Bugs in Basement -- Identify Basement Bugs!
What Are these Bugs in My Basement?!
Do you have bugs in your basement? You're not alone. If you have a basement, there are bugs in it. It's as simple as that -- insects are the most abundant form of animal on dry land, and they live everywhere, including where you live.
I have been working with insects of all kinds for many years, and I get asked a lot of questions, especially, for some reason, about centipedes (do centipedes bite? yes, but not often), but practically all of the bugs in your house are harmless, except for a few spiders and maybe a mosquito or two. The vast majority of the bugs in your basement go about their short little lives without you noticing, and I think we'd all like to keep it that way -- there's a circle of life down there, one little home bug hunting and eating another home bug, and although it's as fascinating as any nature documentary, it's not something you need to concern yourself with.
Bugs In the Basement -- Home Bug Identification
Once in a while one of our insect friends winds up where it doesn't belong, in your sink or tub, for example, or scurrying across a kitchen counter. No-one wants bugs in the kitchen! If this alarms you, please don't overreact and automatically kill it! That bug is way more alarmed than you are, since this is a life-or-death situation for the bug, and only a momentary freak-out for you. Your best reaction, as in many things in life, is no reaction: leave the room, take some deep breaths, and assume that this was just a bug caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Soon you can go back to pretending not to know that there's an entire universe of bug life happening in the dark and unused corners of your home. It's called co-existence, folks, and even if you're not aware of it, you and your bugs are doing it.
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What To Do About the Bugs in Your Basement
First of all, don't go ballistic. You can't get rid of all of them, and even if you did, more bugs would set up shop within a few months. There are a few good methods, such as sticky traps, for controlling basement bugs, but unless you're really being overrun you probably don't need to start a war. It makes more sense to take a couple of minutes to learn about the bugs in your basement so you can feel more at home with them. Because, let's face it, they're at home with you.
Basement Bugs: The Brown Recluse Spider
Okay, this little guy is one of the bugs in your basement that can cause you some concern. It's one of the few dangerously venomous spiders in North America, and it does live in basements. BUT that doesn't mean every little spider in your basement is a brown recluse! The chances of you having this species in your basement is quite small. If you had no spiders at all in your basement, you would very soon, be overrun with all kinds of flying and crawling bugs, because spiders eat these pests by the dozens every day.
But if you do think you have found a brown recluse, take a few moments to make a positive identification. The photo here should help, and there are all kinds of resources online to help you make sure. Brown recluse spiders are in a group known as "huntsmen," which is bad for us, because they roam around at night and sometimes wind up in bedclothes or shoes, or clothes left on the floor. their bite is almost unnoticeable at first, but some bites develop into serious lesions that can get pretty ugly. You can find pictures of brown recluse bites online, but trust me, it's disturbing.
Sticky traps are the best way to control brown recluses, but they will capture other, harmless bugs in your basement. Sticky traps catch the spiders as they roam across the basement floor, so you can see how many you're dealing with and kill them at the same time.
Basement Bugs: Centipedes
Pity the poor centipede -- his best feature is the exact thing that freaks so many people out: LOTS of LEGS. Centipedes are quick-moving scavengers and predators that prowl your basement floor at night. I have to confess that centipedes make me scream, and I love insects of all kinds. It's that leg thing! The other thing about centipedes is that, yes, they bite, and, yes, they're poisonous. But the ones in your basement aren't going to hurt you unless you pick one up and give it no option.
But among the bugs in your basement, centipedes are pretty good citizens. Centipedes do much more good than harm for you. For one thing, they eat dead bugs, which is admittedly pretty gross but also very useful, because without centipedes, you'd be ankle-deep in dead flies and spiders. While you're contemplating that, consider this: centipedes also eat cockroach eggs. Yummy! But now hopefully you'll think twice before killing them.
Centipedes have been on the planet for millions of years longer than we have, and after our species has gobbled up all the resources and died off, they'll still be here. You can kill them if you really want to, but don't forget who's going to have the last laugh.
Identify Bugs in the Basement: Silverfish
These animals aren't fish, of course, but they are silver, and they do have a kind of fishy wriggle. They remind me more of liquid mercury spilled from a broken thermometer, so to me the name "Quicksilver Fish" is more appropriate. Either way, these slippery little insects are present in virtually every home, where they hang out in drains and dark corners. You will likely only see them once in a while, when they get caught out after sunrise, often in a sink or bathtub. Silverfish are nearly impossible to catch and even harder to kill, so you should just wash them down the drain or find a way to ignore them.
Like centipedes, silverfish are scavengers who consume the bits and pieces that filter down to the lowest spaces in your home. You would really only notice the silverfish in your home if they disappeared, leaving you with, believe it or not, a dirtier dwelling. Silverfish are part of your home's nighttime clean-up squad.
Basement Bugs: Earwigs
Earwigs are among the most misunderstood, and unjustly feared, insects in world. They're completely -- and I do mean completely -- harmless. Most people see those prominent pincers on their rear end and assume the worst, but they don't have enough muscle or control of those pincers to do any real pinching. They most likely have a role in a mating ritual, or perhaps to scare away predators, in which case they work, at least on fearful people.
Earwigs are happiest hanging out on flower-tops on sunny summer days. If they're in your house, it's because they're trying to escape the cold. So look at it this way: Your home is an an earwig's Cancun, and who wants to mess with someone else's well-earned vacation?
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Basement Bugs: Termites
Okay, this bug is a problem. They occur in big colonies and carve nests out of the wooden parts of your house, which introduces moisture and rot, which can literally destroy your home from the inside. If you find insects that look like pale ants in your basement, especially around joists and other wood elements, don't hesitate -- contact a good exterminator, or the science department of your nearest high school or college. They can help you decide what to do next.
Another thing to remember about termites -- they have several different forms, including a winged male form. Bottom line: anything that you <i>think</i> might be a termite is a do-it-now emergency.
Can You Pass This Basement Bugs Quiz?
What If I Still Can't Identify the Bug I Found In My Basement?
There are many insects and spiders that share our dwellings with us, and almost all of them are either harmless or actually helpful. If you have a bug from your basement that you still can't identify, there are lots of excellent online resources to help you. Try this site maintained by Orkin, where you can find info and links to assist you in your quest. Good luck!
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