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Published September 18, 2009, 11:45 AM

The arrival of home-invading bugs

The boxelder bugs are gathering on the outside of some homes in large numbers, and the multi-colored Asian lady beetles will probably arrive soon.

By: Jim Stordahl, DL-Online

The boxelder bugs are gathering on the outside of some homes in large numbers, and the multi-colored Asian lady beetles will probably arrive soon.

They congregate on the outside of homes as they search for sites to overwinter. Many of them may find there way into the home and, although they do not feed or reproduce there, they certainly can be annoying.

Boxelder bugs are appearing in large numbers in many places this summer. They, like many other insects, are more abundant during hot, dry summers.

These bugs reproduce and feed on female, seed producing boxelder, maple and ash trees. During late summer and fall, boxelder bugs begin leaving the trees to find protected areas for the winter. Although many immature insects may be present in the fall, only full-grown bugs survive the winter.

The adult boxelder bugs are capable of flying several blocks and sometimes may even fly further than that. The boxelder bugs like sunny areas and are attracted to buildings with a lot of southern exposure. As weather cools, these insects will push into cracks and enter houses near the foundations. Many crawl under shingles and get into wall voids and attics. They also may enter through doors, windows, vent openings and other accessible areas.

The multi-colored Asian lady beetle has become a nuisance pest in the fall during the last few years. Unlike the common lady beetle, or ladybug, the multi-colored Asian lady beetles like to overwinter in large numbers in and around buildings. Once they find a house they like, they emit a chemical that attracts even more individuals, which can result in congregations of thousands.

It is important to note that they do not reproduce indoors, so all lady beetles seen inside during the winter and spring have entered the home during the previous fall. Therefore, preventing them from entering is the most effective step in managing the lady beetles.

The most effective control for these insects begins outside. Prevent the insects from entering your home by carefully sealing as many potential points of entrance as possible. Caulk, seal, or screen gaps in siding and under eaves, vents to the outside, cable and meter attachments, cracks around windows, doors and siding, openings that may exist between the siding and foundation and any other openings that can be found.

In my own home, I found that flies are capable of entering our home around the weather stripping on a three year-old kitchen door. These insects need only

a very small opening to enter, so it is important to check all possible

sites of entry very carefully. If you’ve sealed the obvious areas and are

still getting flies or bugs in the house, check around the door jam as you

open the door, especially in the early morning when they are inactive.

Making any necessary repairs will not eliminate all of the insects, but can

significantly reduce the number entering the home. If the number of any of

these insects is more than you can tolerate, you may wish to use a residual

insecticide. Make sure the product is labeled for use around the outside of

buildings. Concentrate your efforts on the south and west sides of your home as this is where the insects are most likely to be found. The best time to spray is when you first observe the insects clustering around the outside of your home or other building.

A soap mixture can be used as an alternative to synthetic insecticides in the control of boxelder bugs. Mix ½ cup of a liquid laundry detergent in a gallon of water in a hand sprayer or squirt bottle. It is important to test this mixture first on an inconspicuous spot before applying it to the entire area, as it might stain cedar and other siding. Once you determine the mixture to be non-staining, apply a coarse spray directly on the bugs as often as necessary.

It is important to note that the soap mixture affects only those boxelder bugs that are sprayed and does not prevent other bugs from returning to the site. Soap mixtures are not effective in controlling multi-colored Asian lady beetles

Effective insecticides that are available to the public include bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, cyhalothrin, deltramethrin, permethrin and tralomethrin. These products are sold under various trade names. The name of the chemical in the product will be found under the “Active Ingredients” on the label.

Read all label directions very carefully before purchasing an insecticide and again before applying them. Be sure the product you intend to use is labeled for use on the exterior of buildings. Apply the insecticide according to label directions on the foundation, around doors and windows, and along roof lines, paying particular attention to the south and west sides, where the insects tend to congregate.

To be most effective, these residual insecticides should be applied when the insects first begin to congregate on the outside of buildings.

Once these pests get inside, the only practical control is to remove them by hand or with a vacuum cleaner. The use of insecticides indoors is not effective and is not recommended.

For more information, feel free to call me at 800-450-2465. If you’d rather, you can reach me by e-mail at stordahl@umn.edu.

Source: Carl Hoffman, Stearns County Extension Service.

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