Monday, October 27, 2008

Household Invaders

Sounds scary... household invaders. But we’re not talking about a break in....more like a sneak in and the culprits have six legs not two. About this time of year we get lots of calls about insects that make their way into homes. The biggest offenders are Boxelder Bugs and the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug.

Boxelder Bugs have been around a long time. In the past, when I talked to someone on the phone about them there was often one crawling around my office because the window I look out of does not seal real well. The bugs made their way in through the tiny crevices. Since recent construction has removed the near-by box elder trees that were their summer host, I haven't seen them. Boxelder bugs feed on boxelder trees, as well as other maples (boxelder is Acer negundo, the same genus as maple) and ash. In the fall they look for a cozy warm place to spend the winter, starting out on the sunny sides of building and moving inside if given a chance. They must have good heat sensors.
These red and black bugs do not do any damage to homes. In fact they don’t do much damage to plants either although they do suck sap from leaves and seeds of boxelder. If anyone cared about this plant it might be an issue but boxelder trees are usually considered a weedy tree.

Most folks don’t appreciate big insects crawling around the house and bug phobic people get real agitated. The solution to boxelder invasion is to seal up the cracks and crevices they use to get in. Once inside, simply sweep or vacuum them up. They do not reproduce inside. If you make direct hit with an insecticide you will kill them but the vacuum cleaner or shop-vac is quicker. I suppose you could consider insecticide applications outside where they congregate but even here, think twice before spraying. First, if they can’t get in the house, what’s the problem? And given the poor control provided by insecticides and the ease of the vacuum, why not keep things simple. If you can find the host boxelder tree and remove it you will have a big impact in future years.

The Brown Marmorated Stinkbug
is a recent phenomenon. Actually, one of Penn State’s extension educators in Lehigh county helped to document the first sightings in 1998. It is native to China.
This bug can cause plant damage. It feeds on several fruit species. But the problem most folks have with them is when they get inside. They fly, they stink a bit when crushed and are creepy in a bug-like way to most folks.
The control measures for the stinkbug is the same as for boxelder bugs. Seal cracks and crevices to prevent entry. Vacuum up those that get in. Realize that they do no structural damage of any kind and do not breed inside.
Some folks think these home invaders are reproducing inside because they see additional bugs after the initial removal. The insects are simply emerging from hiding places. Well, maybe not hiding but previously infested areas. It seems to me that a common entry point for stink bugs is attic areas which are often hard to seal completely.

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