Do You Have Basement Bugs?
Many insects and arthropods thrive in dark, damp areas. Seeking food, water and shelter, they may wander into your basement, where they can become creepy nuisances.
However, among the most common insects and arthropods you may encounter in your basement, several can cause serious and lasting damage to your home and your home's residents. Others can just be plain nuisances. Here are some insects and arthropods you may find in your basement (or "basement bugs") and what you can do about them:
Because termites are most active in the soil, they are typically found in basements. Termites entering a warm basement can remain active and continue eating wood (thereby damaging your house), even in the winter. Unless your basement is completely sealed and has no cracks, termites can still find their way inside. Unfortunately, cracks in the foundation or basement slab are common. However, termites are more likely to enter your basement if the nearby soil is moist. Taking measures to prevent plumbing leaks and control soil moisture around your home is key to helping protect it against a subterranean termite infestation. It's also recommended to have a termite control professional inspect your home annually for signs of termite activity.
Adult oriental cockroaches (sometimes mistakenly referred to as "water bugs") are dark brown, almost black, and about 1 to 1.25 inches long. Oriental cockroaches prefer dark, damp places, so they’re often found in basements or crawl spaces or near drains or leaky water pipes. These very unsanitary insects feed on garbage and organic matter. They can cause allergic reactions in some people and can help spread gastroenteritis by infecting food with bacteria they pick up in their foraging activities.
Earwigs are dark, reddish-brown insects that have pincer-like projections (cerci) located at the end of their abdomens. Because they prefer dark, damp areas, they’re often found in basements or crawl spaces. Like cockroaches, earwigs are nocturnal — meaning they're most active at night. They eat living or dead plant matter and some insects. And though earwigs can bite, they generally don't. However, if handled, they may pinch you.
House centipedes have brownish or grayish-yellow, flattened bodies and 15 pairs of long, striped legs. Full-grown house centipedes are more than an inch long. Centipedes prefer to hunt in dark, damp areas such as your basement. They eat live insects, spiders and other arthropods. Because they eat other insects, house centipedes can be beneficial creatures. Most humans don't see them unless they are up at night and just happen to look in the right place, so bites are rare. Also, their small jaws can’t puncture human skin easily unless the centipede is pressed or squeezed. However, other species of centipedes are considered more dangerous and should be treated with more caution.
Sowbugs (aka Woodlice)
Sowbugs are land-locked crustaceans related to lobsters, crabs and crayfish. They are brownish gray, oval-shaped insects with 14 legs that resemble tiny turtles or armadillos. The sowbug’s respiratory system and overall biology require a moist environment, so it only survives in damp conditions. Sowbugs typically enter homes through cracks in foundations, around ground-level windows and under doors. In the fall, they may wander inside seeking a protected place to spend the winter. If there’s excessive rain or moisture in the soil, they may also enter your basement seeking drier areas. Because they feed on decaying organic matter, sowbugs don’t usually survive or reproduce inside homes.
How to Help Get Rid of Basement Bugs
Like most animals, insects need food, water and shelter. Naturally, they’re attracted to environments that provide these life-sustaining elements. To help get rid of basement bugs, you need to eliminate the conditions favorable to their survival. That means keeping your basement both clean and dry. Some insects and arthropods (including sowbugs) die quickly inside homes because the environment is too dry. If you see live bugs in your basement, you may have a moisture problem. To reduce moisture in your basement:
- Repair leaky faucets and dripping pipes. To help prevent excessive condensation from "sweaty" pipes, wrap them with insulation.
- Use a dehumidifier to dry the air in your basement. Provide adequate ventilation in your crawl space and basement.
- Correct the underlying cause of your moisture problem. Make sure rainwater drains away from your home. Have a professional evaluate and repair your gutters, downspouts and the surface grading around your foundation. Eliminate standing water in your yard. Have drains installed if necessary.
- Seal any potential insect entry points with caulk. Check door thresholds, windows and screens for a tight fit, and seal any gaps, cracks and crevices. Turn off the lights in your basement during the day and look for light entering the room through cracks. Then seal those cracks. Sealing cracks and crevices and getting rid of boxes, bags and clutter can reduce opportunities for insects to find a welcoming habitat inside your basement.
- Sweep or vacuum regularly. Doing so removes both live and dead insects in your basement.
- Remove excess shrubs, vines and overgrown vegetation from the side and foundation of your house. Vegetation is a food source for some insects. It also traps moisture, attracts insects and acts as a hiding spot. You also don’t want shrubs blocking ventilation.
- Eliminate food sources. Don’t store root vegetables or other food in your basement. If you do store food there, place it in tightly sealed containers. Clean up spilled food immediately.
If you still need help getting rid of insects in your basement, contact Terminix®. A trained pest control professional will inspect your basement, crawl space and the rest of your home, and recommend a customized solution to fit your needs. The recommendation could include crawl space services if there are moisture issues.