Overwintering Pests

Kristen Stevens, BCE (Stink Bugs, Kudzu Bugs, and Lady Bugs)

As winter approaches, we don’t often think of insects; we think more of holiday treats and cold weather eliminating our not-so-welcome house guests. However, that notion is false. Well, at least the part about pests – those holiday treats should be thoroughly enjoyed! There are three pests that we must deal with more frequently when the temperatures begin cooling down: the kudzu bug, the stink bug and the lady bug. These three insects are considered overwintering pests since they typically choose to overwinter in people’s homes.

Kudzu bugs were originally found outside people’s houses and vegetation in Georgia. Now these insects are distributed throughout 6 southern states: Georgia, northern Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and southern Virginia. These insects are small and appear as a rounded oblong shape. Their typical lifespan is 23-77 days. Forming large mating aggregations (groups), the kudzu bug colonizes between April and July and may continue to do so until October; however, in warmer climates they may be active all year long. Adults will overwinter on nearby buildings and structures, leaf litter or under the bark of trees to stay warm. They are attracted to light-colored surfaces, predominantly yellow and white. Like stink bugs, they release an odor, which may stain the surface on which they aggregate, as a defense mechanism.

Brown marmorated stink bugs are another overwintering pest. This bug was first identified in 2001 near Allentown, Pennsylvania; however, it was probably in the area for many years prior to its discovery. The brown marmorated stink bug is now widespread and found in every state. After invading North America, it has continued to spread to Europe, Eurasia and South America. The stink bug’s ability to hitchhike on cars and other moving vehicles has allowed it to spread across the globe. These bugs are larger than most and are brown, dark red and black on the dorsal surface with a beige or cream-colored ventral surface. As a major crop pest, it causes millions of dollars’ worth of damage every year. These bugs are also a nuisance to people because of their presence in and around homes. Especially as fall approaches, they will find their way into people’s homes looking for a cool, dry place to overwinter. They may enter homes in large numbers, and although they pose no risk to humans, they do release an odor that can potentially stain surfaces if agitated or squished.

The Asian lady beetle, otherwise known as the lady bug, is also an overwintering pest that can be a concern as winter weather approaches. Most don’t mind these tiny little critters until they become a nuisance in your home. Lady bugs, like brown marmorated stink bugs, are widespread across the United States. They come in a variety of colors including orange, orange with black spots and red with black spots. Lady beetles are commonly used as a source of biological control. They are a predator of many other types of crop-destroying insects, such as aphids. However, they become less of a help and more of a nuisance when they begin aggregating on buildings. They are attracted to buildings that are white, beige or tan. They can enter in large numbers, sometimes as many as 15,000 to 20,000, although that is uncommon. They will enter people’s homes through walls, doors, windows, attics, crawl spaces, etc. Like the other pests mentioned above, they are searching for a cool place to reside for the winter. Once inside they become even more of a nuisance by flying around and landing on walls, drapes, furniture and other surfaces. When people begin vacuuming or sweeping up these lady beetles, they may leave behind a foul odor or stains on what are sometimes expensive drapes or furniture.

What can we do to help eliminate these pests in our homes this winter? Examine all exterior walls, doors, windows or any place where there could be cracks or holes, as these could serve as points of entry for any of these overwintering pests. They may try to find their way indoors through these sometimes hard-to-find breaches, so be on the lookout. Keeping such areas well sealed will help to prevent overwintering pests from causing a nuisance in your home.

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