Problem Home and Household Pests Commonly Found in New Jersey
Some of the pests that are mentioned on this page as household nuisance insects can carry disease. Others are just pests that you do not want to share your home with as due to their rapid reproduction, they can suddenly seem to infest your living space.
We invite you to find out more about these common New Jersey household pests and then encourage you to visit our Seasonal Home Protection Plan page to find out how your home can be insect-free year round.
Ants (Formicidae). One of the planet's most prolific species, ants comprise approximately one-fifth of the Earth's total biomass. In nature, ants are critical to plant cultivation and the recycling of dead organic material; but when ants invade northern New Jersey homes, their small size and prodigious numbers make them a serious problem. With the exception of wood-destroying carpenter ants, the ants found in northern New Jersey are primarily nuisance pests; although they do frequently infiltrate packaged goods, fouling food supplies. While only the pharaoh ant is known to carry and spread disease, ants do have a painful bite or sting that can trigger allergic reactions. The most problematic ant species in northern New Jersey are the Acrobat Ant, Argentine Ant, Carpenter Ant, Citronella Ant, Little Black Ant, Odorous House Ant, Pavement Ant, Pharaoh Ant and Thief Ant.
Once ants become established, they are virtually impossible to eliminate without the services of a pest control professional. Not only are ant nests difficult to locate and access, multiple colonies are frequently present. When food resources dwindle or nests are disturbed, ant colonies expand by swarming or budding. Swarming species, including carpenter, citronella and acrobat ants, produce winged reproductives that fly off to establish new colonies, often landing nearby.
Other ant species, such as odorous house ants and pharaoh ants, expand by budding in which a portion of the existing colony breaks away and relocates nearby. For ant extermination to be successful every single ant must be eliminated or the colony will revive. When New Jersey residents apply home treatments to ant infestations, they only succeed in forcing the colony to relocate or expand, making professional extermination more difficult and more expensive.
Camel-Back Cricket (Ceuthophilus spp). Also called Cave Crickets and Camel Crickets, these crickets are tan in color and about 1 inch long with thin, elongated antennae and long, spidery legs with huge, jutting hind legs.
Their head is bent down and their back arched, giving these insects the appearance of a humpback camel, as they are named. Attracted to dark, cool, damp places, these nocturnal insects are commonly found in caves, sewers, under damp leaves and rocks and may occasionally creep into the crawl spaces or basements of New Jersey homes.
Crickets feed on organic matter and can damage natural and synthetic fabrics, fur and carpeting, although it is their strident chirping that seems to most annoy northern New Jersey home owners.
Carpet Beetle (Attagenus megatoma & Anthrenus sp.). The Black Carpet Beetle is the most common carpet beetle found in northern New Jersey is oval, 3/8 inch long and completely black.
Carpet beetles may also appear to be covered with indistinct brown, orange and white spots and are frequently confused with other insects.
When carpeting was made primarily of wool, these voracious pests were a common household pest, hence their name. Feeding on dried plant and animal products, carpet beetle infestations spread rapidly. In a short period of time, these voracious feeders can cause significant damage to stored furniture, cereals and grains, furs, feathers and fabrics such as silk, cotton, wool and linen.
Centipede (Chilopoda). Named for their many legs (centipede means 100 feet), centipedes have long, flat, segmented bodies with a pair of long, thin legs protruding from each segment. The Common House Centipede is about 1 inch long and yellowish-gray with three dark stripes running down the length of its body, although New Jersey centipedes may range in color from pale to russet brown and in size from 1 to 12 inches long.
Considered nuisance pests, centipedes have large fangs and a venomous bite that they use to immobilize the soft-bodied insects, worms and spiders on which they feed. In humans their bites can provoke allergic reactions. Frequently invading crawl spaces and basements of New Jersey homes, these many-legged nocturnal insects live in dark, damp places, primarily outdoors in soil, dead wood, leaf litter or under rocks.
Cockroach (Blattaria). One of Earth's most successful species, cockroaches have roamed the planet for 350 million years. A prolific reproducer, this highly-adaptable insect prefers warm, moist conditions but is able to thrive in nearly any environment. Outdoors, cockroaches live in culverts, sewers, leaf litter and woodpiles but are persistent home invaders, attracted by food, refuse, yard debris, overgrown shrubs and moisture. When cockroaches invade New Jersey homes, they are most frequently found in kitchens, bathrooms, basements and crawl spaces where they build large nests under cabinets, in wall voids or inside the motor housings of appliances. Nocturnal scavengers, cockroaches will eat practically anything, including food, garbage, soap, cosmetics, clothing, paper, plants and glue.
Black to brown with flat, oval bodies, long antenna and short, spiny legs, most cockroaches, with the exception of the oriental cockroach, have sticky pads on their feet that allow them to crawl up walls and across ceilings. Flat enough to slip through 1/16-inch cracks, cockroaches enter New Jersey homes by crawling under doors and windows, through foundation cracks, across landscape bridges formed by overgrown shrubs or overhanging trees, and up sewer pipes, floor drains and sump pumps.
Known vectors for disease, cockroaches transmit 33 strains of bacteria harmful to humans, including dysentery and salmonella. Through their feces and saliva, cockroaches spread pathogens and parasitic worms wherever they crawl, fouling surfaces and food supplies. Airborne proteins from dried feces and decaying roach carcasses are a primary cause of asthma, allergies and bronchial disorders, particularly in children and the elderly.
A number of cockroach species inhabit northern New Jersey but the German cockroach, Oriental cockroach and American cockroach are the most common home invaders. The most common New Jersey roach is the German cockroach. Distinguished by two dark, stripes behind its head, the German cockroach is brown, 1/2 inch long and typically found in kitchens and bathrooms. A common inhabitant of sewers and basements, the oriental cockroach is 1 inch long with a shiny, black carapace. Called a Palmetto Bug in southern states, the largest roach species in New Jersey is the 2-inch long American cockroach. Identified by a yellow figure-8 on its back, this aggressive roach frequents kitchens and basements and is known to scavenge during the day.
Earwig (Dermaptera). These dark-brown, flat-bodied, 1-inch long insects are easily identified by the pincer-shaped cerci, used for defense and courtship that protrude from the end of their abdomen.
People once feared these harmless insects, believing that earwigs could enter their ears while they slept and, using their fearsome-looking appendage, burrow into their brains. Although false, the superstition gave earwigs their name.
An inadvertent home invader, earwigs live outdoors in damp mulch, leaf litter, compost piles and under rocks. These garden scavengers consume dead insects and decaying organic matter but will also feed on green plants.
House Cricket (Acheta domesticus). Their piercing nighttime chirping makes house crickets unwanted guests when they wander into New Jersey homes. Their distinctive chirp, actually a mating call made only by males, is produced by drawing the serrated edge of one wing across the other.
Primarily a fall pest, crickets enter homes when the weather turns cold, seeking shelter in damp, dark basements. From 1/2 to 1 1/4 inches long with thick brown bodies, crickets have long, slender antennae and powerful hind legs that are used for jumping. These nocturnal scavengers primarily feed on dead insects and decaying plants. When they invade northern New Jersey homes, crickets can damage fabrics, paper, wood, wallpaper, rugs and draperies.
Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella). A common pantry pest, Indian meal moths are 5/8 inch long with a similar-size wingspan. Identified by the copper-colored band that decorates the lower half of their white wings, Indian meal moths are named for their preference for corn meal which is also known as Indian meal.
Most active at night, these small moths are a serious stored products pest, feeding on dried plant materials, including grains, flour, cereal, beans, dried fruit, nuts, pet food, bird seed, spices and potpourri.
While not a human health threat, Indian meal moths lay their eggs in food products, rendering them inedible. When larvae hatch, they cover food with telltale silk webbing. After feeding, larvae crawl into nearby cracks and crevices to spin their cocoons and may be seen crawling on walls or ceilings near the source of infestation. We will typically treat for Indian meal moths with sprays and pheromone traps.
Ladybug (Coccinellidae). Also called lady beetles or ladybird beetles, ladybugs are beneficial garden and crop helpmates that consume enormous quantities of aphids and scale insects. In its 1- to 2-year lifespan, a single ladybug can eat 5,000 aphids. Ladybugs have convex, 1/2-inch diameter, hemisphere-shaped bodies. The wings of this flying insect are protected by a hard, brightly-colored, spotted covering called the elytra that gives ladybugs their distinctive appearance. When disturbed, they emit a foul-smelling, nasty-tasting fluid to deter predators.
Native ladybugs are bright red with black spots but are rarely seen, having been overwhelmed by the prolific black-spotted, pumpkin-colored Asian Ladybird Beetle. Introduced as an agricultural aid, this Asian import is a perennial fall nuisance when massive numbers cover decks and siding, attempting to enter New Jersey homes where they overwinter in tightly-packed groups in wall voids and attics. Ladybugs can be a problem again in the spring when they emerge from indoor hiding places to return to the outdoors.
Millipede (Diplopoda). Commonly found in garden mulch, leaf litter, rotting grass clippings and compost piles, millipedes live in the decaying organic matter on which they feed. The pest control treatment for millipedes is typically exterior granulation and the interior use of pyrethroids.
About 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, these nocturnal, snake-like insects are dark reddish-brown with hard, cylindrical, many-segmented bodies.
Also called thousand-leggers, millipedes may have 30 to 90 or more pairs of very short legs, one pair per body segment. During dry summer months, millipedes frequently invade New Jersey homes seeking moisture under sinks and in basements and crawl spaces. When disturbed, millipedes curl their bodies into a characteristic spiral.
Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina). Covered by silvery scales, these 3/4-inch long, fish-shaped insects are distinguished by two overlong antennae on their head and a trio of long filaments that protrude from the narrow base of their abdomen.
Outdoors, these wingless, soft-bodied insects live in dark, damp places under rocks, bark, leaf mold and garden mulch. Silverfish are also common inhabitants of bird nests, animal burrows and ant and termite nests. Frequent home invaders, silverfish are attracted to areas of high moisture and are usually discovered running across bathroom, kitchen or laundry room ceilings. Unable to climb smooth, steep surfaces, they can become trapped in bathtubs and sinks.
Inside New Jersey homes, these insects generally harbor in wall voids, attic insulation and crawl spaces or behind woodwork and cabinets. Silverfish feed primarily on proteins and plant-based carbohydrates, including dry pet food, cereal, sugar, flour, laundry starch, glue, wallpaper paste, paper and fabric.
Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys). Also called shield bugs, stink bugs have a hard, flat, triangular, shield-shaped protective cover on their backs called a scutellum. Stink bugs can also be identified by the distinctive "X" formed by their overlapping wingtips when the insect is at rest. Depending on species, stink bugs can be either beneficial insect-eaters or plant-destroying pests. These insects use piercing and sucking mouthparts to suck the juices from plants or the body fluids from caterpillars and other insects. Stink bugs are aptly named for the noxious odor they give off when disturbed or crushed. A protection against predators, the odor lingers and can permeate your home for days if stink bugs invade. The best way to remove a stink bug from your home is by vacuuming and immediately disposing of the vacuum bag.
In northern New Jersey, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is of greatest concern. This Asian transplant is dull brown or gray, 1 inch long and nearly as wide. A serious crop and garden pest, the brown marmorated stink bug feeds on fruits, vegetables and green plants. In the fall, thousands of these insects may collect on the south-facing sides of homes, seeking a way indoors where they overwinter inside wall voids. In the spring, stink bugs emerge from hiding to return to the outdoors, again creating problems for New Jersey home owners.