Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do bedbugs transmit diseases?
No, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q: What do bed bug bites look like?
The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea: a slightly swollen red area that may itch and be irritating for several days. The bite marks may appear random or in a straight line.
Q: How do the house mouse and deer mouse differ?
The deer mouse serves as a reservoir for a type of hantavirus causing adult respiratory distress syndrome. You should avoid contact with dry feces, urine, or saliva.
|House mouse (Mus musculus)||Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)|
|Habitat||Common in homes, commercial establishments, fields||Less common in urban and suburban areas unless meadows or forests are nearby|
|Body length||2.5-3.5 inches||2.75-4 inches|
|Color||Brownish (to dark gray) above; lighter gray or cream beneath (never white)||Grayish-buff to reddish brown above; white beneath|
|Tail||2.75-4 inches long, nearly hairless||2-5 inches long; sharply bicolored (white beneath)|
|Eyes||Small||Larger than house mouse|
|Ears||Moderately large||Larger than house mouse|
|Other||Pointed muzzle; broad feet||Lack “mousy odor”|
Q: Are mice the same as baby rats?
A: No, mice and rats are completely separate species. But baby rats can be confused with mice. Rats, however, have scaly tails (not smooth), large feet (not small), and small eyes and ears. For a comparison: Evict and Exile Mice from Your Home
Q: Do cockroaches spread diseases?
A: Cockroaches and their feces, saliva, eggs, and shed cuticles can trigger an asthma attack and aggravate respiratory issues. Cockroaches transmit germs on their legs and body parts and likely play a part in the transmission of some intestinal diseases. (World Health Organization: Cockroaches)
Q: What are some seasonal pests and how can they be controlled?
The cobweb spider staying warm in the corner of your living room is one of 3700 different spider species in the U.S. Common indoor spiders, such as the cellar spider, have eight legs and brown to black bodies that are ¼ to ½ inch long. They spin webs to catch flies and other small insects.
If you don’t want their services, sweep them into a plastic quart container and carry them outside, vacuum them, or hit them with a flyswatter. Only 12 spider species threaten human health, and of those, just one is typically found in Chicago: the northern black widow. Contrary to spider lore, venom from the black widow’s bite is seldom fatal to healthy adults. FMI please see the Illinois Department of Public Health fact sheet on Brown Recluse and Black Widow Spiders.
March/April: Odorous House Ant
These brownish-black ants are 1/8 inch long and feed on sweets, plant juices, meat, and dairy products. Their bodies are fairly soft and smell foul, like rotten coconut, when crushed. Odorous House Ants nest outdoors (under rocks, boards and debris), and in floor and wall voids, moving inside during rains and in the fall.
To keep them away, clean up! Seal entry points outside and inside crawlspaces and basements with a silicone caulk. Move vegetation, mulch, and fire wood away from the foundation and keep foods tightly sealed. For more information: For more information please see the University of Illinois fact sheet on Odorous House Ants.
Meaning “thousand feet,” millipedes have cylindrical, segmented bodies about 1-1.5 inches long, with two pairs of legs attached to each segment. Usually invaders rather than residents, they can be found in moist areas of your home. Outside they feed on decaying vegetation and are generally nocturnal. Occasionally after storms, millipedes can enter homes in large numbers.
Discourage millipedes by removing leaves and debris near ground-level entryways, caulking basement windows, and fixing foundation cracks or conditions that promote indoor moisture. Store mulch and leaf piles several feet away from your home, turning them to dry them out if millipedes are a problem. Trim shrubs near your foundation to increase air flow, and if millipedes still insist on visiting, vacuum or sweep them up and return them to the outdoors.
July/August: Fruit flies
These tiny tan flies, usually with red eyes, breed in very ripe fruit, vegetables, and fermenting liquids in your home. They can multiply rapidly in warm temperatures.
To discourage fruit flies, put ripe fruit in a paper bag or in the refrigerator, keep garbage tightly covered, and store kitchen compost in your freezer.
You can make a fruit fly trap with half a cup of vinegar and part of a ripe banana in a glass jar. Place a paper cone (with a tiny opening at the bottom) upside down in the opening and keep it near your infestation. Empty the jar after a few days, when you’ve captured enough flies to decrease the fruit fly population.
September/October: Box elder bugs, ladybugs, and cluster flies
As winter approaches, box elder bugs, ladybugs (ladybird beetles), and cluster flies can seek the warmth and shelter of your home. These pests are rarely considered health hazards, but they can be annoying, especially in large numbers.
Box elder bugs are ½ inch long and black with three orange or red markings. They’re typically attracted to buildings that have southern or western exposure. Box elder bugs don’t bite, nor do they live inside more than a few days.
Multicolored Asian Ladybeetles are slightly larger than native lady beetles and can emit a chemical that some people find objectionable.
The cluster fly can be distinguished from a house fly by its fine golden hairs and lack of stripes on its thorax. Cluster flies breed outdoors in earthworms and thus differ from filth flies that breed in manure.
Discourage these visitors by sealing exterior cracks in your home with silicone-latex caulk and screening attic and exhaust vents. Sweep or vacuum up the insects daily, being careful to empty the bag or canister outdoors each time. Hang sticky fly paper where practical.
November/December: House mouse
The house mouse can squeeze through a dime-sized hole, right into your home. Brownish to dark gray above, lighter gray or cream beneath, the body length of this mouse is 2.5-3.5 inches; its nearly hairless tail is up to 4 inches long.
Mice gnaw food, packages, wood, wiring, and other materials. They’ll contaminate your home with urine and feces, which look like black grains of rice with tapered ends.
To keep them out, seal entry points, including poorly fitting doors and windows. Remove enticements such as pet food and store you own food in strong containers with tight lids. Snap traps for mice are effective: bait many at once with peanut butter, check them in the morning, and discontinue after several days so mice do not become habituated to them. FMI: Evict and Exile Mice from Your Home.