Nica Richards and Costa Makola
4 minute read
18 Feb 2021
1:39 pm

How to stomp invasive insects out of your home 

Nica Richards and Costa Makola

From the humble moth to the distinguished cockroach, these insects cause an array of inconveniences for homeowners. 

Take your home back with data compiled by Cleanipedia. No cockroaches were harmed in the making of this image. Picture for illustration: iStock

Over the past decade, research has identified 185 different insect species notorious for invading homes and causing damage to clothes, fabric, surfaces and structures of South African homes. 

From the humble moth to the distinguished cockroach, these insects cause an array of inconveniences for home owners. 

The study, conducted by Cleanipedia, found most insect invasions took place in the Western Cape. This was closely followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. 

A table showing the rate of insect invasions per province. Table: Supplied

Within the Western Cape, most insects were found to invade Cape Town, the Garden Route and the Cape Winelands areas. 

Tshwane ranked seventh in the top 10 locations where insect invasions occurred. 

Cleanipedia also found that most insects are invading homes during the autumn and winter months, as they scavenge for a warm, humid place to see out the cold. 

Sometimes something as simple as keeping your kitchen clean can eliminate a host of invasive insects. Picture: iStock

However, this is dependent on the insect species

House crickets, for example, are most active, on average, in October, but clothes moths invade during April. 

What damage can invading insects do? 

Some insects get their nutrients from natural fibres such as cotton and linen, as well as animal-based materials such as leather and wool. 

Others are more attracted to food stains and sweat. 

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It’s also not always an adult insect that makes its home in your clothes – often your clothes provide nutrients for an insect’s larvae.

When these larvae chew through your clothes, they weaken the fabric, and often leave holes and tiny specks of urine, faeces and empty larva casings. 

Some insects don’t stop at clothes, and have a taste for larger items such as carpets, curtains and furniture. 

The carpet beetle may be small and inconspicuous, but it can cause significant damage. Picture: iStock

Insects such as silverfish and firebrats eat away at wallpaper glue, plaster, and even photographs and newspapers. Animal-based products such as book-binding glue, carpet underlays and feather cushions also make a delicious snack. 

Ants with a taste for wooden structures such as termites and carpenter ants cause significant structural damage by hollowing out beams and weakening frames, which can cost homeowners a pretty penny to fix. 

Infographic: Costa Makola

How to get rid of pesky goggas

Cleanipedia head of content Alice Shaw-Beckett explained that insects must be rid as soon as they are detected. 

Insects can get into your home through numerous entry points, so blocking their entrances is the best place to start.”

From there, store any exposed food products. Sometimes, this can be enough to solve the problem entirely. 

To boost this, give your kitchen a thorough cleaning using dishwashing liquid and warm water. And to get to small cracks, put some dishwashing liquid and warm water in a spray bottle and target the areas where insects might be making their homes for the winter.

Fumigating the invaders

If the problem in your home is extensive, get a licensed pest control company to get rid of the infestations.

A silverfish snacking on a book. Picture: iStock

Shaw-Beckett recommends cleaning all surfaces once an infestation is complete, by combining half a cup of vinegar, half cup of water, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and five-to-seven drops of essential oil in a spray bottle.

If you have pets, make sure to use oils that are safe for them to inhale or consume accidentally. This is because pets are sensitive to oils, which can cause aspiration pneumonia or chemical burns.

According to the Coralville Animal Hospital, the following oils are not recommended for pet owners:

  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

This homemade all-purpose cleaner kills any dangerous mould that may have been disturbed by wood-eating termites. It also gets rid of any bacteria from bugs.

She also recommends steaming all carpets, floors and upholstery, and washing your bedding to get rid of any bed bugs.

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