Winter Gives New Meaning to Insect
October is a wonderful month! It is a time of harvest and of falling
leaves and falling temperatures. It's a time when frost on the pumpkin
glistens in the orange rays of the early morning sun. It 'tis the season
when many birds bid their summer haunts adieu and head south to warmer
October is also the time when insects move to overwintering sites. The
famous monarch butterflies flap on leisurely wing southward. These wonderful
butterflies are headed toward their winter homes in the mountains of Mexico.
Other insects make a less-spectacular journey. They just crawl into some
protected site in the fallen leaves or under the bark before the temperatures
plunge during the winter months.
A few insects have discovered that hospitable humans provide wonderful
locations for spending the winter months--in the structures that we call
our homes. Yes, some insects seem to think that our homes are meant for
Each October, a number of insect species try to check in for the winter
at our residences. All of these insects spend the winter in the adult
stage, and all seek some shelter for their winter hibernation. Of course,
most homeowners never intend to be proprietors of an insect hotel for
the winter months!
Who are these uninvited winter houseguests anyway? One of the most common
is a fly sometimes called an attic or cluster fly. Both names are appropriate.
Many of these flies find their way into our attics where they accumulate
in clusters in corners.
The cluster fly closely resembles the well-known housefly in size and
color. But this house fly look-alike is a parasite. In the immature stage,
it lives in the body of earthworms. Early each spring, the cluster fly
comes out of hibernation and tries to get back outside where it will seek
earthworms to parasitize. Unfortunately, their search for the great outdoors
brings them into our living quarters.
Another of the great house-invading insects of winter is the ladybug.
There are many species of ladybugs; all spend the winter in the adult
stage, and most seek shelter during that time. They crawl under the bark
of trees, under rocks or into crevices of rock cliffs. Our houses provide
wonderful substitutes for these natural overwintering sites.
One of the most numerous of the ladybug houseguests is known as the Asian
ladybug. This insect varies in color and number of spots, but it is a
ladybug. The Asian ladybug can accumulate in great numbers in the wall
voids and attic spaces of our homes. During warm spells in the winter,
the temperature in these spaces can become warm enough that the ladybugs
become active. They then find their way into living quarters of the house
where they are nuisance pests.
Other winter insect-squatters include some female paper wasps. These
brown, black and yellow wasps also find their way into our living quarters
where their presence can create concern on the part of the human inhabitants.
Boxelder bugs also show up, sometimes in great numbers, seeking a warm
place to spend the winter. So do some squash bugs, and those large fearsome
bugs with a cogwheel on their back. These are called assassin bugs, and
they, too, want to share our winter abode.
Most homeowners would just as soon not have these overwintering insects
in their homes. But there is not much we can do about insects that are
intent on sharing our living space. Except to use the vacuum cleaner as
an insect extermination device!