Bugging Out in the Fall

When people think of fall, most people think about the leaves changing colors, cooler temperatures, and all things pumpkin spice. When I think of fall, I think of all the bugs that make their presence known when temperatures and leaves start to drop. After a summer of warding off the threats of biting and stinging insects, you might let your guard down during this time of year, however, if you aren’t a fan of having 6 legged visitors in your house, it would be a good idea to do what you can to prevent some of the following common invaders from finding their way into your home.

One of the most prevalent home invading insects, and one that you may have already had problems with this year is stink bugs, specifically the brown marmorated stink bug. Per their name, it is best not to go after these with the fly swatter when spotted due to the unfriendly aroma that is released when threatened or crushed. As temperatures drop, the stink bugs begin to look for shelter indoors and seemingly are able to find even the smallest entry point into the home and make their way through the house via ducts, crawl spaces and other openings.

Another bug, which is sometimes confused for the stink bug is the Western conifer seed bug (WCSB). The Western Conifer seed bug is in a family of true bugs known as the “leaf-footed bugs”. The WCSB is a larger insect than the stink bug, overall lighter in color, with a longer body and enlarged femora on their hind legs. These bugs, as well as stink bugs, can often be heard before they are seen. Both of these insects produce a loud buzzing noise when they are in flight, and are not necessarily the most graceful at landing, when often the buzzing cuts off with an abrupt thud as they glance off of a window or lamp shade.

An additional true bug species that is commonly found in the fall hanging out on the exterior of homes and buildings is the boxelder bug. This species is found commonly on or around boxelder, ash, and maple trees. The appearance of the insect is mostly black or dark brown, with red “veins” appearing on the wings and abdomen, often forming a red “V” on the back of the insect. Throughout the summer, you may occasionally find them in your yard and garden, but once the season changes, they begin to seek for a place to over winter and may cluster on homes, warming in the sun and seeking a point of entry. Should a few find their way in, they are fairly quite in the house, mostly keeping to themselves behind walls and siding.

The multicolored Asian lady beetle is another common fall invader and may be the most annoying of them all. They can bite (more of a pinch), have a putrid smell and stains if crushed or threatened and are always active and in the way, unlike the boxelder bug. Adults vary in color from bright orange to a dull yellow or pale color, and they may have full dark spots, some spots, or no spots. These beetles are not the same as our native lady beetle species and are not a protected species.

There are several other insects like cluster flies, grain beetles, Indian meal moths, and other creatures like centipedes and silverfish that can be found in and around homes and buildings in the fall and winter. The most important step in managing these pests from entering the home is prevention.

All it takes to allow for these bugs, beetles, and other pests to get in is a small crack or crevice under a window, along a roofline, or behind the siding. A common point of entry in newer homes is via loose vinyl panels used for siding and loose soffit panels. When insects enter via the soffits, it is very easy for them to find their way into the attic, progressively finding their way through the wall cavities and eventually making their way into open living spaces. The drawback with vinyl panels is that they are hung with some spaces to account for expansion in the heat, however, this creates a challenge when attempting to prevent bugs from invading in the fall. Where you are able, make sure that cracks and holes on the exterior are sealed. While there are some cases where insecticide applications are warranted and effective, they can be costly and, in most cases, will not completely control the insects.

The other challenge in managing insects in the fall around your home is that first thing in the fall, while temperatures are still dropping and before we start in on really heating the house, the insects will be relatively inactive. It really isn’t until we turn the thermostat up and the furnace kicks on that we see major activity from the insects. Once the heat turns on, the insects may perceive this falsely as springtime and become active and are in search of food and water. Due to this, it is best to keep all food sealed, remove garbage, and prevent excess moisture, all in an effort to remove potential food and water sources.

Using a vacuum to remove insects can be an option, however, keep in mind that many of these bugs and beetles can produce a nasty smell and if you use the vacuum, either empty it quickly after use, or have one dedicated to insect removal.

Try as we might to keep the insects out, seemingly there will always be a few who find their way in. The positive thing about these insects is that none of them are a concern with regards to potential for structural damage to the home. Most of them do not bite, do not cause damage to structural or cosmetic features in the home and do not lay eggs or reproduce while inside. Regardless of the harmlessness of many of these pests, it is still an annoyance to share a living space with them, and gives us another household chore to deal with, year in and year out.

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