Ants are the most common insect to invade homes and businesses. There are about 20 species of ants in East Tennessee.
Food: The varieties of ants eat anything from sweets, meat, cheese and other insects (alive or dead).
Where to look: Indoors, ants can be found near moisture sources (wall voids, near hot water pipes and heaters, bathrooms), sources of warmth (fireplace hearths) and in or around wood. Outdoors, you can find ants nesting in cracks in concrete, under stones, near building foundations, and under rocks, logs or decaying vegetation.
Be aware: Although most ants are not aggressive, some bite or sting when they feel threatened. Others let off foul odors when crushed.
Signs of an invasion: Soil piled up around an entry hole, large progression of ants late at night and sawdust sprinkles around furniture or other wood sources.
Termites are found all over East Tennessee, and can do major damage to any building or structure.
Food: Termites eat wood, usually fallen logs and stumps on the forest floor. They often eat wood from the inside out, making their activity in your home largely undetectable until it's too late.
Where to look: Termites need moisture, so they can be found below your home. They build mud tubes that can cross concrete, brick, cinder block, metal, pre-treated wood and some chemical barriers.
Signs of an invasion: A temporary swarm of winged insects near or inside the building, discarded wings near doors and windows, mud tubes in the basement or crawl space, hollow-sounding wall studs and unexpected sagging in wooden buildings.
Spiders can be found all over East Tennessee, and despite the fear people have of them, most are completely harmless.
Food: Spiders feed off other bugs, so if you have spiders in your home, more than likely it is because other bugs are already there.
Where to look: Look for webs in corners, under furniture and other areas where they won't be disturbed.
The German and American cockroaches are the most common in East Tennessee. The Oriental roach is found typically only in the more rural areas and closer to the mountains. Roaches range in color from pale to light brown to black and can be anywhere from 5/8" to 2" long.
Food: Roaches will eat nearly anything but prefer moist human and pet food, sweet foods and decaying starches (book bindings and wallpaper adhesive).
Where to look: You can usually find roaches in dark, moist areas such as basements or garages, drains, bathtubs and sewers. American and Oriental roaches are most commonly found in larger commercial buildings (restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals).
Be aware: Cockroaches can spread germs and make allergies worse.
Bed bugs are small, light brown to reddish-brown parasites that can be found all over East Tennessee. An infestation can be dangerous and should be handled as soon as possible.
Food: Bed bugs feed on blood of an available warm body. They can live up to a year without feeding. They are most active at night.
Where to look: Bed bugs like to remain close to their hosts. You can find them living in beds and couch cushions, or near animals that live in your home.
Be aware: People exposed to bed bugs can suffer from a number of health effects, including skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms.
Mosquitoes are arguably one of the most dangerous animals on earth because of their ability to spread diseases. They are small flying insects that can be found in all parts of East Tennessee.
Food: Both male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar and plant juices, but many females also feed on blood of humans and animals. They feed most often at dawn and dusk.
Where to look: Mosquitoes lay their eggs in or near water. If you have standing water, ponds, or containers holding water in your yard or around your house, you are setting up a breeding ground for the insects.
Be aware: Mosquitoes carry many diseases in their saliva, which is transmitted to a host when they bite. Around the world, many fatal viruses and parasites can be transmitted. In East Tennessee, West Nile virus is the main concern. Mosquito bites also cause itching, redness and swelling.
Carpenter bees can be a pest, but they also serve an economical purpose: pollinate crops and home gardens.
Where to look: Carpenter bees are not social insects and do not live in nests or colonies. You will find them hovering around houses and other wooden structures. Females will nest in various types of wood, but she prefers weathered and unpainted woods.
Be aware: Carpenter bees may be large, but they are basically harmless! Males can appear aggressive, but they have no stinger. The female will only sting when threatened.
Signs of invasion: Females bore a perfectly round hole straight into wood across the grain. She then takes a right-angle turn to build her gallery for her eggs. Woodpeckers can enlarge these holes when they try to get at the larvae inside.
The seed-bearing Boxelder tree is home to the boxelder bug. You also can find them in Silver Maple and Ash trees.
Food: In late April or early May, adult boxelders come out of hibernation and females lay clusters of eggs. Those babies will feed on fallen boxelder seeds and then new tree leaves.
Where to look: Adults begin to find their winter homes as early as late summer or early fall. If you have cracks and crevices in your siding or windows and doors that aren't sealed, they can get into your home. Check around your home for possible openings.
Be aware: If you find boxelders in your home, it's best to wait until early summer when all the adults that overwintered in your home are out of your walls. Entry prevention is the best way to avoid an invasion.
Fleas are small, wingless and agile insects. Females lay 4-8 eggs after each meal, laying some 400-500 eggs during their lifetime.
Food: Fleas live off the blood of their host, which can be rodents, pets and humans.
Where to look: In your home, fleas hide in carpets, rugs, floor tile joints, pet bedding and under cushions.
Be aware: Flea bites result in painful, itchy red bumps. Some people are very sensitive to these bites; however, scratching can cause infection. The bites also can cause allergic reaction in pets and humans.
Earwigs have slender flattened bodies with a large pair of pincers at the tip of their abdomen. They are harmless, but when disturbed they emit a liquid that smells like creosote.
Food: Earwigs feed on plants, organic wastes and smaller insects.
Where to look: The bugs hide during the day under debris or in dark spaces. You can find them near unnecessary mulch, plant debris, stones or boards around the home.
Camel crickets, or cave crickets, are tan or gray and have bodies up to 2" long with large humpbacks. Their 4" legs allow them to jump at you when they feel threatened. Their threadlike antennae are as long or longer than their bodies.
Be aware: Although they are intimidating, they are harmless to humans. However, they can be a nuisance and can cause minor damage to items stored in dark, damp crawl spaces or basements.
Yellow jackets are a type of wasps that are either yellow and black, white and black or red with stripes. Yellow jackets live in colonies that can reach up to 4,000-5,000 members.
Food: Yellow jackets feed on items rich in sugars and carbohydrates, such as fruit, flowers and sap. They feed their larvae proteins from other insects, meat and fish. Yellow jackets will forage in human garbage, picnics and other food sources to feed.
Where to look: Yellow jackets build their nests in trees, shrubs, protected places inside man-made structures (attics, sheds, under porches), or in soil cavities and tree stumps.
Be aware: Yellow jackets can sting multiple times.
Rats and mice are the two most common form of rodents found in East Tennessee. Infestations from either rodent can be not only a nuisance, but can expose your family to disease and other pests.
The house mouse and deer mouse are common in our area. The mice are small and are able fit their bodies through holes as small as a dime.
The Norway rat and roof rat are most commonly found in East Tennessee. They are larger than mice, and can be up to 8" long. They can cause damage to your home if they make it inside, and they carry diseases.
Food: Mice eat bugs, grains, seeds, nuts, berries and any other food they can find and hoard. Rats hoard food as well, and can gnaw through almost any material to get to food, including plastic or lead pipes.
Signs of an invasion: Mice and rats often leave behind droppings. The Norway rat will leave marks and greasy streaks on the walls or baseboards where they follow the same paths over and over. Roof rats may leave gnaw marks, tracks or greasy trails on vertical surfaces.
Be aware: Rats and mice carry dangerous diseases with them. Droppings and urine may contain the Hantavirus or Salmonella.
Ladybugs may be the cutest of all the bugs, but they can still be considered an unwanted pest, especially if they infest your home by the thousands!
Food: Ladybugs prey on aphids, mealy bugs, mites their own eggs and other soft-bodied insects.
Where to look: During the early fall, these bugs begin to cluster around homes and buildings in large numbers as they search for a winter home. They also choose to live under leaves, rocks and landscaping timbers. During the winter, you can find them in the dark, void areas behind walls,in attics and crawlspaces.
Be aware: Ladybugs can bite, emit an odor and can stain some surfaces with a yellow secretion. Some people have asthmatic and allergic reactions to their shed skins.
The smell of the Brown Marmorted Stink Bug is obvious and annoying. But the bug is more than just a smelly nuisance; it's also considered an agricultural pest for their ability to destroy fruit and vegetable crops.
Food: Stink bugs suck the juice from fruits and eat seed pods from a wide range of plants.
Where to look: Stink bugs breed in warm weather and need heat to live. Porch lights left on in the evening can attract, as well as light-colored houses or places where they can find sun exposure. In homes, they like to overwinter around cracks in windows and door frames. The can hibernate under siding and roof shingles, too, as well as in the attic, attic vents and crawl spaces.
Be aware: Stink bugs rarely bite and are not poisonous, but their smell is horrible. Do not crush the bugs if you find one in your home; instead, find a way to get it back outside.