Bugs, Bugs, Bugs December 09

Albert Orgeron, Pollet, Dale K.  |  12/17/2009 2:07:51 AM

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

Asian lady beetles -- An excellent beneficial during the year, these little beetles become a big nuisance when there is a chill in the air. These lady beetles like to congregate in massive numbers on houses and trees, actually turning these locations red with their numbers. Many congregate around doors and fly inside when disturbed by the opening and closing. The beetles are searching for a place to overwinter and many enter cracks and crevices on houses getting into the walls and attics. This becomes a major problem when the weather warms or when heating your house from the cold temperatures. Then they think spring is here and look for a way out. They are attracted to the light inside the home and emerge through any location where they can see light. This usually means light fixtures and wall outlets because they don’t know where they originally entered the house or structure. Emergence inside the house in large numbers over several weeks is bad as they become a big nuisance. When you try to pick them up, they defecate on furniture or walls, and this can stain both the material and the walls. Management takes two forms – First, make sure the outside of your home is well sealed and cracks and holes are fixed or plugged to prevent their entrance. Second, once they’re inside, use a vacuum to collect and remove the lady beetles. This prevents the potential for defecating on walls and fabrics. Remember to remove or empty the bag, or they will crawl back down the hose, and you have the problem again. If you are an avid gardener or have greenhouses, you can collect the lady beetles in round, ice cream cartons and store them in the refrigerator to use against pests in the spring. Put a small amount of hay or dry grass in the carton and dampen it, add 200-300 lady beetles and store them until they’re needed. They have an 80-plus percent survival rate when stored like this. They are excellent against aphids, scales, mites and other soft-bodied insect pests.

Bees and wasps – Another overwintering group of insects that get in the walls and attics of houses and buildings are the queens of wasps and some bees. Unlike honeybees, where the colony overwinters, only the queens of yellow jackets, bumble bees and paper wasps and other wasps overwinter. They, like the lady beetles, need a protected place to survive the cold. Our homes and other structures make ideal sites. This time, however, you have the possibility of getting stung. Like the lady beetles, these insects react to the warmth and lights and can emerge inside the home. They are attracted to the lights or windows when the sun is out looking for a way out. Like the lady beetles, the vacuum or a fly swatter is the best means of control. Management is the securing of the outside of the home, closing all potential entrances.

Buck moths – The last couple of years most of us have had little problem with buck moths. But like any insect, they are cyclic, and we need to be prepared for situations. Watch the number of moths observed in your area because this is an excellent indicator of potential problems. Then based on your observations you can predict what your situation might be in the spring. Good preparation is 90 percent of solving a problem.

Pest management – Now that most of the trees have lost their foliage, those of us who had problems with the forest or eastern tent caterpillars in our trees can help reduce next year’s populations by removing some of the egg cases on the trees. These small, brown, crystalline-like egg cases on the small branches of infested trees are easy to remove. Each one removed will reduce next year’s population by 80 to 100 caterpillars. Remember to dispose of the egg cases and not just drop them on the ground. If your live oak had the forest tent caterpillars, they are a little harder to find, but these trees can be checked.

Christmas trees – Remember to check them for aphids or lady beetle eggs or larvae. You do not want to bring in your tree and decorate it and have either aphids or lady beetle larvae walking your walls. Simply check your tree thoroughly when purchasing it, and shake it well. Look for any dark discoloration that looks like sooty mold, a sure sign of some insect infestation. With the cooler temperatures, they may be in the egg stages but will hatch once in the warm confines of your home. A good look before purchasing is always a good idea.

Outdoor guests – We can get several other outdoor pests to find their way indoors, usually through very small cracks under our doors. They include spiders, centipedes, millipedes, outdoor roaches and others, including mice. All of these can easily be managed through the use and installation of a good door sweep. Sealing all doors and windows will greatly reduce outdoor pest incidents indoors and also help to keep the heat indoors and the cost down.

Firewood/plant invaders – Checking plants brought indoors for pest problems can save a lot of time and sometimes money. Invaders like aphids or thrips can be minor, but those like fire ants and termites can cause major situations. Firewood can be the host for several insects. When using your fireplace, bring in only enough wood to use during the day to prevent the emergence of wood-infesting insects in the home. They will not infest your home unless they are termites, but others can be a big nuisance

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