Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite!

What To Do When You’re ‘Attacked’ By Pests

By Evangeline Majawat

In the still of the night when most of us are fast asleep, uninvited guests come out to play, breed and cause us misery. The common ones range from the four-legged (rats and mice) to the six-legged (cockroaches, mosquitoes and bed bugs). There also those without legs (snakes and snails) to the many legged (centipedes).

Most common household pests are poisonous, spread diseases or cause painful bites. Others wreak havoc in the garden and affect a building’s structural integrity. Pests are attracted to our homes in search of food, water and a cozier and environment.

Pest controller James White Ants Destroying Sdn. Bhd. states clearly on their website that keeping pests out of our homes is a year-round process. “It’s not a one-time thing because new colonies will form,” says the company’s customer service manager Pavithra Sugumaran.

Oh, What A Pest!

The Tropical Household Ants: Pest Status, Species Diversity, Foraging Behaviour and Baiting Studies published in 2001 by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Biological Science found that ants, mosquitoes and cockroaches were considered the peskiest pests by household owners. Other dominant pests include rodents (rats and mice) and flies. With the exception of ants, these vermin are disease vectors.

The World Health Organisation has labelled dengue, which is transmitted by female Aedes mosquitoes, as the world’s fastest spreading tropical disease. With 50 to 100 million infections occurring every year, dengue is considered a “pandemic threat” to two-fifths of the world. There is currently no specific drug to treat this hemorrhagic fever although a vaccine is currently in the early stages of development.

In Malaysia alone, there were 10,401 cases with 20 deaths recorded between January to June of this year. This was a rise from the 10,352 cases with 19 deaths recorded during the same period in 2012. The rise was mainly in the urban areas of Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Johor Baru. Dengue cases have also risen in other Asean countries like Laos (81 per cent), Singapore (79 per cent) and Vietnam (19 per cent).

Some other diseases spread by common household pests include:

  1. Mosquitoes – malaria, brain inflammation or encephalitis (such as West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis) and Yellow Fever.
  2. Cockroaches – Salmonella, staphylococcus, streptococcus, gastroenteritis. Roaches can also trigger allergies and asthma attacks.
  3. Houseflies – Enteric infections (such as dysentery, diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera and certain infections), eye infections (such as trachoma and epidemic conjunctivitis), and Poliomyelitis and certain skin infections (such as yaws, cutaneous diphtheria, some mycoses and leprosy.)
  4. Rats/Mice – Leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, Hantavirus infections, plague and Lassa fever.


Ants are relatively harmless but some species are aggressive. Bites from fire ants (semut api in Bahasa Malaysia) are extremely painful and can cause pustules to appear on the skin. Ants also leave a food trail, which are ideal for bacteria to thrive in. Let’s not forget the blood-sucking, microscopic bugs that live in your bed and cause itchy rashes and that can sometimes trigger allergic reactions.


Will It Bite?

Household pests do not have to bite to spread diseases except for mosquitoes and bed bugs. Cockroaches, rodents and houseflies transmit the germs via their droppings or when they come into contact with our food.

“Contrary to what people believe, rats and mice don’t nibble or bite you when you’re sleeping!” laughs Pavithra. She says rodents are very shy creatures. Their keen sense of smell and hearing means they will run into hiding. Bites from mosquitoes, ants and bed bugs are obvious as we usually spot the offending creature.

A dose of antihistamine taken orally or topically can help alleviate itchiness and pain but we usually only know whether we have caught a disease once the symptoms set in. “You’ll know because you’ll feel very sick. Go to the doctor immediately,” advises Pavithra.

Taking Control

“Unfortunately, most home pest control remedies are not very effective or work only for a short period of time. Pest control is a long term effort,” states Pavithra. Malaysians spent an estimated US$48 million on household insecticide in 1997and 1998 and US$57 million in 2000 and 2001.

The simplest way to deter pests is to ensure that your kitchen and other surfaces are clean as the littlest crumbs or smallest spills will attract them. In addition, look into your waste disposal. Food waste should not be left overnight in the sink. “Rats and cockroaches love it. It’s easy food for them,” explains Pavithra.

She adds that you should not hesitate to call in the experts if things can out of control. “Professionals understand pests — their biology, diets, habits and habitats and we know exactly the right ways to control them,” says Pavithra.

House “Guests” You’d Rather Live Without!

Know and rid unwanted pests from your home with these simple ideas. These work against minor invasions. Serious infestations require professional pest exterminators.

Type of pest


Tips to get rid of it

Mosquitoes It means “little fly” in Spanish. Mosquitoes use their proboscis (long tubular mouthparts) to suck liquids. Blood-sucking mosquitoes are females and find their victims by detecting exhaled carbon dioxide. Once it lands on the host, the mosquito inserts its proboscis and injects saliva containing anticoagulant into the wound.Both males and females from some species do not suck blood, preferring nectar instead.


  1. Flush out stagnant water sources in and around your house.
  2. Put up screens at all windows and doors.
  3. Wear long sleeve tops and trousers during dawn and dusk when mosiquitoes are most active.


Housefly  Houseflies cannot swallow solids so they vomit saliva to pre-digest the food. They then suck the liquid. Adult flies delight in decaying matters, feces, open wounds and discharges. Germs from these matters stick to the fine hairs on a fly’s legs and is transferred to food that it lands on. This makes it a dangerous pest. 
  1. Clean all surfaces especially in the kitchen.
  2. Dispose of rubbish properly.
  3. Use sticky tapes or light trap with electrocutes to catch flies.
  4. Hang a plastic bag filled with water near where you are eating. The movement of the water and the shadows it casts makes the flies nervous and they will stay away from the area.
Ants Ants live in colonies numbering up to millions per colony. They are attracted to food especially sugary ones. Some species, like the fire ants are aggressive.
  1. Keep the kitchen area free of crumbs and spills.
  2. Store food in sealed containers.
  3. Mix dry baker’s yeast with an equal amount of honey to form a thick paste. Leave it for the ants. The yeast produces gas in the ants’ stomachs, which they cannot digest.
Cockroaches Roaches are carriers of various germs because they live near waste deposit or in the kitchen, where food is found. They eat almost all organic materials from wool, paper, leaves, and of course food. They leave unpleasant smells too. 
  1. Clean regularly underneath the fridge, toaster and other appliances.
  2. Store food in sealed containers.
  3. Use cockroach sticky tapes to lure and trap them.
Rats and Mice Their urine, feces, bites and scratches are hosts to various pathogens. They can also introduce disease-carrying parasites such as fleas and ticks into your home. 
  1. Thoroughly clean kitchen areas.
  2. Store food in sealed containers. Fruits and vegetables should also be stored properly.
  3. If you detect an infestation, seal the entry point.
  4. The use of glue, mechanical traps and poison work well for individual rats or mice.

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