Carpenter ants, wasps, fleas, roaches, bedbugs…insect infestations can be a nuisance and a real threat to your home. While you may expect the bugs when you’re on the patio, you’re likely not expecting them when you’re crawling into bed. We asked an entomologist to share tips so homeowners can learn how to spot the early warning signs bugs have found their way into your home, and ways to prevent them from getting inside in the first place!
Carpenter ants can cause major damage in your home, says entomologist Taz Stuart, who is the director of technical operations for Poulin’s Pest Control in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Most of the time, their primary nest is outside your house.
“The queen then finds old or water-damaged wood, and you’ll see sawdust being pushed out and the ants themselves,” explains Stuart. “Getting a positive identification on these ants will then allow a pest control professional to treat inside and outside the home, and find the source colony to get that removed.”
Bedbugs are great hitchhikers, and they can get into almost everything. They’re also hard to get rid of.
“I’ve seen them in bags, books, and boxes, so it’s very important to look at your items. Don’t assume just because something’s new that bedbugs can’t be on it,” says Stuart. “In an infestation in the home, look for the bugs themselves. Their skins molt, so that’s another piece of evidence to look for. You’ll also see little black spots on your bed frame, mattress, and even on your dressers, your drawers, lampshades, baseboards, or sofa.”
Cockroaches thrive in unsanitary conditions, says Stuart. They love it when food or water is left out, and they’ll often arrive in your home by hitching a ride inside a cardboard box.
“We’ve seen a big increase in the number of calls about roaches since last year. More people are staying home, leaving out their stuff or ordering in products that may have roaches in them,” he explains.
Your home can quickly become infested, because females don’t need males to mate: Within 36 days, you’ll have between 30 to 48 new cockroaches from one bug, and they’re incredibly resilient.
“They can live without water for seven to 14 days, and without food for more than 30 days. They’ll eat their own young if they have to, or their own waste,” says Stuart.
Because roaches are nocturnal, you’ll see them scurrying across the floor when you turn on the lights during the evening.
Yellow jacket or paper wasps are common now, because the queens have started their nests, says Stuart.
“During the summer, they’re docile because they have lots of alternative food sources, so they’re not really going to be bugging you until late August, September, and October when their natural food sources disappear,” he explains.
Wasps can be a nuisance when they go after your sugary drink or hamburger out on your deck, but don’t swat them away, because they’ll become aggressive, adds Stuart.
“They can sting you multiple times and release pheromones to make you more attractive to their wasp friends so they come sting you as well.”
If you notice a wasp’s nest under the eaves of your roof or near a window, bring in a professional. It’s best to have wasps sprayed and the nest removed at night when the workers are inside it.
Have you ever seen a tiny black spot leap off your dog’s neck onto the floor? That means your pet has brought fleas into your home, and you can quickly become infested with them, says Stuart.
“Look for the evidence like fecal matter around the pet’s ears or in the hairline, or the fleas themselves,” he says. “It’s important to get the proper products to treat your pet, and to bring in professionals. Be sure to wash everything and dry it at high heat to kill all stages of fleas.”
How to make your house unwelcoming to insects
When it comes to bug infestations, exclusion is the key: Insects sneak into your home wherever there are holes or cracks in your foundation, explains Stuart.
“Seal those up, and install tightly fitting screens to make sure nothing gets in,” he suggests. “And get rid of any old or water-damaged wood on or near the house, because insects will start excavating that out to create a new colony, which can become a structural issue.”
Stuart also recommends keeping food stored away, and placing insect traps and monitors at strategic spots around the house, such as entry points and along baseboards inside.
“Any bug can cross the trap and get stuck on there, so you’ll see what you have,” he says.
Noticing bug infestations when they’re in the early stages can make it easier for you to deal with them before they become a bigger issue. It’s always recommended you contact a professional before doing any work that could cause structural damage, or when it comes to using harsh chemicals to deal with infestations.