On Gardening: Five pests with the cold-weather blues
Nov 03, 2013 | 5798 views |  0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fall is indeed refreshing to those who enjoy the outdoors. But as perfect as the weather might seem, many insects are not fond of the onset of cooler temperatures.

Insects are cold blooded, so when the thermometer drops, they go into full survival mode. That usually means aggressively searching for more food and finding a warm place to hold up. They often end up inside our homes, which can be quite annoying.

Here are five insect pests during cool weather:

5. Wasps: Although not a major pest, paper wasps are often found inside buildings — flying around lights and near windows — during season changes. Wasps seek shelter during cooler weather and come out when the day warms up. Wasp are usually not that big deal because they will not sting unless provoked, like when threatened with squashing. However, they can cause quite a commotion when spotted flying around in church or a group meeting.

4. Ants: When food becomes scarce, various types of ants often venture into homes foraging for any source of food and water they can find. If you see a parade of ants coming and going, to and from who knows where, that’s a good sign they’ve found something. And if the parade leads to your house or is found inside, it could very well mean the jackpot is somewhere in your house.

3. Yellow Jackets: By the time fall begins to set in, the population of yellow jackets has risen quite high. Combine that with less available natural food, and you have a lot of unhappy yellow jackets. It is those foraging, food-seeking, berserk yellow jackets that tend to annoy humans. Yellow jackets will not hesitate to fulfill their dietary needs by feeding on picnic foods, over-ripened fruit and soda. They can also be found around dumpsters and trash cans at public facilities. Just like kids, yellow jackets love sweets, so they can be a problem when food and children are both present.

2. Kudzu Bugs: Our newest and rising annoying pest is the kudzu bug. Many folks are becoming really concerned about these little “stink bugs” because they are everywhere. Kudzu bugs are not a real threat for homeowners and gardeners — just a growing nuisance as they seek shelter around homes and other buildings. Research has found that kudzu bugs prefer light-colored houses, particularly white. In addition to hanging around houses, they secrete a foul odor and can stain fabrics and wall coverings. Direct handling of kudzu bugs may cause staining of the skin and even blistering and moderate discomfort in sensitive individuals.

1. Asian Lady Beetles: The multicolored Asian lady beetles, in my opinion, are the most annoying cool-weather pest. Each fall, swarms of this species of ladybug appear out of nowhere in search of a warm place to overwinter, typically targeting and invading our warm and cozy homes — much to the dismay of homeowners. A few might be OK, but when you have tens to hundreds of ladybugs congregating indoors, these “good” insects abruptly become pests.

So what’s the answer? Everyone wants to know what can be done about these annoying insects, but the honest answer is ... very little.

For the outside yellow jackets that like to get up close and personal, just leave them alone or grab the fly swatter. But try not to swat, as this might make them mad.

For the rest, remember that prevention is key. Most insects need just a crack to get in so caulk cracks along windows, doors and other portals of entry. Install tight-fitting door sweeps. Seal openings with caulk, steel wool or other mesh. Keep doors and windows closed.

If insects do get in, don’t panic. A solitary wasp can be let back outside or eliminated with a fly swatter. Spraying insects is not always the best remedy, but might be needed if the situation calls for it, as in the case of an ant problem.

Since kudzu bugs and ladybugs can leave stains if crushed, vacuuming them up is the ideal remedy. Specialists suggest using a shop vac instead of a conventional vacuum as kudzu bug odor may linger in the regular vacuum. A shop vacuum with some soapy water in the canister (1 to 2 tablespoons of dish soap per gallon of water) will kill bugs. Once finished, discard water. Dead insects can always be swept up too.

The bright side is that the leaves are changing colors and cooler weather is here. The bad news is the bugs don’t like it. Yes, they are annoying but there are worse things — snakes, snow, no electricity, losing football teams ...

For help on other home and garden questions, contact your local county Extension office or visit online at www.aces.edu.

Shane Harris is an Extension Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

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