October 2017 Blog

Keeping “Critters” From Hibernating in Your House This Winter

If you had your windows open and your porches in use during the past week or so, chances are you had a small army of unwanted, multi-legged visitors making themselves comfortable in your windowsills, on your blinds and nestled in your furniture.

Halyomorpha halys, a/k/a brown marmorated stink bug, a/k/a stink bug is a pre-historic-looking litter critter indigenous to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Unfortunately, these bugs – which look as if they have armor plating on their backs – stowed away and made it to our shores in the late 1990’s. While they are harmless to humans – and to our homes – they are a growing agricultural nuisance.

As I sat on my own porch last week during our end-of-summer hot spell, there were stink bugs literally swarming up my screens and finding their way in through all the little nooks and crannies that are a common feature of a 108-year old home.  I also found them in my attic and…well….all over.   Because it was uncommonly hot, the little buggers were pretty lively, landing on seat cushions with aplomb and buzzing through the air, tantalizing my sister’s dog and landing in my iced tea.  After a murderous rampage using my slipper and last week’s newspaper, I swept dozens of stink bug carcasses out the porch door and began inspecting my windowsills and blinds


to see how many of them had breached the interior of my home. I remembered last winter, finding them clinging to the undersides of curtains, huddling for warmth on a bedroom windowsill or even – EKE – crawling up my bedspread!

Sure enough, there were stink bugs taking up residence inside my honeycomb-shaped window shades, crawling across my kitchen counter, and I even found one nestled among some tea bags in a tea box in my pantry!

Of course, the hot spell subsided within a few days and the bugs began to slow down in preparation for a long winter’s nap – in my house! While they are relatively easy to kill with a newspaper or a fly swatter, they are impervious to insect sprays and its best just to squash them, being careful not to get the mess on the walls, drapes and furniture.

But this recent migration indoors got me thinking of all the other unwanted critters that work hard to become housemates once the weather gets cold. This region has its share of house centipedes, spiders, and – in very damp instances – silver fish, even if your house is newer.

To get rid of these nuisances, there are plenty of reputable pest removal companies in the area. They can lay down insecticides, insect traps and insect strips to catch and destroy unwanted pests. For those of you who would rather not introduce potentially toxic chemicals into your home, did you know that there are other options?

Food-grade diatomaceous earth, also known as “DE,” is an extremely fine white powder, made from pulverized seashells, that you can spread in your basement, behind appliances and inside bathroom and kitchen cabinets without doing any harm to your family or your pets. When insects walk through the DE, it coats their bodies, antennae and legs (in the case of house centipedes, that’s a lot of legs!). The insects then ingest the powder. Although it feels powder-like to us, to an insect, it is just like ingesting shards of glass and it rips them apart internally. Sound cruel? Well, if you’ve ever come across a two-inch long house centipede on a midnight run to the loo, you wouldn’t think twice about spreading the lethal stuff generously around your home!

Of course, the best thing you can do to guard against a cold-weather invasion of creepy crawlers is to check your windows and doors for cracks and keep your basement dry and the door tightly sealed. If you have an older home with a stone basement, a de-humidifier is something that you will want to use throughout the winter months as well.

So, stay warm, lay down some pest traps, and make sure to winterize your windows and doors to guard yourselves against an unwanted invasion.