Fall Bugs and How to Get Rid of Them
Let’s face it. Like people, bugs like to stay warm. That’s fine as long as they’re burrowing under leaves, trees, or out in your yard where you don’t see them. But why must they insist on coming indoors, squeezing under the siding, or finding the tiniest of holes in our attic, garage and house in which to let themselves in, uninvited?
via Tom Murphy VII/Wikimedia Commons
The simple answer is, our warm homes attract bugs in the fall like porch lights attract moths. The most common bugs homeowners see in the fall are:
Boxelder bugs are harmless to people. There’s no stinging or biting, but if you crush them, like most fall bugs, they will tend to stink. They also tend to leave fecal stains on your walls, drapes or wherever they lite. Boxelder bugs frighten people because they just tend to appear in large numbers inside of homes, or outside, in garages, attics – anywhere they can find warmth.
“Prevention is the key to getting rid of boxelder bugs,” Chelle Hartzer, an entomologist and Orkin pest expert said. “Spray the exterior walls of your home in the fall with a residual insecticide to stop them from over-wintering. If you treat your home in the summer you have the best chance to control the immature stages of boxelder bugs. Ideally spray twice, once in the spring-early summer months when they emerge and once in the fall when they seek shelter.”
Asian multicolored lady beetles
Lady beetles, or “ladybugs,” are less threatening than most of the fall bugs homeowners see, but in the quantities they appear in, they can still be intimidating. They invade homes in large numbers, often gathering on windowsills and in basement window casements. They don’t sting, bite or otherwise prove a threat to homeowners, but they can be difficult to eliminate, especially when they have such great lust for garden pests in the spring. Perhaps more annoying than other bugs, you don’t have to crush these beetles for them to stink. If they even feel threatened – they react by “reflex bleeding.” This means the beetle releases an orange fluid called “hemolymph” through their leg joints. The orange fluid stains, and stinks.
The Asian multicolored lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis, is easy to identify from its false “eyes” — twin white football-shaped markings behind the head.
Brown marmorated stink bugs
via Mike Lewinski
Stink bugs are called “stink bugs” because they stink. And the brown marmorated stink bug stinks more than most. They don’t bite or sting, but they do love to take up residence and winter in your home.
These are one of the most repulsive insects homeowners find infesting their homes in the fall. Like other fall bugs, they are found in groups, thus the name “cluster flies.” Unlike small green bottle flies or the common house fly, these flies are big, black, hairy and ugly. They don’t sting or bite, but they do transmit disease and in the right quantities can make you feel like your house is turning into a horror movie set like The Amityville Horror as they cluster and swarm on interior walls.
No, you’re not imagining things: spiders are more prolific in the fall. “If you’re seeing a lot more spiders around, you’re not alone,” Hartzer said. “Many spiders are looking for a nice safe, warm place to spend the winter. They’re fond of subfloor air vents and upper corners of rooms and attics. Your pest management professional can conduct an inspection and a create a comprehensive control plan based on the spiders found.”
Unlike bugs, spiders are looking for mates, not warmth, although they like a warm house too. After all, with all those bugs there, it’s a buffet for them, the other reason you see so many of them: they’re hunting. After mating spiders will “overwinter,” or lie dormant. Different spiders follow different patterns, but most seek refuge in your home to survive the winter.
How to Get Rid of Unwanted Bugs in Your Home
“Stop them before they invade,” says Hartzer. “Many bugs enter through open, poorly screened windows and doors and through cracks and gaps around door and window frames. Homeowners should inspect their doors and windows to ensure they have good seals around the edges. Make sure to clean up any food sources that insect may be attracted to like open trash bins or leftover dishes in the sink.”
Check your house for gaps and holes before bugs start showing up. Mice only need a hole as small as a quarter of an inch to get inside your home, and bugs need even less space. If you have a dog or pet door, now is the time to check the rubber fittings and make sure other critters aren’t gaining access as well. Garage doors, basement windows, and chimneys are places homeowners rarely think to check.
A good place to start excluding bugs is with your exterior doors. Do you notice light or outside air seeping in from under the door? It might be time to replace that threshold. Walk the perimeter of your house and check for cracks and holes in your home’s exterior.
“Keep your home’s roof and perimeter free of debris, like leaves and limbs,” Hartzer continues. “Pests thrive in dense vegetation, so if you have flowers and shrubs around the home, keep them at least two feet away from your home’s exterior. Trim your hedges before winter. If you have branches and leaves fall on your roof, clean them off as quickly as possible because they’re how pests get inside your home.”
Now that you know what they are, and that these unwanted bugs only pose an odorous threat, not a physical one, how do you get rid of them? The best tool for the job is right in your closet or garage.
AA vacuum cleaner is the best way to get rid of most of these bugs,” advises Hartzer. “Vacuuming is a good way to dispose of insects in your home. Once they’re vacuumed up, remove the material from the vacuum, place in a sealed plastic bag and throw it away.”
Hartzer also advises that “developing a good pest management plan before pests invade this winter is much easier than solving a problem after they move in.” For more information on bug prevention, cleanup, and disposal contact your local county extension office or a pest control expert near you.