This summer, I noticed these tiny little gray bugs on my window sills in the kitchen and bathroom. They are so light and tiny. I have almost thought they were dust at times. Last week I diluted some bleach on a cloth and wiped down the window sills. That seems to have helped. I’d still like to know what these small insects are?
Why are these tiny bugs hanging out in my window?
How can I stop them? Will I need to see the wizard, or can you help?
Bugged in the Boondocks
First of all, I want to thank you for the evening I spent with phantom crawlies after wandering down the rabbit trail of mite and lice research.
Second to calm down any entomologists —no, spellcheck, I most certainly did not mean etymologist—out there, I do know that the term “bug” for zoologists and pedants applies only to the order Hemiptera.
I also know most of you probably don’t care. Anything that creeps, crawls, or flies with more than four legs is a bug. I get it. I’m just preventing an email or two. People can be quite persnickety, all you need to do is look at my inbox for proof. Y’all don’t hold back when you disagree with anything said here. It’s ok, if it isn’t polite, the delete button works just fine.
Your first suspect for tiny bugs on your window sill: booklice
Since the first characteristic you noted is that your tiny bugs are light in color and that they are not tiny, black jumping insects, my bet is they are booklice or a close relation to booklice.
Booklice, also spelled book lice. Would you be stunned to learn that book lice are not true lice?
Scandalous. The pest control world is all in a tizzy.
These harmless pests are also called psocids. I tried really hard, but I could not find any stock photography of these arthropods, so you are going to have to use your imagination: tiny, grey, lots of legs.
These little bugs feed on mold and fungi and thrive in humid (damp) environments. This is why they love windows, where condensation can collect.
Booklice tend to hang out in windows as well as in the books that give them their name. Since they feed on molds, you can get rid of them by reducing the humidity that encourages mold growth. Investing in a dehumidifier is one way to keep them from coming back.
As for the short term, when you wiped the window sills with dilute bleach, you probably killed their food source.
Your problem may be solved, at least in the short term.
How to get rid of booklice
To prevent the booklice’s return, you can regularly wipe down your window sills with an anti-fungal or use dilute bleach.
These tiny bugs are harmless so try not to stress too much about them. They aren’t causing any damage. They certainly aren’t pantry moths, and so they fall into that category of creature that we try not to think about too much.
Remember, they aren’t destroying your property (except in the most severe infestations), they don’t trigger allergies like dust mites, and they don’t bite like bed bugs (You can learn about bed bugs here). Booklice are almost always just a barely visible nuisance.
Did you notice I said ALMOST? I want to note that occasionally, with severe infestations, booklice can find their way into pantries where they can infest grains. In that case, you throw away the infested grains, air out the pantry, and store any new grains in air-tight containers. If you do choose to go the dehumidifier route, you will also cut down on your dust mite population, too. Dust mites love humid homes. How’s that for a two-for-one win?
What are these tiny bugs in my house?
So… you arrived here by Google Search and your little window bugs are not booklice? Don’t worry, there are more little bugs in and around your windows than just our friends the booklice.
Here are some other possibilities for tiny insects and other creepy-crawlies that you can find in window sills and other places and what you can do to get rid of the pests:
If your tiny window bugs are about 3mm long, that’s less than a 1/4 of an inch, and have wings you may be dealing with carpet beetles.
While the adults don’t do a lot, they can bite. Their bites aren’t harmful unless you are allergic, but I’m sure that’s still annoying. However, the females can lay eggs in your home and their larvae are very destructive once they get settled in, they can be difficult to evict.
Take a close look at your tiny window insects and decide if they look anything like itty-bitty ladybugs (not the same coloring) or really tiny beetles, you will want to check out this post on carpet beetles. You do not want to let these annoying bugs set up residence in your home. Mom and Dad may not be bad roommates, but the kids? Those offspring can do a lot of damage, even if they are quiet.
If you squash the tiny bugs and they leave a reddish stain, they are most likely clover mites. Clover mites are a common, harmless but aggravating pest that also tends to invade windows, basement window wells, and sliding doors.
Clover mites are true mites and not insects.
They are closely related to spiders and ticks, but the good news is that they eat plants. So they won’t be snacking on poor Fido over there.
The bad news is that they can invade by the thousands when the weather changes. (They tend to head indoors when the plants die off in the fall.) You will also see movement in the early spring when their eggs hatch.
How to get rid of clover mites.
To prevent stains on your woodwork, vacuum these and call it good. Please don’t forget to empty the vacuum immediately (and then take the trash out), or you could end up with mites in other places. Clover mites like to travel and just like they went on an adventure and ended up in your house, they can crawl right back out of your vacuum.
Clover mites aren’t going to damage anything unless you squish them and stain something. Much like teenagers, they are just wandering around in search of food. This post has a little bit on the prevention of clover mites.
Another possibility for your little bugs or tiny insect pests would be “biscuit beetles”. These guys are also known as the drugstore beetle.
This fun little pest is not related to pantry moths but has many of the same annoying characteristics.
The big difference between pantry moths and biscuit beetles is that the beetles (adult form) are attracted to light. It’s this attraction to light that brought them to your windows, you to Google, and finally to me. Aww.
How to get rid of biscuit beetles
You’ll need to do a very thorough cleanout of your pantry.
This includes a very thorough vacuuming (don’t forget to empty the vacuum). Your tiny new insect friends love all kinds of food sources, including pet food and. . . I’m sorry to say leather. They have unfortunately expensive taste.
If you tend not to pay attention to details, you may want to call in a professional.
The good news is they don’t bite, the bad news is if you have an infestation, they can be hiding in many places in your home so the cleaning will need to be thorough AND ongoing.
If you are of the I don’t want chemicals in my home mindset. All food will need to be in tightly sealed containers and you need to do things like pulling your refrigerator and other appliances out to make sure there are no hidden food sources for your little, unwanted roommates.
Finally, the last usual suspect would be springtails. These little jumping arthropods feed on decaying leaf litter.
But Heather, my jumping insect-like arthropods doesn’t look like that springtail.
Pump the brakes. Remember when I said I did some research? There are nearly 6000 kinds of springtails. That leads to a lot of variety. Do a quick Google Image Search for springtails and see what you come up with.
I kind of think that the Blue Giant Springtail looks a little bit like Appa from The Last Airbender and is almost cute.
If you use mulch near your house, they could be wandering around looking for more food. These things are also harmless but they can be a major annoyance if they move into your house.
What to do if they are springtails
If you notice they congregate in a window, be sure to check for water damage as springtails are attracted to organic decay.
If you find water damage, consult a professional as water damage can get expensive quickly and damage like that generally does NOT get cheaper when ignored.
If you have plants near your window, you may have fungus gnats. You would only suspect fungus gnats if your tiny window bugs are light grey AND they fly You can check out how to get rid of them here.
Are you still trying to figure out what little critters are bugging you? Here’s another post that might help, How to tell the difference between fungus gnats, fruit flies, and drain flies. (I don’t suggest reading this one while snacking.)
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