Drought causing uptick in uninvited houseguests

By Tom Seymour | Oct 08, 2020
Photo by: Tom Seymour A homeowners' armament against uninvited guests.

The ongoing drought has compounded the problem of nuisance animals and insects coming into our houses for the winter.

Some undesirable critters thrive during prolonged dry spells and spiders number among them. It’s never good to have spiders in your house. The webs catch dust, which soon turns dark and dingy. Next, all spiders bite.

Ever wake up in the morning scratching an insect bite? This can happen even in winter, so what kind of insect comes inside and bites us in winter? Spiders, that’s what. I once was sound asleep and woke up when, by autonomous reflex, I slapped myself on the head. A spider crawled up on my face and my unconscious, though well-aimed slap, killed the thing. It was a large spider, definitely not anything anyone would want in their bedroom.

After that I went on a spider-killing campaign. This included searching every nook and cranny for spider webs and then spraying along all baseboards and seams where the pests might hide.

While any insect spray will kill spiders, for best results make sure to buy a product that includes spiders on the label. I find Raid, Multi-Insect spray useful for this application.

Asian ladybeetles

Harlequin ladybugs, or Asian ladybeetles, an introduced pest, come inside in fall in huge numbers. While not aggressive, these little beetles can bite, although their bite is inconsequential. Still, they are a nuisance.

This is the time of year when these pests enter our homes and the best way to stop them is to monitor every entrance, including around doors and windows. If you don’t like insect sprays, just swat the beetles with a fly swatter.

Admittedly, once the beetles have entered a house, they pretty quickly go out of sight and out of mind. The occasional beetle will come crawling out of its hiding place in winter, but this is not a regular occurrence.

It is in spring when we can view the full scope of an Asian ladybeetle infestation. Thousands of beetles leave our homes and camps on the same day. This is a temperature-driven occurrence. Anyone who has witnessed clouds of these pests leaving a building will never forget the sight.

Stinkbugs

A new insect pest has become prominent over the last several years. These are stinkbugs, but in case you were thinking of the standard, itty-bitty stinkbug, think again. These things can fly. They measure approximately 1/2-inch long and have long, articulated legs.

When disturbed, these new pests emit a sickening-sweet scent that lingers for some time. Picking these up and throwing them outside means getting a charge of this odious substance on your hands. I use a tissue to pick them up, which saves me from getting the stuff on my hands.

Alternately, these critters cling to the outside of windows and screens. There, it’s easy enough to either swat them or spray with insect killer.

Since these pests are so new, I’m unable to find much literature about them, which means I’m unsure whether they pose any kind of health risk. But no matter. No one wants these smelly, ugly insects in their house, so be aware that this is the time when they try to enter.

Unlike Asian ladybeetles, which can gain access through the slightest crack or crevasse, these big stinkbugs usually come in when someone opens a door. So just note that when you go in and out, that you don’t allow these pests inside. Better safe than sorry.

Mice

It’s safe to say that thanks to the drought, this summer saw a bumper crop of mice. And we all know what mice do in fall. They do their best to get inside our houses. Not only is mouse presence a health risk, in that they leave droppings all over, they do considerable damage to foodstuffs, insulation and even stored papers.

If that weren’t enough, mice prefer to do their dirty work in the middle of the night, often in the wee hours of the morning. One mouse, scratching and gnawing, can sound like a far larger animal, especially at night.

Mousetraps work fine. Just bait with peanut butter. Sometimes, though, mice wise up to traps and then another method is called for. I find that the new variety of sticky traps, the kind that come pre-baited, with a mouse-attracting scent, work amazingly well.

Other pests will do their best to find winter shelter in our houses. Red squirrels will ruin an attic, while porcupines and skunks will eagerly occupy crawlspaces under small homes and cottages.

It’s a never-ending job, keeping ahead of all the nuisance critters that want to make our homes their homes. So be on the lookout for unwanted invaders and do what you must to thwart them. You’ll sleep better this winter if you do.

Tom Seymour of Waldo is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: SUE KANDZIOLKA | Oct 09, 2020 17:57

Thank you Lea Carver.  Seriously Tom Seymour, what an over the top response to a few bugs in the house.  I don't know whether all spiders bite, as you claim, but I doubt there are any in Maine that are poisonous to humans.  While I don't want them in bed with me, I don't mind them in the house at all and have never knowingly killed one.  As to the other bugs--just use a broom to encourage them on their way--no need to bring out all that poison.  I have no quarrel with your concern about getting rid of larger invaders such as squirrels, etc that can do a great deal of damage to a house.

 



Posted by: Lea Carver | Oct 09, 2020 07:01

I strongly disagree with your spider-killing campaign. "Spiders have been the subject of negative publicity for years. It is unfortunate that many incidents of unknown skin irritation are attributed to spider bites." (https://extension.umaine.edu/ipm/ipddl/publications/5046e/) Spiders are extremely beneficial and encouraging the use of insecticides (toxic to people, pets AND insects) in homes to kill them is ill advised. As the UMaine publication cited above states, preventions is key.

In regards to sticky traps for mice "Glue boards might seem like a safe and easy solution to pest problems but in fact, they are one of the cruelest and most dangerous. Responsible for more suffering than virtually any other wildlife control product on the market." This from the Humane Society. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/glue-boards  Common spring-loaded traps work well and are much more humane.



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