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Fall Pests And How To Control Them

a mouse in fall leaves

The changing of seasons is very instrumental in orchestrating many other events besides weather. Spring brings a birthing and hatching of living creatures, budding of trees, and blooming of flowers. This causes an increase in a variety of insects and household pests. By the same token, fall is the time of year for crops to be harvested and stored. Trees and bushes begin to rest as the growing season comes to a close. Animals also begin preparing for a time of dormancy or hibernation. This season introduces certain pests to also seek shelter to aid in their survival during winter months. Included in this phenomenon are the activities and preparations of overwintering pests.

Some overwintering pests prepare for a time of inactivity and hibernating, or becoming very dormant. This group includes the box elder bug, ladybug, brown marmorated stink bug, cluster flies, and a wide variety of spiders. Others will seek shelter and venture inside to escape the cold climate, yet remain quite active during their stay indoors. This group includes a large number of rats and mice. It is not uncommon for mice and rats to begin working their way indoors during the fall season as they prepare for cold winter weather. While most of these pests are nothing more than a nuisance, rodents are a nuisance to homeowners and businesses as well as a potential health threat in their ability to spread diseases. Rodents can quickly and easily expose 1 to as many as 25 different diseases as they spread their feces and urine throughout the building. Many of these diseases can place you and your family or business at serious risk.

Regardless of which category, active or inactive, these pests all have one thing in common. They are in pursuit of a nice warm, comfortable, and safe place to escape the unpleasant conditions of those bitter cold winter months. This fact alone is enough to convince homeowners and business owners of the need for proper preventive tips to keep overwintering pests from invading their property. However, before we discuss methods of prevention and control, it will be prudent to become more familiar with each of these overwintering pests and their habits. Proper identification of insects and pests is critical to the choice of prevention and control methods.

You will find, when studying the identity of overwintering pests, that they represent various stages of maturity including eggs, larvae, nymphs, pupae, and adulthood. The adult overwinters in a dormant stage much like that of a wild bear that goes into hibernation. For the most part, larvae and nymphs will overwinter outdoors. You may find larvae burrowing deep into the soil or mulch while the nymphs can be found in ponds beneath the ice. The pupa will emerge in the spring as an adult after spending the winter in a very inactive transitional stage. Mosquitoes and other insects will usually lay their eggs in the fall, planning and preparing for a fresh hatching in early spring.

Nevertheless, the focus and purpose of overwintering, regardless of the stage of development, is predicated totally upon their ability to survive the harsh winter temperatures. Development and growth is placed in a dormant stage during this time to allow for survival in the cold climate as they await the welcoming spring temperatures. Often, the choice of overwintering is in cavities of the home or heated building, creating problems for the homeowner and commercial facilities. Even during dormancy, the insect will sometimes recognize warmth and begin coming out of hibernation as if spring had arrived. This often causes an infestation of pests during the winter season.

Some of the more common fall pests include the following:

Box elder bugs

These insects are undoubtedly nuisance pests but are also harmful to vegetation. They forage on the leaves, flowers, and seedpods of the box elder tree and, on occasion, can also be found on maple and ash trees and even various fruits. Nevertheless, large numbers of the box elder bugs occur only on box elder trees. The adult box elder bug reaches approximately ½ inch long and is predominantly black with thin red lines on the body and wings. In the fall, the adult will begin seeking refuge under boards, in cracks and crevices of foundations, in door and window casings, and inside houses. Although they are not dangerous to people or pets, they become a very annoying nuisance when they make their way indoors. They often infest areas they can access in large numbers making them very difficult to control on your own. A home pest control professional is highly recommended to get rid of box elder bugs if they’ve found refuge in your home.

Lady bugs

Lady bugs belong to the beetle family and they are sometimes referred to as lady beetles or ladybird beetles. They have an oval-shaped body and unique, distinctive color for which they are noted. Their primary diet is aphids and other soft-bodied insects and insect eggs and yet a few of them will occasionally feed on plant and pollen mildew. The ladybug will transition through 4 stages of maturity processing from the egg to the larvae, pupae, and adult. Once a mature adult, the lifespan of the adult ladybug is approximately one year. As the fall season approaches, the adult will begin searching for a warm place to hibernate during the winter months. They also congregate in large numbers to help keep each other warm during the overwintering. The choice locations are any cracks and crevices in and around homes and heated buildings as they search for a place of hibernation. The ladybug is predominantly a nuisance pest and is not known to bring any harm to people or pests. The one negative result of their presence is an occasional spotting of furniture from excrement. Again, if large numbers of ladybugs have found your home an acceptable place to spend the fall and winter, you’ll want the help of a pest control professional to rid your home of them.

Brown marmorated stink bug

The adult stink bug is a brownish-grey color and is approximately 5/8 inch long. A white band around the antennae and legs is visible along with a white underside that has grey or black markings. While the nymphs are brightly colored with a red and black pattern, the adult blends in very well with the bark of trees. For a short period, they can even have an appearance resembling a tick. The eggs are light green and often laid on the underside of leaves. While the stink bug is destructive to agriculture, there is no known threat to people or pets. However, they are a nuisance to homeowners and businesses as they begin working their way inside.

Cluster flies

Cluster flies are sometimes referred to as attic flies. The cluster fly is slightly larger than a common housefly. The cluster fly is also more sluggish in their movement than a common housefly. The adult cluster fly is dark colored with a thorax that is covered with short yellow or golden hairs. The life cycle of a cluster fly begins when the female lays eggs in the soil in late summer and early fall. It only takes a few days for the eggs to hatch. The newly hatched larva enters the body cavities of earthworms and feeds on the worm for several days until it molts and pupates in the soil. The complete development stages of the cluster fly range from only 27 to 39 days. The adult can often be found on the sunny side of structures in heavy populations during late fall and early winter as they search for a warm place of habitation during the cold winter months. It should be noted that they are capable of crawling through surprisingly small openings in a structure to gain access to the walls or attic of homes. Often, during the winter months, an unusually warm day will bring the cluster flies out into the inhabited parts of the house as they seek warmth.

Extermination measures should be administered the moment any of these fall pests begin appearing in your home. However, it is always easier to prevent their access than it is to bring about a total eviction. Adhering to the following prevention tips will greatly reduce the risk of overwintering pests taking up residence in your home:

  • Eliminate pests from gaining entrance by sealing all points of entry.
  • Repair, caulk, and seal cracks around all doors and windows.
  • Inspect the exterior soffit of your home and seal any gaps.
  • Caulk shut any gap between your siding and window/door trim.
  • Eliminate all water and food sources.
  • Keep counters, cabinets, and pantries clean and free of any crumbs or spills.
  • Thoroughly and regularly clean under all appliances.
  • Store all opened food in sealed containers.
  • Keep clutter in the kitchen, under sinks, and in the attic to a minimum.
  • Store dog and cat food in metal containers with secure lids.
  • Sweep down cobwebs in attics and basements to greatly reduce spider populations.
  • Keep mulch away from your foundation and basement window frames.
  • Keep tree branches and bushes trimmed away from the walls and roof of your home.
  • Examine all vents of your home, including the clothes dryer vent. Repair or replace as needed. Cover openings with a screen mesh.
  • Install new door sweeps on all exterior doors and repair any damaged or poor-fitting screens.

In addition to following these prevention tips, a careful inspection of the exterior and interior of your home will greatly assist in the control and management of nuisance pests. Always remember to call professional pest management services the moment you discover any sign of pest infestation in the home.