Common Household Insect Descriptions


Insects are a common sight in many homes, particularly during the warmer months of the year when they may venture inside in search of food. The method of eradication for insects varies depending on the type, so it's useful to know how to identify exactly what type of pest is invading your home. Luckily, most common household insects have unique physical characteristics that make their identities easy to pinpoint.


  • Cockroaches are usually reddish brown in color and have long, broad bodies often reaching 2 inches in length. They have very primitive body parts, a testament to how long their species has been around, and have two compound eyes with simple eating mandibles on their mouths. They have two sets of wings. One tougher set near the base of their necks overlaps a weaker, thinner set that some species use to make chirping noises.


  • Ants are typically less than a centimeter long and have a very distinctive body that is divided into three rounded sections. These sections are the head, the thorax and the gaster. They are often black in color, though fire ants may be red. Ants leave very recognizable "ant trails" when they walk, which are small trails of excrement that you may find running along walls or counter tops. Most ants you encounter in your home will be female and not have wings. Males have wings, but will spend more of their time in the colony.


  • Spiders are among the most common insects you may encounter in your home as well as the most variable. Spiders vary in size from less than a centimeter to several inches long. All of them are poisonous to some degree, but rarely are they aggressive. House spiders do not use webs and appear brown with flat bodies. Black widow spiders, which you may find in a garage or attic, are black with a red violin shape on their bellies, and can be very dangerous if they bite.


  • A silverfish looks like a long crustacean. It has a slender body about 3/4 of an inch long with a silvery brown sheen. A distinguishing feature involves three long projections sticking out of the back of the insect's tail. It also has two very long antennae.


  • Termites are grub-like insects usually under a centimeter long, and have white, glossy, wriggly bodies that are somewhat transparent. They eat wood, and thus are often found in walls or boards. Termites have very large mouthparts that are often far darker than the rest of their bodies. They use the mouthparts to chew through tough materials.

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