Cooler Weather Brings Home Invaders
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As the weather gets cooler, some insects are looking for a place to shelter until spring. The three most notorious home invaders are lady beetles, stink bugs, and kudzu bugs. Boxelder bugs can be a serious home invaders, too. However, the best way to control boxelder bugs is with a chainsaw. Use the chainsaw to cut down any boxelder trees near your home. This is a long-term solution to boxelder bug problems.
Lady beetles or ladybugs (officially called multicolored Asian lady beetles) invade homes in the fall. These insects were imported to reduce aphid populations in pecan orchards in the Gulf states. In their native habitat, ladybugs overwinter on cliffsides. In Caldwell County, these insects have adapted to higher-class accommodations. They use our homes as a replacement for their native cliffs. Lady bugs, like other home-invading insects, do not eat or reproduce or do anything. They simply need a place to hang out until favorable weather returns in the spring.
Lady bugs are beneficial when they are in the garden devouring aphids. However, when they invade homes, they are a pest. Most pests can be controlled with a pesticide. However, when these insects get in your home, the best course of action is to vacuum them up. Applying an insecticide may kill some of them, but you will still need to vacuum them up. I have found a vacuum will suck up a live insect just as well as a dead one. And avoiding using insecticides in your home will keep you safer.
Stink bugs and kudzu bugs also invade homes. The brown marmorated stink bug is the specific stink bug to which I’m referring. These two insects first appeared in Caldwell County in 2013. Both these insects are native to Asia (like the lady beetle), and both like to overwinter just like lady beetles. All three of these insects like to use our homes for their shelter in the winter.
Besides being from Asia and using our home for shelter, these insects have another similar trait. They stink! When crushed or startled, they all have an unpleasant odor. The ladybug also leaves little deposits, but I’ve not seen kudzu bugs or stink bugs do this.
If you have first-hand experience with these insects, you know how horrible they are. They fly around your home throughout the winter. You find them crawling around in your home. They land on your forehead at night while you sleep. They are horrible. Once these insects are in your home, they are there until spring. There is very little to be done. Basically, just vacuum them up when you find them. And try not to crush them so they will stink less than if you crush them. Empty the vacuum cleaner bag so the vacuum will not smell like these bugs every time you turn it on.
The key to these home-invading bugs is to start the control process before they get into your home. Keeping these insects on the outside of your home is the way to control them. Seal up any crack or crevice you can find. Don’t make it easy for them to get indoors.
If that is not enough, a barrier insecticide application is an option. Be careful using insecticides because some can damage paint and vinyl. Also remember that these products are intended to kill insects, but they will kill people if used improperly. Always, always, always read and follow the pesticide label. Reading the label is the best way to control the pest and keep yourself safe.
The timing of a barrier spray is tricky. Too early, and the insecticide breaks down and will not be effective. Too late, and these insects are already in your home. To get the timing right, gather all you need to make an application (which includes reading the pesticide label directions). Treat when these insects make an appearance in mass on the sunny side of your house. This typically happens in early to mid-October when we start having a few days of cool temperatures. Hiring a professional is always a good choice if you do not have the skill or equipment to properly apply an insecticide.
Seth Nagy is the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center director and serves as the county livestock and field crops agent. N.C. Cooperative Extension provides county residents easy access to resources at N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University through educational programs and publications.