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Over the Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Bugs are Making Themselves Known

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Warmer temperatures this past week have brought out a variety of insects that would have otherwise stayed hidden. Visits to our Extension offices, photos sent by email, and phone calls have been constant.

At the top of the list are stink bugs, also known as squash bugs if you are a gardener. There are several dozen versions around the area, nearly all of them sap feeding. Nearly all are native with one exception – the Marmorated Stink Bug. In recent years, it has shown up and it is quite destructive, feeding on our fruits and vegetables. Stink bugs apparently are not "heavy sleepers" when it comes to hibernating for the winter. Stink bugs have mouthparts that prevent them from biting, so there is no concern there. They are somewhat sluggish right now and without their normal outside food, they soon die. No sprays needed.

Another bug that normally shows up in the spring are very tiny bugs called Springtails. We can easily spot them because, when conditions are right, there will be hundreds of them gathered floating on the surface of water. Homeowners are finding them in great numbers where there is moisture and high humidity. For example, you may see them in open bowls of water for the pets, in bathrooms and around floor drains. A cool, high humidity floor works too. They are very interesting to watch move, as the back portion of their bodies is tucked up underneath the rest of the body. They use that "tail" to propel themselves up and forward. Springtails cannot bite either. Change their preferred environment, and they disappear. For example, emptying the pet bowl, cleaning it and refilling it, or pouring a bleach-water mix down the floor drain. In other areas, increase air circulation to lower the humidity.

Along with the identification of these insects comes the question of: "Are there more than usual this year?" The short answer is: "Not likely." So why are so many showing up inside the home? We had such a long, protracted fall (remember the grass was still green in December), that these insects had a lot longer to wander and find places to hide for the winter, including the cracks and crevices found in every home. Once inside the wall, they would have migrated towards the warm side before finally settling down for that long winter nap. With warmer weather and heat from the inside wall, they woke up and wanting to stay warm, continued their journey into the home through existing, but very small, openings. Older homes naturally have more of those openings than newer homes.

Surprisingly, I would have expected reports of Box Elder bugs, but none so far. Apparently, it takes more than a few warm days to wake them up. To sum this up, outside bugs would prefer to be outside with their food source, and they perish without it once inside the home at a time of the year when they should patiently be waiting for spring.



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