Household Insect ID

With increasing concerns about bedbugs, the number of insects brought into Extension offices for identification has increased.

Only a few bedbugs have been brought into my office this past year. Some of the insects brought in are bat bugs. These are almost identical in appearance to bed bugs and I can only distinguish between the two by using a microscope.

On warm winter days, questions about Asian lady beetles, boxelder bugs or cluster flies can arise. And pantry pests, like Dermestid beetles and flour beetles, are brought in year round.

Extension has long been a resource for insect identification. It is one example of our being the front door to your land grant university.

If we cannot identify the insect locally, we have digital diagnostic cameras for close up pictures to email to entomologists; or insects can be mailed to UNL entomologists for a small fee.

When an unfamiliar insect or spider is found in the home, always identify it before applying an insecticide. Many insects and spiders are nuisance invaders that do not cause harm to people, pets or structures. All that is needed is to swat, vacuum, or flush the invader.

Insecticides should only be used inside the home, by homeowners or professionals, if warranted. They may be needed if the invading insect is a household pest that can multiply indoors or cause harm to people, pets or buildings. For example, cockroaches and bedbugs are two insects that can warrant chemical control.

Unfortunately, as concerns about bedbugs increase, this has led to the misuse of chemicals. Authorities have documented improper and dangerous treatments done by some pest control applicators and landlords, as well as apartment dwellers and homeowners who have attempted do-it-yourself treatments.

If you think you have bedbugs, but cannot find any, do not hire someone to apply chemicals to treat for bedbugs; and do-it-yourself treatments should not be attempted. Over-the Counter foggers and pyrethroid insecticides commonly available to homeowners are not effective in controlling bedbugs.

If you are concerned about bedbugs, hire a trained pest control company or inspection company to do an inspection. But unless bed bugs are found do not use chemicals to treat for bedbugs. The chemicals themselves can be dangerous, especially if applied incorrectly.

While most people can identify lady beetles or boxelder bugs, if you find an insect or spider in the home that you cannot identify, ask a pest control operator or take the insect to an Extension office for ID.

If you happen to have nuisance invaders, know that insecticide treatments are not needed nor will they be effective at this time of year in keeping insects, like boxelder bugs, out of the home.

Nuisance insects moved into buildings through small openings and cracks last fall to overwinter. Since they are already in the structure, applying an insecticide to the outside foundation will not control them.

Most nuisance insects that find their way into the home will not harm anything. Sweep, vacuum or flush nuisance insects if you find them. Caulk and weather strip the home this summer to keep out nuisance invaders next fall.

If you are concerned about bedbugs or bat bugs, you can learn more at . Bottom line is to identify insects before applying insecticides or hiring someone to apply them.

By: Kelly Feehan, Extension Educator