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Over the Garden Fence

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

Insects Looking For A Winter Resort

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

We like to get out of the cold, so why wouldn't the bugs. As our nights start to get cooler then cold, insects will often be looking for a place to stay warmer at night, delaying the inevitable of finding a permanent place to spend the winter protected from the elements.

Insects overwinter in a variety of forms. Adults may lay eggs that survive the winter, the larvae stage may burrow well below the frost line or the larvae may pupate to survive the winter and emerge next spring in the adult form. The adult may as you frequently see, seek out a place to overwinter.

These overwintering adults do not distinguish between a crack or crevice in the bark of trees or leaf litter in the yard or the siding of our home. Crickets, earwigs and spiders are commonly found indoors as the weather gets colder. If a lot of produce is brought in and then not used or preserved, fruit flies can get a foot hold and stay with us until their food source is gone. Keeping the scraps from the vegetables covered that are headed to the compost pile will help a lot. Keep an eye on those potatoes and onions as well. Some of these insects we may have invited inside when we brought in the houseplants for the winter. Others will have found their way indoors as they search for a protected location to survive the winter and then respond to the yet warmer conditions they find once under the house siding.

The good news is if they remain alive, they will need to eat and they are not going to find a food source and will eventually die as they use up food reserves in their bodies. This is why we find them dead on the floor or window sill weeks later having been attracted to the light. Some are more annoying than others like Box Elder bugs that leave behind those little black deposits on the wall or drapes. Spiders being a great predator will catch and feed on any insect that happens their way. Crickets, besides the annoying chirp, will feed on fibers and continue to be with us.

If it has been awhile since the windows have been caulked to keep out the cold, or that rubber threshold strip has been replaced, then those are the places to start. At night the insects will work their way under the door and then get inside as soon as we open the door the next morning. Insects like cracks and crevices so using the vacuum cleaner nozzle regularly for a few weeks can really reduce the populations of box elder bugs and dead insects that others may feed upon.

The last line of defense is outside around the home. You can treat the soil and base of the foundation with a spray that will deter the crawling insects from entering home, but will have little impact with insects that can fly like the Box elder bug. Tighten up the home, watch the houseplants for escapees from the soil in the pot, and eliminate food sources like vegetables scrapes and pet food sitting on the floor and you have a great head start on controlling those creepy crawlies in the house.

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