Here is everything you need to know about insects and apartment living, including which insects to look for and how to prevent them.
Is It Normal to Have Bugs in Your Apartment?
The simple answer? Yes. Bugs are commonplace in many apartments, and often through no fault of your own. While certain behaviors encourage and attract pests, apartment complexes are exceptionally susceptible to bugs because:
- Many connected walls: Residents share walls, floors and utility lines with neighbors, who share them with their neighbors and so on. This setup creates a connected trail for bugs, and these connections allow infestations to spread quickly.
- Number of people in one space: Apartment complexes house hundreds of people and pets, not to mention all the visitors and staff who enter the property each day. With so many people, there is ample opportunity for bugs to thrive because more individuals means easier access to food and shelter. Practice extra caution in shared spaces — like the lobby or laundry facilities — for this reason.
- Frequent turnover rates: A single apartment sees dozens of tenants back-to-back, which increases the chances of bugs being carried inside at some point, especially when furniture and luggage are constantly moved in and out. Some tenants can even have an infestation and not know it if the bugs are small and hide well.
5 Most Common Bugs Found in Apartments
Apartments attract many different insects, depending on the surrounding environment and the season. Though many bugs are harmless, infestations can cause expensive damage and attract larger, more dangerous pests, like spiders and rodents. What are common bugs in apartments you need to know about? The following insects thrive in these living complexes:
1. Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are usually easy to identify, thanks to their reddish, disc-shaped bodies. Before they reach maturity, they are smaller and white — almost translucent. Even if you don’t see a bed bug, you will likely notice the grimy black waste markings and blood spots they leave behind. Some infestations also produce a sickly sweet musk smell.
Bed bugs bite humans and animals, often leaving behind a red welt that may or may not itch. The blood, shells and droppings they track around your home are unsightly and might stain your belongings. Once bed bugs are in your house, they are very challenging to remove and nearly impossible to eliminate without a professional’s help.
They hide well, reproduce quickly and spread to other rooms in hours. You can also unintentionally carry bed bugs to other dwellings as they may burrow into your clothes, shoes or luggage to hitch a ride.
Despite what you may have heard, a bed bug infestation is not a sign of poor hygiene or a messy home. These bugs are fixtures in many public places, including hotels, and you can carry them into your apartment without realizing it through luggage or secondhand furniture and clothes. They can also move easily from one apartment to the next. They hide inside the seams of mattresses, in hidden corners, behind wall trim and anywhere else they can fit.
They are an increasingly common problem, especially in cities. In 2019, Pittsburgh ranked 16th on a list of America’s top 50 cities with rampant bed bug infestations, while Cleveland ranked number seven, Columbus ranked at 11 and Youngstown, Ohio, at 48.
Though bed bugs are certainly among the most bothersome and tricky apartment insects, they are not untreatable. While you’ll find many products on the market claiming to rid your home of a bed bug infestation, very few have lasting results. The best — and often the only — way to get rid of bed bugs is to hire a professional removal service.
Another common apartment pest is one we’re all familiar with — ants. They move fast, form large colonies and thrive wherever there is food, particularly starches and sugars. In a recent survey, renters voted ants as the number one pest-related concern they have for their home.
There are dozens of ant species that can make their way into your apartment, including:
- Pavement ants.
- Carpenter ants.
- Odorous house ants.
- Fire ants.
- Grease ants.
- Pharaoh ants.
- Field ants.
Ants are more common in the spring and summer because they mate in warm weather, but you can spot them all year long in some cases. They get into apartments through tiny cracks, vents and poorly sealed areas, and they scurry indoors any time a door or window is open. Once inside, dangers range from them being a mild annoyance to causing costly structural damage or delivering painful bites.
Nothing is quite as unsettling as seeing a cockroach hurry across your kitchen floor. Like ants, several types of cockroaches can find their way into your home, including:
- German roaches.
- American roaches.
- Oriental roaches.
- Wood roaches.
Regardless of species, you can identify a cockroach by its flattened, often brown body. They scurry quickly, usually across kitchen floors, and adults can reach a relatively large size. Cockroaches access your apartment the same way many other insects do — fitting through small cracks and openings in doors and windows or hiding inside secondhand goods.
They hide in crevices, corners and hard-to-reach areas in your home, usually near food sources. Cockroaches feed on human food debris, but they also eat some types of fabric, cardboard and furniture. They are more active at night when they forage.
Cockroaches are highly destructive to property and can carry disease. Some people are even allergic to them, and the American Lung Associaton lists them as a risk for those with asthma and allergies. Cockroaches do not need to be currently present to introduce allergens to your home, either. Allergens can be present in fabrics like bedding and clothing and other sources like dust. Roaches love food, clutter and filth, so maintaining a clean apartment and using proper food storage strategies is essential for keeping these pests away.
Flies make up one of the largest groups of bugs, and there are several species that can infiltrate your home. The housefly is the most common, but you should also watch out for:
- Drain flies.
- Fruit flies.
- Fungus gnats.
- Flesh flies.
Fortunately, flies are usually easy to spot because of their loud buzzing, size and tendency to land on people and surfaces. All types of flies pose a problem for apartment renters because they spread filth and lay eggs wherever they can. Flies are drawn to food, waste and any kind of organic matter and fly in through doors and windows.
A typical fly lives about a month, sometimes longer, and can lay hundreds of eggs at a time. This fast reproduction rate is the reason fly infestations get out of hand so quickly. Keep flies away by promptly cleaning up waste and food and cleaning around drains and plumbing frequently. Make sure your trash can has a lid that closes all the way.
5. Carpet Beetles
If you’ve noticed specks crawling around your closet or on your floor, you may have a carpet beetle infestation. What are tiny black bugs doing on your carpet? Though it might come as a surprise, they aren’t just nesting or burrowing — they are feasting. Carpet beetles eat fabrics, including wool, leather, fur and silk. They also enjoy regular food sources, like pollen and food debris. Because they fly, are adaptable and consume without bias, you can find them in nearly every room of an apartment.
Because they are small, you may not notice a carpet beetle infestation right away. If left unchecked, they will damage fabrics, clothes and furniture and infiltrate your food. They can also cause a visible, itchy rash on the people they come into contact with. These bugs get inside the house when you bring in new plants from outdoors, but they can also fit through cracks and gaps in the doors, windows and walls. Plumbing systems are also vulnerable to carpet beetle infestations.
The Best Solutions for Apartment Bugs
If you’ve got a bug problem in your apartment, there are a few strategies you can try for quick removal:
1. Use Bug-Specific Tactics
Different bugs respond to different removal tactics, such as:
- Bed bugs: Bed bugs are vulnerable to high heat, so a blast with a hairdryer or similar heating tool may stun them long enough to eliminate them.
- Ants: Use sticky ant traps to lure ants in and discard when full. Ant spray is also a quick way to stun or kill many ants at once.
- Cockroaches: For cockroaches, consider the wet cardboard trick. Set a piece of wet cardboard in an open area away from furniture and pets and wait for the roaches to begin eating it. Then, remove the cardboard or set it on fire in a burn-safe container outdoors.
- Flies: Use hanging fly strips and flyswatters to trap and eliminate flies as you see them.
- Carpet beetles: If you’ve got beetles in your carpet, vacuum, steam clean or rent a shampoo machine to kill them or scare them away.
2. Establish Apartment-Wide Standards
If you’re a landlord or property manager and have a complex-wide pest issue, create and uphold a set of standards for preventing and removing insects. To establish an effective treatment plan, work with a professional and take the following steps:
- Educate yourself on the type of pests you’re dealing with, so you know where they came from and how to best treat them.
- Be honest with residents about the issue and give them a clear set of instructions to follow for remedying the situation, through either a pest prevention plan or scheduled removal.
- Encourage residents to come forward with pest concerns and let them know that prompt notification is crucial for preventing an infestation.
- Thoroughly clean and inspect all vacant apartments in between renters.
- Provide all new move-ins with a packet of helpful information, like common pests in the area and the importance of keeping the apartment clean and removing trash and waste as soon as possible.
- Establish cleanliness and hygiene expectations with residents when signing the lease.
- Schedule a regular preventive plan with a pest removal service to identify and secure vulnerable areas and minimize the chance of bugs getting inside homes.
3. Contact a Professional Pest Removal Service
If you have tried to handle your pest infestation on your own — even if it seems like you’ve succeeded — it’s important to contact a professional. While some methods may be effective at eliminating colonies or nests, there remains the problem that the infestation took hold of your apartment in the first place. If you don’t remove or remedy the conditions that caused the pest problem, you may find yourself dealing with it again in the future.
A professional pest removal service can come to your property and examine critical entry points to see how and why bugs were able to thrive and give advice on how to prevent future infestations. They can also inspect for signs of a remaining nest or implement more thorough removal strategies.
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Call a Professional?
Before you call a professional, know whether you’re dealing with an isolated incident or a full-blown infestation. One-time occurrences are not usually a cause for concern, but it’s critical to deal with an infestation as soon as possible to prevent insect growth and property damage.
Some signs that indicate a possible infestation include:
- You notice notable and significant damage around your apartment, including holes in your fabrics and furniture or peeling paint.
- You, your roommates or your pets are covered in several unexplainable bites or markings.
- You see large amounts of pest residue, like nests, anthills, stains and markings on the walls and floors and buildup in corners and window frames.
- You keep finding the same insects, even after attempts to remove or prevent them.
Because you can never be 100% certain that an insect sighting was a one-time occurrence, consider speaking with your landlord or contacting a pest removal service to help you identify any vulnerable areas or possible infestations.
How to Prevent Pest Infestation in Your Apartment
The three most effective ways to prevent a pest infestation are implementing a preventative pest plan, inspecting all secondhand goods before bringing them inside and keeping the inside and outside of each apartment clean and free of clutter or waste. Here are these methods in more detail:
1. Implement a Preventative Pest Plan
Despite how common apartment bugs are, the good news is that you can prevent them with a professional’s help. A professional pest control service can work with you to create a preventative pest plan that will keep bugs out of your home. An effective pest prevention plan begins on the outside by sealing or eliminating areas where pests can easily enter an apartment, like cracks in the foundation, gaps in ventilation, plumbing pipes or doorway gaps.
With services like the Exclusive 4 Step Annual Pest Control Program at Spectrum Pest Control, a technician will revisit your property each season to address concerns and implement new types of protection against seasonal visitors.
2. Inspect All Secondhand Goods
To minimize the chances of carrying insects into your home — particularly bed bugs, who are known for their hitchhiking tendencies — always thoroughly inspect all secondhand items before bringing them into your apartment. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Dressers and wardrobes.
- Storage chests.
- Clothes and shoes.
- Toys and stuffed animals.
- Rugs and carpets.
When checking used items for bugs, keep an eye out for waste marks, eggs, carcasses, blood spots or small holes and frays. Look under each seam, in the corners, around hinges and inside drawers. Wipe hard-surface items with a disinfecting cloth and toss any linens, stuffed animals, curtains and clothes into the washer and dryer on high heat if possible.
A good rule of thumb is to only buy used items from reputable sellers rather than private individuals, as secondhand businesses usually employ a screening process before they put any goods on the sales floor.
3. Keep It Clean
While pests can certainly find their way into squeaky clean apartments, you will have fewer problems if you keep things tidy. Many bugs, including ants, flies and rodents, are attracted to the smell of food residue leftover in the kitchen. Fleas, bed bugs, spiders and cockroaches can hide in cluttered areas, making it more challenging to identify and eliminate the problem before it turns into an infestation.
Keep your apartment clear of any insect temptations by implementing the following habits into your cleaning routine:
- Wash dishes — including pet bowls — and clean the sink drains and garbage disposal regularly.
- Take out trash as soon as the bag is full.
- Avoid leaving clutter or debris lying around, especially in the pantry or cupboards.
- Wipe away all food residue after cooking and eating.
- Close and seal all food packages.
- Vacuum carpets frequently, including stairways, pet beds and rugs.
- Sweep hardwood floors daily to remove crumbs.
- Be mindful of produce you leave on the counter and toss if it begins to rot.
- Change your sheets often and inspect mattress seams when putting the new ones on.
- Scrub toilets, showers and bathroom drains as needed.
- Dust hard surfaces frequently and note any bug carcasses you find.
- Clean pets, pet homes and all pet supplies regularly.
As you clean, note any damaged areas around your apartment, like cracks or holes in the wall or ceiling, leaking or clogged plumbing, water stains or gaps between your doors and the wall. Alert your landlord to these concerns and let them know you’re worried about the damage worsening insect presence or attracting bugs into your apartment. Should you find a nest or eggs, promptly destroy them or remove them from your home.
Spectrum Pest Control Is Here to Help
At Spectrum Pest Control, we know how important it is to have a bug-free apartment or apartment complex. As a family-oriented business, we are here to help you take control of your property and create a safer, more welcoming environment free of pests. We use child- and pet-friendly removal and prevention techniques and offer a 100% Money Back Guarantee for our services. Visit us online to learn more about pests in your area and get your free quote today!