Controlling the Bugs that Bug You!
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Learn about some of the insects most common in Utah homes! This list will help you understand their behaviors and habitat. The following information has been gathered by the Utah State University Extension and Utah Plant Pest Diagnostic Laboratory.


Spiders, like insects, are arthropods (animals with jointed legs and exoskeletons) but can be distinguished from insects by two major body sections (insects have three), four pairs of legs (insects have three pairs), lack of antennae and the presence of spinnerets. Spiders vary widely in color, shape, size, and habits. With the exception of two small groups, all spiders are venomous – that is they produce venom and are poisonous to their normal prey. Very few spiders are considered poisonous to humans. All spiders are predacious carnivores and generally use venom, injected through hollow fangs or chelicerae, to immobilize their prey. Most spiders feed on insects and other small arthropods, but some large tropical species capture small mice, rats, birds, or fish. At least one group of spiders in the United States includes members that commonly feed on small fish. Spiders do not eat solids but ingest only liquids. Digestive fluids are either injected into the prey or regurgitated on it after maceration, the spider then imbibes the digested material.


Carpenter ants  are considered some of the most serious pests to wood structures worldwide. There are over 900 species of carpenter ants in the world, 50 in the United States and Canada, and 12 in Utah. In nature, carpenter ants are most abundant in forests and can be easily found under loose bark of dead trees, stumps, or fallen logs. Homeowners may bring them into their homes when they transport infested logs from forests to
use as firewood. Some species may form nests within wooden structures, causing structural damage to homes and businesses.

Ant Facts

  • Carpenter ants do not eat wood as termites do, but chew through it to construct pathways and nests leaving behind a sawdust-like substance called frass.
  • Carpenter ants can have two or more different sizes of workers, and one to many queens within a colony.
  • Carpenter ants may have one main nest with many satellite nests around the house and yard. All must be located and treated to prevent reinfestation.
  • Infestations of carpenter ants usually indicate moisture problems in the house. Carpenter ants should be treated by a professional, and moisture issues should be corrected to minimize the chance of reinfestation.

Ant Description

Winged and Unwinged Castes: Because carpenter ants are social insects, they have various forms that may be seen around the house or yard, including the reproductive/winged caste and the worker caste. Carpenter ants may be recognized from other structure-infesting ants by the following traits:

  • Single node between thorax and abdomen
  • 1/8 to 5/8 inch in length and are usually blackish, or bicolored: red/yellowish and black depending on the species
  • Have an evenly rounded thorax when viewed from the side
  • Elbow-shaped antenna with 12 segments
  • Circle of hairs around the tip of the abdomen

Yellowjackets, Hornets, and Wasps

Social wasps, including yellowjackets, hornets and paper wasps, are common stinging insects in Utah. The wasps are related to ants and bees, which are also capable of stinging; however, yellowjackets are the most likely to sting. Less than 1% of people are allergic to wasp or bee stings; however, some people are fatally stung every year. Nearly 80% of all serious venom-related deaths occur within one hour of the sting. Most people will only experience a mild local reaction with redness, pain, swelling and itching at the sting site. If symptoms are more serious, a physician should be consulted. Some people may develop venom sensitivity after repeated stinging episodes over a short or long period of time.

Wasp Facts

  • Yellowjackets, hornets and wasps are closely-related social wasps commonly found in Utah.
  • All social wasps are capable of repeatedly stinging without dying if they feel threatened.
  • Bees are often blamed for most stings, but about 90% of all stings are likely caused by yellowjackets.
  • Most social wasps are predatory of other insects and considered beneficial.
  • Although providing natural insect control, social wasps can be considered nuisance pests when near humans.

Wasp Description

• Have three well-separated body regions, a distinct waist and two pairs of clear wings.
• Care for their young and develop a caste system with different forms living together.
• Regenerate a new nest every year because only the queen overwinters; honey bee colonies overwinter together every year.
• Create their nests out of a wood and saliva paste.
• Capture prey with their legs and jaws and use stinging for defensive purposes only; this is different than solitary wasps that subdue prey with stinging (e.g., spider wasp).
• Go through complete metamorphosis (i.e., egg, larva, pupa, adult); adults and larvae have chewing mouthparts, and larvae are legless.
• Capable of multiple stings because they have “smooth” stingers; bees have barbed stingers.


Earwigs are an unpleasant, yet common pest that often take residence in Utah homes. Earwigs are persistently frustrating because of their propensity to live in groups; thus, you will likely discover a community of earwigs if you have found one in your home. They also release a foul odor that can disrupt the household environment. Earwigs, while non-harmful to humans, are detrimental to many crops and gardens plants.


Earwig Facts

  • Earwigs are non-harmful to humans, yet they can harm plants.
  • There exists a common myth that earwigs burrow into human brains through ears; this is a falsehood, though they have wandered into ears by accident.
  • Earwigs are typically found in dark, cool, and inaccessible locations and are most active at night.
  • Earwigs regularly congregate in groups.

Earwig Description

Earwigs have a long, flat and typically brownish body that is shaped like a shield. They have two pairs of wings and typically span about 12-15 millimeters. The antenna is composed of 11-14 segments, and they have a mouth that facilitates easy chewing of omnivorous materials. Each earwig contains cerci, or a small appendage at the base of the abdomen that occurs in pairs.


Cockroaches are one of the most difficult structural pests to eradicate because of their ability to hide, rapid reproduction, and resistance to and avoidance of many commonly used insecticide sprays and baits. There are 4 cockroach species that commonly infest structures in Utah, each with a specific biology. Of the almost 4,000 cockroach species described worldwide, about 4 of them are considered pests in Utah. Cockroaches are unwelcome pests because of their dirty habits. Most house-dwelling cockroaches hide and reproduce in warm, humid places like sewers and garbage receptacles. From these areas, they can pick up food spoilage organisms and human pathogens. At night they come into areas where food and water are accessible, like the kitchen and bathroom, and spread diseases they carry on their body, or via defecation or regurgitation. They become a health risk when they walk on eating utensils, plates, cups, counter tops, etc. Some proteins produced by cockroaches are a major source of human respiratory allergens.

Cockroach Facts

  • There are 4 species of cockroaches that commonly infest structures in Utah.
  • The cockroach species infesting your home or apartment will determine your control strategy.
  • Cockroach control requires an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, including altering the environment, eliminating food, water, and entry ways, monitoring, baits, insecticides, and more.
  • Some cockroach populations are resistant to, or avoid insecticidal sprays and baits commonly used for control.
  • Cockraoches can spread human pathogens and are a major source of allergens.

Boxelder Bugs

Boxelder bugs are a common nuisance insect to many homeowners. Although boxelder bugs are active throughout the summer, many people don’t notice them until they start “sunning” themselves on structures, particularly the southern-facing walls. As temperatures start to decrease in the late summer and fall, large numbers of adults will move from plants and congregate on heated buildings.


Boxelder Bug Facts

  • Boxelder bugs are considered a nuisance pest, and rarely cause economic, aesthetic or structural damage.
  • Adults are commonly found on and in buildings during August and September, especially the southern exposure.
  • Boxelder bugs can stain carpet and other fabrics.
  • Homeowners can successfully manage boxelder bugs without chemical control.

Boxelder Bug Description

Immature and adult boxelder bugs are fluid feeders with piercing-sucking mouthparts. Adult boxelder bugs are about 1/2” long, flattened on top, elongate-oval in shape, and predominately slate-gray to black in color. Three red lines run the length of the prothorax (first segment with a pair of legs, attached to the base of the head), one on each side and one down the middle. The basal halves (from the point of attachment) of the forewings are leathery in texture and are rimmed in red on all margins. The outer halves (wing tips) of the forewings and the hindwings are pliable, black membranes. The top of the abdomen is red with two rows of black spots. The underside of the abdomen is alternately striped in red and gray. The legs are black.