Learn more about your arthropods!
Learn more about your arthropods!
Arthropods – insects, spiders, and their relatives – are all around us. Many spend their entire lives in the wilds of nature, rarely seen by humans. Others, however, accidentally or intentionally inhabit our homes, taking up residence in our basements, kitchens, bathrooms, and even bedrooms. Their lives are rarely observed, but play out daily in the shadows, corners, and crevices of our homes. Interested in learning more about your home’s arthropods? Check out our photo gallery of the most common arthropods you may encounter in your home and learn more about your tiny house guests. (Photos by Matt Bertone)
Camel crickets (Orthoptera: Rhaphidophoridae) are leggy denizens of damp, dark places like basements and crawl spaces. Though jumpy, they don’t bite and are thought to feed on dead and decaying bits.
Springtails (Collembola) are tiny arthropods that feed on tiny bits of organic matter. Many can launch themselves in the air with a springy, fork-like “tail” they hold under their bodies.
Silverfish (Thysanura) represent an ancient lineage of insects that usually consume crumbs and starches, but can subsist on nutrient-poor “foods” like glue, hair, and leather.
According to urban legend, earwigs (Dermaptera) are horrifying parasites that can tunnel through your ear to lay eggs in your brain. FALSE! In truth, they are harmless, feeding on a wide variety of insects and plants. And female earwigs are known to provide attentive care to their offspring.
House centipedes (Scutigeromorpha: Scutigeridae: Scutigera spp) are fast, leggy hunters that roam houses in search of food. They are important predators of other pest arthropods, including cockroaches and flies.
Only a handful of the 5,000 species of cockroach (Blattodea) worldwide are known household pests. They become a problem when present in large numbers, as they produce allergens and transmit diseases.
Termites (Isoptera) are social insects that are well-adapted to eat wood. They can become an expensive problem for many home owners by destroying the structural integrity of their houses.
As their name implies, stink bugs (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) have a pungent odor, one good reason why they’re not welcome visitors in homes where they may be found congregating.
Bed bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae: Cimex spp.) are universally loathed because they creep out at night to feed on us while we are sleeping, leaving behind uncomfortable itchy welts. The good news? They don’t transmit diseases.
Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) may be the most familiar insects to enter houses. Most species nest outdoors, but will enter homes to find food and water.
Carpenter ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Camponotus spp.) do not consume wood like termites do, but create nests by carving out tunnels in wood. This process can sometimes damage the structure of homes.
Hornets (shown here, Hymenoptera: Vespidae) and paper wasps sometimes build their nests near, on, or even inside homes. They can be frightening because of their painful sting, which they use to protect their colonies.
Tiny parasitic wasps (Hymenoptera) look for suitable hosts, mostly other arthropods, in which to lay their eggs; offspring develop by eating those unlucky hosts from the inside out. Sometimes the hosts live in our homes, drawing these wasps inside the home, too. (The wasp in the picture belongs to the Pteromalidae, one of several families of small parasitic wasps).
Death-watch beetles (Coleoptera: Anobiidae) feed on extremely dry materials including wood, cereals, grains, spices, and even tobacco.
Carpet beetles (Coleoptera: Dermestidae) feed on dead insects, carpet fibers, and clothing, among other home items.
Carpet Beetle Larvae
The larvae — or “caterpillar” life stage — of the carpet beetle (Coleoptera: Dermestidae) are long and hairy, resembling pipe cleaners. They feed on fibers (including clothing) and dried food products.
Flour beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Tribolium spp.) are one of many insect groups that infest stored food products. Many species have spread across the world as a result of human travel and trade.
Mosquitoes, like this invasive Asian tiger mosquito (Diptera: Culicidae: Aedes albopictus), are a familiar nuisance to most people outside and may follow their blood meal indoors.
Moth flies (Diptera: Psychodidae) are harmless inhabitants of our bathrooms and kitchens. Adults resemble tiny moths and larvae feed on the muck inside drain pipes, giving them another common name – drain flies.
Dark-winged Fungus Gnats
Dark-winged fungus gnats (Diptera: Sciaridae) are common little black flies that can be found around potted plants and decaying vegetable matter; they feed on fungi growing on that material.
Vinegar flies (Diptera: Drosophilidae: Drosophila spp.) — often called “fruit flies” — appear as if from nowhere to infest over-ripe produce. Larvae feed on the molds and yeasts that decay fruits and vegetables.
House flies (Diptera: Muscidae) are a familiar sight to most people, especially when found trapped indoors and buzzing around. Although they are important decomposers, they are also capable of transfering disease-causing microbes to surfaces in your home.
Blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) are one of nature’s great decomposers, typically feeding on dead and decaying flesh. They can be found in homes, usually attracted to the odors of meat products in the trash can or the dead mouse in the corner of the basement.
Meal moths (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) produce larvae (caterpillars) that feed on stored grains, flours and cereals, among other stored products.
Common House Spiders
Common house spiders (Araneae: Theridiidae) can be found in homes all over the world, but most likely originated in the Americas. They are so tightly-linked to human settlements that they are rarely found out in nature. Like other cobweb spiders, they build an irregular web made of many entangled threads.
Leggy cellar spiders (Araneae: Pholcidae) may look menacing, but are harmless. Perhaps to the delight of many people, they often feed on other spiders and spider eggs.
Jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) are wall-scaling acrobats, ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey from afar using their excellent vision.
Dust mites (Acariformes: Pyroglyphidae) are tiny arthropods that feed on shed skin cells and other organic debris. They are found in houses throughout the world, living in carpets, beds, and even on people. (photo by Gilles San Martin)
Isopods (Isopoda), more commonly known as roly-polies, pill bugs and woodlice, are not insects but land crustaceans, more closely related to shrimp and crabs. They are extremely common and feed on dead and decaying plant material.
Millipedes (Diplopoda) are elongate arthropods with many legs. Unlike their predatory cousins the centipedes, millipedes consume decaying or dried vegetable materials.