Christmas Tree Pests: Bugs At Home For The Holidays

Cinara Aphids on Douglas Fir, Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

This year, for the first time, I’m going to chop down a Christmas tree. Okay well, I probably will just watch my husband do it. He alluded to the fact that I’ll have to get on the ground and saw… I don’t see that happening. But I’m really excited to go to a real tree farm and choose the perfect tree. (by the way…did you know we sell Christmas trees now? Go pick one out from the comfort of your home! No sawing necessary)

While daydreaming about this tree, it occurred to me. What might crawl out of my perfect tree? I mean, we are essentially going to a little forest and taking a tree away. There’s gotta be bugs in there.

Oh, there are bugs in there.

There are probably a couple bugs in everyone’s live Christmas tree, but most of the time they’ll just stay on their branches and mind their own business. However, a few types of insects overwinter on these trees, and once they’re inside in warm environment they get tricked into thinking it is spring and they’ll emerge. Most people say to just leave them be, since they’ll probably die in your home. Still, I don’t want any bugs in my house, and there are definitely some steps to take to avoid waking up to a tree-full of insects.

Although this subject has been covered on this blog a few years ago before I worked at Do My Own Pest Control, I think it is definitely worth revisiting. Let’s quickly look at what bugs might show up on your tree and what you can do about it.

Types Of Christmas Tree Pests

Christmas trees offer a protected place for many insects to wait out the cold and snowy winter, and most will stay on the tree rather than venture out into your home. Here is a brief list of what you might find on your tree:

  • Adelgids: very small insects that secrete a cottony wax substance that looks like flocking on the tree. These insects will likely go completely unnoticed by you and will not venture from the tree.
  • Aphids: a larger aphid species, the cinara aphid, is often found on Christmas trees, and are sometimes confused with ticks or spiders. Other aphids may also appear on your tree, and most are host specific, meaning that specific aphids show up on specific types of evergreen trees.
  • Bark beetles: these are small, dark beetles that are often near the center of the tree. They bore into the tree and can produce sawdust. These will also not leave the tree.
  • Mites, scale insects: very small insects that will likely go unnoticed and don’t cause any damage or leave the tree. Scale insects often look like very small red specks that move very slowly.
  • Praying mantids: Including the large spectacular praying mantis, these insects often lay egg masses on evergreen trees. The egg masses are about walnut sized and a tan color, sometimes mistaken for a small pinecone. These egg masses can hatch once indoors, and your tree will be covered in baby mantids. This actually does happen! People often think laws protect praying mantis insects, but they’re not protected insects. You can kill these bugs without worry.
  • Spiders: We’re all familiar with spiders. They’re rarely harmful, but always unwelcome inside.

Keep The Bugs Outside: How To Prevent and Control Christmas Tree Pests

Prevention, as always, is the best way to keep insects out of your home. Most tree lots will have a mechanical shaker that will loosen debris (including needles, bird nests, and other unwelcome items) and bugs. Inspect your tree carefully after you choose it, looking for egg masses and any other signs of insects. If you do find some egg masses, that’s okay; you can clip the affected twigs or branches off. If there seems to be a lot of insect activity on your chosen tree, it’s not a bad idea to keep looking!

As far as products go, an insecticidal soap, like Bonide Insecticidal Soap, would work great on aphids, adelgids, mites, and scale insects. Don’t treat your tree with anything unless you’ve noticed a large population of insects, and never treat your tree with anything that is flammable!

And keep in mind that not every tree will have bugs, and it is pretty rare to have a totally infested tree. A lot of insects will die due to the lack of food and less-than-ideal conditions of your home. You can take back a badly infested tree to where you bought it to see if they’ll let you exchange. Whatever you do, don’t let the insects ruin your holiday spirit!

You’ve Got Mice. (Yeah – you do)

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but there are probably mice in your home. Don’t worry, though, we’re all in the same boat with this one. Most homes, especially older ones, have enough cracks and gaps that are big enough for mice to get in and make themselves cozy. Sometimes, you’ll never even know they’re there. Other times, populations grow and mice start to appear in your day-to-day routine. Cold weather invites mice, like house mice, white-footed mice, and deer mice, into your home for a warm environment and access to food. Mice are not something you want to leave alone in your home; they won’t go away if you ignore them. Don’t panic! We’re here to help.

Mouse Facts You Need To Know

You might think of mice as fairly harmless creatures that just nibble on cheese and leave their droppings around, but they’re mostly just scurrying around. While these ideas aren’t totally off base, mice are craftier and more dangerous than you might realize. These facts make it clear why it is so important to get rid of mice in your home.

  • Mice can run vertically up walls, jump a foot in the air, and jump up to eight feet down to escape or travel around your home. They’re not limited to the floors and horizontal surfaces near the ground.
  • Mice will eat a variety of foods but prefer grains and fatty or sweet foods.
  • They will feed throughout the day, but the main feedings occur at dusk and right before dawn.
  • One mouse can produce fifty droppings a day.
  • Mouse droppings and urine spread salmonella (food poisoning), among other diseases, and since they can go almost anywhere in your home, they can contaminate anything from your dishes and silverware to your food.
  • Dead mice can also harbor disease, and if your infestation is large, the droppings and dead mice can build up and create a health hazard.
  • Mice are prolific breeders, with females continually reproducing year round, so your mouse problem can quickly get out of control.
  • Mice can enter your home through holes or gaps as small as the size of a pencil eraser, and often get in through foundations, crawl spaces, between siding, concrete block, and roofing materials.

Mouse Control

Our mouse control page has everything you need to know when dealing with a mouse infestation. Classic snap traps like this Victor mouse trap are generally effective and inexpensive, and can be baited with things you have around your home like dry oatmeal or peanut butter, but with the traps on the market today, you’ll likely be successful with whatever trap system you choose. We also have a wide selection of humane mouse traps for those who do not want to kill the mice, but need to remove them.

Once your mouse problem is under control, you need to do repairs and take steps to ensure your home is mouse proof, or exclusion and sanitation.

  • Do a thorough inspection of the exterior of your home. Try to do this twice a year, and repair any cracks, gaps, holes, and damage you see that could let in mice, rats, and other pests (including insects).
  • Keep food, especially grain products, in mouse proof containers. Metal containers are preferable, but glass or hard, durable plastic can work as well. Cardboard boxes or plastic bags of food are very easy for mice to chew through and contaminate.
  • Both of these steps will not only greatly reduce your risk of a mouse infestation, but other infestations as well, like ants and cockroaches.

No Spiders Allowed: Indoor Spider Control

My friend recently sent me a photo of a huge spider in her bathroom. It was at least as big as a quarter and she, to put it lightly, was freaking out. She had to leave for work, so she duct taped a cup over the spider and left, planning on leaving it there until some brave soul came over to remove it.

This might seem irrational to some of you. Even me, for that matter. I don’t hate spiders, but I also have a husband who has no qualms with smashing bugs with a quick smack of a rolled up magazine, and a couple of cats who tend to take care of any stray creepy crawlies in our house.

And I’m sure you’ve all heard, time and time again, that spiders are good to have around. They help to control other pests and we shouldn’t kill them on sight. But I’ve definitely never heard of anyone opening their home to spiders.

It’s that time of year that spiders seem to be everywhere, moving indoors to look for more food and a warmer environment. Controlling spiders inside is easy. With spiders, seeing one doesn’t mean there is hundreds more lurking in the shadows, especially if you’re following the simple steps below.

Indoor Spider Control

As with most pest control programs, you can end up controlling multiple pests at once with the same steps. Spider control is no different. You’ll have to take some steps to clean up inside and outside, and then apply some long lasting pesticides. Staying on top of these steps will keep you spider free year round.

Non-Chemical Spider Control

  • Seal cracks and crevices and any possible openings in your home’s exterior to prevent spiders and other insects from getting inside.
  • Clean up clutter in living and non-living areas, like storage spaces. Less clutter on the ground means there are less places for spiders to take refuge.
  • Remove any live spiders, sweep up or destroy any webs, and destroy any egg sacs you come across.
  • Regular cleaning, vacuuming, and sweeping is also important to reduce insect activity and thereby reduces spider activity.
  • In the yard, make sure there isn’t any foliage coming in contact with the foundation, and clean up yard debris, weeds, etc. Make sure woodpiles are far from the exterior of your home. Rake up any leaves and keep grass short. These are all places insects and spiders like to take refuge, and can gain access to your home.
  • Glue boards, or sticky traps, can be a great, non-chemical solution for spider control. These allow you to monitor the location and population of your spiders, and can offer some control. You can place these at the threshold of rooms you know have spiders, which will keep them out of common areas. Placing these in corners, storage areas, under furniture and behind appliances can help to give you some light spider control.

Chemical Spider Control

  • Spiders are tougher to control with insecticides versus other insects, but it is possible to use long lasting residual insecticides to help control spiders in your home.
  • A long lasting insecticide dust, like Alpine Dust, can be applied in to cracks, crevices and under shelving in storage areas, which lasts a very long time and will get picked up on the spiders legs, deposited on the web, and then eaten by the spider when the spider “recycles” the used web by eating it.
  • A liquid residual insecticide is always an option as well, and can be applied in seldom-used areas (where spiders tend to spend the most time).
  • Ready-to-use sprays can be sprayed directly on spiders and on webs to destroy both. Web Out is a good option; it is natural and helps to prevent webs.
  • Our Spider Control Kit has three popular spider control products: Trapper Glue Boards, Cyper WP, and Web Out Cobweb Eliminator. These three products can be used together for a powerful spider control combination.

 Using non-chemical and chemical steps together, there’s no way you’ll have to trap unlucky spiders under a cup. Once you know how to do it, controlling spiders is simple.

Don’t Let Bed bugs Hitch A Ride, Know Where They Hide!

Bed bug paranoia is real, and after a lull for many years, these blood-sucking bugs are back. Bed bugs have been found everywhere from hotels to libraries and office buildings, but don’t panic! Understanding how Bed bugs spread not only prevents outbreaks, but also helps to keep you Bed bug free. Awareness of Bed bugs is the first line of defense.

Bed bug Movement: How Bed bugs Spread

Bed bugs are parasitic pests that rely on hosts to provide blood meals. There is no secret to how they travel; they do it the old-fashioned way and hitchhike. They do not fly, cannot move very quickly, and don’t usually crawl long distances. They find your clothing, backpack, or luggage and grab on tight, waiting for you to bring them back to the feeding ground: your bedroom.

Bed bug Hot Spots: Where You’ll Find A Bed bug

Bed bugs establish populations in areas that humans rest, which is most likely going to be the bedroom, but can also be a couch or other areas people tend to relax and stay put for long periods of time. For this reason, Bed bugs have been spotted in:

  • Health care facilities, nursing homes, etc.
  • College dorms
  • Schools
  • Libraries
  • Movie theatres
  • Laundromats
  • Furniture rental stores
  • Office buildings
  • Day care facilities

These places harbor those stray hitchhikers, who then find places to hide during the day or when hosts (people) aren’t near, where they can then be picked up by new hosts and brought back home. Bed bugs do not usually establish large colonies in these places, but this is when they could find a new home with you.

Used furniture is a major way people accidentally introduce Bed bugs into their home. Be very cautious when purchasing or accepting used furniture and inspect it thoroughly before bringing it into your home. Check in all seams, joints, folds, etc. for live bedbugs.

Hotels and motels are notorious for Bed bug problems and another big way people bring bedbugs back from vacation. Even the nicest hotels could be susceptible to a Bed bug outbreak. Hotels and motels are just like the bedrooms in your home, since the host rotation is consistent and Bed bugs can establish a good size population.

Protecting Yourself and Others: Being Proactive

Image courtesy of nyc.gov

It may seem like there is a constant threat of Bed bugs all around you, but this is not the case. You can contact your city to see whether there are any known outbreaks in your area. If there are, take the time to examine susceptible places, like your office, day care, etc., to ensure they are bedbug free.

  • When staying in a hotel, make sure to do a sweep of the room to make sure there are no Bed bugs present. Reading our article, How To Avoid Hotel Bed Bugs, can give you tips on how to prevent bedbugs from hitching a ride back to your home. You can also bring some things along with you to help ease your mind when traveling with some bed bug travel kits and products, like RestAssure Bed Bug Spray or bed bug proof luggage liners.
  • Do your research when choosing a new daycare or healthcare facility to ensure this establishment has had no recent complaints of Bed bugs.
  • If you suspect you were in an area where Bed bugs were present, create a “clean zone” to inspect clothing and items, preferably an area free of carpet and fabrics, like a garage or tile/wood entryway.
  • Anything infested that must be thrown away should be clearly labeled that it is infested with Bed bugs, and preferably sealed to prevent escape of Bed bugs.
  • If you suspect you have Bed bugs or just want to make sure you don’t, our Bed Bug Inspection Guide will help you check every susceptible area for bugs.
  • At home, it is never a bad idea to start control efforts before you have a Bed bug problem. Bed bug mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements seal your items and prevent bedbugs from hiding in the folds of the fabric. This gives Bed bugs less places to hide and makes them easier to spot if they do make their way to your mattress.
  • For more information on Bed bugs, doing your own Bed bug control, and bed bug products and recommendations, head over to our bed bug control page. Never hesitate to contact one of our pest control experts for more help.

How to Keep Overwintering Cluster Flies Out

As you might have noticed, there are several pests that like to cozy up with us in the cooler months. Overwintering pests are insects that like warmer, protected areas to hibernate until spring. Cluster flies could be the most annoying of the bunch, gathering on sunny sides of houses and working their way into your home.

Image Courtesy of Michigan State University

The good news, though, is that these flies are not going to cause any damage, transmit any diseases, or reproduce while they are inside your home, but they can leave stains on exterior and interior walls. The worst they do, like their other overwintering counterparts, is buzz around noisily and congregate (cluster) in groups once they’ve found their hibernation spot. These flies are not attracted to garbage or food, and all they want from you is a place to stay. With that said, no one wants unwanted guests to stay for the winter!

Cluster Fly Control: Prevention First!

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, because often my advice for most pests is preventative measures. Preventing pest outbreaks before they start saves you so much time and money in their control. Cluster flies are no different, since preventing these flies from entering into the gaps and cracks in the exterior of your home will save you the headache of not only knowing there are tons of flies inside your walls or attic, but also the hassle of trying to get rid of them.

  • Block cluster flies from getting indoors by sealing every possible crack, crevice, gap, hole, etc. Use a high quality caulk or very fine mesh to seal around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, chimneys, and any other possible area.
  • Since it is very difficult to seal the exterior of your home completely, using a residual pesticide can give relief from exterior cluster flies and also kill any flies that are tempted by your home. Use a product with a synthetic pyrethroid, which will last for several days. Check out our Overwintering Kit for everything you’ll need.

 Cluster Fly Control: Interior Control

If these flies make their way through your exterior defenses, they’ll then be in your wall voids, attic, or living space.

  • When cluster flies enter your living space, first determine where they’re coming in, and seal those openings. The flies will probably be fairly sluggish, and a vacuum cleaner or a fly swatter will be able to get the job done.
  • Cluster flies often end up in false ceilings and attics. Fly lights are perfect for these situations, and living spaces as well, and can attract cluster flies and trap them, so you can empty the container and continue to catch the flies throughout the overwintering season.
  • Since cluster flies usually end up in areas of homes and buildings that are very difficult to access, it is difficult to treat these flies with a pesticide.

For more detailed information on controlling cluster flies, see out article: How To Get Rid Of Cluster Flies.

 

Clothes Moths: Don’t Let Your Clothes Become A Buffet

Mothballs. Just the word conjures up images of your grandma’s closet and that funky smell her coat always had. But grandma wasn’t putting mothballs in her attic or closet for no reason; she was trying to ward off those nasty little clothes moth larvae that would make quick work of her nicest wool coat if she didn’t take precautions.

Photo courtesy of Maine.gov

Clothes moths aren’t just something your grandma needs to worry about. When we’re in-between seasons and switching out our wardrobes, pulling out a beloved blanket or sweater and finding it riddled with holes is devastating. Clothes moths larvae feed on more than just wool. They feed on organic animal materials like furs, feathers, silks, and wool, and can even feed on accumulated pet hair, spices, and tea.

Luckily, we don’t have to fill our drawers and closets with mothballs anymore. These moths can be kept in check with a few easy to use products, as well some common-sense cleaning steps for clothes moth control.

Clothes Moths: Know Your Enemy
There are two common types of clothes moths: webbing clothes moths and casemaking moths. They look very similar, but there are differences in the structures they make and their food preferences.

photo courtesy of Maine.gov

  • Webbing clothes moths construct a blanket of silk, feces and the material they’re eating, and feed on their chosen material under the webbing.
  • Casemaking moths create a tube, or case, made of silk and material, that they carry around with them and live in. Often the cases are the same color as whatever material they are feeding on, so they can be tough to see on the material.
  • Webbing clothes moths tend to feed on: hair, wool including clothing, blankets, upholstery and tapestries, fur including clothing and taxidermy, and wool blends and even synthetic or cotton materials if they have been soiled with food, sweat, and body oils.
  • Casemaking clothes moths feed on: felts, taxidermy, woolen clothing, carpets, tapestries, feathers, furs, dried herbs, tobacco, tea, hemp, seeds, and seed products, etc.
  • Adult moths of both of these species do not cause any damage. They (like the larvae) prefer darkness, and are very poor fliers. They emerge from their pupae, lay eggs, and die shortly afterward.
  • They don’t just feed on objects; pet hair and human hair that accumulates in air vents or behind baseboards are also places that these larvae can find abundant food and a dark habitat.

Clothes Moth Control
A combination of chemical and non-chemical moth control will keep your clothing and other items damage free. Since mothballs don’t actually control these moths as well as newer professional grade products do, you won’t be left with smelly sweaters from old-fashioned mothballs. Following the steps below should make it very simple to prevent, control, and eradicate clothes moths.

Non-Chemical Control

  • When storing clothing or items made of susceptible materials, make sure to get them dry-cleaned or cleaned properly before storing, since soiled items are even more vulnerable to these moth larvae.
  • Store items in clean, airtight containers to prevent eggs from being deposited on clothing, where the larvae will then feed.
  • Periodically cleaning these storage areas will also prevent an infestation, and periodically airing out stored items in the sun can also help, since you can then inspect the stored clothing and remove eggs or larvae present on the material.
  • Vacuuming is a powerful tool in not only cleaning up eggs, larvae, or moths, it will also prevent buildup of hair and dust that the larvae feed on.

Chemical Control

  • Pheromone traps, sticky traps that have a chemical that lures in female moths, are efficient at trapping females. This could be helpful for monitoring populations, but only traps the adults, which don’t cause damage. You can try ProPest Clothes Moth Trap or GreenWay Clothes Moth Traps, but they are only made to catch webbing clothes moths NOT casemaking, since webbing clothes moths tend to be more prevalent.
  • Nuvan ProStrips can be extremely helpful in small spaces like a closet or storage area. The insecticide strip works for six months, releasing the chemical and affecting a wide range of pests, including clothes moths.
  • A residual insecticide spray, like Temprid Ready Spray, that can be used indoors, is a good choice, too. Apply to surfaces, but not clothing.

Want more information about getting rid of clothes moths? See our article: How to Get Rid of Clothes Moths

 

Don’t Let Fruit Flies Drive You Crazy: Easy Tips For Fruit Fly Control

As I type this now, there are a few buzzing around me. They’re driving me crazy!

When I was in college, it was inevitable that one of my roommates or I would leave some bananas out too long or forget about some potatoes way back in the cabinet. Before the rotting smell would catch our attention, a mass of annoying little flies would start buzzing around and landing on every surface.

Even now that I know better, I think it is almost impossible to go through a summer season without getting at least a few of these little buggers in your house. I’m in the midst of getting fresh produce each week from a local farm, and inevitably I have to leave some of the produce on the counter, along with my usual onions and garlic and the occasional lemon or peach or other item that does better without refrigeration.

But, after leaving out a few bananas and peaches out a day or two past their prime, it seemed that the fruit flies just appeared out of thin air.

And that is what most people say: fruit flies appear out of no where and stick around way past their welcome. Luckily, fruit fly control is not difficult.

Controlling Fruit Flies

Now that I am a “bug person” among friends and family, I often get questions on how to get rid of bugs. One of my friends asked, desperately, how to get rid of all the fruit flies in his apartment. I asked him if they where by his drain or if he had left any fruit out and he sheepishly, quietly mentioned the piles and piles of dirty dishes in his kitchen.

This, my friends, is the number one most important thing regarding fruit flies. Clean up your mess!

Fruit flies are attracted to the carbon dioxide from fermenting or decaying fruits, vegetables, beer, wine, or juice. Fruit flies (and cockroaches, mice, rats, and flies too, for that matter) love lazy people who leave glasses, cans, bottles, and dirty plates out for them to feast, breed, and lay eggs on.

Honestly, getting rid of fruit flies is super, super simple.

  • Don’t leave food out
  • Clean up all spills
  • Rinse out any recyclables
  • Make sure garbage cans are cleaned out and cover garbage cans if possible
  • Try to loosely cover any fruits and vegetables that must be left out.
  • Make sure your garbage disposal is cleaned out; you can sanitize it by pouring boiling water into sink.
  • Doing all of this will help to eliminate the flies and they’ll slowly start to die naturally over time. However, this might take a few weeks.

Trapping the flies you see will speed up the elimination. Fruit fly traps are inexpensive, easy to use, and safe and non-toxic to be used in the kitchen and around food preparation areas. We carry quite a few different types of fruit fly traps, and you can purchase several and put them around the most problem areas to trap the remaining bugs.

Remember: these traps will not work unless you’ve cleaned! As long as fruit flies have a food source, they can keep reproducing.

 

 

 

Asian Lady Beetles: When Beneficial Helpers Turn Into Big Problems

In the summer, you’d be hard pressed to find a gardener or homeowner shooing ladybugs away from their plants. These pretty beetles eat tons of aphids and other plant-damaging insects, and are so beneficial to landscape plants and produce that some people purchase and release them into their property. But as the temperatures drop, so does the usefulness of ladybugs, especially multi-colored Asian lady beetles.

Congregating Lady Bugs

Image courtesy of Michigan State University

People generally think of these polka dot bugs as friendly, harmless, and often pictured on children’s clothing and knickknacks on your grandma’s counter. But they’re not so cute when they’ve infiltrated your home and are hanging out on your windows, taking in the sunshine.

I can remember going down into the basement of the house I grew up in during the fall, and finding the sliding door covered in ladybugs. They were everywhere, covering the inside and out. Let’s just say that wasn’t my favorite time of the year!

Asian Lady Beetle Damage

Asian lady beetles search for warm places to wait out the winter months, and love to rest on the warm, sun-drenched south facing exterior walls of buildings. Eventually, they work their way into the interior of the buildings they congregate on, becoming a big nuisance.

Besides the large numbers being annoying and inconvenient, these beetles can actually bite (it feels like a pinch) and emit an unpleasant odor and secrete a yellow substance when threatened or crushed. Accumulations of dead bugs can trigger allergies and asthma in those sensitive.

Keeping Ladybugs Out!

For as much of a nuisance they can become once the growing season is over, they’re not as difficult to get rid of as you might think.

First, make sure you know what you’re looking for. It should be easy to notice a very large amount of ladybugs on the outside of your home, but multi-colored Asian lady beetles have an “m” right behind their heads. They range in colors, too, from scarlet, to orange, to pale yellow. They might have many spots or hardly any at all, but they are al the same type of beetles.

Prevention, as usual, is the best form of protection against overwintering lady beetles.

  • Sealing every single gap and crack or way for the beetles to get in is a crucial step. In the exterior of a building, seal cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, chimney gaps, underneath siding, and any other possible place using silicone caulk or fine mesh screens.
  • If the beetles have made their way into your living space, it is crucial to observe where they are entering. They can get in through outlets, switches, heating and cooling vents, from behind baseboards, etc. Make sure to seal these accordingly.
  • These insects seem to be more attracted to south facing exterior and interior walls – any spot that gets ample sunlight. Dark colored buildings seem to be less affected by this pest.
  • Use a synthetic pyrethroid spray, anything that has a residual affect and labeled for use against ladybugs, will be a helpful measure against these bugs. Our Overwintering Kit includes everything you need to control these and other overwintering pests, like stinkbugs.
  • Once the bugs have made their way indoors, it is best to simply vacuum them up. They don’t reproduce indoors, so they’ll only annoy you. Vacuuming can spur the unpleasant scent and secretions, which can make vacuuming unpleasant, but it is the quickest and most effective way to get rid of large numbers of lady beetles at once.

Don’t Let Stink Bugs Ruin Your Fall Season

adult stinkbugThe cool, crisp weather of fall causes us to head outdoors for apple picking and pumpkin patches, but it causes overwintering insects, like stinkbugs, to seek the warmth of your home.

I’m sure you’ve seen the side of a house covered in ladybugs, or a doorway full of box elder bugs. Last fall, my apartment security door was covered in box elder bugs. On the inside. It was creepy and gross and I didn’t want to leave!

Luckily, though, it wasn’t stinkbugs. Stink bugs are tougher to get rid of and a whole lot smellier. The Brown Marmorated stink bug is an invasive species of stink bugs that causes a lot of issues, destroying high value crops and invading homes and buildings.

The Problem With Stink Bugs
As with other bothersome insects that overwinter in homes and buildings, stink bugs can be an extreme nuisance. While they don’t cause any structural damage or bodily harm to people, they give off a terrible odor when crushed, and since they congregate in such large numbers on houses, they can be accidentally killed so the odor is a constant problem.

These pests are very determined to get into a warm environment before winter sets in. Once they’re in, it can be tricky to get them out. Brown Marmorated Stink bugs are particularly difficult, since they are highly adaptable to different climates and resistant to common pesticides.

Keeping Stink Bugs Under Control
If you have encountered stink bugs in the past, it is best to anticipate they will be back each year, so you can prepare and prevent a full-blown infestation.

Exclusion is really the key in keeping your home stink bug free all year long. Before fall hits, make sure every crack and crevice has been sealed and all screens have been repaired. Since they congregate on the sides of buildings, make sure siding is crack free and any utility opening is fitted with fine mesh or some other way to block pests and stink bugs from getting. If the pests can’t get in, indoor control will not be necessary.

You can apply insecticides to the exterior of your home to alleviate the irritation the many stink bugs may cause. Using a synthetic pyrethroid product will be effective and have a residual effect. Reapply these products as often as the label allows.

If your stink bugs have made their way inside your walls, a dust product can help to control any insects in the wall voids. Stink bug traps can also be effective tools indoors, to attract and trap all existing stink bugs in your home.

Use our stink bug control kit to get all the products you’ll need to control stink bugs this season. For more information and products for stink bugs, see our main stink bug control page.

Know Your Bees: Bumblebees vs Carpenter Bees

bee on flower wavingPeople often lump bees together in one category. Any stinging insect is just “a bee,” no matter the appearance, size, or behavior. But really, there is a wide variety of bees and stinging insects out there, and some get a bad reputation, while others are misidentified. The bumblebee and carpenter bee are often confused and misidentified, but they are very different in behavior and importance. Since Carpenter Bees are going to be emerging again down here in the South in the next couple of weeks or so, we wanted to help you know which is which.

Carpenter bees can cause extensive damage to your home or property’s wooden elements, while bumblebees are extremely important pollinators that should be encouraged rather than controlled. Here’s a rundown of the difference between these two bees and how you can spot the bee you should control and the bee you should “let be” (pun intended).

bumblebee on flower

Bumblebee

Bumblebee Identification, Habits, and Habitats
Bumblebees can be 1/3 to 1 3/8 inches long. They have a narrow head compared to their abdomen, and are covered in fuzzy hair with yellow and black markings. They are relied on around the world to pollinate a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Some plants, like tomatoes, rely specifically on bumblebees to pollinate. While they may not be as abundant and commercially viable as honeybee hives, they still make up a large part of the pollinating insects and animals.

Bumblebees are social insects with castes, meaning different bees have different tasks to keep the hive running, like gathering food and sharing it with other hive members. They make their nests in abandoned rodent or small animal burrows, soil cavities, old stumps, old bales of straw or hay, along foundations, and any other out of the way voids or burrows. Many people get a bumblebee sting when they accidentally walk or mow on or over the nests. Bumblebees can sting multiple times, but rarely do unless directly threatened.

carpenter bee flying

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee Identification, Habits, and Habitats
Carpenter bees are ½ to 1 inch long. They have similar markings to a bumblebee, with some fur and yellow and black markings, but their abdomens are shiny and black. They feed on pollen and nectar of flowering plants, just like bumblebees, but are not social bees, so they do not have a large hive.

However, carpenter bees are wood-boring insects. They make their nests in wood, and can attack wooden elements of your home, commonly in doors, windowsills, roof eaves, shingles, railings, and sometimes wooden lawn furniture. They prefer unpainted surfaces, but paint does not deter them if they are in need of a nesting site. They create round, ½ inch holes, where they continue to drill tunnels within the wood. In these tunnels they create chambers to raise their young.  One bee’s drilling efforts in a season leaves minimal damage, but these bees continue to use the same nest sites year after year, so damage can become extensive if these bees are left unchecked. Check out our carpenter bee control page for ways to control these bees.