Photo from You: Insect Identification

May 8, 2009

fleasLast week we received an e-mail entitled “Huge Fleas” – as you can imagine, I was quite intrigued! This poor man, by the name of Mike, had these creatures (his picture of one of them, right), resembling giant fleas, falling out of a crack in his ceiling.  He must have been going crazy wondering what they were, where they came from, and what they were doing in his house.

Well, that’s where I come in. I love to help you identify strange creatures of the bug world and hopefully set your mind at ease!

So, this time around I knew exactly what Mike’s “giant fleas” were as soon as I saw the picture. I have come across these critters before, once while working for a local pest control company, and once while working here at the museum.  They are commonly known as “scuds,” a very flattering name indeed, but they are officially named amphipods. These are a type of shrimp-like crustacean.

They are mostly aquatic, but there are a few species that are terrestrial.  These species have to live in very moist areas and can usually be found in mulch and moist soil. Unlike insects and most other arthropods, they don’t have a waxy layer covering their bodies to retain or excrete moisture, so conditions have to be balanced – not too dry, not too wet – in order for them to survive. If things get too wet outside, like after a heavy rain, they will seek out more favorable conditions inside your home. That’s when you may run into them!

Mike sent us this e-mail shortly after the huge rainstorm we had, so that is a possible reason for them being in his house. Another possibility is that there was a lot of moisture in his attic, perhaps some sort of a leak. The scuds could have been searching for a moist and warm environment and found it. No matter how they got there, they are nothing to worry about. These bugs are harmless detritivores that feed on tiny bits of organic matter and will do no damage inside your home. In fact, once they’re in there, they will probably just die from dehydration and will have been no more than a slight nuisance. So if you ever find anything resembling a huge flea, or small shrimp you can rest easy!

Thanks for the e-mail, Mike!

If you ever need help identifying a weird bug you’ve found, please snap a quick, but clear photo of it and send it into We will do our best to identify it for you quickly and your photo can be featured on our blog.  Who knows, maybe it will help out someone else trying to identify the same thing. You are also welcome to bring it in! Until next time, happy bug watching!

Erin M
Authored By Erin M Mills

Erin Mills received her undergraduate degree in Entomology from Texas A&M University in 2004, and after a short tour of the pest control industry, joined HMNS as the Cockrell Butterfly Center's Insect Zoo Manager in 2005. Over the years she expanded the butterfly center's live arthropod collection, developed the ever popular "Bugs on Wheels" outreach program, and continued to establish her role as HMNS's insect expert. In October of 2016, she achieved her long time goal of becoming Director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. She is constantly striving to improve the butterfly center and how it serves and educates the public about the wonderful and amazing world of insects! As a Board Certified Entomologist, Erin has extensive knowledge of insect identification, ecology, plant relationships, husbandry, really any insect-related topic!

5 responses to “Photo from You: Insect Identification”

  1. marijke says:

    i have found these ‘giant fleas’ dead on the floor in my house and have been trying to find out what they are. i stumbled across this website and found the answer – thank you! i can relax now, knowing thely are harmless.

  2. Deborah Zandi says:

    Hi, I was wondering if you can help us identify this insect? It doesn’t have to be specific – just generally, what it is? Thanking you in advance for your time.

    Here is a .jpg of the insect: insect.jpg

  3. Erin F says:

    Hi Deborah, Thanks for sending in your photo! Unfortunately the clarity and the fact that it’s just a part of the insect prevent us from making a good ID. Do you have another photo of the entire insect that you can send in? If so, please email it to

  4. Randy says:

    This was super helpful. THANK YOU

  5. Lis says:


    I thought my cat had giant fleas! I couldn’t work out why there were do many laying dead on my kitchen floor! I have a leak under my back door and its been very rainy the last few weeks, so this must explain their presence!

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