No one wants to be surprised by a spider at home, and it’s terrifying to find a cave cricket in your basement as it jumps three feet in the air. However, fear of pests is only part of the story. Pests in your home could be causing property damage or carrying disease.
Which pests should you be worried about? Using data from entomology, exterminators, and our team of home repair experts, we determined how pests can cause damage and which pests are the biggest threats. Here’s what we learned about the pests that cause the worst damage to your home and foundation.
Comparing Damage by Common Pests
Each species of pests have different lifecycles, risks, and colony sizes. As a result, they can have very different impacts on your home.
For example, the reason termites are so damaging is because of the type of damage they cause and the size of the colonies. Termites usually go undetected for years, and discovering an infestation usually means that a home has a large colony that has already caused structural damage. The impact can be so significant that a home with termites could lose about 20 percent of its resale value.
Other types of pests inflict less damage and live in smaller colonies. Here’s how some of the most common pests in the United States compare.
Very Damaging Pests That Live in Large Colonies
- Fire Ants
Less Damaging Pests That Live in Large Colonies
Very Damaging Pests That Live in Smaller Colonies
- Carpenter bees
- Carpenter ants
- Wasps and honeybees
Less Damaging Pests That Live in Smaller Colonies
- Cave crickets
- Wood-boring beetles
How Does Each Pest Cause Damage?
Let’s look at the details of each of these household pests.
Termites aren’t solitary creatures. If you find one, you probably have an infestation. A typical termite colony has about two million individual insects. The colony can eat about one pound of wood per day, and what makes them so damaging to your home is that they can remain undetected for years as your structure slowly becomes weaker.
Termites cause structural damage by eating your home’s support beams from the inside out. A telltale sign of critical termite damage is wood beams that sound hollow or papery. Termites generally thrive in warm climates with wet or damp conditions As a result, the worst states for termite damage are in the southeast, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
The now-extinct Rocky Mountain locust used to thrive in the dry conditions of Colorado. But in 2020, a plague of desert locusts that is said to be the worst in 70 years descended in East Africa, the Middle East, and India.
Each locust can eat its own body weight daily, and swarms can be as dense as 15 million insects per square mile. Each day, an average-sized locust swarm of 80 million insects can consume food that’s equivalent to what 35,000 people eat. They prefer to eat plants, but they can also damage lightweight structures as thousands of insects overtake walls.
Cockroaches are a troublesome pest that health inspectors look for because they can spread disease, contaminate food, cause food poisoning, trigger asthma attacks, and cause allergic reactions.
Cockroach infestations often go unseen, and for every roach you do see, there are probably 10 to 40 that are hidden. Infestation size may vary, but the threat to health and home is significant no matter how big the colony is.
A swarm of fire ants is like something out of a horror movie. With about 400,000 ants per average-sized colony, they can make a coordinated attack if they’re disturbed. Each ant is only about a quarter-inch in length, but outdoor anthills can be about a foot high. They can also build nests inside walls.
A colony of fire ants can swarm up a person’s leg and sting repeatedly. Not only is it a health risk to have fire ant swarms indoors, but they can also damage your home’s electrical wiring and other home systems.
Scorpions are stealthy creatures. They enter your home via cracks or crevices, and they hide out in the darkness of shoes, clothes, bedding, or linens. A scorpion sting can release a dangerous venom that causes acute pain to people and pets. About 25 species of scorpions have venom that can be lethal to humans.
As their name indicates, carpenter bees are wood-destroying insects. When they make nests, they drill narrow, half-inch-wide tunnels into wood. The tunnels can extend up to 10 feet in length.
A severe carpenter bee infestation can weaken the structural support beams of your house. In addition to their direct damage, the insects can attract other damaging wildlife. For example, woodpeckers could start drilling holes into your siding if there are carpenter bees inside.
When carpenter ants are building their nests, they will hollow out wood to create smooth tunnels and cavities to live in. This is damaging to your home, and it can weaken the structure. Some carpenter ants won’t even bother with the hard work of boring through a wood structure. Instead, they’ll make their homes inside hollow-core doors or within fiberglass insulation.
Carpenter ants are not as damaging as termites. However, signs of an infestation can be a red flag for home sellers who may wonder about the severity of the damage. For example, in Orlando, FL, a seller could be required to disclose ant problems, and an ant infestation could be a liability problem.
Spiders won’t typically cause direct damage to your home or property, but some species can be a health risk. A bite from a black widow or brown recluse can result in a trip to the ER.
Even though black widows are famously venomous, a brown recluse bite is severe. The spiders hide out in clothing or bedding. For those who are sensitive, one bite could develop into a gangrenous lesion that’s as large as a human hand. The recovery can take eight weeks or longer, during which most people will be thinking about how to seal out the dangerous household pests.
Wasps and Honeybees
A small gap, crack, or vent is all a wasp or honeybee needs to start building a nest inside the walls of your house. The type of hive you have will determine whether the insects are aggressive or not. However, even non-aggressive bees can sting. This is dangerous for people who are severely allergic, and medical treatment is recommended when a swarm of bees causes more than a dozen stings.
Bees can make their nests along your home’s roofline or in the ground near your home, but the most dangerous situation is if a hive of 60,000+ bees nests inside your walls. A key preventive measure is to keep your home free from any cracks or small entry points.
Sometimes called powderpost beetles, wood-boring beetles can create a series of pinhead-sized holes in your home. Their capacity to eat wood is limited, and the damage is relatively minor. However, bad infestations can weaken support beams or attract predators.
Cave crickets, sometimes known as camel crickets, are not likely to cause much damage to the structure of your home. However, they commonly damage clothing and other fabrics. This could put upholstered furniture and other belongings at risk. Plus, each cricket can jump several feet in the air, making them a terrifying insect to discover in your home.
A flea infestation is harmful to pets and people. Fleas can live in carpeting, sofas, linens, cracks in wood floors, and heating vents. Even though they’re small, each flea can eat 15 times its body weight. Speed is key to managing a flea infestation because each flea you have now will turn into 2,050 flees within 50 days.
Centipedes are very fast. With their many legs, they can travel about 16 inches per second, causing inevitable fear for anyone who sees them dart across the floor. Centipedes won’t damage your home or property. However, they do thrive in damp or humid places like a wet basement or crawl space. They will die without moisture, so you may be able to fix an issue by installing a basement dehumidifier.
Cicadas don’t typically damage a home. However, during a 17-year brood like the one happening in 2021, the noise can be as loud as a jackhammer. If your area has a severe outbreak, you may want to keep windows and doors closed, protect young vegetation, and check nearby trees that could be a falling hazard.
Where Can You Find Pest Damage?
Each pest has a preferred habitat that determines where you are likely to find it in your home.
Check your basement or crawl space for fire ants, centipedes, wood-boring beetles, and cave crickets. Your floors and walls could be home to cockroaches, carpenter ants, scorpions, wasps, honeybees, and centipedes.
Throughout your home, you could find termites, spiders, or locusts. Carpenter bees could be along the eves of your roof, siding, or porch. On your pets, furniture, and carpet, you could find fleas. In your yard, you could find cicadas.
What Can You Do To Prevent and Repair Pest Damage?
Effective pest control usually requires a two-part approach. You have to deal with the insects, and to keep the pests from returning, you’ll need to make home repairs so it’s less inviting to insect invaders.
Start your pest control process by hiring a professional to exterminate and treat any infestation problems. Avoid a one-size-fits-all solution, and use a treatment that’s suited to the pests’ habits. Acting quickly can help you avoid more damage.
Pest prevention also involves home modification, and the best approach is to start at the ground level. Look for how pests are entering your home, and repair foundation cracks, install basement barriers, and use crawl space encapsulation to make it more difficult for pests to get inside your home. Also, remove food sources that could attract pests.
Remember that most pests thrive in a wet or damp environment, and eliminating moisture problems is one of the most important things you can do to protect your home. Make your home unfriendly to pests by improving drainage, fixing leaks, adding waterproofing, installing a sump pump, and dehumidifying your basement or crawl space.
A free inspection from the country’s leading foundation repair experts can help you learn what steps you can take to secure your foundation and protect your home.