Return to Home Pest Control Article List

Common Insect Pests

Provided courtesy Triton Pest Control

Asian Lady Beetles

Asian lady beetles, harmonia axyridis, are a nuisance to homeowners. They invade homes and buildings during the fall. Infestations may be very large and quite annoying.

This pest is about 1/4" long and 3/16" wide and come in a variety of colors from bright orange or a pale-yellow orange. They usually have spots on their wings. Occasionally you may run across a lady beetle that has not spots at all.

Introduced by the USDA to the US in 1916 and then again in 1964-1965 the Asian Lady Beetle control aphids. They are found through out the country. In more recent years they have become more prevalent in the north east.

Lady beetles are a beneficial insect. They feed on soft-bodies insects, i.e. aphids and scales. Adults are capable of consuming 90 - 270 aphids daily. The larva eat approximately 600 - 1,200 aphids daily.

During the fall the Asian Lady Beetle seeks a warm place to over winter. Usually they seek light rock cliff areas and homes located near open fields. Cracks and gaps in windows and doorways make an easy entry for these insects. You may encounter them clustered around windows and doors and ceilings. Do not crush this insect as it will stain surfaces. Your first line of control is repair any gaps, cracks and crevices around doors and windows. The use of pesticides is not recommended. Use a vacuum or sweep up the insect(s) and dispose of them or release them outdoors.

Lady beetles do not bite or sting and are not disease carrying. In the spring they will emerge and return to the great outdoors.

Bed Bugs

This is a pest you rarely hear about anymore, but they are still out there and have seen a resurgence since the early 1990's. This nuisance pest attacks humans and animals. Bed bugs suck blood but do not transmit disease or damage property. Bed bugs have become more prevalent in homeless shelters and among the migrant worker community. Bed bugs can thrive where overcrowded living conditions and sanitation are less the ideal.


Bed bugs are approximately 3/16 inch long and adults are oval and flat with dark red or mahogany coloring. After filling themselves with blood they will grow in size and take on more of a red coloring.

The bed bugs body appears shiny. Their sucking mouthparts pierce the skin and suck the blood of the host. If you are sensitive to the bite you may experience itching and/or swelling in the area of the bite.

The female usually lays between 200 and too eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are deposited in cracks and crevices near their nest or the hosts sleeping area. The eggs hatch in about a week and will mature in four to nine weeks. Bed bugs can survive up to a year without food.

This pest has been known to hide in cracks, crevices and folds of mattresses and upholstered furniture as well as carpeting, cracks in floors and even behind electrical switch plates. Several other possible nesting areas are the folds of drapes and the motor compartment of refrigerators.


Your PMP can apply a residual product in the cracks and crevices of suspected nesting areas, including behind baseboards. It is recommended you vacuum suspected areas of infestation prior to treatment. If you have a current infestation, check areas carefully for any additional harborage.

Wasps and Hornets

Typically wasps are a beneficial insect because they feed on other insects. Unfortunately for wasps, they have a habit of building nests in areas where we do not want them. Ask anyone who has been stung by a wasp. Hornets, however, usually build their nests high in trees, but occasionally invade our space.


Some species are solitary and do not form colony groups. Other wasps are called social wasps and live in colonies with a queen, sterile female workers and drones (males). Social wasps include, yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps. If you are going to be stung, these are the ones to look out for. Stinging is a defensive action and occurs when a colony or individual feels threatened.

A queen who survives the winter (over winter) and emerges in the spring will begin a new colony. She will lay about 10-20 eggs, each being placed in a cell in her nest. Theses cells are similar to what you would find in a bee hive. She will search for food and water until the first sterile females of her new nest emerge. These sterile females will then take over the task of building the nest and taking care of the brood. The queen's primary responsibility is egg laying.

By summers end the typical nest may have several combs along with thousands of cells and workers. During the late summer and early fall fertile females and males are produced. The new queens will over winter, while the males die off after mating.

The brown of giant hornet (European hornet) is the only true hornet found in North America. Approximately 1© inches in length, it has a brown body marked with orange. Hornets typically build their nests in the hollows of trees and logs, but will enter eaves, vents and openings in the sides of structures.

The paper wasp (umbrella wasp), suspends its nests from the eaves of houses, the underside of decks, porch roofs and other well protected surfaces.

The yellow jacket, this writers least favorite of the wasp family, usually builds its nest underground in old mouse and rodent burrows or openings in buildings that are well protected. The yellow jacket nest may contain upwards of 3,000 in population. Yellow jackets are © inch in length and have yellow markings on their heads and yellow bands around the abdomen and thorax. Yellow jackets are considered to be the most aggressive members of the wasp family.


Wasps feed their young on animal protein which includes other insects and spiders. They scavenge for food and love family cookouts and picnic settings. They love hamburger and other meats we humans enjoy. The adults will also feed on sodas, beer and fruit juices. Yes, wasps have a sweet tooth, more or less.

You are more likely to be stung by yellow jackets in August and September, which is toward the end of their life cycle. Just remember that social wasps are very protective of their nests and will defend it against any potential invader.


Stay away! Seriously, wasps inject a venom and protein material when they sting. Unlike bees they are capable of multiple stings. Most people will have pain and swelling at the sight of the sting, but some people my have severe allergic reactions requiring emergency medical treatment. Wasps stings account for approximately 40 deaths in the US annually.

If you plan to take wasps on by yourself the best time to attack the nest is a night. Most of the colony will be in the nest and they are typically less aggressive. Locate the nest during day light hours and avoid using light to located the nest at night. Guards at the entrance may be attracted to the light and attack. Where protective clothing, including a long sleeve shirt and leather work type gloves warn in side the sleeve, trousers that are bloused inside your socks and a bee bonnet isn't a bad idea either. And don't forget to wear protective eye wear. Make sure others are kept away from the area and move slowly. If you panic, you may cause the nest to panic as well. If you have to flee, run in a straight line as fast as you can. DO NOT ZIG ZAG! Zig zagging only makes it easier for you pursuer to catch up to you.

There are a variety of "Wasp Freeze" products available that you may purchase. Follow the label directions for use and personal safety. Be sure to read the label. Some products may damage painted surfaces and siding.


Few people go through life without running into a tick. There are over 850 species throughout the world. Most people encounter ticks in the woods and in high grassy areas. Ticks may also be found in warm dry places such as livestock shelters or storage buildings.

Ticks, of all blood-sucking arthropods, have the widest variety of pathogens, including rickets, bacteria, protozoa and viruses. The most talked about of these, in recent memory, is Lyme disease, which was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the other disease most frequently associated with ticks.

An adult brown dog tick ranges from 1/8" long to 1/2" when engorged with blood. This tick is reddish brown in color, but when fully engorged takes on a grey-blue or olive hue. Dog ticks prefer dogs, where it derives its name, from the outdoors. The dog tick will attach itself behind a dogs ears and/or between a dogs toes. The deer tick which carries Lyme disease if found in the Midwestern and northeastern U.S. Deer ticks are about the same size as the brown dog tick, but are orange-brown in color with dark reddish-brown legs.


Your PCO can perform what is commonly referred to as "power spray" of your yard, concentrating on areas that may back up to wooded areas or open fields and high grasses. Most products available to your PCO will typically control, in addition to ticks, approximately 60 other pests.



Centipedes and Millipedes

Centipedes are usually referred to as "thousand leggers". Truth be known it is the millipede that is actually the "thousand legger". In either case, these are outdoor pests that find there way into our homes and businesses. They take refuge in areas where it is damp and moist.


Centipedes typically live outside in damp areas, under rocks, leaves, mulch and landsacpe timbers. The centipede is brownish with a flat and elongated body. They have a pair of legs attached to almost every body segment. The number of legs will depend upon the length and therefore body segments. Usually 1 to 6 inches, in the Southeast and Southwest may grow to 8 inches.

The house centipede is usually 1 to 1© inches long. They have 15 pairs of legs which makes them appear larger than they actually are. House centipedes are grayish-yellow in color with three dark brown stripes running down the back of their bodies.

Millipedes also like to live outdoors in damp areas. Millipedes are very slow moving and if you watch them carefully enough you can easily see them moving. This pest has a round brown body with 2 pairs of legs to each body segment and range from 1" to 1 1/2" long. Oh yes, they do crunch when stepped on.

Chances are you will find centipedes in bath rooms, damp closets and basements. They eat other insects and are quite beneficial. They enjoy spiders in their diet. Centipedes can sting and their sting is comparable to that of a wasp.

Originally from Mexico, centipedes are found throughout the U.S. The house centipede has weak jaws and have difficulty biting through human skin, unlike their brethren discussed above.

Millipedes, on the other hand, product a foul smelling odor through glands in their body. Their food of choice is decaying vegetation and you will find them in damp areas including roots and green leaves. This pest becomes most prevalent during the Fall. You may find them crawling exterior walls and basement/cellar walls by the hundreds. Because of their size they find easy access to structures through cracks and crevices and around window and door frames. It is thought that millipedes attack buildings in an effort to find a suitable living area to overwinter.

Sometimes, exterior lighting on light colored buildings may attract millipedes. We have seen cases locally where thousands have crossed roads or streets during the night only to be found scaling the walls of the building where the lights are attached.


There are non chemical measures you can take to control centipedes and millipedes. If you stack wood near the foundation move it to a location away from the building. Keep your lawn dethatched, mowed and trimmed. Remove clippings if necessary. If you water your lawn, do it in the morning, this will help the grass dry through the day.

Look for cracks and crevices in foundation walls. Seal them to eliminate entry.

Your PMP can apply a residual product in the cracks and crevices of suspected nesting areas, including damp floors in garages and basements, plus ceiling joists and accessible crawl spaces. Bathrooms and laundry areas are ideal for application to control these pests.

If you have a current infestation, check areas carefully for any additional harborage.

About the author:  Triton Pest Control offers pest control services to their local Pennsylvania customers,
as well as online sales of Vector Fly Systems, rodent traps, and more at their website

Return to Natural Handyman's Pest Control Page