Unwanted Guests: 8 Common Signs You Have a Pest Infestation

Did you know that one species of termite cost the US an estimated $2 billion each year? That’s none other than the subterranean termite. What’s more, that $2 billion goes toward the efforts to control them and repair the damages they cause.

Rodents, like rats and mice, also cause damages to stored grains, amounting to at least $19 million a year. That’s only for the damages they cause to food like barley, wheat, and oats. It doesn’t account for the property damage they wreak to homes and businesses.

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As such, it’s best to determine a pest infestation before it gets out of control. To that end, we’ve listed some of the sure-fire signs you have pests either at home or in your business. Read on so you know how to tell if you have unwanted guests and what kind of critters you’re dealing with.

1. Droppings Right and Left

Droppings, or “frass,” are some of the most telling signs of pest infestation. The “larger” the feces are, the bigger the actual size of the pests you’re dealing with.

A single rat, for instance, can leave as many as 25,000 droppings in just one year. Mice produce about 18,000 of these dark brown, pellet-like feces. If you see these defecations and the area also smells like ammonia, you likely have rats or mice.

Roaches poop “on the go,” but large concentrations signify that their nest is nearby. According to Affinity Pest Control, roach feces look like pepper or coffee grounds. However, they can be as large as rice grains: the bigger the feces’ size, the bigger the actual cockroaches are.

Flea frass consists of tiny but hard and dry flecks that are deep maroon in color. They look like bed bug poo, although the feces of bed bugs are more reddish-brown or rusty in color. Defecations from carpenter ants resemble sawdust, which they often leave outside their nests.

Speaking of sawdust, termite feces also look similar, although the size is akin to poppy seeds. Their poop also bears a characteristic six-sided structure. The excrement’s color resembles the color of the wood they consumed, which can be brown to gray.

2. Weird Smells

Stink bugs emit a strong, pungent odor when threatened or when their bodies get crushed. These smells come from various chemicals, with the dominant ones being aldehydes. Some people describe the scent as similar to cilantro, sulfur, ammonia, or rancid meat.

What’s more, these secretions can cause contact dermatitis in some people. They can even cause chemical burns or injury to the eye if the fluid splashes onto it.

By contrast, termites appear to carry an “earthen” or “damp” smell to them. It’s pretty much like the environment that they live and thrive in: decaying wood or leaves. You may have termites at the home or office if the indoor air smells kind of like mold or mildew.

On the other hand, some researchers say that bed bugs have quite a sickly sweet smell to them. They emit these alarm pheromones when disturbed or threatened. Some scientific authors also say that these bloodsuckers produce odors when mating.

Roaches, aside from being among the most dangerous, also emit a stench reminiscent of oil. They, as well as other insects like caterpillars, and ants, also have a “death stench.” They produce these odors when they’re about to die or when dismembered.

If you have a rat or mice infestation, your house may also smell stale, or in other cases, ammonia-like. The latter is a result of the rodents’ urine, which they leave wherever they trail upon. Their pee serves as a sign of dominance or to indicate that a particular area is their “turf.”

3. Creepy Sounds

Scurrying, pattering, or light “footsteps” are also solid signs you have pests in the form of rats or mice. You may hear these sounds within walls, from ceilings, or beneath floors. You may also hear their characteristic squeaks, or sometimes, even scratching or gnawing.

Roaches also make scurrying sounds as they move about inside cabinets and walls. However, you may also hear chirping or hissing sounds.

The creepiest noises you’ll ever hear from roaches sound like fluttering wings, though. If you hear these, it means you’ve got a flyer or glider near you. American roaches (the biggest ones) can fly, while German roaches often glide.

4. Molten Shells or Shed Wings

Most insects and true bugs molt throughout their life or at least until they’re adults. These include the most common pests, such as bed bugs, termites, roaches, and carpenter ants.

Bed bugs, for instance, shed their exoskeletons five times before they become an adult. If you see empty, transparent shells on or near your mattress, that’s a solid sign you have an infestation. The same goes if you see these shells around the bed, by baseboards, or even stuck to the furniture.

Roaches also molt up until they’re adults. Right after they push out of their old exoskeleton, their bodies become white. They undergo repigmentation within a few hours, though, so they’ll turn brown or red again.

As such, if you see a white roach-like bug, it’s more than likely you’re looking at a newly-molten cockroach.

Termite swarms also shed their wings. However, these wings mean that the infestation has been going on for three to five years. So, if you see these shed body parts, it’s best to get in touch with a pest control service right away.

In any case, empty shells often indicate various types of pest infestation. This is especially true if you see these shed exoskeletons inside your home.

5. Property Damage

Holes in the baseboards, floors, and walls are dead giveaways of rat or mice infestations. You may also see gnaw or bite marks on surfaces and furniture. Chewed-up electrical wires are another sign you’re sharing your home with these rodents.

If the damages on electrical cables look like chew marks, call a pest control expert right away. That’s because your home or office may already be at risk of a fire. Experts say that at least one in five cases of undetermined fires in the US is due to rodent damage.

If you have a termite infestation, you’ll likely notice buckling or swelling wood. You may also feel some dampness in the infested wood. Some types of termites also leave visible mud tubes on the surfaces of the materials.

Wood borers encompass many types of beetles, but most of them create tunnels in the wood. The holes themselves are small, but you may notice a pile of wood dust right below the infested material. If you have these pests at home, you may also notice weakened floorboards or walls.

6. Chewed Food or Holes in Food Containers

Holes in food containers and actual bitten-off food indicate rodents and roaches. If you see any of these signs, don’t attempt to salvage the food. These pests carry many different types of pathogens, including E. coli and salmonella.

Roaches alone carry at least seven harmful bacterial species and six protozoans. They also carry dangerous fungi and various types of worms. They can transfer these microorganisms wherever they crawl on.

Rodents, on the other hand, carry, spread, or transmit at least 70 known diseases to humans and animals. Not only do they cause food-borne illnesses, but they also spread viruses and bacteria. Hantavirus, Lyme disease, and toxoplasmosis are just to name a few of these diseases.

7. Smear Marks on Surfaces

Rats, mice, roaches, and bed bugs also leave characteristic trail marks. Rats and mice, for instance, can leave dark grease-like marks on surfaces. Roaches may also leave dark, ink-like smears on surfaces, especially if their feces get damp or wet.

After feeding, bed bugs may leave a bloody trail on your mattress. They may look like splotches or dots that are rust-like in color.

8. Nests or Mounds

Rats and mice use paper, tissue, cushion stuffing, fabric, and even hair to make nests. You might see these dirt and debris piles right outside of the rodent holes they make.

Some termites also build mounds that can reach heights of up to five meters or more. These above-ground structures are more common in hot countries, like Africa, though. In the US, termite nests called “cartons” are more common, and they are usually smaller than mounds.

Ant nests are often small, hill-like structures you’ll find outdoors. If you see mounds out in your garden, you may either have ants or termites. Don’t disturb them; call a professional pest control company, as you may be dealing with ants that bite.

Deal With a Pest Infestation as Soon as You Notice These Signs

There you have it, your comprehensive guide on the most common signs of a pest infestation. What’s important is to contact a pest professional as soon as you notice these indicators. The sooner you do, the sooner the experts can determine what’s bugging you.

From there, the pest control experts can use the right methods to kick them out of your property.

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