Insects That Aren’t Paying Rent
By Chris Williams on January 25, 2011.
Even with up to two feet of new snow that has just fallen on some parts of New England, trust me we are marching toward spring. You may have already noticed, (it’s subtle) but the days are getting longer. The increasingly stronger sun warming your home will cause over-wintering insects to start to ‘wake up’. I had mentioned this phenomenon before in another article as it relates to carpenter ants, but it also applies to other insects as well that aren’t paying rent!
Whenever I write one of these articles, I’m reminded that I’m getting ‘up there’ in age so please bear with me as I take another trip down memory lane. There were not even a handful of nuisance insects to be concerned about over wintering in homes when I was an entomology student and that I observed early on in my pest control career. I’d regularly treat homes for Northern Paper wasps, Cluster flies and occasionally for Clover mites, and Boxelder bugs. That was pretty much it back then, but fast forward thirty years and things are much more interesting. The global economy has made the world a smaller place with many new and invasive insect species now becoming well established in the US. There is even a native species of leaf-footed bug previously only found in the western US that is now very common in the eastern half of the country. You may have seen these slow-moving oddly shaped bugs crawling on buildings in the early fall. The Western conifer seed bug may have arrived in the east by natural migration, or it may have accidentally been introduced from the west on live Christmas trees by the nursery industry. Either way, these bugs will seek out entry points to homes during the fall. Although they do not bite, they give off a very unpleasant odor if handled or crushed.
The Asian Lady beetle is probably the most common one we receive calls about from home, and business owners alike during the fall when they enter buildings seeking shelter for the winter months. They were first observed invading homes around twenty years ago. Outdoors, the Asian lady beetle (like other lady beetles) is regarded as a beneficial predator of aphids and other plant pests.
(They do a great job in my orchard!) But, with large numbers of them indoors, they give off an unpleasant odor, can cause staining to fabrics, and are now thought to be a trigger for those who suffer with asthma.
Another newcomer from Asia that will invade homes, but is really an agricultural pest (a potentially serious one at that) is the brown marmorated stinkbug. Large numbers of these were reported to be invading homes from surrounding orchards and other farmland this past fall in the suburban areas surrounding Washington DC. According to the UMass Extension Landscape Message (Nov, 5, 2010) they are not in New England yet but with no natural enemies to keep them in check, they probably will be here soon.
The last invasive species I’ll mention does not invade homes, but still can be devastating to homeowners. I’m talking about the Asian Long horned beetle. This beetle is a serious pest of hardwood trees in its native country China. With no natural enemies here in the US, ALB has the potential to cause unimaginable damage to our native hardwood species. Outbreaks have occurred in NYC, Chicago, Toronto, and most recently in greater Worcester county resulting in the necessary destruction of thousands of trees to help combat the infestation’s spread. There is now plenty of web-based information with links and high quality images concerning this insect. (http://www.uvm.edu/albeetle/)
Homeowners can take steps to prevent their homes from becoming a winter haven for most of these squatters by properly installing door sweeps on exterior doors, caulking cracks around window and door frames, and having good fitting door and window screens. Sealing any openings where pipes, and utility wires enter the structure can block out insects and rodents too. Sealing or repairing damaged trim boards will help block wasps and possibly bats as well. Now while these procedures are worthwhile and effective at reducing pests from entering the structure, some types of home construction (especially vinyl clad homes) homeowners really need to supplement these efforts with a professional exterior insecticide treatment applied early in the fall.