Category Archives: Household pests

Posts on insect pests of structures.

Kissing bug identification requires closer look

Because most of us take little time to look closely at insects, it should not be surprising that recent television stories about “kissing bugs” and Chagas disease have created a frenzy of sorts among people thinking they have captured or seen kissing bugs around the home.  While a few of these have turned out to be actual kissing bugs (genus Triatoma), most are not; and laboratories set up to identify and test kissing bugs have been overwhelmed this month with samples. But not all insects vaguely resembling the pictures you… Read More →

Tougher head lice in schools this year

Sending your children off to the first day of school comes with plenty of concerns.  Will they enjoy their new teachers?  Will they make good friends?  But one concern often overlooked in the rush of the new school year is head lice. Now the last thing anyone should stress over when it comes to schools is head lice.  But with a new school year, reports of head lice always go up.  And according to a new paper delivered at the American Chemical Society and reported this week in Smithsonian.com, this year’s head… Read More →

Flag waving for Americans

The ensign wasp is one of the odder insects found occasionally in homes.  A small insect, only 5-7 mm long, it does not sting or bite.  In fact, it does no harm; but it is a beneficial parasite of at least three household cockroaches, the American cockroach being the most common. Ensign wasps are experts at locating not the cockroaches themselves, but the egg cases (oothecae) that cockroaches deposit.  According to one account, when the female ensign wasp encounters a cockroach egg case, she first taps it with her antennae, presumably… Read More →

Rutgers study shows best home treatments for bed bugs

Bed bugs are best treated by an experienced professional.  Let me say that again…  If you have bed bugs, and you can hire a professional who knows what they’re doing, then do it.  It can save you much grief and lost sleep. Now that I’ve said that, let me address those who, for whatever reason, must fight bed bugs without professional help. If professional service is not in the cards for you right now, you have some options. First consider the approach outlined in my fact sheet on… Read More →

Never more than 5 feet from a (wolf) spider

I was reminded the other day of the old saying “You’re never more than five feet from a spider”.  I was working on the computer when I glanced up from my keyboard to look into the face of a BIG wolf spider. It was sitting on the base of my computer monitor about 2 feet away. After the initial startle reaction (even entomologists are human) I had to smile.  I really do like spiders–if not especially on my keyboard–and I was thinking how most of my non-entomologist friends would react to… Read More →

Carpenter ant season is now

Many social insects periodically do something called “swarming”.  Swarming occurs when reproductively mature, but unmated, kings and queens leave the nest to mate.  These mating couples are winged and are referred to as alates, or swarmers.  The earliest swarmers to emerge in the winter are carpenter ants. This week my youngest daughter, home for the weekend for a visit, informed her entomologist dad that the upstairs shower was covered with large ants.  A quick inspection confirmed that we were being invaded by carpenter ants.  A few years ago… Read More →

Rubbing alcohol not a good solution for bed bugs

The quest for home remedies for bed bugs appears to be never-ending.  However, in the latest revelations from researchers, it seems that very few home insecticides are worth the time or trouble when battling bed bugs.  That’s not to say that some of these products won’t kill some bed bugs, but the ideal product for killing bed bugs just isn’t out there, experts say. A recent article in Science News  gloomily summarizes some of the most current information about DIY bed bug control, based on papers presented on bed… Read More →

Homeless insects and energy audits

When cold weather comes knocking, it should be no surprise that hundreds, or even thousands, of insects may be waiting for you to open the door this fall.  It’s not like you can really blame them.  They are just temporarily homeless critters looking for a warm place to spend the winter. I was staying at a hotel this week in Austin for the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting, and on my 23rd floor window I looked out and saw dozens of hackberry nipple-gall maker insects on the… Read More →

A squirrelly problem

Squirrels may be cute, and I enjoy watching squirrels in the woods as much as anyone.  I’m less entranced, however, by the squirrel cartel currently occupying my backyard. A few weeks ago, after returning home from an out of town trip, I noticed something wasn’t quite right with the cedar elm tree in my backyard.  An entire branch of the tree appeared to be dead.  Inspection close to the trunk revealed that the bark had been peeled off, chewed off actually, girdling the entire branch. I had noticed… Read More →

What to do if you’re attacked by bees?

While honey bees are highly beneficial to man, they can also be dangerous.  If you don’t believe this, consider two Texas incidents this summer.  In June, a Waco area man was killed by honey bees while working on his tractor.  This past weekend a couple was severely stung and two of their miniature horses were killed following a bee attack at their Tarrant county home.  Both incidents illustrate how serious honey bee infestations can be. It’s not that bees are mean, in a human sense. But they do take exception… Read More →