Cockroaches leave chemical trails in their feces as well as emitting airborne pheromones for swarming and mating. Other cockroaches will follow these trails to discover sources of food and water, and also discover where other cockroaches are hiding. Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects on the planet. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources like the glue from the back of postage stamps.

Cockroaches are one of the most commonly noted household pest insects. They feed on human and pet food, and can leave an offensive odor. They can also passively transport microbes on their body surfaces including those that are potentially dangerous to humans, particularly in environments such as hospitals. Cockroaches have been shown to be linked with allergic reactions in humans.

General preventive measures against household pests include keeping all food stored away in sealed containers, using garbage cans with tight lids, frequent cleaning in the kitchen, and regular vacuuming. Any water leaks, such as dripping taps, should also be repaired. It is also helpful to seal off any entry points, such as holes around baseboards, in between kitchen cabinets, pipes, doors, and windows with some steel wool or copper mesh and some cement, putty or silicone caulk.


The common Norway or brown rat typically has brownish fur on its back and grey underneath but its color can vary from white through to black.  These rodents eat and contaminate food, damage buildings and other property by their gnawing and burrowing, and may spread diseases that affect people and pets. Rats will eat nearly any type of food, but they prefer high-quality foods such as meat and fresh grain. Rats have keen taste, hearing and sense of smell. They will climb to find food or shelter, and they can gain entrance to a building through any opening larger than 1/2 inch across.

The most successful and permanent form of rat control is to "build them out" by making their access to structures impossible. Ideally, all places where food is stored, processed or used should be rodent-proof. Store bulk foods, bird seed and dry pet food in metal cans with tight fitting lids.

Seal any openings larger than 1/4 inch to exclude both rats and mice. Openings where utility conduits enter buildings should be sealed tightly with metal or concrete. Equip floor drains and sewer pipes with tight fitting grates having openings less than 1/4 inch in diameter. Doors, windows and screens should fit tightly. It may be necessary to cover edges with sheet metal to prevent gnawing.


Mice are much smaller than rats, but they can still do a lot of damage. They destroy food, books, furniture and even appliances with their gnawing, urine and droppings. Worse, mice in the home have been linked to a number of human diseases, including asthma. Because of their small size, they can fit through crevices as small as 1/4 inch wide, making them hard to control.

Don't let mice get in! Seal all openings - like cracks and spaces around vents, wires and pipes - with sheet metal, concrete or a product like "Stuf-fit" which is a knitted copper wire mesh. Screen necessary openings, like fans and chimneys with ¼ inch wire mesh. Doors and windows should be screened with tight fitting metal screens. Seal or cover all openings, since mice can jump 12 inches high, run up the sides of buildings and cross cables and wires.


Adult house crickets are 3/4-1 inch long, light yellowish-brown with 3 dark bands on the head. They will eat almost anything, often causing damage to wool and silk. Crickets are nocturnal, hiding during the daytime but becoming active and vocal during the night. The "song" or chirping sound of the house cricket is welcome anywhere except in structures. Crickets can be found in basements, crawlspaces, kitchens, fireplaces, behind appliances, behind baseboards and other cracks, crevices and wall voids.
Cricket elimination is best accomplished by combining a good residual spray with a professional bait.  Spray is to be used indoors and outdoors, baits are placed in hiding places where sprays cannot be used but where crickets can be found.  Baits can also be used outdoors.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees look somewhat like bumblebees. They nest in burrows or tunnels in the outer surface of wood and can be found in wood trim, or fascia and unfinished wood.  After exterminating plug the holes left behind with caulking and refinish.


Adults somewhat resemble yellow jackets, but are much larger (about 1½ inches) and are brown with yellow markings. Queens, which may be seen in the spring, are more reddish than brown, and are larger than the workers. Nests are typically built in hollow trees, but they are often found in barns, sheds, attics, and wall voids of houses.

The best time to treat for hornets is first thing in the morning (just after sunrise) when it's cool and they are not as active or about 15 minutes after sunset. You can use an over the counter hornet spray, but make sure to read the label to make sure it is not oil or petroleum based. These type of products can leave stains on siding and can also kill bushes and parts of trees that it comes in contact with. By treating at the time stated above, it is the best chance of having all of the wasps on the nest and killing them all. Knock down the nest after treatment.

Yellow Jackets

All wasps will defend their nests, but the yellow jackets and hornets are the most aggressive. They can be distinguished from bees by their thin "waists." Bees are thick-wasted. They fold their wings lengthwise when at rest. Like all wasps, yellow jackets prey on a variety of insects. Yellow jackets will also forage on foods that people eat, especially sweets and meats.

They are considered beneficial insects, eating other insects. The yellow jacket colony will remain active for only one summer, after which the queens will fly away to start more colonies. The remaining ones, die at the end of the summer, the nest is not reused.

They usually nest in the ground, but will nest also in railroad ties, wall voids, and other above ground locations. In the spring, most yellow jackets will feed on insects. Many homeowners see "bees" flying around their hedges. These "bees" are usually yellow jackets and are there to eat insects on the foliage. Spraying the hedges with an appropriate insecticide will kill the food source of the yellow jackets, and they will soon leave the area.

Black Ants

Ants establish colonies and they send out scouts to find resources (food and water). The scouts leave a scent trail enabling them to return to the colony with news of found resources. Other members of the colony will follow the scent trails to collect resources and bring them back to the colony. Colonies will also establish sub colonies near resources or they will send out queens to establish new independent colonies.

When you see scouts, kill them and wipe down the area. This important step will prevent major scent trails from being formed and will prevent the scout from reporting back to the colony about any found food. Once a trail has already been established, start from the food source and wipe backwards to the trail entrance. Use a sponge with soapy water. Plain water will not completely eliminate the trail. If you cannot get the trail all the way to the entrance to your home, block the trail at the point you can get to. They will seek a way around, but if you act quickly and are persistent, the ants will likely give up after anywhere from a day to a week.

Carpenter Ants

The carpenter ant has a small middle section, shorter back wings, and bent antennae. They burrow in decayed, moist wood to make their nest. A good sign of infestation is left over grainy sawdust.

Caulking the exterior cracks is a good safeguard to help keep carpenter ants out of your home. Use weather-stripping in windows and doors. Work at preventing moisture problems in your home that attract these insects. Do not allow tree branches to brush against your home, and keep any fireplace wood a distance from your house. Replace decayed wood and keep gutters free from rotting wood, leaves, and debris.