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.
Whether your basement is used only for storage or is a frequently visited space for entertainment, workouts or play, keeping it free of insects is important. Unfortunately, some insects prefer cool, dark spaces just like your basement. They migrate to these spaces through cracks or crevices in your walls or foundation, giving them easy access to your home.
Find out everything you need to know about basement bugs, including how you can help prevent them from finding their way inside your home.
Types of Basement Bugs
Certain types of insects are far more likely to be found in basements than others. These basement bugs typically prefer damp environments in the soil where your basement was built or near the mulch and debris along your exterior foundation. Common basement bugs can include:
Subterranean Termites in the Basement
Because termites are most active in the damp, dark soil, they are typically found in basements. Cracks in the basement slab and surrounding walls are common and make an easy entryway for termites. These entry points are even more inviting when the soil is wet.
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. Termites entering a basement can remain active and continue eating wood unnoticed for months, potentially causing significant damage to your home.
Oriental Cockroaches in the Basement
Adult oriental cockroaches are sometimes referred to as "water bugs." These basement 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 and crawl spaces, as well as near drains, sump pumps and leaky water pipes. These highly unsanitary insects feed on garbage and organic matter. They can trigger allergic reactions in some people and can spread gastroenteritis by infecting food with bacteria they pick up during their foraging activities.
Earwigs in the Basement
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 sometimes other insects. Although earwigs can bite, they generally don't. However, if handled, they may pinch you.
House Centipedes in the Basement
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. Like many basement bugs, centipedes prefer to hunt and live in dark, damp areas, drawing them to places such as your basement. They eat live insects, spiders and other arthropods.
Because they eat other insects, house centipedes can be beneficial basement bugs. 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) in the Basement
Sowbugs (Oniscidea) are land-locked crustaceans related to lobsters, crabs and crayfish. They have 14 legs, are brownish-gray in color and have an oval-shaped body. Some think they 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 searching for 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. Regardless, they can be a nuisance so you should still try to get rid of them.
How to Prevent Basement Bugs
There are two ways to prevent basement bugs from coming inside: keep the area dry and eliminate access to the interior.
Make Your Basement a Dry Zone:
- Repair leaky faucets and dripping pipes.
- Prevent sweaty pipes and condensation by wrapping pipes in foam insulation.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the air dry.
- 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 and have drains installed if necessary.
Limit basement bug access:
- Replace weather stripping around doors.
- Check for cracks around thresholds, windows, doors and foundation, and seal with caulk.
- Seal gaps where plumbing and wiring enter the basement.
How to Get Rid of Basement Bugs
It's not unusual to find insects in your basement, but you don't want to live with an infestation. Follow these steps to help get rid bugs in the basement:
- Empty your basement. Take all items out of your basement and do a thorough inspection and cleaning of each item. Basement bugs can hide anywhere, including in books and among clutter like boxes and bags.
- Do a thorough cleaning of the space. Sweep, vacuum and wipe from ceiling to floor. Focus on corners and niches where basement bugs like to hide.
- Vacuum any upholstered furniture that you could not remove and wipe down wood and metal surfaces.
- Follow the preventive tactics described above to help keep your basement dry and prevent future access to basement bugs.
- Set an appointment with your Terminix® professional to learn about the best treatment to get rid of basement bugs and to prevent their return.
Keeping bugs out of your basement
Once you have gotten rid of bugs in the basement, keep them from coming back. Practice these basement bug-control measures:
- Sweep or vacuum regularly. Doing so removes both live and dead insects in your basement.
- Reduce clutter and storage of never-used items. Keep all stored items in plastic storage containers with tight fitting lids.
- 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.
Take Back Your Basement
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, then recommend a customized solution to fit your needs, including crawl space services if there are moisture issues.