Pest experts know at a glance what type of insect a particular bug is. But for the untrained, it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between insects. You might think you have one problem, when in fact it’s something else.
Below is a brief description of the physical characteristics and nesting habits of three of the most common and troublesome pests that pest experts are called on to exterminate.
Ants form colonies that consist mostly of sterile wingless female “workers” and “soldiers,” but they also contain fertile male “drones” and one or more fertile female “queens.” Ants are distinguished by their two angled antennae and their slender waist. Most queens and a few drones also have wings, but the queens lose their wings after mating. During their breeding period, the female queens and winged male drones leave the colony in what is known as a “nuptial flight.” The males secrete a pheromone that attracts the females, who can mate with just one or multiple males, depending on the species. The mated females then seek a nesting place to begin a new colony—and that place could be in your home!
This is more of a threat than many people realize. Carpenter ants can cause serious structural damage as they burrow through wood to make their nests.
Termites are often mistaken for ants, but unlike ants, termites don’t appear to have a waist. Termites also can curve and straighten their antennae, while ants can’t. Another difference is that baby termites look like small termites, whereas baby ants look like grubs. Reproductive termites have wings, which are almost equal in length and lie flat across the termite’s back when it’s not flying. Termites build elaborate nests around wood—live or dead trees, old stumps, and timber, including the timber in homes. The termites like to stay out of site as long as possible, remaining “underground,” so they often remain undetected until substantial damage has been done.
Mature bed bugs are brownish, flat, and oval-shaped, with a segmented abdomen. They have hind wings, but they lay flat on their body and are poorly developed. Adult bed bugs typically are 4-5 mm long and 1.5-3 mm wide. Nymphs are translucent and lighter in color. Once female bed bugs mate, they seek the tiniest of cracks and crevices to nest. They also seek to be near their food source—which is blood, preferably human. Bed bugs can find no better home than the nooks and crannies in bed frames, mattresses, and headboards. Because of their tendency to nest in the most-well-hidden places, their nests are almost impossible to locate without help from pest experts.