OCTOBER
1996

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

10-24-96

Uninvited 'Guests' Invade Homes In Fall

Fall is the time of year when all kinds of uninvited "guests" show up in our homes. Rodents, bats and bugs, oh my! As winter approaches, many creatures are seeking protected places to live. Our houses fit the bill quite nicely.

Insects are among the invaders. Some show up to live out the remaining portion of their lives, while others are bent on spending the winter there. For whatever reason, most of us would just as soon they went somewhere else.

Crickets manage to hop their way into human dwellings. Historically, some folks have welcomed these singing insects to their hearth. An old adage holds that a cricket in the house is a sign of good luck. It is true that a cricket in a human dwelling might provide a song, especially when hiding near the heating stove. But it is unclear what there is about the little songster that makes it a harbinger of luck.

Those of us who, like the ant in the fable of the grasshopper and the ant, are unwilling to share the fruits of our summer labor with a cricket, can take heart. The cricket is only going to live a short time. The adult cricket that has invaded a house is an old timer, for crickets don't overwinter in the adult stage. These insects survive winters in the egg stage.

We are not so lucky with other insects — for instance, ladybird beetles. There are lots of species of ladybird beetles. Most are red or orange and have black spots, but some are solid colored. Ladybird beetles seek sheltered sites where they can overwinter as adults. Such a location might be under leaves or a stone in the woods. Our homes also serve the purpose, so when winter approaches, these insects can show up in great numbers crawling around the outside walls of our homes. No home is insect-proof, so the beetles become invaders and crawl around inside.

The beetles generally die soon after getting inside, and pose no harm to people, pets or possessions. But they are a nuisance, even if only to require frequent use of the vacuum cleaner to remove them.

Several species of flies also manage to find their way into our living rooms as winter approaches. Face flies, a major pest of cattle, can end up in our homes. Another fly that takes refuge from the cold winter winds is the cluster fly. This insect gets its name because large clusters of the fly can be found in barns, wall spaces and attics of buildings. Because it is commonly found in attics, it is also known as the attic fly.

These overwintering flies and beetles and an occasional hibernating wasp sometimes find their way into the heated part of the house during winter months. If that happens, don't think of the insect as a reminder of the past summer, but as an indicator of the summer to come!

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Andrea McCann