After Lunar New Year and spells of chilly rain comes a solar term to strike fear into the hearts of many a Hongkonger: the “Awakening of Insects”. It’s exactly what it sounds like: the weather heats up, humidity creeps in, and the bugs, stirring from their slumber, begin to crawl out of the woodwork.

But even during the rest of the year, there’s no escaping critters thanks to Hong Kong’s subtropical climate. And with large swathes of the territory preserved as country parks and nature reserves, the S.A.R. boasts some 7,000+ species of insects (and counting).

So, which bugs are you likely to encounter within your Hong Kong home? Put the bathroom slipper down, and read ahead.

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Villain-hitting is a particularly popular ritual during the Awakening of Insects, which usually falls in the beginning of March. | Photo by AN


Fragrant Harbour? More like ‘Roach City. Though especially ubiquitous from May to August, it’s all too common to see cockroaches scuttling about after sundown, or smashed into pavements like pressed flowers by day. The most common kind in highly urbanised areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon is the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana). It is larger and you are more likely to see it alone than German cockroaches (Blatella germanica), which tend to prefer the airier environs of the New Territories and are found in swarms (another collective noun is, fittingly, “an intrusion”). Either way, these notorious vectors of disease are hardly a welcome sight.

Ameican Cockroach
“Why howdy!, mind if I make myself at home?” | Photo by Getty Images

“These are animals which are very adapted to our urban environment,” says Robert Ferguson, author of The Bugs of Hong Kong, “They like moist and humid areas, and live behind your fridge and in cupboards.”

How to deal with them

The remedy? “Prevention is best, so if you keep your home clean and tidy, they’re much less likely to be there,” says Ferguson. Short-term solutions include bait traps or foggers, easily available at stores like JHC, Wellcome, and ParknShop. However, make sure to use only one or the other because they rely on different mechanisms: bait traps attract and then incapacitate roaches, while foggers will at least temporarily deter roaches from entering the area.

If you swear you’re keeping your apartment pristine and still spot cockroaches, they may be originating from elsewhere in the building and you’ll need to ring up the professionals. Top pest control services include Rentokil and BioCycle.


They’re as big as this | Photo by Getty Images

Venture out to live on one of the outlying islands (think Lamma or Mui Wo) or rural areas in the New Territories, and you’re likely to confront the giant centipede (Scolopendra gigantea) at some point. Growing up to 13 centimetres long and fast-moving, these many-legged (21, to be precise) bugs inspire nightmares. They do, however, serve a noble purpose: population control. They chomp down on cockroaches, flies, moths, and crickets.

“Centipedes are not generally aggressive,” assures Ferguson, “but there is a chance you might roll over in your sleep onto one, causing it to bite.”

According to the Hong Kong Medical Journal, bites occur most frequently in the months following peak summer, in dark indoor settings, and on the lower limbs. They can be excruciating, but prove benign in most cases and respond well to topical steroids. Without immediate treatment, bites can be fatal for babies or those with allergies. (Thankfully, healthcare in Hong Kong is top-notch.)

How to deal with them

If you suspect there’s a centipede in your bed, strip off the sheets and shake everything out. At night, spray some insecticide under the bed and set a mosquito coil burning. Shake your shoes out before you put them on. You can also spray outside your doors every few days, and into the drains.


Here’s the truth: we don’t know very much about ants. But ants are one of the most diverse and ecologically important species on planet Earth! So too is the case in Hong Kong where ant species, particularly of the Tapinoma genus, thrive in the warm and wet conditions. Researchers discovered over a dozen new species in the city as recently as 2019.

According to Professor Benoit Guénard from the School of Biological Sciences of the University of Hong Kong, keeping ants at bay is simple. “Sorry to disappoint some, but they (ants) actually do not visit your cozy accommodation, but only seek to find resources that they could consume,” he says, “If you want them to go away, it’s easy: make sure to keep a clean place with food well-sealed.”

How to deal with them

As always, prevention is the best remedy. Sugary foods like jams and syrups should be kept in airtight containers, and crumbs quickly swept up. You can also purchase epoxy online to fill in cracks and seal off any entrances.

Professor Guénard, who serves as the Director of the Hong Kong Biodiversity Museum, warns against calling in pest control services, some of which use toxins hazardous to humans and pets. “I recommend people to ask themselves if they prefer to have a few more tiny roommates or nasty chemicals that can impact your health and your loved ones.”

The butterfly collection at HKU Biodiversity Museum | Photo by AN


Beetles constitute a quarter of all life forms on Earth. Globally, there are about 400,000 varieties, while in Hong Kong it’s possible to find roughly 10,000 species. So, why is the city such a beetle hotspot? Blame our hospitable warm weather and endlessly lush landscapes, from mangroves to mountains.

That being said, you don’t want your home to turn into a beetle hotspot, too. Tiny beetles known as weevils could land up in your rice, nuts, or other dry pantry items. “They are very small,” says Ferguson, “and you may not realise that they are in your house at all.” Great.

How to deal with them

So you open up a bag of flour and find it crawling with weevils. Luckily, there’s a relatively easy fix: throw out contaminated food if you prefer, or pop it in the freezer for a few days to kill any live organisms and eggs (which you will need to fish out yourself or could choose to consume as extra protein). Make sure to clean your pantry, and place any remaining dry foods in airtight containers.


“This is my house now” | Photo by Getty Images

Humans may have evolved to fear spiders, but they are arguably the most pet-worthy on this list. While small house spiders may deliver jump-scares, they are harmless and even helpful: these eight-legged carnivores feed on flies, cockroaches, earwigs, mosquitoes, fleas, moths, and ants.

Huntsman spiders, known for being large, brown, fluffy and famously uninterested in spinning webs, are also a common sight. The presence of one could indicate that you’re playing host to other pests, which may be greater cause for alarm than the spider itself.

Besides, as Ferguson reminds us, you’re likely never more than 10 feet away from a spider. This is especially true if you’re out hiking in the great outdoors!

How to deal with them

Spiders are generally more interested in other critters around your home than in you. As mentioned before, a thorough spring cleaning goes a long way. At times spiders may be drawn to vegetation, so check on your plants and move them to a more favourable location if you can.


Come warmer weather (most of the year), mosquitoes will descend upon your home. Fortunately, according to the Center for Health Protection, local cases of malaria have been rare since the 1970s. In fact, back in the 1930s, the government set up a dedicated Malaria Bureau. During the Second World War, bombings left craters that pooled with water, so planes with insecticide and teams of workers with spray cans strapped to their backs spread out through the territory to control the mosquito population. (For the morbidly curious, the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, one of the city’s quirkiest museums, talks about this history.)

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, Mid Levels, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, Mid Levels, Hong Kong | Photo by

Today, dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis are more common here.

How to deal with them

Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department recommends clearing all stagnant water, as mosquitoes need still water to lay their eggs. Air conditioner drip trays should be free of stagnant water, and saucers under potted plants cleaned regularly. Mosquito spray and patches can be conveniently purchased at supermarkets as well as pharmacies such as Watson’s and Mannings.

Bugs of tomorrow

Hong Kong is a hive of activity. Temperatures continue to rise. The city encroaches upon nature at an ever rapid pace. Biological invasions, or non-native species introduced through trade, are a tangible reality in our bustling port city (thanks again, capitalism).

So, what new bugs might invade our homes in the future, seeking (justified) revenge?

“For years, I have been concerned about a species known as the Little Fire Ant or Electric Ant in some regions (Wasmannia auropunctata). This species is about two milimetres long but develop populous colonies that invade many different types of habitats, either within natural or disturbed areas,” says Professor Guénard.

“In some countries of Africa, it has displaced entire herds of elephants or large cats as it stings them, especially around their eyes. In several Pacific Islands, farmers have abandoned their cultures as they were unable to use those crops after being stung continuously, while pets like cats and dogs become blind in just a few years after being stung on their eyes.”

How about closer to home? In 2022, scientists detected the species in both Taiwan and Guangdong, roughly 200 kilometres from Hong Kong.

“This is one of the most serious threats at this point, and one that should be taken very seriously by the government,” Professor Guénard asserts, “If you have already being stung by the fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), another exotic species, then you certainly do not want to encounter the Electric Ant.”

Hmm… grim stuff. The upside: new and more butterflies! See them at the Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve, Tai Po Kau and Kadoorie Farm.

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