February 4, 2013

Season brings some unwelcome houseguests

One of the good things about winter is that we don’t have insects bothering us. It’s too cold for most of the insects that hover, bite, buzz, annoy or — in some fashion — bug us during the rest of the year. 

Have you wondered where they go? I know it seems like “first you see them, then you don’t,” but it’s a gradual process that occurs as the temperatures get colder and the days get shorter. Different insects have developed different ways to cope. 

Some insects migrate. The most well-known migrator is the monarch butterfly.

The monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains leave when the days get shorter and the temperatures drop and head south to central Mexico. Those monarchs west of the Rockies head for California.

Some insects spend the winter as larvae in leaf litter or other shelter, nymphs in water under the ice or as pupae attached to a food plant. Some insects overwinter as adults. They may be sheltering in tree holes, under the soil, in or under fallen logs, in your firewood or in your house or garage. Yes, you read that right: You may have insects spending the winter in your home.

Several of you have recently called the office about these unwelcome houseguests. The culprits you are most likely to find inside are Asian ladybird beetles, commonly known as ladybugs, and box-elder bugs.

Both of these insects congregate in large numbers during the fall on warm structures like walls or patios as they attempt to locate a suitable place to spend the winter. If yours was one of the lucky homes they chose, they may have gone under the siding of your house, in your garage or in your woodpile. As temperatures warm, as when you turn the heat on or the sun hits the window, they may become active. 

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