Stink bugs, lady beetles, box elder bugs, and other insects invade homes in autumn and winter and often become nuisance pests. Is your property is attracting the insects and beckoning the bugs inside? Here are three home features that overwintering bugs find irresistible.
1. Nearby Plants
Do you have a large vegetable garden in the backyard or a tea-rose display in the front yard? Plants including garden vegetables and roses attract both native and Asian lady beetles. In spring, summer, and early autumn, the lady beetles provide a valuable service by gobbling up sap-sucking aphids from veggie and flower plants.
In winter, the native lady beetles find some loose tree bark or leaf litter and wait out the frigid temperatures together in a big pile. Unlike the native lady beetles, Asian lady beetles can’t cope with frigid Midwest and Northern winters, so they look for places to burrow into your home. If you have a garden or ornamental flowers, expect onslaughts of the bugs in your home in autumn.
Do you have box elder trees on your property? Box elder bugs adore box elder trees, so look for the sporty black and red beetles to enter your home if you have box elder trees on your property. Even if you don’t have any box elder trees, you may see invasions of the bugs from nearby plantings. Box elder bugs look for dry, sheltered spaces in attics and walls so they can stay warm in winter.
If you have evergreen trees on your property that are old enough to make cones, expect indoor invasions of the western conifer seed bug. These insects look like elongated gray stink bugs with extra thick hind legs. The western conifer seed bugs hide behind loose vinyl siding and up in attics, and they can deliver painful bites.
2. Dark or Light Surfaces
In winter, many insects enter a period called diapause. The beetles and bugs don’t breed or feed but find protected spaces where they congregate for winter. A pile of Asian lady beetles or stink bugs can stay warmer together rather than trying to brave the cold months individually.
Most home-invading insects don’t want to be in your too-warm heated spaces. They don’t want to eat your food or the framing of your home. They want to be out of the wind and the precipitation. So they take up residence in your unheated attic and wall cavities where the temperatures are cool but not frigid and there are no harsh snowdrifts or gales to deal with.
In the wild, stink bugs look for dark surfaces like tree trunks when searching for diapause-friendly spots. Asian lady beetles nest in tree crevices and cliffs in their native habitat. Lady beetles prefer the sunny side of things and are attracted to surfaces with contrasting light and dark surfaces.
To overwintering bugs, dark siding looks like a tree trunk. White houses with dark shutters resemble a cliff face. Open garage door appears to be the entrance to a cave.
If nothing stops a misguided bug from entering your home, that bug will leave a pungent signal in the form of pheromones. As more bugs arrive to check out the welcome scent, each one spreads pheromones all over the dark or bright spot to let passing bugs know where to hang out with the local beetle crowd for winter.
3. Cracks and Crevices
Insects seeking winter shelter will mingle and search around your external walls until they find a way inside. You can make it really easy for Asian lady beetles and stink bugs to come inside your home if you don’t caulk and seal your home.
To a bug searching for shelter, that big vertical gap next to your window frame looks like a cozy crevice in a tree trunk. The cracks in the disintegrating caulk over the front door look like safe holes in the side of a rocky cliff. That opening where the dryer duct vents outside looks like a safe tree-root hole next to a creek bank.
If you want to prevent the autumn and winter entry of most bugs into your home, invest in caulk, backer rod, and other barrier products to seal the insects out. Use caulk, backer rods, and sealants on gaps, cracks, and holes. Use hard metal flashing around open roof joints, and apply fine-mesh cloth over drains, vents, and other larger openings.
Seal around electrical outlet boxes, switches, and light fixture mounts. If you suspect the bugs are already in your walls, rest assured that the bugs will leave when the days grow longer and the temperatures grow warmer. Contact your pest control company if overwintering bug populations grow huge or become nuisance pests inside your living spaces.
If your Chicago-area home’s been invaded by messy, smelly, or ugly bugs this winter, contact Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management. We’ll identify the pest for you and recommend effective, eco-friendly prevention and treatment methods for your home and property.