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15 Sneaky Signs Your Home’s About to Be Infested

Updated: Apr. 04, 2023

Just because you don't see the bugs marching into your house doesn't mean they're not coming. Here's what to watch out for, and what you can do to stop an infestation.

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Gray house exterior with column porch on a rainy day. Northwest, USA

Why you should care about things you can’t see

Cockroaches spread disease, according to Ron Harrison, PhD, entomologist and director of Technical Services for Orkin. However, houseflies are even worse and they can spread the Zika virus, among others illnesses. (Check out this list of the 10 most dangerous bugs to watch out for.) Mice and rats can carry the rare but deadly hantavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Watch out for these signs of infestation:

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common house spider on a smooth tile floor seen from ground level in a kitchen in a residential home

Lots of spiders

The mainstay of a spider’s diet is insects; if you see spiders in your house, it’s a safe bet the house has insects in plentiful supply, according to the Panther Pest Control Team. Even if you don’t see other bugs, it means the spiders are controlling the population—just don’t expect that to last. Consider yourself warned, and either call an exterminator and follow these tips to bug-proof your house.

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A lot of ladybirds catching the last sunlight of the sunny day.

Lots of ladybugs

Ladybugs are hardcore predators, according to Learn About Nature. Their favorite food delicacy is the aphid, which is a serious enemy of your garden. So, you’ll actually want to encourage ladybugs to make a home outside your house. But if you’re seeing ladybugs IN your house, it could be a sign of mites, whiteflies, and scale insects. But those are the ones you should be going after, according to Terminix, which advises you let ladybugs alone. (“They’re just seeking refuge from the cold,” my exterminator, Mike, told me.)

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White living room with black furniture and window

You hear tapping in your walls

That’s one of the sounds termites make, and if you think it sounds like they’re banging their tiny little destructive heads against the wall, you’re right. “Homeowners who hear termite sounds and noises should call pest control experts immediately, since they may have sizable colonies within their homes or surrounding areas,” advises Orkin.

Termites are just one of the hidden home expenses that can drain your bank account.

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many of brown winged termite (alates) on ground.
phadungsak sawasdee/Shutterstock

Little piles of “fish scales”

After termites swarm, or reproduce and find a new nest, they shed their wings, according to the realtors at First Team, who say that catching a termite infestation early can save you stress and money. The wings look a lot like fish scales and are usually found discarded in piles. A pile of discarded wings doesn’t necessarily mean you have a termite infestation but termites are nearby and could end up in your home next.

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Termite making their route or Mud tunnel
Shutter Ryder/Shutterstock

Tubes of mud along external walls

“To protect the colony from external dangers like weather and predators, termites build tubes made of mud, dirt, and saliva to and from a source of food,” according to First Team. So if you start seeing small mud tubes along your external walls, you should consider it a sign that termites consider your house a tasty treat.

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A pile of termite frass pellets on redwood boards

Tiny wood-colored pellets near your home

Termite droppings, also known as frass, are little pellets the color of wood. A pile of droppings outside your home indicates there are termites nearby, according to First Team. Termite frass on its own may not mean you already have termites, but it may only be a matter of time.

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Cracked wall, Paint white peeling off an old interior wall.

Weak floors, peeling paint

Termites burrow into wood and also leave moisture behind, which is not only bad for wood but also for your paint. If your floors feel weak underfoot or if the paint on your walls is peeling, bubbling, or cracking, you may already have a serious termite problem on your hands—call an exterminator.

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Side view of a brown wild house mouse inside of a fancy blue and white tea cup with other dishes stacked in the cabinet. A rodent is something you do not wish to find in your kitchen pantry.

If you think you spilled sesame seeds

Mouse droppings can look a lot like black sesame seeds. Sometimes they’re described as looking like basmati rice. Seeing these things scattered in your cupboards or behind your toaster oven means you probably have mice, according to Terminix.

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Shredded banknotes. Recycling paper money Bank Russia. Paper texture.

Shredded paper and fibers in the corner of your garage

That pile of confetti didn’t get there on its own—it’s the handiwork of mice getting comfortable. Even if you don’t have mysterious “sesame seeds” in your kitchen, it’s only a matter of time before the mice will be leaving their calling cards.

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bat sit on the door

A fluttering noise in your walls

Bats are not only quiet animals, but they LIKE their quiet and don’t take kindly to hearing loud noises. So if you happen to slam a door (particularly at night, since bats are nocturnal) and then hear fluttering or squeaking behind your walls, you may have bats. Bat exterminator Get Bats Out tells of a family that had 600 bats living in their kitchen walls before they realized what was happening. The only time they could hear the bats was when they slammed the refrigerator door.

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The carpenter bee was moving into its nest ,life cycle of the carpenter bee.

A pile of sawdust near your deck

If you find perfectly round holes in wooden objects (think window frames, decks, doors, outdoor furniture), this could indicate the beginnings of a carpenter bee infestation. Since they don’t eat the wood—they just use it to create shelter—you’ll find piles of sawdust nearby these mysterious holes. It’s crucial to get rid of them ASAP because not only can they do extensive damage (think 10 feet-long burrows), but they also return year after year after year and can actually attract woodpeckers (who are attracted to bee larvae and don’t mind that your house isn’t a live tree). Don’t miss these home improvement fails that will make you cringe.

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anthill in the Lone Star State of Texas, on brick sidewalk pavers with stars

If you see an anthill just outside your home

If you have a few ants crawling around your kitchen or pantry, it may be no big deal. But if those ants you see in the kitchen came from a colony inside your walls, that could be bad, especially if they are carpenter ants, according to exterminator American Pest. Like carpenter bees, carpenter ants leave sawdust around as they burrow through your wood (the sawdust left by termites may be identified by its relative muddiness).

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Open garage door in suburban family home
Alita Xander/Shutterstock

If your garage is a welcome-wagon

If you tend to leave your garage open, you shouldn’t be surprised by an infestation, whether it’s bugs or four-legged mammals. The same is true if your garage isn’t weather-sealed, or if there is a gap in the weather stripping. And it’s not just your garage. You should make sure you have no entry points anywhere, including your attic, your foundation, your vents, your windows, and any other areas where small pests might see an opening. Large openings can be stuffed with steel wool or wire mesh. Here are 12 more home improvement projects you can do yourself.

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Vintage wooden furniture in trash warehouse of antique market. Retro background

You bought second-hand furniture

Secondhand furniture can invite unwanted pests like bed bugs into your home, so be sure to inspect any furniture before bringing it into your house. Other signs of bed bugs include stains on your sheets and pillowcases, itchy skin, flaking skin and these other signs.

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old soviet russian freight car against green trees grass and house, grey white freight car side view

You see an exterminator truck parked near your house

If your neighbor’s house is close to yours—or you live in an apartment building—and there’s a bug truck out front, consider yourself warned. Pest problems can impact those living nearby, according to Keith Willingham, vice president of technical services at Western Exterminator Company. If you find yourself dealing with a pest infestation after all, these are the best bed bug exterminators in every state.

Next, check out the craziest things home inspectors ever found during home inspections.