What happens to all of the bugs in the winter? It sounds like the question of a precocious child, but very few adults would have the correct answer.
Many of the bugs we see in the summer hibernate through the winter as adults, outdoors, tucked into the warmest, most sheltered places they can find. Naturally your home is far and away the best place around for a bug to overwinter. Though it might feel drafty to you, a winter in your mudroom is like an all-expenses-paid trip to Maui for your average arthropod. The ensuing conflicts are fodder for your local daily’s Home & Garden column: Beware the Invasion of the… Asian Ladybeetles, Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, Boxelder Bugs, etc.
If you spend your Springs watching these critters amble around your coffee table looking for the exits, you know how much of a losing battle it can feel like, but there are things you can do to keep your home from being overrun by overwintering bugs –and chances are you should have been doing some of them already.Photo by Paul Marengo
If you are serious about getting the bugs out, you must keep them from getting back in:
- Apply weather stripping around your windows and doors. Yes, winterizing your home will keep more than the cold air out. If a draft can get in, a bug will get in.
- Caulk gaps around baseboards, windows, and floor drains.
- Seal floor drains and sumps with caulk and window screening in order to prevent bugs from crawling in.
- Pay special attention to areas where the outside interfaces with the inside. Cracks in the foundation and areas where pipes come in from the outside need to be filled. Attached garages are ideal entry points.
- Vents and chimneys should be screened and sealed properly.
- All holes in window screens should be repaired.
- Thinking of installing a dog/cat door? Don’t.
Try to minimized moisture in your home.
Most bugs rely on high ambient humidity and are very sensitive to drying out. Maintaining proper home drainage and use of dehumidifiers can be helpful control measures.
Eliminate bug-friendly shelter.
I.e. any dark, sheltered spaces which are not regularly disturbed. A basement full of damp cardboard boxes is going to provide a great home for just about any overwintering bug.
Reduce Food Sources
Most overwintering bugs will not be interested in eating. However, predatory household pests like house centipedes and spiders will. Reducing overall insect populations, along with exclusion and habitat reduction, will discourage a large population of predators in your home.
There is an old saying that the difference between a plant and a weed is where it is growing. Anyone who has had the misfortune of planting mint in their garden understands the sentiment. We identify the role of a natural organism based not on its natural history, but through the biased lens of narrow personal interests. These “pests” are simply trying to get through the winter as comfortably as possible, just like the rest of us.
Who overwinters with you? Do you wish they wouldn’t?