Ceiling Cat has nothing on Ceiling Bugs!
October 22, 2012 8:58 PM   Subscribe

With the first real rain of the season. it is now time for BUGS TO DROP OUT OF MY CEILING! What are they? (pix inside)

I tried "What's That Bug" and a google image search, but what are these bugs?

I live in the East Bay of Northern California. Last year, at about this time (during our first really rainy spell) I found 15 or so of these little bastards crawling on my ceiling. Several of them were joined at the end, and crawled across the ceiling in some sort of unholy congress or insect cha-cha-cha -- until I smooshed them. I think they somehow come out of my skylights, since they tend to congregate there.

Well, it's raining again, and they're baaaa-aaaaaack.

The ones I photographed are strange in that I found them in the bathtub -- far away from any skylight, but underneath an extraction fan.

They look like earwigs but lack the pincers on their tushes.

I would normally live and let live but last year they dropped on my bed which precipitated a holy war between myself and these... things.

They only show up during the rainy season. Are they termites? Mutant ants?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Correction (just smooshed two more in the bedroom): they aren't joined so much as follow one another really, really closely, like they were little insect trams. Not sure if that helps.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:08 PM on October 22, 2012

They look like devil's coach horses.
posted by defreckled at 9:13 PM on October 22, 2012

Is there any way you can get a better picture? They just look like tiny black blobs from where I'm sitting. Something where they were bigger and were, um, lit would be helpful. Might be able to at least give you an order, if not a family.

Failing that, can we get some more description? Do they have wings, for instance? If so, do they have two pairs or one? (I'm guessing two or none, though it might be two that are folded up to look like one.) Are they flat? Do they have shells? Are they soft-bodied? What do their antennae look like? Do they have long filaments on their butts? Do they have big ol' jaws?

This budding entomologist would love to help you but man you gotta give me something to work with here.
posted by Scientist at 9:35 PM on October 22, 2012

Response by poster: I know how much the mods hate people threadsitting, but this is for SCIENCE!

I found a couple of them on the floor so I had some more light:




For the record they seem to have a hard shell, and upon smooshing I see no evidence of wings. They seem to have a little antennae. No jaws or butt floss that I can see.

They are pretty small so I don't think they're devil's coach horses.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:01 PM on October 22, 2012

The pics are still unclear. They look like ants, but that can't be right, can it??
posted by jbenben at 11:15 PM on October 22, 2012

If you were in Florida, I'd swear they were Carpenter Ants.
My assumption is that these devils can pretty much live anywhere.
And yes, the first rain you get, they will swarm or rise from their underground lairs or whatever.
Take a gander at the above google search, especially the images, and compare them to your collection of corpses.
If they ARE Carpenter Ants, they can cause termite-like damage, so get thee to a pest control person.
If you want to do it yourself, look for the Terro brand sprays and granules.
posted by THAT William Mize at 4:30 AM on October 23, 2012

Well, it's still not super clear, but that's definitely a bit better. I don't think they're ants or any other hymenopteran, they don't have the characteristic waist which you'd expect to see in an ant, and other hymenopterans would generally have wings as adults and would be larvae as juveniles. They look a bit like ants, but that is not what I think they are.

From their general shape, the fact that you found them coming out of your ceiling, and the fact that they seem to be social, I would tentatively go with termites. Probably not that species (that picture is from Louisiana, you have different termites in NorCal) but I'd say they could well be termites and I'd maybe call my landlord or an exterminator to come see if that's for sure the case and if so whether there's anything that should/can be done about them.
posted by Scientist at 4:55 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Scientist is right on. Here's the corroborating evidence.

Like Scientist said, get this checked out, these guys are trouble and can cause some really expensive damage!
posted by snsranch at 5:35 PM on October 23, 2012

Response by poster: Ugh. I really hope they aren't termites. I thought termites have soft bodies, though?

I took a few more photos with a better camera but I'm not sure if they are better pix:



are yucky
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:56 PM on October 24, 2012

Still not really a better picture, honestly. You would have to get a picture that's much closer in, like if you put your camera in Macro mode and take a nice big, well-lit, well-focused, zoomed-in picture on one. If you can't get it to hold still without squishing it try putting one in alcohol or nail polish remover for a few seconds, which will kill it.

Still looks like termites to me, to be honest. What I'd bet is happening is that it is swarming time for whatever termites are in your area (same time every year, right?) and you're seeing king and queen termites (post wing-shedding) which are dark and have hard bodies. That would explain why you're seeing them out in the open, too. If you see any with wings on them where the wings are kind of long and teardrop-shaped and all four are pretty much exactly the same size and shape, then that'd seal the deal.

Just because you have swarming termites doesn't mean you have a termite infestation, by the way. It might mean you will have one soon though, even if you don't have one now.
posted by Scientist at 4:22 PM on October 24, 2012

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