in and Around the Home
Minor Orders of Insects – Occasional Pests
Earwigs (Order Dermaptera: Forficulidae): Dark brown to cherry-colored
wingless or abbreviated-winged insects with a pair of distinct pinchers on the
tail end. Earwigs are 1/2 to 5/8 inch. Habits: Typical occasional invader found
outdoors in wood piles and under flat items (such as boards) lying on the ground.
Also found in heavily mulched areas. Occasionally very numerous. Interventions:
Follow suggestions under section titled Proactive Pest Management. It is especially
important to eliminate harborage and install doorsweeps. Earwigs are harmless
and are simply a nuisance pest. Chemical control is rarely needed. If desired, spray
earwigs directly with an appropriately labeled residual spray (spray only outdoors).
Might Be Confused With: ground beetles, swarmer termites.
Thrips (Order Thysanoptera): Thrips (singular and plural) are very small (1/64 to
1/32 inch), yellow- to tan-colored insects with fringed wings that are only visible
under a microscope. Thrips are barely visible to the naked eye. Habits: Thrips
are exclusively plant feeders. With their sand paper-like mouthparts, they scrape
the surface of plant tissue and drink the juices that flow from the plant wound.
Thrips are small enough to pass through standard window screens, and are known
to inadvertently bite humans. Interventions: Problems with thrips indoors often
subside on their own. Thrips originate from plants, therefore the first step is to
remove or move indoor plants to the outside and/or close windows to keep thrips
from entering from outside. Might Be Confused With: small, biting flies.
Booklice (Order Psocoptera): Booklice, also referred to as psocids, are very
small (1/32 inch), usually wingless, whitish insects. Barely visible to the naked eye.
Habits: The presence of booklice is an indication of excessive moisture. Booklice
feed on microscopic mold and fungi, which grows on substrates such as books,
paper, and cardboard housed where humidity is high. Mold and fungi thrive only
in environments where humidity is persistent and high. When found, booklice are
usually abundant. Interventions: The ultimate remedy, because of the importance
of humidity, is dehumidification to reduce moisture in the area. Might Be
Confused With: springtails, young bed bugs.
Cat fleas (Order Siphonaptera: Ctenocephalides felis): Wingless, brown,
vertically-flattened 1/16 inch insects that readily jump. Obligate parasites of
warm-blooded hosts. Habits: Although referred to as the cat flea, it is the most
common flea associated with cats and dogs. Commonly found on wild animals
such as raccoons, opossums, and coyotes, which can serve as the source of pet
infestation and re-infestation. As the female flea lays eggs (one per hour), they
fall from the animal’s coat and onto the substrate below, where they hatch. As
female fleas feed on the pet’s blood some is absorbed but most is passed, where it
collects as dried particles in the same location as the eggs (commonly pet resting
areas). The newly-hatched larvae eat the dried blood, develop through three larval
instars, pupate, complete development, re-infest the animal, and the cycle repeats.
Adult fleas can remain in the pupal cocoon for months prior to emergence and
re-infestation of the animal. Following emergence from the cocoon, adults must
find and infest a host within a few days or they will desiccate and die. Adult fleas
spend all but the first few days of their life on a warm-blooded host. Like other
blood-feeding arthropods (ticks, bed bugs, and mosquitoes), fleas are attracted
to carbon dioxide, as it is indicative of a warm-blooded host. Since fleas require
warm, humid conditions to flourish, flea problems are cyclical and most severe
during the warmest part of the year. Interventions: Management should address
flea populations on and off the animal. Indoors, target areas or rooms where
pets frequent to get at the most vulnerable stage – the larva. Vacuum these areas
regularly, using a vacuum with a beater bar on carpeted areas, in addition to
washing pet bedding. When applying a properly labeled insecticide use products
containing an insect growth regulator such as, but not limited to, pyriproxyfen or
methoprene. Concurrently, treat infested pet with a topical product containing
either of the active ingredients: imidacloprid, fipronil, or dinotefuran, or an oral
medication containing spinosad. Short-term animal relief from adult fleas can
also be obtained with oral administration of a product containing selamectin or
nitenpyram. When an on-animal treatment is chosen, always follow a veterinarian’s
advice. Keep pet resting areas clean. If pets spend time outdoors, concurrent with
indoor and on-animal actions, identify areas of flea activity, especially areas that
pets frequent—shaded areas, dog runs and pens, areas under decks, etc.—and
spot treat those areas with an appropriately labeled residual spray or granular
product. For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #782,
Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uge.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With:
Silverfish (Order Zygentoma, formerly known as Thysanura): Wingless, silver, up
to 1 inch insect with long antennae and three long tail filaments. Habits: Found in
undisturbed (often unmaintained), indoor, humid environments. Sometimes found
in attics. Eats mold and fungi, paper, etc. Interventions: Moisture is very important
to these pests so an effective strategy would be to dry the environment with
dehumidifiers. In conjunction with dehumidification apply a granular bait or apply
a spot treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray to areas where these
insects are found. Might Be Confused With: cockroaches, crickets, earwigs.
Springtails (Order Collembola): Very small (1/32 to 1/16 inch), usually
numerous, jumping insects. Some species referred to as snow fleas. Vary in color
from blue to gray to green to brown to white. Habits: Highly moisture-dependent.
Outbreaks often occur where there exists persistent, excessive moisture and optimum
temperatures. Springtails feed on mold and fungi. Recurring problems indoors
suggest an indoor moisture problem or moisture source, such as in bathrooms where
insects are sometimes found in bathtubs and sinks or coming from inside damp walls
or other damp voids. Springtails are perhaps the most common insect in the soil/
leaf litter habitat. Outdoors, outbreaks often occur from thatch or mulch. When
this occurs, numerous springtails can be seen jumping, as their name suggests.
Interventions: Reduce or eliminate moisture or humidity indoors and outdoors
where springtails are found; this may require fixing a leak or eliminating another
obvious moisture source. Install a dehumidifier. If springtails are a problem outdoors,
follow suggestions under section Proactive Pest Management. When moisture
problems are remedied, springtail problems often cease. If desired, apply a spot
treatment to mulch/thatch with an appropriately labeled residual spray to areas where
springtails are found. Might Be Confused With: fleas, booklice.