Garden Variety: Insect invaders are moving in early this year

Crickets are usually the first pests to make their way inside homes and buildings when cooler temperatures arrive, and this month’s unseasonably mild nights are encouraging an earlier than usual migration. Other insects that commonly make their way into buildings in the fall are lady beetles, boxelder bugs, leaffooted bugs, and earwigs. Exclusion is the best but most difficult control, and some of the pests are of greater concern than others.

Insects find their way into homes and buildings through cracks and crevices in foundations and siding, gaps around vents, holey screens, and poorly sealed doors and windows. Sealing and repairing these entry points (and checking for them annually) go a long way toward preventing pests from entry. However, insect pests seem to be able to occasionally find their way into even the best sealed homes.

Sticky traps are an easy and effective way to capture any small crawling or hopping creature that makes its way into a home or building. Sticky traps are available as open trays or as contraptions that fold up into a “tent” or box that is open on two sides. Tent-type sticky traps may be less enticing to curious dogs and toddlers, although ideally any sticky trap would be placed behind or under furniture where it is mostly out of reach.

Vacuum cleaners are a good way to remove the pests that get by the sticky traps. Empty the canister outside of course — or if using a bagged vacuum, remove the bag and take it outside in case the pests chew their way out.

In yards, move piles of rocks, stacked boards, firewood, overgrown vegetation, compost piles, and other ideal habitat for insects and pests away from the immediate proximity of buildings.

Baits and insecticides are unwarranted for a few pests, but may be desirable in extreme infestations. Use a product that is specific to the insect or other arthropod to be controlled and apply according to the label. Many are ineffective if applied otherwise. Hire a professional if in doubt.

Crickets tend to announce their presence with hearty chirping in the middle of the night. They survive on a variety of food sources so they can survive in the home longer than other pests.

Crickets can also damage curtains and other fabrics. Field crickets are the species that most commonly invade homes in late summer and fall. They are about an inch long and solid black, with long, bent back legs that help them jump (like a grasshopper).

Lady beetles are most often found in windowsills and around doors. They are orange to red with varying black spots on their shells. The ones that typically find their way in are multicolored Asian lady beetles, close relatives of the native species. They are just as beneficial as native lady beetles even though they are more likely to be a nuisance in the fall.

Boxelder bugs and leaffooted bugs are also considered a nuisance. Boxelder bugs tend to congregate on the exterior of homes and buildings to sun themselves while a few find their way inside. They are about a half-inch long and black with orange to red markings and flat wings. Leaffooted bugs are similar in size and shape to boxelder bugs but vary from black to dark brown with white markings.

Earwigs are dark brown, half-inch long, narrow-bodied creatures with prominent pincers on their rear ends. They are attracted to moisture and need it to survive. Earwigs can be a sign of a leaky pipe or wet basement and can often be taken care of by removing the source of their infestation.