It’s one thing to see a familiar pest in your house. You’re not thrilled to see boxelder bugs, but at least you know what they are. Finding some kind of strange abomination that looks like the monster in a H.P. Lovecraft story is another matter entirely. A more stressful, inconvenient, freaky matter.
When you don’t know what pest you’re dealing with, you don’t know if it’s dangerous, or how you should respond to it. That’s why we put together this primer on some of the weirdest, wildest-looking pests in our part of the world. Read this, and the next time you happen upon some weird little monster, at least you’ll know what it is. And knowing is half the battle!
THAT THING HAS PINCERS ON ITS BUTT!! Ok, stay calm: that’s an earwig. The European earwig is a common pest in the Midwest. They’re around ⅝” long and have flat, long, dark-brown bodies with orange appendages. As we intimated during our little outburst, earwigs’ distinct characteristics are the forceps-like pincers on their lower abdomen. These are called “cerci,” and earwigs use them to capture prey, defend themselves, and fold their wings. Yeah, earwigs have wings too (we realize this isn’t comforting information), but at least they very rarely fly.
Earwigs generally stay outside and like moist environments, but they can’t survive on highly-saturated ground. When it rains a lot during the spring or fallen leaves begin decomposing in the fall, earwigs may make their way into your basement or under your rugs. Earwigs hide in dark, moist, cool places during the day. Though they can technically use their cerci to grasp your fingers if threatened, earwigs are not poisonous or particularly strong. Consider earwigs a nuisance pest, albeit a strange one.
Silverfish are tiny silver or grey-blue insects shaped like tear drops. They only ever get to be about 12 to 19 millimeters in length. They almost look like tiny grey shrimp. Silverfish are nocturnal and become very active at night. The most distressing thing about silverfish is probably their quick, jerky movements. During the day, silverfish hide and reproduce, laying up to 20 eggs at a time which can hatch quickly. Though they can survive just about anywhere, they prefer dark, humid environments.
Silverfish eat carbohydrates, sugars, and starches found in just about anything. They’re known for infesting shampoo, books, glue, silk, food, and flour. You might find them in nearly any room of the house, especially humid rooms like bathrooms, laundry rooms, storage, and pantries. One telltale sign of silverfish infestation is the tiny, dust- or pepper-like feces left behind when they feed. If your strange pest is small, fast, silver, active at night, and hard to find, it’s probably a silverfish.
Like we covered earlier this month, there’s at least one thing you probably know about centipedes--all those legs! If you have a many-legged monstrosity in your home, it’s probably a house centipede. This species of centipede is yellowish, brown, or grey-yellow. They’ll have bands of brown striping on their torsos and legs. Those legs will be long, with joints about a third of the way down. The longest pair of legs might be up to twice the length of the centipede itself. House centipedes also have large, black eyes.
The thing that will probably freak you out about house centipedes is their speed. This species of centipede can reach top speed rapidly, and moves with strange-looking jerking lunges. They rely on their agility to catch prey. House centipedes are also nocturnal. They fear humans and will run for cover if encountered. They seek dark, moist environments. House centipedes also tend to like cover overhead, so they’re often found under low furniture, rugs, or floorboards. They can bite humans and administer venom if cornered, but neither the bite nor the venom is dangerous.
Most millipedes are slow-moving, small, almost worm-like creatures. They don’t actually have 1,000 legs, but their legs are numerous and run all the way down their torso from head to abdomen. While centipedes have one pair of leg per body segment, millipedes have two pairs per body segment. Millipede legs are smaller. Millipede bodies are rounded or cylindrical, where centipedes are flat. Because of how small their legs are, millipedes move slowly.
Most millipedes encountered in homes will be about 2.5 to 4 centimeters long, though they can grow up to an inch or more. They’ll be light brown to black. These millipedes excrete a foul-smelling odor when threatened, but have no other kind of defense. They are attracted to decaying plant material and moist, dark environments. Another distinctive behavioral trait is the millipede’s propensity to curl into a tight spiral when threatened. Millipedes are not aggressive and can’t threaten humans.
Don’t see your particular mystery monster on this list? No worries! We’ll run through a couple more of the strangest pests in the Midwest soon, in Part 2 of “What is That Thing?!”
If you do see your culprit among these unusual suspects, give us a call today. No matter how strange, intimidating, or pervasive your pest infestation is, trust that Plunkett’s knows exactly how to handle it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.