Learn to identify threatening invaders understanding their biology, diet, and nesting habits. Alterra's pest library provides you information about 47 common household pests, including tips to keep pest populations at a minimum. Don't let pests take over your home.
Select a category and a pest to learn more:
Ants can enter your home from anywhere. Typically they are after water or sweet and greasy food found in the kitchen. Ant colonies grow as large as 500,000 and entire colonies can relocate quickly when in danger. They can nest anywhere but are most commonly found in lawns, tree stumps, and walls. Remember that if you see one ant, there may be hundreds of thousands not too far away. That's why most over-the-counter products that kill on contact don't work. Alterra's residual products attack and destroy the nests, greatly decreasing the chance of re-infestation.
Prevention Tips: Reduce sites where ants can nest on your property, such as heavy ground cover including ivy, piles of bricks, flagstones, lumber, etc. Sealing exterior cracks and holes is also helpful in limiting the number of ants seen inside. Work with your Alterra professional as a team to help maintain your ant problems at a minimum.
Why you need Alterra: Most do-it-yourself control approaches only kill ants you see upon contact. Alterra treatments penetrate pest problems at their source to ensure ants' nesting sites are completely eradicated to help prevent re-infestation. Most home remedies also don't account for the fact that different kinds of ant species require different treatments. Alterra's professionals have the knowledge necessary to identify multiple ant species to ensure the quickest and most effective solution.
The argentine ant is one of the most common species in the country. It is brown in color and is primarily a sweet eater. It is one of the most difficult ants to control because it has a tendency to set up multiple satellite colonies to ensure domination over a greater area. You can find these ants crawling around electrical outlets, kitchen counters and bathroom ceilings at any time of the year.
Carpenter ants are often first noticed in late winter and early spring. This is the time when carpenter ants and other ants emerge to mate and attempt to start new colonies. These reproductive forms are identified by their two pairs of wings and relatively large size. The presence of winged ants indoors generally means that a nest is located in the structure.
Fire Ants can inflict painful stings and will sting repeatedly. They can eat small wildlife or domestic animals. They can also eat through rubber wire insulation. When these guys bite, it hurts! They are 1/8-inch long and a dark-reddish color. Fire ants typically build mounds of earth in the yard.
A mature queen can lay hundreds of eggs per day, and large colonies can have up to 250,000 workers. Fire ants can readily enter structures and have been known to nest in electrical boxes causing damage.
Danger: Fire Ants can inflict painful stings and will sting repeatedly. Their sting contains toxic venom that can cause blistering pustules and severe anaphylaxis or hypersensitivity. Serious fire ant attacks can produce thousands of stings and be deadly to both pets and humans.
Prevention Tips: Fire ants can be difficult to completely eliminate because they can reinvade from neighboring properties. Regular fire ant service by an Alterra professional is necessary to keep ants at a minimum.
These ants stink when you step on them. Odorous ants are brownish-red and about 1/10-inch long. They build colonies under rocks and inside walls. Each female can lay one egg per day and they can live several years.
These ants will sometimes live in the harborage of larger ants, feeding on their hosts' young. They are approximately 1/10-inch long and brown. They nest in sidewalk cracks, along curbs, under rocks, under floors, and in walls.
Only 1/16-inch, these tiny golden-amber ants require a warm climate to survive. They hide their nests in well protected areas such as wall voids. A single colony can support several million worker ants.
This ant commonly uses the electrical wiring and plumbing pipes inside walls as "highways" to travel from room to room.
Prevention Tips: Most home remedy spray treatments applied to control pharaoh ants only make the problem worse. Such treatments cause colonies to split into two or more colonies. Pharaoh ants can only be controlled by the use of ant baits, taking the experience of an Alterra professional to achieve elimination.
These tiny ants sometimes go undetected for weeks. They earn their title by feeding off the larvae of other ant species. Commonly seen around the kitchen sink or pantry, they also feed on cheeses, greasy foods, and meats.
Like most pests, cockroaches can enter your home through a variety of ways: cracks, crevices, windows, etc. Believe it or not, cockroaches are often carried into your home via boxes and grocery bags. Cockroaches thrive in warm temperatures where food and water are easily accessible, and they have the ability to reproduce quickly. Because cockroaches are nocturnal, if you seen one you've not seen them all. The few cockroaches you see by day likely mean they have been forced out by overcrowding; a possible sign of severe infestation.
Danger: Can contaminate food with salmonella (food poisoning) and other diseases, making humans sick. The dust created by cast-off cockroach skins, dead bodies and droppings can especially aggravate allergies and trigger asthma attacks in children and sensitive individuals.
Prevention Tips: Cockroaches can be eliminated from a home, but re-infestation can occur. Knowing where to apply each product effectively is where the experience of a professional makes the difference. For effective indoor treatment, keep counters and dishes clean, to minimize food sources for cockroaches. Do not leave food or crumbs out in the open and tightly seal leftovers. Rinse recyclable containers before storing. Empty the garbage daily and vacuum frequently. Also pick up and store pet food overnight. As a team, you and your Alterra professional can keep cockroach populations at a minimum.
Why you need Alterra: Cockroaches are extremely good at hiding, and their eggs are naturally protected from pesticides. Without special equipment, materials and know-how, cockroach control is nearly impossible without the help of a professional.
Usually between one to ½ inches long with reddish-brown wings, American cockroaches like to fly outside. They are scavengers with a special taste for warm damp places, water and alcoholic beverages. They like to eat decaying organic matter.
Prevention Tips: To reduce this larger outdoor cockroach species, eliminate their hiding places. Move firewood away from the house, store it off the ground and cover it with plastic to keep it dry. Discard piles of lumber, bricks, etc. Also minimize the use of heavy ground cover like ivy near the house.
Often mistaken for German cockroaches, brown-banded roaches have golden stripes across their wings. These roaches are normally a little over a half-inch long and prefer to live in dry environments. Many of them like to set up shop inside of furniture and walls, feeding on starches.
About the same size as brown-banded roaches, German cockroaches have two brown stripes running the length of their wings. Because they love fermented foods, they are regularly found in unsanitary kitchen or bathroom conditions.
Dark brown and about one-inch long, oriental cockroaches seek out warm damp areas indoors. They flourish in basements and storage areas where they can stay close to the ground. They eat decaying organic matter and prefer starches.
Smokey Brown Cockroach
Generally over one inch long at maturity, Smokey-brown cockroaches live outside feeding primarily on plant matter. In flight at night, they fly toward sources of light.
Spiders are most easily recognizable by their eight legs and round abdomen. Because there are so many species of spiders, they can be found in just about any type of environment. They are most commonly found in dark, damp areas. While some spider bites may cause swelling and irritation, other spiders can pose serious health risks.
Prevention Tips: Seal all cracks around windows and door frames, as well as around light fixtures, vents, and ceiling fans. Seal all openings around pipes under the sink and behind appliances. It is important to remove clutter to not provide potential harborages for spiders to find shelter. One can also regularly remove webs and spiders via vacuuming.Why you need Alterra: If you have a spider problem, you most likely have a pest problem. Spiders are predators that search out pests for food. Typically spiders wander into the home searching out pests. Hence spiders are most easily dealt with by removing their food source through regular seasonal maintenance treatments by an Alterra professional.
Female black widows are about ½-inch long, and black with a red hourglass marking on their underside. Their bites are toxic and humans can have a severe allergic reaction. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately.
Danger: The black widow inflicts a painful bite. The venom from their bite sometimes increases a victim's body temperature and blood pressure, causing severe sweating and nausea.
Prevention Tips: Black widows can hide in dark areas, therefore use caution when moving stored items. Using gloves, remove piles of firewood and other debris away from the home.
Brown Recluse bites are hazardous to humans. The venomous brown recluse, with a dark brown fiddle-shaped marking is about ½-inch long. They feed upon soft-bodied insects and hunt their prey at night. At sun-up they drag their food to spin irregular off-white webs in dark secluded areas. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately.
Danger: Brown Recluse bites over time can become intensely painful, cause fever, insomnia and deep, slow-healing open wounds. If left alone bites can become infected causing skin tissue to die. Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible.
Prevention Tips: These spiders are nocturnal so they typically hide in shoes and clothing when waiting for prey. Always shake shoes and/or clothing before wearing, especially if stored in areas such as the garage, where brown recluse and other spiders notoriously hide.
These spiders spin expansive, elaborate orb webs. They can get big, with bodies 1½-inches long, covered with colorful markings, and even longer legs. As their name suggests, garden spiders often live in gardens, trapping flies in their intricate webs. They also frequently engineer webs attached to fences or exterior walls.
Hobo spiders construct a funnel-shaped structure of silk sheeting and wait at the small end of the funnel for prey insects to blunder onto its web. Their coloration is plain, being a mixture of brown and rusty earth shades. Look-a-likes have stripes on the legs and are often much larger, whereas the hobo spider has solid light-brown-colored legs. Related species are quite similar in appearance and technical training is required to identify them reliably. Hobo Spiders got their name when researchers learned that they often "hitchhike" via unsuspecting individuals.
Danger: The hobo spider's bite is medically significant for humans. Most bites occur when the spider is accidentally crushed or squeezed. The spider's venom is strong enough to cause considerable local pain and may cause tissue death at and near the bite.
The house spider is about 3/8-inch long with a brownish body. They have a round abdomen with darker markings and spin silky webs around prey. They select web locations at random and if the location does not ensnare prey, they will abandon it and find a new place for construction.
Large, brown, and hairy ranging from ½ inch to two inches in length. Although a nuisance pest, wolf spiders look much scarier than they actually are. Wolf spiders are not typically associated with webs. Inside homes they often hang out near windows, doors, house plants, and storage areas.
Rodents can be a nuisance for any home. Both rats and mice enter the home looking for food and water, enjoying the protection from the elements. Homes plagued with rodent problems will hear scratching noises coming from the attic or walls at night, and often complain of odors that just won't go away. Rodents' ability to chew through almost anything not only gives them easy access, but can cause thousands of dollars in damage if not handled immediately. Rodents also transmit a number of dangerous diseases, and typically leave droppings of excrement throughout the home.
Prevention Tips: To eliminate rodent entry points, make sure to seal and repair cracks in siding, faulty doors and window screens, as well as gaps around pipes entering the home. Make sure to trim branches, plants and bushes away from the home. Wash out garbage cans periodically so that no organic matter remains after the cans are emptied. Also remember to pick up or bury fallen fruit and pet feces daily, and to put pet food away between feedings. To ensure quick rodent control, call an Alterra professional that understands rodents' habits for an immediate inspection and a guaranteed solution.
Why you need Alterra: Rats are evasive and typically afraid of new objects in their environment. This can make traps and other store-bought products ineffective. Professional traps and the knowledge of rodent habits can ensure quick elimination and control. Our specialist's well-trained eye will know the best places to set traps and bait boxes.
This mouse makes its home outdoors in sheltered areas such as hollow tree logs or piles of debris. On rare occasions the deer mouse comes indoors, and prefers undisturbed areas such as attics. The deer mouse transmits the potentially fatal Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. The disease can be transmitted through contact with mouse carcasses, or by breathing in aerosolized urine droplets of infected deer mice.
Interesting Fact: Mice that are trapped and released will likely return to the home. Deer mice have been known to return to a home from as far as one mile away.
Danger: Deer mice transmit the Hantavirus, which may cause Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Hantavirus causes flu-like symptoms, and over one-third of cases lead to death. Currently there is no treatment or vaccine for HPS.
Mice are generally much smaller than rats. Proportionally they have smaller ears and smaller hind legs. Mice can squeeze through holes slightly larger than a pencil eraser. They commonly slip in through open doors, attics and foundation vents. Once a female has found perfect conditions, she can have up to 60 offspring per year.
Prevention Tips: If you live by a field or in the woods, it is likely that you will always deal with mice, especially in the fall and winter. Your best strategy is to work with an Alterra professional as a team to keep rodent populations at a minimum. Some suggestions may include sealing up as many openings and holes in the exterior walls as possible and putting weather-strips on the bottoms of doors. This is especially effective when done to the garage door, to prevent mice from entering.
Norway rats live in close association with people. They burrow to make nests under buildings and other structures, beneath concrete slabs, in garbage dumps, and at other locations where suitable food, water, and shelter are present. In urban or suburban areas they live in and around residences, in cellars, warehouses, stores, slaughterhouses, docks, and in sewers. Although they can climb, Norway rats tend to inhabit the lower floors of multi-story buildings.
Interesting Fact: Norway Rats' teeth can grow 5 to 6 inches per year. To control the length of their teeth, they grind their teeth and gnaw on just about anything to keep them filed down. Home owners may sometimes find that car damage has come as a result of rodents gnawing through their vehicle's electrical wiring.
The roof rat is also known as the black rat, even though it is usually a dark brown. Roof rats are associated with having spread the plague or "black death" during the Middle Ages. Your typical roof rat is between 13 to 18 inches long, including its tail. In fact, it is distinguished from other rats by its tail, which is longer than the rest of its body. Roof Rat's are extremely agile and can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter.
These pests are not only creepy to look at, but actually cause you pain when they bite or sting. With specific service treatments for each pest, your Alterra professional will make sure to eliminate them as a potential threat to your home and family.
Bed Bugs are a reddish-brown and measure up to 3/16-inch long, about the size of an apple seed. Bed bugs spend the day resting in cracks or voids of furniture and walls. Eggs are deposited in small cracks in the bed frame, mattress seams, or baseboards, trim or furniture near the bed. The nymphs and the adults reside near one another, hiding in such cracks awaiting nightfall when they might venture out to feed.
Danger: These parasites are blood feeders, and they crawl into beds during the night while their victims are sleeping. A number of bed bugs may feed for an extended period of time on any area of exposed skin, leaving behind brown or red spots on bed sheets. Bites can leave itchy welts on the skin and cause allergic reactions, such as severe itching. Fortunately, bed bugs do not carry or transmit any human disease.
Prevention Tips: Because bed bugs can survive extreme temperatures and live up to one year without feeding, they are extremely difficult to control. Treatment for bed bug infestations requires the use of a licensed professional. Successful control depends upon finding every crack and void where the insects are harboring and requires treatment with a specialized product. Overlooking even the smallest crack in furniture may lead to persistent infestation.
Bed bugs tend to settle in close proximity to their food source. Make sure to lift and look around all possible hiding spots when suspect of a possible bed bug infestation. Potential hiding places include crevices associated with mattresses, box springs, sheets, furniture, upholstery, hollow bedposts, as well as crevices behind baseboards, pictures and even torn wallpaper.
There are many different species varying in size and color. Each body segment has a pair of legs, anywhere from ten to one hundred segments. Centipedes seek out damp environments. They are just as content outside, under a rock or leaves, as they are in a damp basement. Centipedes feed on insects and spiders.
Danger: Some species of centipedes, including the house centipede, are known to inflict a painful bite similar to a bee sting.
Fleas can jump six to eight inches vertically and up to fifteen inches horizontally. This is how fleas can infest furniture and bedding, regardless of whether you let your pets onto them.
Prevention Tips: Flea control requires thorough vacuuming, treatment of pets, and treatment of the infested premises. Vacuuming removes adult fleas, some flea eggs, and opens carpet fibers so treatment can penetrate the fleas' larvae and pupae. Although the number of adult fleas you see will quickly drop following treatment, it may take two weeks or longer before all the fleas have completely been eradicated. It is important to treat pets the same day the home is treated.
Danger: Flea bites cause irritation, blood loss and itching. Some species can spread diseases such as bubonic plague and typhus. Fleas carried and transmitted the bubonic plague of the 14th century which killed a quarter of the world's population (known as the largest epidemic before AIDS). Other species of fleas can also be intermediate carriers of tapeworms and can infect humans if accidentally ingested.
Up to 5/8-inch long and covered with short golden brown and black hairs with a striped abdomen. Honey bees are social insects meaning they can only survive as members of a colony with a queen, drones and workers. Honey bees are typically found around flowers and flowering trees, and are prone to making hives inside building wall voids that provide protection to the hive.
Danger: Honey bees can inflict potent stings that if repeated can result in hypersensitivity in about two percent of the population.
Warning: Africanized honey bees, also known as "killer bees," are an extremely aggressive subspecies of the European honey bee that look exactly the same. Africanized Honey Bees can release an alarm pheromone that calls other workers to "battle" where they will attack and sting any moving animal or object. They have been known to chase and sting people and pets for hundreds of yards. Deaths can also occur due to allergic reactions from the larger number of stings received. Never attempt to treat a hive on your own. Call an Alterra professional today.
These tiny insects don't sting but they can be a nuisance nonetheless. Mud daubers construct nests comprised of mud tubes high on walls and under overhangs to protect their larvae and food storage. These tubes are constructed with the mud daubers saliva, often leaving permanent stains where it has attached the mud to the home.
Frequently these pests build hanging honeycomb-shaped nests from eaves, overhangs, and tree branches. Colors and sizes differ among species. Some species are territorial, and they will aggressively defend their nest if disturbed.
Danger: Inflict painful stings that can cause swelling and become infected easily aggravating skin conditions and/or allergies. Generally, wasp stings are more painful than bee or scorpion stings.
Scorpions are two inches long on average. They eat spiders, insects, and other scorpions. Nocturnal, they hide in shoes, blankets, drawers, and under rocks during the day. All scorpions glow under black light, making black light an effective way to inspect for scorpions at night or in dark areas. Scorpions have live births and carry their offspring on the adult scorpion's back.
Danger: Scorpions can inflict painful stings that may be fatal to those with allergies. Some scorpion bites can also be fatal to young children and the elderly.
Prevention Tip: Remove all potential scorpion harborages. For example, all items lying in contact with the soil should be removed. Landscaping that is edged with stacked timbers or stacked flagstones provide considerable shelter for scorpions and the insects they feed on. Eliminate heavy ground cover such as ivy from landscaping. Cracks and holes in the home's exterior should be sealed to prevent scorpions from entering.
Ticks generally live on animals, carrying disease. They feed on blood, and their colors and sizes vary with different species.
Danger: Spread dangerous diseases. Ticks feed on blood and transmit dangerous diseases including Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, relapsing fever and tularemia. In the United States, ticks cause more illnesses each year than mosquito-borne diseases.
Prevention Tips: Be sure to check your body and pets for ticks promptly after spending time outdoors in wooded or grassy areas. People can reduce the number of ticks near their home by clearing overgrown shrubs and mowing their grass regularly. If found on body, use fine-tipped tweezers to remove ticks below the head. Contact a physician if signs of an infection appear, such as fever or rash.
Approximately ½ to one inch long with black and yellow stripes. Yellow jackets prefer to locate their nests in a small hole in the ground. This wasp also commonly locates its nest inside the walls of a building, entering through cracks or holes in exterior walls.
Danger: Inflict painful stings that can cause swelling, become infected easily and aggravate skin conditions or allergies. Yellow Jackets will defend their nest when disturbed and can release an attack pheromone to other nest mates, launching an aggressive attack on victims. Unlike the honey bee, which stings only one time and then dies, a single yellow jacket can sting repeatedly.
Sanitation can be critical to controlling these pests, but accurate identification is essential for their successful control. There are over 16,000 species of flying pests in North America alone. In fact, flying pests plague every part of the world except the polar ice caps. Flying pests spread diseases readily because they move quickly from garbage to exposed foods to humans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that flying pests contaminate and destroy more than $10 billion worth of agricultural products each year. To learn more about your specific invader, click on one of the above suspects.
Box Elder Bugs
Box elder bugs generally become problematic during the fall as they search for overwintering sites inside the home. Adult box elder bugs are about 1/2-inch long with black and orange/red markings. Their wings lay flat over their bodies, overlapping each other to form an 'X'.
Prevention Tips: After treatment, prevent box elder bugs from re-entering sealing all potential entry points in and around the home. Repair or replace damaged window and door screens, vents, etc. Seal areas where cable TV wires, phone lines, and other utility wires, pipes, outdoor facets, dryer vents and similar objects enter the home. Seal these entry points with caulk or for larger spaces use polyurethane expandable spray foam, copper mesh, or other appropriate sealant. One might also install door sweeps or thresholds to all exterior entry doors, including a rubber seal along the bottom of garage doors.
Depending on the species, the life expectancy of a fly is eight days to two months, or in some cases, up to a year. One pair of flies can produce more than one million offspring in as little as six to eight weeks. For every fly seen, there are an estimated nineteen more hidden from view.
Danger: Flies spread diseases readily because they move quickly from rotting, disease-laden garbage to exposed human foods and utensils. In fact, more than 100 pathogens are associated with flies including salmonella, staphylococcus, e. coli and shigella. These pathogens can cause disease in humans and animals including typhoid fever, cholera, bacillary dysentery, hepatitis, ophthalmia, polio, tuberculosis and infantile diarrhea.
Prevention Tips: Sanitation is critical to controlling these pests, but accurate identification is essential for successful fly control. Make sure to keep lids on garbage cans, clean up pet feces in the yard, and keep screens and doors shut tight to reduce fly populations within the home.
Gnats are small, tiny flies that range from 1 mm to ¼-inch in length. Most species are black or brown with very long thin legs and wings. Gnats are often annoying when found in buildings. Sometimes occurring in large numbers, they gravitate toward windows attracted by sunlight. Gnats breed in the soil, in fungi, and any place where suitable molds might grow. Indoors they are most often associated with the soil in potted plants. When plants are overwatered, molds in the soil are capable of reproducing thus providing a breeding medium for gnats.
Prevention Tips: The control of fungus gnats involves discovering their breeding sites, then drying them out sufficiently to stop the growth of molds. To eliminate gnats, turn over the top soil in potted plants several times to dry out the soil. Make note that plants should be watered only when necessary. Soil in potted plants should never be allowed to stay constantly wet.
The mosquito is approximately 1/8 to 3/8 inch long, or the size of a small shirt button. They have two wings, a body, and legs covered with scales. They have a long beak with piercing-sucking mouthparts that can be felt by humans similar to the light prick of a pin.
Danger: Some species transmit viruses, such as the West Nile virus, causing encephalitis (swelling of the brain), resulting in seasonal epidemics in North America during the summer and fall. Serious symptoms of West Nile disease can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, disorientation and paralysis. Mosquitoes have also been known to transmit infectious agents that cause malaria, lymphatic filariasis, yellow fever and dengue fever.
Prevention Tips: Mosquitoes can be found anywhere associated with water, including gutters, ponds, old tires or plant pots. The best source of control is to remove their harborage sites, removing all sources of standing water such as from gutters and flower pots. Regularly change water in wading pools and bird baths. Clean gutters regularly. Thinning out vegetation from around the home can also be helpful. As with all flying insect prevention, always ensure window screens fit securely, and keep doors/windows closed whenever possible.
Here are some other pests that may occasionally invade your home throughout the different seasons of the year.
Aphids are small insects that live on plants and flowers, using them for food and harborage. They have long slender mouths used for sucking the juices out of plants. Signs of damage include curled, distorted leaves. Aphids also secrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which often turns black with the growth of a sooty mold fungus. These pests are especially attracted to rose gardens, hibiscus, gardenias, etc.
Prevention Tips: If you have an aphid problem, you more than likely have an ant problem. Ants often farm aphids for their honeydew as a food source. Therefore they protect the aphids' harborages, creating a compounding pest problem. Often times gaining control of one of the species requires controlling both of them at the same time. Consult an Alterra professional today to receive a customized-tailored solution for your home and property.
Carpet beetle larvae cause damage to fabrics, crawling from room to room while living behind baseboards, molding, in heating air ducts, dresser drawers, carpets, clothing and furniture. Feeding damage often occurs under heavy furniture or pianos and at carpet edges.
Adult carpet beetles also feed on animal and plant substances such as wool, fur, feathers, hair, hides, horns, silk, velvet, felts, bone, seeds, grain, cereals, cake mixes, red pepper, rye meal and flour. Other substances include powdered milk, dog and cat food, leather, book bindings, dead insects, bird and rodent nests, and even cotton, linen, rayon, and jute, especially when stained with spilled food and animal excreta.
Prevention Tips: They are attracted to lights at night, and may enter through an open window or door. Make sure to repair or replace damaged window and door screens, vents, etc. Carpet beetles may also be brought in accidentally on cut flowers or in furniture that has been stored or sent out for repair.
Clothes moths are destructive during the larvae stage. They feed on wool, feathers, fur, hair, leather, lint, dust, paper, and occasionally cotton, linen, silk, and synthetic fibers. They are especially damaging to fabric stained with beverages, urine, oil from hair, and sweat.
Damaged fabrics will have holes eaten through them and will often have silken cases, lines of silken threads, and fecal pellets over the surface of the materials. Most damage is done to articles left undisturbed for a long time, such as old military uniforms and blankets, wool upholstery, feathered hats, antique dolls and toys, natural bristle brushes, weavings, wall hangings, piano felts, old furs, and especially wool carpets under heavy furniture and clothing in storage.
Prevention Tips: If clothes moths are found, discard damaged fabrics and dry clean all clothing items stored in that particular area. Consult an Alterra professional for potential treatment options.
Earwigs are unsightly and can be serious garden pests. They have amber bodies with yellow legs, and sometimes head indoors after rains. Often called "pincher bugs," they primarily eat decaying matter but do not pinch.
Prevention Tips: Eliminate likely harborage sites such as woodpiles, landscape timbers, mulch, and other damp nesting sites that trap moisture.
Grain beetles are common stored-food product pests. These beetles are capable of chewing into unopened paper or cardboard boxes, through cellophane, plastic, and foil wrapped packages. Once inside, populations build up rapidly often spreading to other stored foods and into food debris accumulated in the cupboard corners, cracks, and crevices. Potential foods infested include cereals, cornmeal, cornstarch, popcorn, rice, dried fruits, breakfast foods, flour, rolled oats, bran, macaroni, sugar, drugs, spices, herbs, candy, dried meats, chocolate, bread, nuts, crackers, raisins, dried dog/cat food, etc.
Prevention Tips: Discard all pantry food immediately as it is impossible to know whether the infestation has spread to all other food items. Consult an Alterra professional for potential treatment options.
Both granary and rice weevils are pantry pests that penetrate and feed on the internal portions of whole grains during the larval (immature) stage, making early detection of infestations difficult. They are initially found in grain storage facilities or processing plants, infesting oats, wheat, barley, rice, and corn. Homeowners sometimes refer to infested foods as "weevilly."
Prevention Tips: Discard all contaminated food immediately from pantry to ensure the infestation does not spread to other food items. Consult an Alterra professional for potential treatment options.
Yellowish-brown and about one inch long, house crickets are heard more often than they are seen. They create a distinctive chirping sound, especially in the dark. They are happy to be outside but will stray toward warm interiors. They can chew just about anything from carpets to clothing, and can bite if captured.
Prevention Tips: Changing home lighting to yellow lighting greatly reduces the numbers of crickets attracted. Heavy ground cover such as ivy should be minimized in landscaping, especially next to the home. Potential cricket harborages, such as piles of lumber and bricks, should be removed. Make sure to also seal as many exterior cracks and holes and make sure all doors have tight-fitting weather-strips.
Indian Meal Moth
The Indian meal moth is the most common household moth that can reproduce in homes. It develops as a pest from various foods commonly found in pantries. The caterpillars can damage susceptible food items and adult moths can become annoying as they fly throughout the home. Indian meal moths develop in many kinds of stored foods, including coarsely ground grains and cereal products. Dried herbs, dried fruits, and nuts are highly favored, along with pet foods such as dried dog food, flaked fish food, and bird seed.
Prevention Tips: Infested products need to be discarded immediately. Clean and vacuum the pantry thoroughly. Look for the cocoons of the moths and destroy them. In the future, store all dried food products and pet foods in a plastic container with a tightly-fitting lid.
Their bodies are dark and tubular, but vary in color and size from a half inch to twelve inches in more exotic locales. Millipedes have two legs per segment. They live in moist soils, usually covered by plants, rocks, or leaves, and eat decaying organic matter.
Prevention Tips: Millipedes live in moist areas outside and feed on organic matter in mulch, lawns, and leaf litter. Seal up cracks and holes in the home's exterior walls and keep mulch to a thickness of two inches or less.
These pests like to eat paper, glue, starch, and textiles. Silverfish will feed on wall paper, and are often found in books or cardboard packaging. They are nocturnal and flee from light. They are silvery-white, cone-shaped, and ¾ to ½-inch long.
Prevention Tips: Silverfish are difficult to control, especially for homes with wood shake roofs. Shakes hold moisture and permit surface molds to grow. This mold serves as a food source for silverfish. In addition, silverfish often live in the soffits and behind the fascia board behind gutters. Your Alterra professional should be consulted if silverfish become a regular problem.
Snails are mostly found in gardens and ground cover. They will stay in high moisture areas in order to survive. They can be very damaging to garden plants and citrus trees because plants are their primary food source. Signs of damage include holes in plant leaves or leaves entirely missing.
Prevention Tips: Thick ground covers, such as ivy and monkey grass, should not be located next to or near a foundation as it provides harborage for innumerable snails, slugs, insects, rodents and other pests.
Sometimes called "roly-polies" or "potato-bugs," these are dark segmented critters about ¾-inch long. They feed on decaying plant matter and live in damp areas. They prefer to be underneath the cover of leaves or rocks, but can also be found under boxes in damp, ground-level basements or storage rooms.
Prevention Tips: Pillbugs invade indoors when outside conditions permit them. Treatments can provide short-term relief, but correction of their harborage conditions is key to long-term success. Thick ground covers, such as ivy and monkey grass, should not be located near a foundation. Firewood, lumber and other stored items should be stacked away from the home. Exterior cracks and holes should also be sealed, especially along the foundation.
These are tiny insects, about 1/16-inch in length. Their color is gray to black and are often mistaken for fleas because of the way they jump. Springtails do not bite and are harmless, however they can develop huge populations. Often such infestations are noticed in basements and garages, or in bathrooms and kitchens. It is not uncommon for a homeowner to complain about the huge numbers of springtails spilling over onto the patio from the lawn or mulched flowerbeds.
Prevention Tips: When large numbers of springtails are present, they can be difficult to eliminate. In such cases, your Alterra professional can apply treatments as necessary, sometimes requiring more than one application. Treatments by themselves, however, are a short term solution. Springtails thrive in moist conditions outside (e.g., lawns, landscape beds) where they feed on molds and organic debris. Elimination of any excess moisture condition will provide long-term relief, for example, improving drainage away from the home's foundation and ensuring the irrigation system is not overwatering the lawn or landscaping.
"Thank you Deon for your friendliness and professionalism. You introduced yourself and greeted me with a smile, and you answered all my questions. You took careful consideration of my plants and shrubs, making sure not to damage anything. You also tried your best to take care of problem areas even though I had a lot of things in the way of you reaching those areas. I appreciate you being so thorough in those difficult spots. Alterra should be very proud to have Deon as an employee. I wish all my service calls for home needs were as positive as the experience I have had with Alterra. Many Thanks!"
-John S., San Jose, CA