Dr. Killigan's Guide to Household Insect Problems

By Julie Miller
Dr. Killigan's Guide to Household Insect Problems

They may be breeding on the produce that you walk through your front door with, slipping in unnoticed when the screen door swings open in the wind, crawling in through a crack in your foundation, or already wiggling around in that box of pasta. Either way, you want these bugs gone—and gone now!

Fear not: Dr. Killigan is here to help with pest-knowledge and understanding, tips, solutions, and infestation advice. Consider this Insect Combat 101—your guide to insect problems plaguing households near and far.

Here, you'll find details on—and combat tactics against—common household pests, including cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, pantry moths, clothing moths, fruit flies and spiders, all of which are poised to try to dine and breed in your home.

Cockroaches

Have you ever gone to get a glass of milk in the middle of the night, only to see out of the corner of your eye something scurry for cover under your fridge? It’s not a pleasant occurrence. If it hasn’t happened to you, it may still one day.

Cockroaches can make you feel unwelcome and disgusted even in your own home. Understanding the nature and habits of common cockroaches can equip you with the knowledge you need to say a forever goodbye to these greasy-looking, foul-smelling intruders.

What Is a Cockroach?

There are various types of cockroaches in the world, some 4,600 species in fact. The most common roaches found here are the German cockroach, the American cockroach, the brown-banded cockroach, the smoky brown cockroach, and the Oriental cockroach. 

cockroach on rock

The cockroach is characterized by its flattened oval body, long threadlike antennae, and a shining tough outer protective layer. The head is bent downward and their eyes rest on top of their head, rather than the front, as in humans, or on the side, as in many other mammals. This allows them a near perfect view of what is happening around them, which is heightened by their compound eyes. These multiple-lens-eyes allow the cockroach (unlike humans) to form multiple pictures of what is going around them at any given time and have a nearly 360-degree field of vision.

The lifecycle of a cockroach includes three stages—egg, nymph, and adult. A female produces 16-50 eggs, depending on the species, in egg cases (called ootheca) which are sometimes held protruding from her body or may be glued in protected areas. If you see a cockroach with a pill-shaped protrusion sticking out from her abdomen like a fat, rough tail, she’s pregnant. If you see a small tan, brown, or black pill-shaped capsule, less than ½ inch in size, stuck to the wall under your sink or another warm, covered area near food, it’s a deposited egg case.

Where Do Cockroaches Live?

​​In your household, one way to find the source of infestation is by following their trail…of droppings (or poop), as cockroach feces are found everywhere that cockroaches are. Cockroaches frequently defecate near their food sources and nesting or congregation grounds and prefer to live and breed in dark, moist areas or in narrow cracks and crevices.

Here are a few places to look for these greasy, foul-smelling, fear-inducing insects:

  • Underneath or behind refrigerators, sinks, or stoves. 
  • Inside of dark cabinets, drawers, pantries, closets, or other food storage areas.
  • Under kitchen appliances, like toasters and coffeemakers, where there is warmth and moisture. 
  • Around drains, pipes, and faucets where there are leaks. 
  • In storage areas, especially with organic storage materials, such as papers and cardboard boxes. 
  • In nooks and crannies in the floor, walls, or along the baseboards and trim. 
  • In your furniture, whether because you’ve been snacking and spilling on the couch or because sticky little fingers have been in the toy chest.

How Do You Get Rid of Cockroaches?

A cockroach’s lifespan is less than a year. Cockroaches live for 20-30 weeks and the mamas produce many offspring within that time frame. Don’t allow these primitive, winged insects to continue dining, breeding, and multiplying in your home, all the while spreading disease, triggering allergies, and damaging more material than they are able to consume. Let’s get rid of them! 

Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster, filled with diatomaceous earth (which must be purchased separately), is the perfect tool. Diatomaceous earth application can often be messy, imprecise, and inefficient. Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster makes application a breeze.

Diatomaceous earth is an excellent natural insect killer. Its tiny dust particles cling to the legs and body of any insect that comes in contact with it. When the insect later grooms the powder off their bodies, it poisons them when the powder builds up in their system—they can neither digest nor excrete the substance. Once this takes place, the cockroach (and many other insects) die of dehydration or starvation.  

To use, simply spread a thin line of diatomaceous earth alongside your baseboards, under your refrigerator and stove, in the backs of your cabinets and drawers, and anywhere else where you have seen roach activity. Make sure, too, to stop up any leaks, seal any cracks, and clean up those trails of cookie crumbs. If your infestation is severe, I highly recommend applying a fine line of diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your home. 

Flies

fly

Flies are a common nuisance. They buzz, they regurgitate on your food, and they carry disease-causing pathogens. They also, somehow, always seem to find an entry into your home.

Understanding what a fly is, where they live, and how to get rid of them will leave you and your family feeling safe and protected.

What Is a Fly?

A housefly is a well-known pest of both house and farm and was once a major nuisance and hazard to public health in cities. Houseflies can easily be identified by four dark, longitudinal stripes on the top of their thorax. The head of the adult fly has reddish-eyes and sponging mouthparts. Flies cannot bite and only ingest liquid food. They do so by feeding on attractive solid food, regurgitating saliva on it (which liquifies the solid material), and then sponging this up with their proboscis, or plunger-like appendage that extends from the bottom of their head. 

To give an overview of a house fly's life cycle, the house fly has a complete metamorphosis with distinct egg, larvae (or maggot), pupal, and adult stages. The females deposit more than 100 slender whitish eggs at a time, producing between 600 - 1,000 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs hatch in 12-24 hours and the larvae (dirty-whitish maggots) transform into pupae. The adults, when fully developed, make a willful escape from the pupal case by using a sac on their heads, called a ptilinum, like a hammer to break through the case. They’re free. The average house fly lifespan is 15-30 days. Without food, they can survive only 2-3 days.

To read more about a fly’s life cycle, check out our post on 5 Common Species of Flies.

Where Do Flies Live?

Flies live and breed wherever there is food, and sleep wherever they can get a good grip, as they often sleep upside down. At night, when they are inactive, they take refuge on ceilings, walls, curtains, beams, flat surfaces, and overhead wires within buildings. Outdoors, they rest on trees, shrubs, leaves, and grasses. They really can and do sleep anywhere, as long as it shelters them from the cold, rain, and wind. 

In terms of breeding locations, the females' preferred breeding areas are horse manure, human excrement, cow manure, fermenting vegetable matter, and kitchen waste. Though, they also highly favor partially incinerated garbage and incompletely composted manure. Their short-term home is where they breed. Then they’re off again.

Houseflies may carry millions of microorganisms on their feet. These microorganisms are transmitted to food or surfaces both when the fly lands and when a fly regurgitates onto food. In large doses, these pathogens can cause disease including typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, and tuberculosis.

How Do You Get Rid of Flies?

Flies are magnets for unsanitary conditions. If you find that you have a fly infestation, make sure that your garbage cans have tight fitting lids and disinfect them with Six Feet Under Non-Toxic Insect Killer Spray, ensure that sticky spills are promptly cleaned up, deep-clean your kitchen drains, rinse out anything that you intend to recycle, monitor any ripening produce, and secure those bags of pet food.

Give pests a permanent vacation with the best fly trap for use on windows! Dr. Killigan’s The Fly Inn is a discreet, natural solution to fly extermination. Flies have what is called positive phototaxis and are naturally attracted to light. We use this natural light attraction to draw flies into our traps. The position of The Fly Inn unit, with respect to local light sources inside your home, is of critical importance to control the unit’s effectiveness.

Lastly, invest in the last fly swatter you’ll ever need. With its fiberglass core shaft, leather grip, and dual-sided leather flap, Dr. Killigan’s Fly Swatter will give you the best smack-down power around.

Mosquitoes

mosquito

While mosquitoes are not impressive to look at—with their fragile-looking, thin frames—the amount of annoyance they can cause you (especially the buzzing females) is quite impressive.

Have you ever wondered about where a mosquito breeds or how you can protect your yard from a mosquito infestation? Let’s dive into all things mosquito and find out what all the buzzing is about.  

What Is a Mosquito?

Mosquitoes are long-bodied insects that have three pairs of extremely long legs. They are less than an inch long and have elongated beak-like, sharp sucking mouthparts (like a housefly) called a proboscis. The males eat nectar and other plant juices, whereas the females (in most species) require the protein from a blood meal in order to mature their eggs.

While the lifespan of a male mosquito is 6-7 days, the lifespan of a female mosquito is 6 weeks. With adequate food supply, though, a female can live for up to 5 months or longer.

Their life cycle begins when the females (after a blood meal) lay their eggs on a surface of water. The eggs hatch into aquatic larvae, or wrigglers, which swim with a jerking, wiggling movement. The larvae live in the water, feeding on algae and organic debris, and develop into pupae or tumblers. These tumblers, unlike most insects, are active and free-swimming and breathe (underwater) by means of tubes on the thorax. Finally, the mosquito emerges from the pupae stage, and soon begins to look for a mate.

Mosquito bites may transmit serious diseases, including yellow fever, West Nile virus, Zika fever, malaria, filariasis, and dengue.

Where Do Mosquitoes Live?

Some mosquitoes prefer forests, marshes, and tall grasses, whereas others like living near people. All mosquitoes, though, like water, as mosquito larvae and pupae live in water with little or no flow. 

There are two types of mosquitoes that are attracted to two types of living environments. 

Permanent Water Mosquitoes

  • Prefer laying eggs in bodies of stagnant water such as ponds, marshes, and lakes, but will also lay eggs in man-made containers like buckets, pet dishes, tires, and plant vases.
  • Favorable habitats include lakes, ponds, or among plants in swamps and marshes.

Floodwater Mosquitoes

  • Prefer laying eggs in waterlogged, wet, or damp soil. 
  • Will also breed in man-made containers. 
  • Favorable habitats include flood plains, irrigated fields and meadows, pooled water in wooded areas, (including tree holes), drain ditches, and areas of your yard that get swampy when it rains.

How Do You Get Rid of Mosquitoes?

The best way to get rid of mosquitoes is through prevention. As we know, mosquitoes love standing water, as their reproduction is dependent upon its availability. Do all that you can to rid your yard and garden of any standing water. This includes any puddles that are an inch or deeper for as little as 4-7 days. The warmer the weather and the longer the standing water is left, the more mosquito breeding they’ll be.

Items to Check for Standing Water

  • Buckets
  • Trash cans and lids
  • Birdbaths
  • Children’s pools and toys
  • Pet bowls
  • Tires and tire swings
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Plant saucers 
  • Rain gutters 
  • Uncovered hot tubs
  • Pool covers 
  • Dips in pavement. Keep pavement in good repair to help reduce water collection 

Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under is a proven method to exterminate mosquitoes. One spray and away they go. 

Pantry Moths

Pantry moths are small and quiet. Unfortunately, you don’t often know that you have an infestation until they’ve had a bit of fun and laid eggs on food sources in your pantry. These moths sneak their way into your home in boxes of cereal, bags of puppy chow, or other food items and then, suddenly, you see their babies flying about. Being both proactive and quickly reactive with a pantry moth infestation can save you significant time and money.

What Is a Pantry Moth?

pantry moth

The Indian meal moth, or Plodia interpunctella, is a very common household pest, having received its name in the United States where it was found to be a pest of meal made of "Indian corn" or maize. It is a small (about half of an inch long) winged insect with gray, brown, and tan hues. The adults can be identified by the zigzag pattern in which they fly.

A pantry moth’s entire life cycle can be completed in 27 to 305 days, depending on the time of year it is—shorter in warmer summer months and longer in cooler winter months. A female pantry moth can lay up to 500 tiny eggs (that you have possibly ingested at some point) after mating, which occurs about three days after adult emergence. The eggs, laid singly or in clusters and generally on the food source, mature into caterpillar-like larvae, which then begin to hatch in approximately 2-14 days. Upon hatching, the larvae begin to disperse and within a few hours can establish themselves in a food source. They emerge as adults in 4-10 days, mate, and the cycle begins again.

Where Do Pantry Moths Live?

Pantry moths commonly live indoors, where food packaging is stored, such as kitchens, stores selling food, and food processing plants. Indian meal moths, or pantry moths, attack a wide range of products, including grain-based products like flour, cereal, pasta, and baking mixes, along with nuts, seeds, sweets, and powdered milk. They will also go after dried pet food and birdseed. Despite popular belief, pantry moths do not eat clothing.

Pantry moths almost always gain entry to your home (and your pantry) by stowing away in purchased dry food items that were contaminated where the food packaging was stored. Once in your home, they can wreak havoc, as their one and only objective is to reproduce. Relying on their sense of smell to find other food sources, they will contaminate numerous items that are stored in thin plastic or cardboard containers. Check that box of mac and cheese!

How Do You Get Rid of Pantry Moths?

To rid your home and your life of pantry moths, there are three steps that must be taken.

Step No. 1: Inspection

Inspect your cupboards, your pantry shelves, and all food items for these winged invaders and their larvae. Given the chance, pantry moths will snack on almost anything. Look for larvae and webbing in and on all food packaging. Inspect all dry good packaging (including the items mentioned above). You may also find larvae tucked into the edges of cans or spice jars or even in unopened packages and sealed containers.

Tip: Dr. Killigan recommends storing all dry goods in airtight containers, so that there is no potential food source for pantry moths to be attracted to.

If a food item is open, you do not necessarily have to toss it. A quick inspection from the outside of the packaging should tell you whether or not an individual food item needs to be trashed. If you have doubts, wrap the item in a sturdy plastic bag and place it in the freezer for 48-72 hours. In the event you were wrong, the cold will ensure that you have no survivors. 

Step No. 2: Cleaning

Clean the infested area. Do a thorough vacuuming of the shelves, wipe down your pantry shelves with a solution of warm water and vinegar, and follow this up with Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under spray.

Our spray is a kill-on-contact solution, powerful to kill moth eggs that are quite small, measuring only 1-2 hundredths of an inch. Using the spray, in addition to the simple solution of warm water and vinegar, will ensure that no larvae or eggs were missed.

Step No. 3: Placing Traps

Place three of Dr. Killigan’s Pantry Moth Traps around the infested area in a triangular or web-like formation. Our traps are designed to attract adult male moths to completely stop the reproduction cycle. Once they are full and your problem is under control, toss them and then, as a preventative measure, keep one trap out and change it every three months.

Clothing Moths

clothing moth

Clothing moths can cause a lot of initially unnoticed damage. Knowing what I now know, I never tuck away clothes that could be soiled back into my drawer and always make sure that, after a sweaty workout, my stinky clothes go right into the washing machine. I also run my hands through my wardrobe, from time to time, and ensure that there is airflow in my closet. Together, let’s explore what clothing moths are and what can be done to prevent an infestation. 

What Is a Clothing Moth?

These are the two types of clothing moths, each of which is about a half-inch long:

  • Webbing clothes moths, or Tineola bisselliella, are yellowish/golden in color and do not normally have spots. Their larvae look like little caterpillars that are a creamy white color with a small brown head.
  • Casemaking clothes moths, or Tinea pellionella, are brownish/gray in color and are spotted. The larvae tend to be more yellowish.

Where Do Clothing Moths Live?

Clothing moths will live where they can feed and breed. Moths have a very strong sense of smell and will sniff out their homes of choice, whether this be your favorite green cashmere sweater or that beautiful wool rug that graces the entrance of your home. They feed exclusively on animal fibers, especially wool, fur, silk, feathers, mohair, felt, and leather, as these materials contain keratin, a fibrous protein that these worm-like larvae can digest. They are especially attracted to fabrics with food, perspiration, or urine stains, as these carry the vitamins and moisture that the larvae need. Be mindful that even in your clothes, they’ll hide, damaging hidden locations such as beneath collars or cuffs of clothing. So, perhaps, you can wear that hooded wool pull-over one more time without anyone noticing.

Speaking of hiding, if a clothing moth could choose a home of their preference, they would look for some place that’s dark, quiet, and humid. These tiny little winged intruders—mind you, they’re only ¼ of an inch long—like your closets and your wardrobes, anywhere where there’s little disturbance, dim lighting, and limited airflow.

It’s important to note, though, that clothing moths will attract other items, aside from clothes, around your home as well. Do you have a piano? Inspect its wool felt pads. What about a brush with animal bristles? There are items that may not cross your radar, but are important to inspect nonetheless. Others include carpets and rugs, upholstered furniture, and fish meal in fish food. They will also feed on synthetics or cotton blends if these fabrics contain wool.

How Do You Get Rid of Clothing Moths?

After you’ve confirmed you have clothing moths, take the following steps to clean your clothes and closet:

  • Discard particularly infested items.
  • Thoroughly clean the clothes you keep: Dry clean, steam, or wash clothes with hot water over 120°F. 
  • Clean your closet: Vacuum and wipe down with a simple solution. Follow this up with Six Feet Under, our non-toxic spray that can be used on your baseboards, shelves, etc.  

It’s important, in following these steps, to remain vigilant. While you are trapping the adults today, the eggs they have laid will hatch in the next 20-30 days. Give it time. Catching all of the male moths will not stop the lifecycle immediately due to current larvae. The solution for this problem is to keep traps out so that you can catch every generation of adult males before they mate. In doing so, there will soon be no eggs left, meaning you will have no moths left.

Fruit Flies

Fruit fly

Fruit flies seemingly come out of nowhere, but this perception is only because they breed and develop very quickly. If you leave fruit out on your counters or have a dish drain that you’re not regularly cleaning, I recommend this reading of fruit flies. Knowing what they infest and how to tackle their existence will come in handy, as fruit flies can be indoor pests throughout the year.

What Is a Fruit Fly?

The fruit fly, or Drosophila melanogaster, is only an eighth of an inch long and is distinguished by its red eyes, tan thorax, and black abdomen. Their tiny antenna has tinier feathery bristles. They can sometimes be mistaken for gnats, though gnats look more like tiny versions of mosquitoes, whereas fruit flies look like a smaller version of a housefly.

In optimal temperatures, adult fruit flies can live for 40-50 days. The females can lay up to 2,000 eggs on the surface of your rotting banana or another surface that is moist and rotting. Within 30 hours, tiny maggots will emerge and begin to feed on the decaying material on which they were hatched. Within two days, they graduate into adulthood and are ready to mate.

These tiny, red-eyed creatures share 60-70% of disease-causing genes with humans, making them incredible models for study of human disease. Who would have thought that we share genes for biological processes involved with growth and development with fruit flies?

But, are fruit flies harmful? Can they make you sick? I think this is a question we all ask ourselves when we see this pesky little flier.

Where Do Fruit Flies Live?

They get their name because of their strong attraction to ripening or rotting fruit, which serves as a food source and a place to lay their eggs. They also feed on rotting vegetables, wine, beer, vinegar, and pomace (the pulpy residue left from the crushing of fruits), and, though contrary to their name, also like to breed in decaying meat, the goo in the bottom of your trash bin, "sour" damp mops, and dirty garbage disposals and sink drains. Perhaps we should call them gooey dirty fruit flies?

You may wonder why you have fruit flies? If you eat, which you do, and occasionally purchase fruit, vegetables, and wine, which I’m sure you do, you’re basically waiving a come-to-my-home banner for fruit flies. If any of these foods begin to decay, it’s as though you’re jumping up and down as you waive your banner. They’re bound to come at some point.

You’re likely to find these tiny insects hovering over their breeding grounds, though the mature larvae will crawl out of their banana-home (or other moist breeding material) to pupate in a dry spot nearby.

Be mindful that a fruit fly infestation is most likely to occur in late summer or early fall, when the weather tends to be warmer and more humid.

How Do You Get Rid of Fruit Flies?

Clean all surfaces. Fruit flies detest clean surfaces. Spray and wipe clean the bottom of your fruit bowl, the inside of your sink, and the bottom and sides of your trash cans and recycle bins with Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under. Wash that mop head in hot, soapy water. If you suspect that there are fruit flies dining in your garbage disposal, do a deep DIY clean by pouring ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of salt down the drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Let this sit for 2 hours and then follow it up with boiling water. Lastly, wipe up any spills (especially if they’re sugary), and rinse out empty beer and wine bottles.

Throw away overripe produce. Place ripening produce (minus bananas) in the fridge and monitor those bananas! 

Set out a fruit fly trap. This is the easy part. Purchase Dr. Killigan’s Sweet Surrender Fruit Fly Lure and Killer. Simply pour 2 ounces of liquid in a cylinder container, place it near fruit fly activity, kick back, and relax. 

It’s important to note that fruit flies will not simply go away on their own. They will multiply as long as you allow them to.

Spiders

Spiders creep the majority of us out, even if they’re tiny. What’s preposterous is that we all have spiders in our home. In fact, it’s pretty much inevitable, unless you live in the arctic (where spiders can’t physically survive). If you have a basement or attic, you definitely have more spiders than those of us that are attic-free or basement-less. Understanding spiders, where they breed and dine, and how to get rid of them can save you from an embarrassing dinner party or frantic 3:00 a.m. cleaning party.

What Is a Spider?

Spiders are air-breathing, backbone-lacking, eight-legged arachnids with two body parts—the cephalothorax and abdomen. Though spiders have the same basic bodily systems as people, they don’t work the same way and are arranged differently in the body. The cephalothorax contains the brain, stomach, eyes, and mouth, whereas the abdomen contains the heart, digestive tract, reproductive organs, and lungs.  Spiders have jointed appendages near the mouth with fangs, generally able to inject venom, and organs that produce silk. 

Spider in web

In many species, the females eat the male after mating. They do it because they can. The females are bigger, they’re hungry, and their male counterparts are, well, puny in comparison. After mating (and eating), the female spider stores the sperm until she is ready to produce eggs. In the meantime, she constructs an egg sac from silk. Once this tough, protective sac is ready, she will deposit her eggs in it. One sac may contain a few eggs or a few hundred eggs, depending on the species. After hatching, spiderlings immediately disperse and, after five to ten molts, reach adulthood. They’re then ready to procreate. 

Where Do Spiders Live?

I think the better question would be "where don’t spiders live," as spiders can be found in almost every habitat on earth, except for polar regions, oceans and high mountains.

In terms of your home, though, house spiders prefer quiet, undisturbed areas like an attic, basement, garage, shed, or barn. They’ll also spin their web and live their peaceful lives in crawl spaces, closets, air vents, high corners of rooms, storage areas, under stairs, on windows, in door frames, and on ceilings. Where they choose to dine and make a living for themselves is dependent upon the species of spiders, as some species prefer moisture (think basements), whereas others prefer drier environments (think attics). If an area is cluttered, it’s a spider haven. 

How Do You Get Rid of Spiders?

Though having spiders in your home is normal, you surely don’t want an infestation and you definitely don’t want an egg sac to hatch. 

Here are a few tips for getting rid of spiders in your home. 

  • Vacuum regularly. Make it hard for a spider to find a hiding place. Don’t be afraid to use your vacuum’s extendable hose. Vacuum your window sills, all corners, and even the ceiling. 
  • Cut off their food supply. Close up your home. Make sure that screens properly fit and are hole-free and that doors have tight seals. 
  • Use Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under Non-Toxic Insect Spray. This is a non-toxic kill-on-contact spray that is safe to use in your kitchen and around your children and pets. 
  • Make your property less spider-friendly. Remove rock, wood, and compost piles. Caulk all cracks in your home’s foundation. Power-wash any cobwebs off your home’s siding. Do away with cardboard boxes and clutter in storage areas, sheds, or crawl spaces.  
  • Reduce the amount of outdoor lighting around your home. Don’t draw bugs (which draw spiders) to your home by having the light source right by your door or by using bright insect-attracting flood lights. 
  • Clean up after meals. Leftovers, crumbs, and other food messes will attract pests which will, in turn, attract the spiders who eat them. 
  • Use Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster. Fill this with diatomaceous earth (which must be purchased separately) and spray it, outside, around the foundation of your home and, inside, along the edges of your walls or stairs or wherever spiders may lurk or travel. This is fantastic for spider prevention.

We hope this guide serves you in your quest to identify, purge, and prevent bugs in your home. At Dr. Killigan's, we pride ourselves in customer success. Should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Happy hunting!


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