Learn about different types of small brown bugs that might be lurking in your home and what you can do to eliminate them once and for all!
Bugs love a nice home, basically for the same reasons that you do! Like us, they want shelter, water, food, and a nice warm place to live. So, if they can find these in a home, they will move in. However, no one likes uninvited guests, especially if they are the crawling-creepy kind.
Most of us are frightened of bugs, even though some people might find them fascinating. Nonetheless, one thing that maybe we all will agree upon is that these tiny crawling creatures do not belong in a home. So, it is always good to keep a lookout for the bugs that might be sharing your home with you without your permission.
More often than not, these include bed bugs, ticks, mites, termites, cockroaches, and pill bugs. People often refer to these as brown bugs and even if you do not see them, you should still be aware of the signs that indicate their presence.
This article aims to familiarize you with some common and some not-so-common types of brown bugs and how you can identify different types of brown bugs. Once you figure out the kind of bug present in your home, you can develop a strategy to banish these unauthorized roommates, once and for all!
What are tiny brown bugs?
Brown bug is somewhat of an ambiguous term that people use for referring to a number of insects and arachnids belonging to the phylum Arthropoda. Phylum Arthropoda includes true bugs such as bed bugs and cicadas as well as arachnids such as mites, ticks and spiders.
Definitely, not all of these tiny brown bugs are harmful, but you will be surprised by the damage some of these little devils can do! Some of them carry serious diseases, while others, for example, termites, can compromise the structural integrity of your home. So, the sooner you detect their presence, the quicker you will be able to take measures for their eradication.
For the purpose of this article, we will use the term tiny brown bug for all the little brown creatures that one may find lurking in their home.
Types of little brown bugs
Whatever the type, discovering tiny brown bugs in your home is not something you should take lightly. It can be a sign of more extensive bug infestation in some instances. In any case, identifying the type of bug is the first step you will have to take if you want to get rid of these crawling creatures.
However, identifying small brown bugs is not always so easy! For instance, some brown beetles look like spiders, and some brown bat bugs look like bed bugs. Similarly, some small brown bugs are so tiny that you need to use a microscope to examine their characters and reveal their identity. Even still, observation is not always the key; in some cases, you need to note a bug’s behavior and habits to identify it.
Sounds like a lot, no? but do not worry, our brown bug identification guide has got you covered. So, let’s dive right in!
Flour beetles are one of the most common small brown bugs in American homes. They often make their homes in places where you keep grain or other stored food items such as flour, milled rice, and cereals. Flour beetles are also known as secondary pests which means they feed on processed food commodities or materials that have already been damaged.
Sometimes, when they gather in huge numbers, their dead bodies, fecal pellets and cast skins can give an awfully pungent smell. A closely related species, the red flour beetles, is often confused with reddish-brown flour beetles. These two species pretty much look alike and are difficult to distinguish.
You can differentiate between the two by looking at their antennae. Red flour beetles have long antennae consisting of four segments. On the other hand, flour beetles have only three segments in their antennae.
Flour Beetles Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Tribolium confusum|
|Other names||Confused flour beetle, Bran bugs|
|Size (average)||2 to 3 cm in length|
|Body features||– Elongated body with a shiny black head|
– Two antennas on the head with three segments each
|Flying||No, but red beetles can fly|
|Range||– Usually found in cooler climates|
– In the United States, it is present generally in northern states
As their name suggests, drugstore beetles infest dry prescription drugs stored in homes. Other than drugs, they are also known to eat paper, cardboard boxes, manuscripts, leather, wool, and hair. Drugstore beetles are one of the most common pests of stored products in homes. These tiny bugs can also feed on spices, seeds, flour, and anything you can think of keeping in your food pantry.
These small bugs are incredibly tiny. You will need a microscope to identify their features. If organic matter is present, these small brown bugs can survive for months within tiny cracks of walls and floors. Suppose you have spotted even a few adult drugstore beetles in your home. In that case, it is better to take safety measures as soon as possible, as getting rid of these tiny brown bugs is not the easiest task.
Drugstore Beetles Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Stegobium paniceum|
|Other names||Bread beetles, Biscuit beetles, Biscuit weevils|
|Size (average)||Up to 3.5 mm in length|
|Color||Light brown to dark brown|
|Body features||– Cylindrical body|
– Rows of hair on wing covers
– Antennae ending in three-segmented clubs
|Range||– Distributed throughout the world|
– More abundant in warmer territories
– Common in heated buildings
As its name suggests, this bug species has a habit of taking shelter in our beds while we sleep. Not just that, these tiny brown bugs have a very peculiar food source which is human blood. They must drink a lot of it to survive and reproduce. Their bites can cause a number of health-related issues such as skin rashes, allergies, fever, and blister formation.
They are very good at hiding, and you will have a hard time finding these small brown bugs with the naked eye. So, finding just one bug could be an indication of a potential infestation. Also, pest control is not the easiest thing to do, so make sure to get a professional opinion as well.
Bed Bugs Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Cimex lectularius|
|Other names||Red coats, Chinches, Mahogany flats|
|Size (average)||6 to 9.5 mm in length|
|Color||Almost white to light brown or dark brown|
|Body features||– Flattened oval body when not fed|
– Balloon-like reddish when recently fed
– Leathery and significantly reduced wings
|Range||– Found primarily in tropics|
– Distributed throughout the world
– Most commonly, human dwellings, bat caves, and bird nests
If you have seen small flies flying around in your kitchen, they are probably fruit flies. They are the worst. They are known for their reproductive nature and can pop up at any time of the year. They lay eggs on rotting and fermenting food which then hatch into hundreds of larvae. Some types of fruit flies are known to attack cultivated fruits and cause damage that adds up to very significant economic losses.
Fruit flies are not only a cause of nuisance but also very serious contaminators of food. Luckily getting rid of these annoying common bugs is easy. The best way to get rid of tiny brown fruit flies is to maintain cleanliness. Also, try eliminating all sources of fruit fly attraction and set sticky traps. A single rotten tomato, forgotten at the back of a closet, can breed thousands of fruit flies. So, you will have to be thorough, and you will be alright!
Fruit Flies Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Drosophila melanogaster|
|Other names||Pomace fly, Vinegar fly, Lesser fruit fly|
|Size (average)||3 mm in length|
|Color||Dull tan to brownish-black or brownish yellow|
|Body features||– Red eyes|
– A feathery antennae and six legs
– Translucent wings
– Oval to elongated bodies
|Range||– Throughout the world|
– More abundant in warmer humid regions
Carpet beetles are another type of tiny brown bug that one may find in their home. They are common pests of fabric. It is not the adult beetles but the carpet beetle larvae that eat and damage fabric. Adult beetles eat pollen or not at all. Eliminating small brown bugs of this kind is no easy task as they are difficult to spot. Adult female carpet beetles lay eggs in cracks and other concealed places. Also, the larva can survive by eating almost everything in hiding, whether naturally occurring or manufactured.
All of this makes detecting a carpet beetle infestation somewhat impossible. To eliminate carpet beetles and prevent future infestations, ensure that all the infested items are cleaned or removed. Any unchecked items where tiny carpet larvae might be living can cause further trouble in the future. Also, dirty wool is particularly attractive to carpet beetles, so give particular attention to your woolens.
Carpet Beetles Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Anthrenus verbasci|
|Other names||Varied carpet beetle, Buffalo bug|
|Size (average)||2.5 to 3.8 mm in length|
|Color||Black to dark brown|
|Body features||– A hard shell|
– Oval to round body
– Brown and Yellow patterns on the shell
– There are also a few white patches
|Range||– Found throughout the world|
– In the United States, most readily found in the north
Aptly named, the cigarette beetle is a specialized pest of stored tobacco. However, it can also infest stored food items such as dried beans, biscuits, cottonseed, dried fruits, and vegetables. These tiny brown bugs walk around the homes, generally during the early evening, in case of an infestation. You may also find holes and debris in food packaging and cereal boxes.
Although they are not known to carry any pathogens, a large infestation of these bugs can lead to significant economic losses. Pest control for these tiny brown bugs can prove tricky. It is better to keep stored products in air-tight containers and regularly check all stored food items. Discard any items that might be infested. Also, these tiny brown bugs can infest the stored food of your beloved pet, so keep an eye out for that as well.
Sometimes these tiny brown bugs might also originate in wall voids, so you might need to drill a hole and spray an insecticide.
|Scientific name||Lasioderma serricorne|
|Other names||Cigar beetle, Tobacco beetle|
|Size (average)||2 to 3 mm in length|
|Color||Light to dark brown|
|Body features||– No pits or lines on wing covers, unlike drugstore beetle|
– Saw-like antennas
– A sharp bent down head
– Antenna contains around 11 segments
|Range||– Found throughout the world|
– Abundant in pan-tropical regions
Drain fly is another type of tiny brown bug. This tiny brown bug might be present in your house naturally. It is also a common nuisance around large apartment buildings, damp places, and sewage treatment plants. Sometimes they become so numerous that they start aggregating around lights, showers, bathtubs, sinks, and drains in huge numbers. Not only are they a cause of visual nuisance, but some people might also develop health conditions due to their exposure.
For example, bronchial asthma can be caused by dust or fragments of dead drain flies. Drain flies develop in standing water, and usually, they cause only a temporary problem in areas of prolonged inactivity. The most effective way to remove a drain fly infestation is to eliminate its breeding ground. Inside buildings, it would include removing any leaking pipes and closed drains.
Drain flies Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Phlebotomidae (genus, containing around 2600 species)|
|Other names||Drain flies, Sink flies, Sewer gnats, Filter flies, Sewer flies, Moth flies|
|Size (average)||2 to 5 mm in length|
|Color||Gray or brown|
|Body features||– Light-colored wings|
– Body is densely covered with hair
– Wings are longer than the body
– Long 13-segmented antennae
– Antenna segments look like beads
|Range||– Distributed throughout the world|
– Most are native to humid tropics
Rice weevils are pests of stored grain. Their development takes place within the kernels as tiny, wrinkly larvae. As the larva is inside the kernel, there is generally no evidence of the infestation on the outside. However, after a month, the infestation becomes apparent when rice weevils chew their way out of the kernel. Other than rice, they also feed on wheat, corn, barley, macaroni, and other grain products.
Usually, they infest stored grains, but sometimes they also infest the grain in the field. Prevention is the best control for these pantry bugs. You should take care when buying grain in bulk. Use air-tight containers to store your grain and discard any infested stored items. Another thing to remember is that rice weevils can chew through plastic bags and cardboard boxes, so do not store grains in them for longer periods of time.
Rice weevils Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Sitophilus oryzae|
|Other names||Grain weevils, Pantry bugs|
|Size (average)||3 to 4 mm in length|
|Body features||– Light yellow or reddish spots on forewings|
– A long snout
– Head and thorax region is extremely pitted
– Hard-shelled bodies in general
|Range||– Spread throughout the world|
– A a serious pest in the southern United States
American Spider Beetles
American spider beetles have an affinity to show up in food preparation areas and places of stored food. They are also frequently spotted in large apartment buildings such as libraries, warehouses, and museums.
These small brown bugs are called spider beetles because they have long, thin legs and relatively large oval abdomens, giving them an overall appearance of a spider.
American beetles are scavengers and can become exceptionally abundant in a few situations, but generally, they are not common pests. Control of American spider beetles is very similar to the management of other stored-product pests.
American Spider Beetles Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Mezium americanum|
|Other names||Black spider beetle|
|Size (average)||1.5 to 3.5 mm in length|
|Color||Reddish-brown to blackish brown|
|Body features||– A fuzzy brown head|
– A shiny hard shell
– Spindly legs
|Range||– Distributed across the globe|
– Introduced in Australia
As their name suggests, bat bugs are primarily a pest of bats. They can also be found in human settlements and feed on human blood when their primary host is unavailable. However, if bat hosts are unavailable, bat bugs cannot reproduce. Even though bat bugs do not carry any pathogens of humans, their bites can still cause panic and anxiety.
This small brown bug can survive for over a year without feeding. It often goes undetected, lurking in carpets and furniture for extended periods of time. Bat bugs are very much like bed bugs, and you’ll need a microscope to differentiate between the two.
Bat Bugs Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Cimex adjunctus|
|Other names||Eastern bat bug|
|Size (average)||4 to 6 mm in length|
|Body features||– Flattened oval body (before feeding)|
– Round oval (after feeding)
|Range||Widely distributed throughout North America|
There are around 900 species of ticks described as of now throughout the world, and not all of them cause disease. The two species most commonly encountered by humans are the Wood tick or American dog tick and Deer tick or Blacklegged tick. These ticks carry diseases, including the infamous Lyme disease.
Specific species of ticks are difficult to identify because of the differences in size, age, gender. You can avoid getting bitten by ticks with some simple precautions. When in the woods, try walking on trails and not brush yourself against bushes or grasses that harbor ticks. Also, try wearing protective clothing and use insect repellents when you go out.
Ticks Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Ixodoidea (Superfamily, containing 18 genera and around 900 species)|
|Other names||Mites, Louses|
|Size (average)||– 2 to 3 mm in length (without feeding)|
– 8 to 12 mm in length (when fed)
|Color||Brown to reddish-brown and black|
|Body features||– Small brown and flattened when they have not fed|
– Reddish-brown and balloon-like after feeding
– Eight legs
|Range||– Distributed around the world|
– Flourish in warm and humid areas
– Leaf litter, shrubs, and grasses
Humans rarely see house centipedes because of their nocturnal nature, but they are widely distributed throughout the world. By nature, centipedes are predators of smaller spiders, insects, and other arthropods. House centipedes are agile and fast-moving animals, and despite their menacing looks, house centipedes should be considered harmful.
House centipedes are usually considered beneficial as they hunt on spiders and other small arthropods, thus keeping their numbers in check. But when needed, their numbers can be controlled by using insecticides registered for home use. Also, make sure to spray insecticide under boards, logs, rocks, and damp locations outside as centipedes hide in these places, generally.
House Centipedes Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Scutigera coleoptrata|
|Size (average)||2.5 to 3.5 cm in length|
|Color||Yellowish to dark brown|
|Body features||– 15 pairs of long legs|
– Legs are banded (light and dark)
– Three longitudinal dark stripes on the body
|Range||– Spread throughout the world, where humans live |
– Prefer cool, damp places
Dealing with fleas can be very challenging. They are hard to spot as they move very fast, and unlike other common household pests, fleas bite cats, dogs, and people. Fleas can also transfer numerous bacterial and tapeworm infections. Also, fleas are highly prolific, and adult female fleas can lay hundreds of eggs in a day.
Battling fleas involves the treatment of premises as well as pets because females lay eggs in their fur. Products for treating pets are available in the form of oral medications and in the form of sprays, and shampoos. It is always better to consult a veterinarian before choosing a treatment option.
Fleas Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Siphonaptera (Order containing around 2500 species)|
|Size (average)||0.1 mm to 3 mm in length|
|Body features||– Legs have a bristly appearance|
|Flying||No, but they can jump as much as 50 times their body length|
|Range||Spread throughout the world|
Ants are widespread pests found in and around homes throughout the world. There are about 12,000 species of ants that all vary in size and color, but most of them are tiny brown bugs that no one wants, but everyone has.
The first step towards controlling an ant infestation is determining the exact type of ant you are dealing with. It will help you figure out their behavior, food source, nesting sites, and most effective method of treatment. If you find ants in your home, the first thing you must do is locate your nest or where they are coming from. Also, if you want to avoid future problems, you must get rid of the queen ant in an ant colony.
Ants Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Formicidae (A family of around 12,000 species of ants)|
|Size (average)||– 0.7 to 52 mm in length|
– Dinoponera gigantea is the largest ant in the world, ranging in size from 3-4 cm in length
|Color||– Most are brown, red, and black|
– Some species are green, and some even have a metallic hue
|Body features||– A pair of bent antennae on the head|
– Sometimes winged
– Body is divided into three segments (head, thorax, and abdomen)
|Flying||It depends on species and life stage|
|Range||– Distributed throughout the world|
– Live in grounds, underground or in logs and timber
– Some species live in hollow tree trunks
Termites are highly social insects that live in colonies of up to millions of individuals each. The colony centers are connected to food sources through a network of underground tunnels. Termites cause billions of dollars worth of damage in the United States alone. They can damage everything that has anything to do with wood.
Suppose you find winged termites in your home. In that case, it is often a sign of termite infestation as they usually only become visible when there are too many of them. Also, try eliminating termites as soon as possible, as dealing with termites can be both financially and emotionally challenging.
Termites Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Order Isoptera (containing around 2,000 species)|
|Other names||White ants|
|Size (average)||4 to 15 mm in length|
|Color||Brown to red|
|Body features||– Straight antennas|
– Wings are equal in length
|Flying||Some species can fly|
|Range||– Found on all continents except Antarctica|
Most house spiders are brown with spots of varying colors on the body. House spiders build webs in attics, basements, ceilings, barns, and sheds. They can be a significant source of nuisance for people living in their homes.
Other than being a source of a nuisance, most brown house spiders are pretty much harmless. In fact, they can be beneficial in some cases as they hunt on smaller insects that can be pests of homes. However, some brown spiders, such as the brown recluse spider, are venomous and can inflict very serious wounds. You can check out our spider guide here to see which spiders you should be aware of.
Brown Recluse Spider Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Scientific name||Loxosceles reclusa|
|Other names||Violin spider, Brown fiddler|
|Size (average)||6 to 20 mm in length|
|Color||Brown to gray|
|Body features||Dark violin-shaped marks on the back|
|Range||Southcentral and Midwestern United States|
Earwigs get their name from the old myth that they crawl into people’s ears and then tunnel their way into the brain. While this myth has no scientific evidence, the forceps-like pincers on the earwig’s back are scary. Earwigs are found on every continent except Antarctica, and there are about 2000 documented species of earwigs.
About 20 species are found in the United States. Earwigs prefer living in leaf litter and all kinds of debris. Some even inhabit crevices. They are nocturnal creatures that are attracted to light. They are not very significant pests, but they can become a nuisance in greater numbers. So, make sure all the crevices and holes in your home are sealed properly.
Earwigs Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Size (average)||7 to 50 mm in length|
|Body features||– Elongated, flattened body|
– Forceps-like pincers at the back
|Range||Present all over the world except Antarctica|
Cockroaches are among the most common pests of homes and buildings. They are especially abundant where there is a lack of sanitation and food leftovers are present. Since cockroaches frequently move between filth and food, they can contaminate food with pathogens, resulting in food poisoning and contamination, among other illnesses.
There are about 4600 species of cockroaches, out of which only 30 are associated with human settlement. Some of these are very serious pests, and they all vary in size and color. Precisely identifying a cockroach species can be a challenging task even for trained entomologists. Cockroaches are often tough to get rid of, so it is suggested to hire professional help to get rid of them in case of an infestation.
Cockroaches Quick Facts and Identification Guide
|Size (average)||3.5 to 4 cm in length|
|Color||Reddish-brown to black|
|Body features||Species vary considerably in body markings|
|Range||– Present all over the world|
– Abundant in tropics and subtropics
Brown Bugs FAQs
What to do if you see a cockroach?
If you see one, it means there are more! So, it is better to inspect your home and determine the extent of the infestation. Cockroaches are very hardy insects, often requiring professional services to eradicate them completely.
What causes fruit flies in the house?
If there are rotting fruits inside your home or kitchen, it won’t be too long before fruit flies appear. They can also develop in drains, garbage disposals, and trash cans. You can use vinegar or boiling water to get rid of fruit flies from these places and to prevent future infestations, you must maintain hygienic conditions.
How do I get rid of confused flour beetles?
If you have a flour beetle infestation, get rid of all the things that are infested. Take remaining items out and put them in dry air-sealed containers. Also, regularly check for the signs of flour beetle infestation which include unpleasant odor coming out of stored food and formation of food lumps in boxes.
How can you tell if you have termites?
Keep an eye out for discolored walls and peeling paint. These signs might be an indication of termite infestation. Also, if your furniture sounds hollow when tapped, it might be due to a termite infestation. So, regularly check for wood damage, squeaking wooden parts, maze-like patterns in the floor, and wooden items to catch a termite infestation early.
Are ticks harmful to humans?
Even though tick bites are pretty much harmless to humans except a rash and itching, ticks indirectly can cause serious problems for human health. This is because they are carriers of many pathogens, some of which might even be deadly. For instance, Lyme disease is also transmitted through tick bites.
Sources for Further Reading
- Identifying Common Household Insect Pests | University of Maryland Extension. (2022). Retrieved 23 March 2022, from https://extension.umd.edu/resource/identifying-common-household-insect-pests
- Home & Health Pests | Entomology. (2022). Retrieved 23 March 2022, from https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/homehealth
- Insects that infest homes. (2022). Retrieved 23 March 2022, from https://extension.umn.edu/household-insects/insects-infest-homes
After learning about small brown bugs, read our other articles about plant bugs: