Box elder bugs, rodents and spiders are all looking for cozy spaces this season, and can easily take up residence with you until spring. So it’s important to know what kind of conditions make them feel at home, and to take action against pests that can be both a nuisance and a danger to human health.
Box elder bugs
During warm seasons, box elder bugs make their homes on the leaves of ash, maple and box elder trees in your neighborhood and landscaping. The bugs feed on soft plant tissues like leaves, flowers and fresh twigs, and extract liquids from host trees. Box elder bugs also lay eggs inside trees and on their leaves, expanding the population and putting more bugs in your path as the weather grows colder. That’s when box elder bugs migrate toward buildings for warmth and hibernation, gaining entry through crevices and cracks in foundations, doors and windows.
Box elder bugs tend to remain hidden through winter, but they’ll sometimes emerge if heat sources within a structure are sufficient. When that happens, they fly to windows and become a nuisance. You’ll know these pests by their black coloration marked with red lines along the thorax and sides, and wings that are flat and red. They measure between 1/2- and 1/3-inch wide, and though they don’t bite humans or damage structures, their invasive hibernation patterns can be an annoyance.
To keep box elder bugs from multiplying and invading your living spaces, it’s often helpful to remove their host trees from the area surrounding your home. Box elder trees aren’t recommended for ornamental planting, but if you do plant them in your yard, choose male, non-seed-bearing trees, as female box elder trees are more susceptible to infestation. Otherwise, keep box elder bugs out of the house by sealing cracks and crevices around your home’s windows, doors and foundation. If you find you already have an infestation, contact your local pest control professional for extermination options.
Rodents can intrude on your winter nest via crevices smaller than a dime, and they bring along dangerous diseases. They spread disease through urine, feces and bites, as well as via the ticks, mites and fleas that feed on and travel with them. These diseases can include rickettsialpox, plague and murine typhus. Rodents also carry hantaviruses leading to HPS, which can cause flu-like symptoms, and LCMV, a viral infectious disease that can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and/or inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. LCMV is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn children.
If they settle into your home, rodents can also cause house fires by gnawing on electrical wires. Rodent reproduction rates can expand your problems before you know it, so keep them out in the first place by sealing all cracks larger than a quarter of an inch wide, and installing weatherstripping and door sweeps. Also avoid leaving out food and dirty dishes, as they’ll attract hungry rodents, and store both pet and human food in sealed containers. Well-trimmed trees and shrubs will also help keep rodents away, as will sealed garbage and recycling bins.
From time to time, inspect inside and outside your home for rodent droppings, rub marks and burrows. If you see any of these signs of rodent infestation, contact a licensed pest management professional for help in identifying and eliminating the problem.
If you have a spider problem, you also likely have an infestation of the types of insects they eat, because spiders typically live close to a food supply. While they can be beneficial in ridding your home of other insect pests, some spider species—like the brown recluse and black widow—can be dangerous to you and your family.
Spiders can make their way into a home through firewood, mulch and moving boxes, so you should always inspect outdoor items before bringing them inside. Other important tasks: Eliminate clutter, sweep and vacuum regularly, and clean and dust to inhibit spiders’ ability to build webs. Also seal cracks and crevices, spaces under doors, and holes in window and door screens. A pest control professional can best help you manage and eliminate a spider infestation, starting with identification of their food source.
Maintain a pest-free home this winter
If you’d like to learn more about how to prevent pests from joining you indoors this winter, visit Orkin.com. You’ll find a range of useful information to help identify and eliminate issues, including a pest library where you can look up any species you’ve spotted in or near your home. You can also find a local Orkin pest control pro to help eliminate box elder bugs, rodents and spiders, and arrange for a free pest control estimate.