When it’s cold and gloomy outside, don’t think the bugs are dying outside in the cold. Some are living and feasting quite comfortably in the warmth of your home. Homeowners are often bothered by these critters during late winter and early spring. Some insects survive the winter by finding a safe, warm place to dwell for the colder seasons. Here’s a helpful roundup of the most common winter bugs you should look for in late winter season.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs
Brown marmorated stink bugs are not dangerous insects, but they are a nuisance if living in your home. They do not have the physical capacity to sting or bite humans or other predators. They rely on their only defense, their ability to release strong pungent odor (similar to a skunk). Brown marmorated stink bugs release a chemical called an aggregation pheromone, a scent that attracts other brown marmorated stink bugs, but repels predators. You may not notice them until they come into your home as the weather turns colder. When they accept your hospitality you will know it; they are large, travel in large groups, and fly rather than crawl. The good news is they are not known to cause any structural or cosmetic damage to homes. They are simply looking for a place to spend the winter and hibernate until warm temperatures return. In the spring they will resurface, ravenous, and ready to leave and get outside to feed on plants. They usually enter all types of residential buildings such as homes, apartments, condominiums, office buildings, etc. Aside from being a nuisance to homeowners the potential exists for the brown marmorated stink bug to become a significant agricultural pest in the east.
Paper wasps are the most common wasps seen around homes and buildings. Paper wasps actually make paper out of paper they produce, hence their name. These umbrella shaped nests are built in protected locations including in shrubs, on tree branches, on porch ceilings, window and door frames, roof overhangs, attic rafters, and under decks, joists or railings. They like heights and tend to prefer high assemblies, such as attics, chimneys and tall buildings. During the colder seasons, paper wasp queens may join together in large groups and overwinter in all types of structures. Though paper wasps do not readily attack people, they will sting if they feel threatened.
Cluster flies, another group of winter guests, are large and robust flies. Unlike house flies, their wings overlap when they are at rest. At first glance, you may mistake them for house flies, but they are bigger, darker and slower. Homes surrounded by lawns are more susceptible to a cluster flies infestation. Clustering flies can enter your home through the tiniest cracks, or any other small unsealed opening. The name cluster fly is used because they tend to gather in clusters after entering a house in the fall. They aren’t dangerous insects, but they are a nuisance because they leave stains in your home. They sometimes give off a sickly, sweetish odor if bothered. You would find cluster flies in secluded areas such as holes in the walls, attics, closets, voids, and empty rooms. Be careful not to kill them before finding and removing the nest, dead flies attracts more insects. If they die within the walls, other predators will migrate into your home.
Photo credit: Steve Jacobs, PSU Entamology
Clover mites are very tiny arachnids that live and reproduce outdoors, but become household pests in the early spring when they migrate into residences. They are only 1/64th inch long, soft, oval, and flattened from top to bottom. They vary in color from rusty brown to dark red. They are easily distinguished by their very long pair of front legs that extend forward like antennae as the mites crawl. Clover mites are harmless as they cannot bite or sting, they do not infest stored foods, they cannot attack the house structure and furnishings, so what’s the issue? They migrate into homes large numbers, often covering walls, furniture, closets, and clothing. Clover mites, when squished, will leave a noticeable reddish stain on any surface. Other than that, which admittedly is pretty bad, they are a nuisance only by their presence.
While all of these insects are active year-round, fall and winter are when they move indoors. Perfectly understandable; where would you want to be, outside freezing or inside and warm and cozy? None of these bugs pose a health or property risk to homeowners but they can all become a serious nuisance around the home. Like other pests, including ants and termites, they often enter structures in large numbers making them difficult pests to control once inside. As a result, homeowners should look for simple ways to ward off these invaders before an infestation develops.
Here are some tips on prevention to get ready for bug season.
- Seal off entry points- Inspect the outside of your home for easy access points, if you can find it so can the pests.
- Repair- It is imperative to repair damaged screens on windows or doors, and seal any cracks around the windows and doors.
- Reduce moisture sites- Eliminate all moisture build-up around your home. Check for leaking pipes and clogged drains. Pests love moisture almost as much as warmth.
- Eliminate food sources- Store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly. Keep pests hungry, wipe down counters and sweep floors to eliminate crumbs and residue.
- Check your belongings- Inspect items such as boxes containing holiday decorations and grocery bags before bringing them indoors.
- Properly landscape: Keep branches and shrubbery well-trimmed. Make sure to store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off the ground.
Remember that if you suspect an infestation has already developed, don’t try to solve it on your own, contact your Truly Nolen Lexington pest professional to save both time and money.
Homes can be pre-treated for bugs before they become a problem. Truly Nolen offers barrier treatments to protect your home and help you get ready for the winter bug season. The barrier treatment approach is an outside treatment that protects your home from winter bugs as well as many other bugs trying to get in, including millipedes and ants. Additionally, year-round protection for homes can be achieved by implementing Truly Nolen’s Four Seasons pest management program: an affordable, responsible, and effective solution to ensure that you are Truly Protected.