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Insects are the most diverse creatures on Earth; there are 900,000 distinct kinds of insects alive today and they represent approximately 80% of the world’s species.1

Insects contribute to our worldwide ecosystem through biodiversity, helping recycle nutrients, and are an essential link in the food chain. They also serve as vectors, which means they can transmit infectious diseases from animals to humans, or from humans to other humans.2 Mosquitos are the most common vector and transmit several diseases including: Chikungunya, Dengue fever, Malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus and Zika.3 Mosquitos alone account for several million deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of disease and infections globally each year.4

While insects are important to the ecosystem, they also pose threats to our health and well-being. Insects differ by season and location, but we all encounter them in our lives. By addressing the unique challenges that these common pests present, you can better protect your home and family against disease and discomfort.

Abolishing Ants

When ants find their way to places they shouldn’t be, they contaminate food, damage property, and can bite humans.5 Ant infestations occur in two ways. The first is when ants live outside and scour for food sources inside the home. The second is when ants live inside the home. If they are moving from cracks in doors and windows, chances are they are migrating from outside; if they are coming from cabinets, floors, walls, or electrical outlets, they’re most likely coming from within the home.6 Determining how ants are entering your home is the first step in removing them.

Infestations can be prevented by keeping food preparation areas clean and by sealing foods, especially those high in sugar, that attract ants.7 Also, keeping garbage cans clean and sealed tightly eliminates food sources. In general, keep spaces clean: rinse food cartons before recycling, wipe up spills, don’t let dishes sit in the sink, and sweep and mop floors regularly. If you are having trouble keeping ants out of your pet’s food, try placing your animal’s food dish in the middle of a plate covered with a soapy water solution. If ants attempt to climb onto the plate they will drown in the water and won’t get a free meal.

If you have an ant problem in your home, you should use an insecticide to kill these pesky creatures. Make sure to read the label on the product before you purchase it because it will specifically state whether it is suitable for indoor or outdoor use. It is very important that you follow all labeled instructions, and only use the product as directed. Insecticides labeled for outdoor use typically have a higher concentration of chemicals, and can put your family or pets at risk if used indoors.8 Most indoor ant control products come in aerosol cans which have many advantages. They provide a controlled dosage of the pesticide and are very directional in application meaning they are easy to apply to cracks and crevices. Indoor insecticides have also been formulated to present no hazards to the user if they are applied properly because they often use less toxic chemicals and are formulated to release fewer fumes into a home's enclosed atmosphere.9, 10

Expelling Pesky Flies

Despite not getting an invitation, flies always seem to make it to our summer picnics and parties. While no one would question how bothersome some flies can be, the health risks they pose are less well known. Houseflies are believed to transmit 65 diseases including: typhoid, dysentery, cholera, anthrax, leprosy, and tuberculosis.11 This is partly because flies feed on fecal matter, decaying matter, and discharges from wounds and sores that they then regurgitate wherever they land and transmit disease to organisms.12

There are easy ways to mitigate the presence of flies in and around the home. Disposing of garbage, grass clippings, and other decaying matter helps keep flies away.13 In addition, keeping trash bins clean and covered prevents flies from feeding and reproducing. During spring and summer, screens for windows and doors keeps flies out. There are also ultraviolet light traps, sticky fly traps, and fly swatters (whether electric or traditional) to manage the presence of flies.

You can also use an insecticide spray to kill individual insects or to clear a room. These aerosol insecticides have a quick knockdown of flies, small particle size, leave no residue, and have low flammability making them not only effective products, but safe for use inside your home.14

Heeding Hornets

Approximately two million people are allergic to bee and wasp stings.15 The sting of a hornet, however, can often be more dangerous. Unlike bees and wasps, hornets have acetylcholine in the venom of their sting, a chemical that can cause allergic reactions even in people who are not typically allergic.16 By volume there is less venom in a hornet sting than there is in a bee sting, but the toxicity is higher in hornet’s venom. A neurotoxin called mandaratoxin, found in hornet’s venom, can even cause death when a person is stung multiple times.17 Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: rash, hives, shortness of breath, light-headedness, sweating, and abdominal pain.18

Removing a hornet’s nest in or near your house is a way to prevent dangerous, even potentially fatal stings, and should be done with caution. Hornet sprays are the most effective way of getting rid of these insects because they use chemicals to kill the hornets. Once sprayed the insects will become paralyzed and eventually die making the task of removing the physical nest a breeze.19 Read the label on hornet spray and follow all directions given.

Hornets are least active at night, so destroying the nest a few hours after sunset is ideal.20 Using a red filter on a flashlight can provide the light needed to see where the nest is while not irritating the nest. Wasps and hornets are social creatures who will swarm against a perceived threat; make sure to wear a bee hat, long-sleeved shirt, protective eyewear, and gloves during the removal process.21 Continue to monitor the area to ensure that any surviving hornets have not begun to build a new nest.22

Managing Mosquitos

Mosquitos are vectors that transmit deadly diseases, in fact, they are the world’s deadliest species.23 Although in the United States, mosquitos do not expose populations to diseases such as malaria, and Yellow fever, they do harbor diseases including Chikungunya, Dengue, and in some parts of the country Zika and West Nile virus (such as Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the American Samoa).24, 25, 26 Preventing mosquitos from making contact with humans by using repellents or by obstructing breeding grounds are ways to prevent the spread of disease.

Since mosquitos need water to breed, removing standing water near the home is one way to prevent new populations from forming.27 In addition, using insect repellent prevents mosquitos from transmitting diseases. Remember to use a repellent that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to guarantee that the active ingredient is not only safe, but effective.28 Using an EPA accepted repellent also ensures that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can safely use the product. Approved active ingredients include DEET, Picardin, and para-menthane-diol (PMD).29 There are also more holistic approaches to reduce the likelihood of getting bit like: dressing in light-colored clothes, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and avoiding heavily wooded, high-grass areas and standing water.30

When travelling outside of the country, consult the Traveler’s Website found on the Center for Disease Control’s website, to learn what vaccines are necessary for international travel and the potential health risks associated with visiting certain countries.

Good Riddance to Roaches

Most people reserve a special disgust for cockroaches. They’re one of the fastest species on Earth relative to their size, they have a distinct odor due to nitrogenous waste deposits in their fats, and demonstrate a unique if not extraordinary fearlessness when confronted by humans.31

Cockroach infestations present serious health risks. Although they are not vectors (they do not transmit diseases directly to other insects, animals, or humans), they do contaminate the space they occupy in the home. Droppings, dead cockroaches, and cockroach body parts make up “cockroach allergens” that can cause food poisonings, bacterial infections, and contribute to allergies, asthma, and breathing problems.32

Even impeccably clean homes can host cockroaches. They prefer warm climates, dense cities, and older buildings. On the micro-level, they prefer warm and moist places such as faucets and drains.33 To eliminate cockroaches, make sure no faucets are leaky and all drains work properly. In addition, remove clutter from kitchen counters where cockroaches may hide and keep the kitchen sink clear, especially overnight.34 Check cabinets, drawers, and behind furniture to make sure there are no infestations. There are several different pesticide treatments to get rid of roaches. The most common are: traps, like glue boards, that work by trapping the cockroaches, bait which works by getting roaches to eat poison, boric acid powder which adheres to the insects and damages their exoskeleton, and sprays like foggers and roach bombs which work by spraying a pesticide into the air and when it falls to the ground the chemicals are deadly to insects.35 If you have decided to use a one of these methods to rid your home of cockroaches, follow all labeled instructions carefully.

  1. National Museum of Natural History, & Smithsonian Institution. (n.d.). Numbers of Insects (Species and Individuals). Retrieved May 1, 2017, from
  2. Vector-borne diseases. (n.d.). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  3. Vector-borne diseases. (n.d.). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  4. Executive summary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  5. Indoor Ant Control. (2016, February 10). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  6. Indoor Ant Control. (2016, February 10). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  7. Indoor Ant Control. (2016, February 10). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  9. Bernarducci, E., Bilancieri, J., Cassin, T., Chase, B., Endres, M., Fisher, R.,… Zdanowski, D. (1992) The CSMA Consumer Products Handbook. Washington D.C., US. Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association, Inc.
  11. House Flies (Department of Entomology). (n.d.). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  12. House Flies (Department of Entomology). (n.d.). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  13. House Flies (Department of Entomology). (n.d.). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  14. Bernarducci, E., Bilancieri, J., Cassin, T., Chase, B., Endres, M., Fisher, R.,… Zdanowski, D. (1992) The CSMA Consumer Products Handbook. Washington D.C., US. Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association, Inc.
  15. 2013, B. C. (n.d.). Bee Stings in Children. Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  16. The Dangers of Hornets. (2017, March 28). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  17. The Dangers of Hornets. (2017, March 28). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  18. The Dangers of Hornets. (2017, March 28). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  20. The Dangers of Hornets. (2017, March 28). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  21. The Dangers of Hornets. (2017, March 28). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  22. The Dangers of Hornets. (2017, March 28). Retrieved May 01, 2017, from
  23. Mosquito-borne diseases. (2015). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  24. Mosquito-borne diseases. (2015). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  25. Mosquito-borne diseases. (2015). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  26. All the reported cases of Zika in the United States. (2016, October 26). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  27. Society, N. G. (n.d.). Mosquitoes, Mosquito Pictures, Mosquito Facts. Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  28. Using Insect Repellents Safely and Effectively. (2016, December 13). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  29. Using Insect Repellents Safely and Effectively. (2016, December 13). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  30. Personal Protection Measures to Help Reduce the Risk of Contracting Insect- and Tick-Borne Diseases, CSPA
  31. Nuwer, R. (2014, September 18). BBC - Future - Cockroaches: The insect we're programmed to fear. Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  32. Health risks of cockroaches? (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  33. Health risks of cockroaches? (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  34. Cockroaches. (2017, January 27). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from

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