10 Common House and Yard Insects (and How to Identify Them)

Carrie Circosta
Written by Carrie Circosta
Updated March 28, 2022
The dining area of a cottage style house
Photo: Andreas von Einsiedel / Corbis Documentary / Getty Images


  • Common pests range in color, size, and damage.

  • Always call professionals for stubborn pests, like termites.

  • Pest control prices range based on location and pest type.

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As a homeowner, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to deal with occasional insects inside the house. But in order to quickly win the pest battle, you have to know what you’re up against. 

Even the smallest, most harmless pest can actually end up causing some of the biggest issues. Learn how to identify insects in your home by their most notable characteristics, and when to call in the pest control professionals.

What Are the Most Common House Insects? 

Sometimes pests can find their way into your home despite all the right prevention methods. Here are some of the most common insects and pests you might see around your home and yard, and how to identify them. 

1. Ants 

Many black ants on the floor
Photo: New Africa / Adobe Stock

These tiny yet amazingly strong creatures come in a variety of colors and sizes. There are more than 12,000 species of ants in the world, but here’s how to identify these insects in your home:

  • Three defined areas of the body: head, abdomen, and thorax

  • Six legs, each leg as long as the body

  • Bent antennae 

While most ants are considered a nuisance, you may still want to hire out for ant extermination services in your area. Carpenter ants can cause significant damage to your home because they love chewing wood. And a bite from a fire ant can be incredibly painful and cause itching and swelling.

2. Bedbugs 

Close-up of a bedbug on a wooden surface
Photo: RealityImages / Adobe Stock

Bedbug infestations happen quickly because these tiny creatures can travel on clothing and luggage, and can hide away in the smallest of cracks and crevices. This also makes them impossible to get rid of on your own, so you’ll definitely need a pest control professional. 

Adult bedbugs usually have the following characteristics: 

  • About the size of an apple seed 

  • Flat, oval-shaped bodies 

  • Flat and brown or more round and reddish-brown from a recent feeding 

Younger bedbugs can be the size of a pinhead and white or transparent, nearly invisible to the human eye. 

3. Cockroaches

A cockroach on a white surface
Photo: lalalululala / Adobe Stock

Since cockroaches love garbage, sewers, and other unclean places, these pests pose a serious health threat to humans. They leave behind shedded body parts, droppings, and saliva that can contaminate your home with illness-causing bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella,  staphylococcus, and streptococcus.

These kinds of bacteria can cause an E. coli infection, salmonella infection, staph infection, strep throat, dysentery, cholera, gastroenteritis, among many other illnesses.  

Additionally, cockroaches can be a trigger for allergy sufferers, causing nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing, and skin rash. 

That’s why being able to identify this pest is even more critical. Cockroaches can vary in appearance based on the particular species, so some characteristics to look for include: 

  • Black or reddish color 

  • A set of long antennae 

  • Six long legs 

  • A flat, oval-shaped body

A pest control professional has the right tools to exterminate a roach colony, so if you notice even just one cockroach, it’s best to call for help right away to prevent a potential infestation. 

4. Termites

 Termites in a piece of a wood
Photo: chaiyon021 / Adobe Stock

While there are over 2,000 species of termites, most share similar features. 

Here’s how to identify these insects in your home:  

  • A distinct head with a set of powerful mandibles for chewing wood 

  • Straight antennae with two beads at the ends 

  • Thick, soft bodies with no waist 

  • White or transparent wings equal in length

Termites are a pest best handled by a pest control professional, but they can be confused with winged ants.  

A few distinguishing points to remember about ants: 

  • Bent antennas 

  • Defined waists 

  • Wings that are shorter in the front and longer in the back

5. Spiders 

Close-up of a spider on its web
Photo: Travis / Adobe Stock

Most of us know what a spider looks like, but several thousand species exist in the world. It’s important to identify and know the most common ones around the house so you can hire the right local spider control company

One good example is black widow spiders. Due to their poisonous bite, it’s always best to leave these pests to the professionals.

Here’s a look at common house spiders and their identifying characteristics: 

  • American house spider: Size of a nickel and gray in color 

  • Wolf spider: Hairy and color varies from gray, black, or brown 

  • Black widow spider: Shiny black bodies with red, hourglass marking on the stomach

  • Brown recluse spider: Six eyes and a violin-shaped marking on the head 

  • Daddy longlegs spider: One small round body with eight extremely thin legs 

  • Yellow sac spider: Yellow, light brown, or pale green, mostly seen hiding in tent-like structures in the corners of your home 

6. Silverfish

 Close-up of a silverfish
Photo: iamtk / Adobe Stock

Most of the time, we carry silverfish into our homes without knowing it. Silverfish love hitching rides in cardboard boxes and plastic storage containers. 

These pests have distinct features, such as: 

  • Tear-shaped bodies with gray, shiny scales 

  • Three tail-like features 

  • Two antennae on the head

Silverfish are nocturnal pests and move incredibly fast. You’ll most likely find them in basements, crawl spaces, or anywhere else that is warm and moist.

7. Centipedes and Millipedes 

A centipede on a wooden surface
Photo: NataliaL / Adobe Stock

While centipedes aren’t considered dangerous to people or your property, they can certainly be a nuisance. They love damp areas and places with plenty of flies and spiders to eat. 

And centipedes are one of the easiest pests to identify because of their unique characteristics: 

  • Anywhere from 15–177 pairs of legs (each body segment has one pair of legs)

  • A long, pair of antennae 

  • A flat body that varies in length between 4–152 mm

  • Moves incredibly fast 

It can be easy to confuse centipedes with millipedes since they are close cousins and both have a significant amount of legs. 

But millipedes have the following characteristics: 

  • Most species have 300 legs (each body segment has two pairs of legs) 

  • A body with a subcylindrical shape like a worm

  • Moves very slowly 

  • Eats plants and other organic matter 

8. Earwigs 

An earwig on the leaf of a tomato plant
Photo: Alonso Aguilar / Adobe Stock

Attracted by leaves, mulch, and other vegetation around the home, earwigs can find their way into your house through cracks and other openings. 

Common characteristics of these pests include: 

  • Flat, long bodies about an inch in length 

  • Pale brown, reddish-brown, or brownish-black

  • Six legs

  • Thin antenna 

  • Pincers attached to the back of the abdomen 

  • Two sets of wings

9. Moths 

 A moth on a green knitted fabric
Photo: New Africa / Adobe Stock

While there are thousands of species of moths, the most common ones that invade homes are clothes moths and pantry moths. 

Pantry moths are most likely found in dry food ingredients and have the following characteristics: 

  • Bronze or dark gray wings 

  • Noticeable black band around the lower part of the wings

  • Yellow-gray body color 

On the other hand, clothes moths in your closet have the following characteristics: 

  • Solid white-gray wings, some with dark brown spots 

  • Incredibly tiny, less than 1/2-inch long 

10. Ticks

A tick walking on a thin leaf
Photo: nataba / Adobe Stock

Ticks love wooded areas with lots of vegetation but are also known to live inside cracks and crevices around the house if there is a host to feed on blood. 

There are various tickborne diseases, so it’s important to identify and eliminate ticks as soon as possible. 

Common characteristics of ticks include: 

  • Size of a pencil eraser for adults, a poppy seed for nymphs, and a grain of sand for larvae

  • Flat, oval-sized bodies that becomes round after feeding 

  • Eight legs for nymphs and adults, six legs for larvae 

  • Color varies from gray, white, brown, black, reddish-brown, or yellow

When to Contact a Pest Control Professional

If you’re pretty confident you identified your pest, or even if you’re still not sure, either way, a good next step is to contact a pest control professional

Especially if at-home remedies don’t seem to be eliminating your issue, you’ve noticed structural or interior damage around the house, there are signs of droppings or shedded wings, or you’ve discovered a pest that may be putting you and your family in danger. 

A pest control technician can assess if you have any bigger, underlying issues and start treatment right away with more powerful tools at their disposal.  

Some pest control companies specialize in all kinds of common pests around the home, while others specialize in just a few. So be sure to double-check their services. 

The average cost of pest control services can range from $200 to $600, depending on your location, but for more complex issues, such as termite fumigation, the cost can range up to $8,000.

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