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Home-Invading Seed Bugs Can Damage Plumbing

By Chris Williams on December 16, 2015.

One of our common fall-invading insects is the western conifer seed bug. It’s a tree-feeding insect that likes to move into homes when the weather gets cool in the fall. Once inside, the bugs go into hiding in wall voids or cracks and crevices and may not be seen again until spring. Most of us could live with that, and might be willing to let the seed bugs do their thing except for the fact that there is some evidence that these bugs can damage plumbing pipes in your home.

Western Conifer Seed Bugs Move Indoors in Fall

We used to say that the seed bugs don’t bite or sting or damage anything in your home. Now we have to say that with reservations. There have been reports of leaking plastic tubing in homes that also have overwintering infestations of the western conifer seed bug. Microscopic holes were found in cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) flexible tubing that is used in plumbing and radiant heating systems. Tubing in areas of the homes without seed bugs was not damaged.

Seed bugs have beak-like mouthparts that they use to puncture and feed on seeds. The diameter of the holes in the plastic tubing matched the diameter of the bugs’ mouthparts. Laboratory tests with the western conifer seed bug and PEX tubing found that most of the time the bugs probed the tubing with their mouthparts, leaving surface holes that did not go through. However, some holes did penetrate, proving that the bugs were capable of damaging the tubing.

The probing of the tubing seems to be just random sampling; the bugs were not motivated by hunger or thirst. Whether a home has damage from the bugs depends on the number of overwintering seed bugs present, the environmental conditions, and the activity level of the bugs.

Fall-Invading Insects Are Not Welcome Guests

Theoretically, other overwintering bugs that also have piercing mouthparts like boxelder bugs or stink bugs could cause the same kind of damage. Maybe these fall invaders are no longer just nuisance pests. Give Colonial Pest a call if you are sharing your home with fall-invading insects (see Why Are There Plant Bugs in My House?)

For more on the western conifer seed bug in homes, check out these blogs:

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