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How to Be a Pro Pest Identifier

When you suspect you have a pest infestation, the first step in your plan of action should be identifying the pest. There are literally thousands of insect species, and you don’t want to go after the wrong bug while cockroaches or ants continue to overrun your home. You can become a pro pest identifier by paying attention to some key characteristics of the pests. First, you need to find them.

Find a Sample

You’ll find your pests in different places depending on which type of insect you’re dealing with. Cockroaches like dark, moist places and are most active at night. Check behind appliances, under sinks, beneath floorboards and inside walls if you can. A nest area will have roach droppings, which look like coffee grounds, scattered around it and may give off an odor. If you’ve found a nesting area, you’ll probably find a dead roach or two lying around. Collect one of these (with gloves, of course) and take it into the light for observation.

Ants generally build their colonies outdoors and underground. They’ll venture into your house looking for food and water. If they find it, they’ll return to the colony and lead their comrades back to your house. Ants are a bit easier to observe because they readily come out into the open and are active during the day. Once you’ve found a line of ants, get out a magnifying glass if you need one and take a closer look.

Once you have a pest sample, head over to our Pest Identification page and compare your specimen with the most common species of pests.


There are four common types of roaches bugging humans in the United States as well as six common types of ants. An important identifying trait is size, although size can vary within cockroach species depending on what stage of its life cycle a particular bug is in. Pictures of the various cockroach life stages are included on the identification page.


Color is another helpful identifying characteristic. Although most cockroaches and ants might seem to be roughly the same black-brown color at first glance, looking more closely will reveal the unique colors and patterns of each species.


Last but not least is identification by smell, and this method is especially useful for identifying a couple specific ant and cockroach types. Oriental cockroaches give off a strong, foul odor. Two types of ants, odorous house ants and Argentine ants, give off a noticeable odor when crushed.


Once you’ve discovered which pest you’re up against, look at our bait pages to find the right Combat Baits or Combat Gels to knock out your infestation.