Pests around the house and garden
(D to M)

(Other pages - pests A to C, pests R to W)

REMEMBER: This sheet suggests the use of certain poisons and chemicals to control the pests - these can be dangerous. Always handle with care and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

DEATH WATCH BEETLE to top of page top

A woodboring beetle, the grubs eat old hardwood. Adults rarely fly, so infestations are generally restricted to areas where previous infestations have not been completely eradicated or where old, infected timber has been introduced. They prefer hardwood, not the softwoods used in modern softwood house timbers. Grubs live up to ten years inside timber, emerging as adult (mottled grey/brown) beetles about 7 mm long. They produce a rapid tapping sound by beating their heads against the wood as a mating call.


Persistent and thorough use of a proprietary woodworm killer will deal with small outbreaks. Call in a wood preservation company for large infestations.

EARWIGS to top of page top

Earwigs are easily recognisable by the pair of pinchers at the end of their abdomen. They are dark reddish-brown, with light brown legs, about 15 mm long. They are primarily nocturnal, with some species being attracted to lights. They are considered scavengers, eating almost anything, but some are predatory. They also eat live plants.

They can be found in the homes, but prefer cracks and crevices. Their populations will build up around foundations. They can produce large populations rather quickly. Earwigs can live in habitats that also house other insects. Their habitats are environments like mulch, pine straw, leaf litter, etc.


The removal of their habitats is very important for controlling earwigs .

Vapour strips can be hung around all entry points, windows, doors, plumbing under sinks, skirting boards etc. Spray can be used in uninhabited areas such as garages and basements. In addition, spray the area around the outside of the house. Alternatively baits are available which can be laid down in the general area of infestation.

FLEAS to top of page top

Their little 2 mm bodies are flattened from side to side and they are well known for their ability to jump. The tiny white eggs are laid in small batches on fur, hair, feathers or the sleeping places of the host (human, animal or bird). Adult fleas feed on blood and their bites can cause intense irritation. The cat flea is the most common and readily bites humans. August and September is when they are at their peak.


Treat any infested pets with a special veterinary aerosol, powder or shampoo - injections are now available from vets to protect pets for a period of time. Burn infested bedding and spray or dust a suitable insecticide into all cracks and crevices in walls and floors. Remove old birds' nests etc. from around the house.

FLIES to top of page top

Around 10 mm long, the House Fly is the most common pest in buildings and is found in most homes. They feed by vomiting saliva on to the food surface, treading it in and sucking up the resulting liquid! The fly is a health hazard; it passes on dangerous germs from the last place that it visited - which could have been anywhere from a dustbin to animal droppings!


Scrupulous hygiene and prompt disposal of all rubbish will discourage flies. Keep food covered and site dustbins away from doors and windows. You can also fit fly screens to doors and windows.. There are a number of fly-killer aerosols on the market as well as impregnated plastic strips giving off insecticide vapour.

MICE to top of page top

Mice are usually detected from their dark coloured droppings as well as noticing damage to stored food, packaging or woodwork. Mice have a compulsive need to gnaw; electric cables, water and gas pipes, packaging and woodwork can all be seriously damaged. They climb well and can squeeze through very small gaps. They contaminate food and can carry many diseases, particularly food poisoning.

If you live in or near the country and think you have mice, you may have field-mice or other furry creatures; they cause just as much damage but tend to be less dangerous.


Keep your home mouse-proof, this means blocking all possible routes into the house. While they can get into a cavity wall or roof space, they will be very hard to eliminate - check that the structure around all pipes projecting through the outer skin of the house are fully sealed. Proprietary mouse killers are available for household use and more powerful methods are available but can only be used by pest control contractors or environmental health departments.

There are humane mouse traps available. They usually consist of a box that the mouse is tempted into. Once trapped you simply let the mouse free into an open area a long way from your home.

MOTHS to top of page top

The clothes moths have infested many households. Two kinds are common:
  • The case-making moth is so called because the caterpillar spins a shelter case of silk and bits of the material on which it is feeding.
  • The webbing clothes moth, the most abundant and injurious species, spins silky webs as it moves over a piece of material.

The adult moths are probably harmless. The clothes moth stays in dark places and flies very little. However the female begins to lay eggs, before it is a day old, and lays about 100 in the 7 to 14 days of its life. The soft, white eggs are laid loosely upon the material on which the larvae are to feed. They are easily dislodged and crushed, so that anything that is regularly brushed or shaken should not become moth infested. In warm weather the eggs hatch in from four to eight days. In colder weather, hatching may take as long as three weeks. The larvae eat furiously for about 40 days before turning into pupae. The pupa stage lasts eight to ten days in warm weather, and three to four weeks in the winter in a heated building. Eggs, larvae, and pupae die quickly at low temperatures.

It is the larvae that does the damage to clothes and are about 12 mm long white worms. Adults are yellow-brown, with narrow wings, about 12 mm long. They eat protein based material, they have an unusual ability to digest keratin. Keratin is found in woollens, furs, hair, leathers, hides, feathers, horns and stored meat and dairy products. Clothes moths hardly ever damage synthetic materials. Keratin is also found in hair, skin and nail tissues. Clothes moths will damage silk and linens, and synthetics, but it will be incidental, while the larvae are eating their preferred foods. They particularly damage fabrics stained from oil from human hair, human sweat, urine, beer, milk, soft drinks and juices.


The first order of business is to clean stored clothes. It is important to identify the source of infestation. Besides looking where clothes are stored, look around your baseboards for fluff. At times they can be found in your kitchen and in bird nests. Vacuum very well all the cracks and crevices of the infested area and spray with a suitable aerosol and place a cloth moth trap. The old fashion moth balls (with their distinctive smell) can also be used when storing clothes.

(Other pages - pests A to C, pests R to W)

REMEMBER: This sheet suggests the use of certain poisons and chemicals to control the pests - these can be dangerous. Always handle with care and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

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