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Help Identifying Black or Dark-Colored Insects
Insects are everywhere, whether you see them or not. They have adapted with amazing speed to the rise of the human species, and now can be found not only everywhere in nature, but also in our dwellings, literally under our feet.
This guide to black and dark-colored insects is designed to help you identify the black bugs you found, and also determine whether or not you might have a problem! Not all black bugs or insects are worth worrying about, but if you're curious about the six-legged critter scurrying across your floor, this quick and easy guide can help.
This guide includes the black or dark-colored insects that you are most likely to see in your day-to-day life. For each insect, we give you the name, habits, and whether you should be concerned.
Identification Chart for Common Black Bugs
Large, slow-moving roaches
Live in basements, not often seen
Small, reddish-black, rounded
Live in colonies in mattresses and beds; bite
Very small; vertically flattened
Live on mammals; bite
Very small, flat, smooth
Live in foliage and drop onto passing animals and people
Many sizes and species
Many different habits
Usually small, slow, rounded, with many short legs
Often found in basements; harmless scavengers
Shiny, fast, generally found outside
Prey on slugs and other organisms
Large beetles, often brightly colored, on plants
Protected by irritating body juices
Resemble tiny grey-black moths
Live in drains; often found in bathrooms
Small, hunch-backed flies
Swarm in early summer; bite in large groups
Even though the common name is no longer widely used, this insect is still widely distributed wherever humans live. These are large roaches, often over an inch in length. They stick to dark, moist habitat, so it's unusual to find them in your kitchen like the much more common, light-brown German roach. Oriental cockroaches are also much less of a pest, since they rarely venture out of the dark corners or your basement.
If you see one of these roaches in your home, do not panic! They are essentially an outdoor species, and do not naturally prefer human dwellings. However they will shelter there and even take up residence if there is warmth, darkness, and a source of food.
What is the scientific name? Blatta orientalis
Does it bite? No, these insects are harmless
Where is it found? Outside in dark sheltered places; inside in basements and drainage areas
What does it eat? Organic matter like decomposing vegetation and discarded food
Should I be concerned? No, although if there are a lot of them and they are invading your eating spaces you should do something about it. Roaches can spread disease from place to place.
What should I do about it? If you see this cockroach frequently in your living space, consult an exterminator
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Bed bugs are not technically black in color, although after a blood meal they appear to be very dark. They are small, oval-shaped insects that feed on the blood of mammals, including humans. As you might guess from their name, bed bugs hide out in your bed and bite you while you sleep. They live in colonies, with babies and adults all together, and you will see it if you pull up the mattress and look around the frame.
Unlike mosquito bites which are similar, bed bug bites tend to occur in a line. This is because the bug likes to bite and walk, bite and walk for several inches along your skin. So if you have ever woken up with itchy red bites that are in a line, then you probably are a bed bug victim!
There are good ways to control bedbugs online. Exterminators are not a great solution, since you would have to douse your bed with poison. In bad cases, you will need to get rid of the bed altogether. If you put in the garbage for pickup, make sure you label it "bed bugs!" so no one picks it up for second-hand use.
What is the scientific name? Insects in the genus Cimex
Does it bite? Yep.
Where is it found? In human habitation, around and in beds
What does it eat? Both males and females feed on mammal blood (yes, they will also bite your pets)
Should I be concerned? Yes. Bed bug bites can spread illness and get infected.
What should I do about it? Consult the internet to get started understanding your options.
If a flea bites you, chances are that it came from a dog or a cat. Both dog fleas and cat fleas will bite humans, although they don't typically live on your person the way they do with a pet. Fleas can consume many times their body weight in blood every day, and every time they bite they cause an itchy red spot not unlike a mosquito. Flea bites tend to last linger, and itch more, than a mosquito; they may bite you while you're asleep, especially if Fluffy or Fido curls up on your bed at night. If you find small, vertically flattened, dark-colored bugs when you examine your sheets, you have a problem (this has happened to me!).
Getting rid of fleas is very difficult. There are treatments your vet can suggest that may do the trick, but these little pests drop eggs all the time, and they get into the carpet and flooring, and may hatch out months after they were laid, creating a whole new infestation.
One consolation: Although they sometimes spread disease and cause infections, these fleas are not the same ones that spread bubonic plague and wiped out a third of every human in Europe in the 14th century.
What is the scientific name? Insects in the genus Ctenocephalides
Does it bite? Yes
Where is it found? On pets, and sometimes in your home
What does it eat? Blood, and lots of it
Should I be concerned? Yes
What should I do about it? Talk to your vet, and do what they say!
Ticks are small, blood-sucking arachnids (related to spiders) that are similar to fleas but much slower moving. They live outdoors, which is where you will encounter them – there's no real chance that your home has a tick infestation. Ticks and tick bites used to be a simple annoyance, but with the spread of Lyme disease a tick bite needs to be treated seriously or, ideally, avoided altogether.
Ticks live in weeds and on foliage, and grab or drop onto passing mammals to get a blood meal. If you walk through a tick-infested area, you may come away with a hungry tick or two clinging to your shoes or trousers. Fortunately ticks are very slow-moving and can take literally days to find a spot to bite you, so a "tick check" is essential after a day outdoors.
Ticks are small, round, and dark brown or black. Deer ticks, the vector of Lyme disease in humans, are smaller than most, but you will spot them on your skin if you look close enough (and a tick check doesn't have to be an unhappy experience, as Brad Paisley has pointed out).
What is the scientific name? Order Ixodida
Does it bite? Yes
Where is it found? Among vegetation
What does it eat? Blood
Should I be concerned? Yes!
What should I do about it? If you suspect a tick has bitten you, check with a doctor to be sure you don't have signs of disease.
There are thousands of different kinds of ants, and many of them are black. For the purposes of this guide, we will talk about two of these: the "little black ant" and the carpenter ant.
Little black ants – yes, that is technically their common name – are usually found outside, but at times they will come into your house if they sense a source of food. They are not especially destructive pests, and their nests will not compromise the structure of your home. If these little ants annoy you, you can put out a store-bought ant trap. The ants will take the poison back to the nest, feed it to their young, and the whole colony will die. If that's what you want.
A much more serious issue is the carpenter ant. These black ants are quite large, well over half an inch in length. They are robust insects with large, shiny heads and long legs. Carpenter ants, as the name suggests, live in wood. They don't eat the wood, but they excavate it and soften it in the process of making a nest. I have seen carpenter ant infestations in trees that require the entire tree to be cut down and removed, and it's possible for them to set up shop inside your home as well.
If you think you may have carpenter ants, call an exterminator. They can be very destructive!
What is the scientific name? Thousands of species in the family Formicidae
Does it bite? These two species do not bite or sting
Where is it found? In the wild, and also in your house
What does it eat? Organic matter, including food left out overnight
Should I be concerned? Only if the ant is very large and could be a carpenter ant.
What should I do about it? Call an exterminator!
Most people do not see or notice millipedes, but they are very common creatures. They live in dark, hidden places, and most only venture out at night. Still, there is a chance you will come across a millipede in your basement.
Black and dark colored millipedes that you find in your basement can be identified by their rounded, tube-like bodies, many body segments, and countless little legs that move in waves. House millipedes can be separated from centipedes quite easily, because centipedes are brown, have many long legs and other appendages, and are typically very fast runners – the poor millipede, despite all his legs, cannot move very fast at all.
Black millipedes are 100% harmless, and they eat lots of gunk and grime in the neglected parts of your house. They should be left alone to do their thing.
What is the scientific name? Many kinds, all in the class Diplopoda
Does it bite? No
Where is it found? In dark, dank places
What does it eat? Organic gunk in your corners and drains
Should I be concerned? Not at all
What should I do about it? Nothing -- just be grateful that they're cleaning up your corners!
When most people think of a black bug, it's the ground beetle that comes to mind. These very common insects come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but nearly all of them are black or dark-colored.
Ground beetles live on, you guessed it, the ground. They are among the insects and bugs that scurry away when you lift an old board or stone outside. Ground beetles typically come out at night, and they hunt for slugs, millipedes, roly polys, and other small arthropods.
Unless you are an entomologist or a devoted citizen scientist, you really don't need to know which species is which. If you do find a ground beetle outside during the day, please be so kind as to escort them to a sheltered, shady spot. They are harmless and will only help your garden and lawn.
What is the scientific name? Family Carabidae
Does it bite? Some of the bigger ones may give you a pinch if you really harass them
Where is it found? On the ground and under things outside
What does it eat? Generally predaceous on slugs and other organisms
Should I be concerned? Not at all
What should I do about it? Nothing (unless you want to learn more; in that case there are some great sources online)
These insects resemble ground beetles, but are typically found crawling on plants. They are soft-bodied and slow-moving, and several species exhibit bright colors (although the more common ones are a deep blue-black in color).
You will want to avoid handling blister beetles, because as the name suggests they are capable of causing blisters with a toxic chemical, cantharidin, that oozes from their knee joints. These blisters are usually not too serious, but they are definitely unpleasant. There's no real need to mess with blister beetles, though, since they will not typically damage garden plants. Leave them be and they will leave you be!
What is the scientific name? Family Meloidae
Does it bite? No, but they are protected by toxic body juices
Where is it found? On plants
What does it eat? The adult chews on leaves here and there; the immature forms are parasitic in bee hives.
Should I be concerned? No.
What should I do about it? Nothing; for sure don't try to pick them off your plants!
Moth flies look like tiny black or gray moths. Their wings are covered with scales, just like a moth, but they are in fact a kind of gnat, or fly (this gives you an indication of the close evolutionary relationship between the two groups of winged insects).
Moth flies are also called drain flies, because that is where the larvae – little nondescript maggots – spend all of their time. They feed on gunk and organic matter in the drain, until it's time to pupate and turn into the adult moth fly.
If you have moth flies in your bathroom or basement, it's probably time to clean your drains. Most of the time that will take care of the infestation, and you won't have to resort to toxic chemicals or pay an exterminator.
What is the scientific name? The very excellent nom de insect, "Psychodidae"
Does it bite? No
Where is it found? Near dirty drains
What does it eat? Drain gunk
Should I be concerned? They are a nuisance, and a sign of a possibly unhealthy condition
What should I do about it? Clean your drains and see if that doesn't fix the problem
For anyone living in Maine, Michigan, or similarly northern zones, the black fly needs no introduction. They are perhaps the most determined, irritating, and numerous of all biting insects. During black fly season, when they can descend in swarms on an unsuspecting victim, it's almost always best to just stay inside and make plans for later.
What is the scientific name? Over two-thousand species in the family Simuliidae
Does it bite? Oh yes
Where is it found? Northern climes
What does it eat? Your blood, and also the blood of any other mammal within reach
Should I be concerned? You should stay home
What should I do about it? There are protective netting and masks available (see video)
Thank You for Reading!
I hope this guide to black and dark-colored insects helped answer your questions.
The following sources were used for this guide:
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
GreenMind Guides (author) from USA on August 20, 2021:
Liz Westwood from UK on August 19, 2021:
This is a very helpful and well-organized article. It is extremely useful as a reference tool.
Amara from Pakistan on August 19, 2021: