David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois
Yard & Garden
Beware of tiny home invaders
How to keep the creepy crawlies out in the cold this winter
As the temperature cools and the sweaters come out of storage, we think how warm and snuggled in we will be for the winter months. Yet, we are not alone.
There are many creatures outdoors that would prefer our temperatures instead of the subzero we’re bound to get.
Insects are cold-blooded creatures and that is why you find few in the shade. Most prefer the full sun where they can soak up the rays.
And when it gets cold, they have only a few options.
First, they can head south like the geese, though most don’t.
Second, they can go into the reproductive stage with the females laying eggs that will survive during the winter. That’s what many aphids and bagworms do with the latter hanging on to the tree and the former laying eggs in cracks, crevices or any other location.
Third, the insect can bury itself deep in the ground, usually below the frost line. They may not feed, but at least they won’t be killed by penetrating cold.
In this category are most of the grubs, though the Japanese beetle grub doesn’t move as fast as other grubs and can get caught with deep cold. Don’t shed a tear on them, though.
Some will burrow into a tree, or pupate, resting between the larva and adults stages.
Finally, and the most annoying, many will try to find some form of warmth, and that usually means our homes.
The big three are probably spiders, crickets and lady beetles, though spiders aren’t technically insects since they have eight legs.
The Asian multi-spotted lady beetle is probably the most annoying. They will bite if you stick your hands too close. They’ll ooze a blood-like substance from their joints that stinks up the place. In other words, they have great defense mechanisms to prevent other creatures from feeding on them.
Spiders may or may not bite. Most prefer the dark damp confines of the basement. When lights come on, they scurry away to some corner or under some box.
Crickets are plain annoying, with their chirping popping up at 2 in the morning when you’re sleeping.
The good news with the last two is that they’ll die out with no food sources, though it may take a month or two. A good cat will go into search mode when crickets sound, though they usually will only eat part of them, leaving the carcass someplace, which usually is in a pair of shoes.
These creatures don’t magically transport themselves inside. You probably bring some in when you bring cushions, pots, chairs and garden hoses from outdoors inside for the winter. Check them thoroughly. Rinse the outside of pots off. If you bring plants in, check them carefully and give them a good shower before placing them around your other plants.
Sadly, most insects and related creatures enter through cracks and crevices in the foundation and siding. They might squeeze through dryer vents or around pipes that aren’t caulked well. Which means, besides them coming in, your heat is escaping.
Weatherproofing is one of the best ways to prevent these little invaders. Insulate around windows and outlets. Keep doors and windows securely closed and tight. Make sure screens are repaired with no gaps around the window frame.
If you still have problems, keep your vacuum cleaner out with the wand attachment on. Suck up the bugs in the bag. They won’t escape. But don’t forget to empty the bag monthly so it doesn’t start smelling of decomposing little creatures.
David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.
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