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Overwintering Pests

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How To Identify Overwintering Pests

On the Atlantic Coast, North Carolina is just one of the many states where insects overwinter. Overwintering means almost the same thing as hibernation. It means that the pests take up shelter in protected areas to ride out the harsh elements of winter. Basically, these pests enter homes and buildings to get away from snow and frost. As it turns out, wall voids and attic spaces of human structures make the perfect locations for these pests to ride out the harsh elements of the winter.

What Type Of Pests Overwinter?

While there are a whole handful of pests that overwinter, there are some that are more commonly known in North Carolina than others.

Boxelder Bugs

Considered a major garden pest during the summer months, the boxelder bug feeds on the seed of boxelder trees. However, this is not their limit. They have also been known to feed on a variety of trees, including the maple tree. This pest can be a real nuisance in the winter months, as they’ll invade the nearby homes or structures looking to ride out the elements of the winter. They are about ½ inch in length with black and red marking on their flat wings. It is their unique flat shape that allows them to easily slip through cracks and crevices. They don’t bite or sting, they don’t transmit diseases, and they don’t pose your property any structural threat, but these bugs will give off a distinctive, offensive odor when crushed. They also leave stains behind.

The Asian Lady Beetle

For many, the Asian Lady Beetle will easily be mistaken for the Ladybug, but the habits of the two are nothing alike. The Asian Lady Beetle is an overwintering pest that will find its way into the home or structure and take refuge. These pests have been known to bite or nip their hosts, but don’t transmit any diseases. They will also emit a foul odor and stains when crushed. It has also been said that these bugs taste terrible, so afford this experience.

Cluster Flies

Unlike other fly species, the cluster fly will naturally try to live outdoors. They prefer the outdoors and originate from the earthworm as a parasite. When the larvae emerge, they will continue their lifecycle outdoors. It won’t be until the winter months that they seek shelter indoors. And, they oftentimes won’t seek the protection of a shelter or building if possible. Instead, they’ll look for protection behind tree bark and wood planks. When these options are not available, they will then enter nearby homes or buildings. Unfortunately, if you spot a cluster fly in the home it will be too late to do anything, but just clean up the mess they leave behind. And, they will leave behind a mess!

Leaf-Footed Pine Seed Bugs

The Lead-Footed Pine Seed Bug might only produce one generation a year and measure at ¾ inch long, but they can be quite the nuisance. They are brownish in color and feed on pine comes during the summer months, but when winter arrives, they will seek shelter in the home or nearby buildings. Like the cluster fly, their first choice will be tree bark, conifer trees, or behind wood planks, but they have been known to enter structures. They’ll usually do so through cracks and crevices in the foundation. They might not sting, bite, or transmit diseases, but they will need to be cleaned up.

Stink Bugs

Most North Carolina residents are familiar with the stink bug or marmorated bug, but that doesn’t mean they know everything there is to entirely know about the bugs. Knowing this information could help when it comes to prevention and elimination. These bugs are usually about ½ inch in length and have the body shape of a shield. They get the name marmorated bug from the fact they are brown with a marbled pattern. While these bugs are a new addition to the US, coming from Asia, their numbers have grown and they’ve become quite the nuisance. During the warm, summer months, they will feed on vegetable crops, fruit trees, and ornamental plants, but during the colder months, they’ll seek shelter indoors. Like most overwinter insects, these bugs can also emit a foul odor when crushed, hence their name. The best way to eliminate a threat like this is to vacuum them up and properly dispose of them.

Learning The Signs Of Overwintering Infestations

As with most pests, it is best to always try to prevent an overwintering infestation before they start. While most of these pests don’t bite and transmit diseases, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a nuisance. Most of them leave behind messes and can emit foul odors when crushed. Whatever the situation, you’ll want to learn to spot the signs of an infestation. This will help you determine that you are dealing with an infestation of some sort, allowing you to tackle the problem. The earlier you get started, the better off you will be.

Some common signs of overwintering pest infestations are insects inside the home, fecal droppings, foul odors, stains on the upholstery, or damaged food packages. If overwinter pests are in the home it’s because they are trying to ride out the harsh elements of the winter. Most will take of residence in the walls, but as the temperature warms, they’ll come out. If you spot one of these pests in the home, it’s because they are trying to find their way back outside. Most will just go back out on their own, but they do sometimes get turned around and end up further in the structure.

Prevention Of Overwintering Pests

The best way to deal with overwintering pests is by preventing the problem before it becomes a problem. Of course, this is something that’ll be much harder said than done. Another important thing to note is, sealing insects completely out of the home is unrealistic. You can seal every crack, crevice, and opening, but it is likely some pest will still find its way into your home. However, that doesn’t mean every little bit doesn’t help. It does, and it’ll make a major difference. It’ll limit the number of pests that get inside the home. Here’s where you need to start:

Bricks And Mortar Joints

Bricks and mortar joints are common points of entry for most overwintering pests. This is because the caulking or mortar used to seal between bricks and mortar joints expands over time. Brick is a common building material utilized on the outside of many structures. While a very durable material, the sealant used to seal the joint can expand and contract due to weather and climate. Resealing the joints between the bricks will be necessary for keeping overwintering pests out of the home.

Underneath Window Frames

Most professional window installers will professionally and properly caulk and seal the tops and sides of windows upon installation. This is done to keep water out. However, they do not seal and caulk the bottom because there is simply no need. Water cannot protrude into this area, but that doesn’t mean bugs can’t get in here. And, they will! This is while you’ll have to take the time to properly seal under each window frame.

Fascia Boards

When two fascia boards are installed over top of each other it creates a gap in every board. These gaps will also need to be caulked or sealed. The easiest method for this is probably stuffing them with foam insulation.

Soffit And Attic Vents

Soffits and attic vents are crucial for proper ventilation. That being said, they are also notorious for letting in overwintering pests. These areas should be backed with a screen if not already. If backed with a screen, you’ll want to regularly inspect it, making sure it is free of holes, tears, and gaps that bugs can squeeze through.

Utility Openings

In any structure, there are going to be several wires, pipes, and cables entering through the home. Some might enter through the walls, some might come in through the attics, or some might enter into the home trouble the basement. Whatever the situation, you’ll want to make sure all these utility openings are properly sealed. Just remember that techs may need to later access these areas for maintenance and repair purposes, so you cannot permanently seal or block them off.

Best Materials For Keeping Pests Out 

From what you’ve learned above, you know that it is crucial to ensure all cracks and crevices are properly sealed. Properly sealed being the key phrase here. While there are a variety of materials, caulks, and sealants available, you’ll want to make sure you are utilizing the right ones in the right situations.

Caulking

Caulking is best used for joints where there won’t be any movement (Brick)

Sealants

Sealants are going to be the best for joints that vary in width over the seasons. Joints that might expand (Aluminum and wood)

Foam Insulation

This is an excellent foam material that can simply be stuffed into long gaps. This type of product is a lot cleaner than caulking and sealants and can easily and quickly be removed. However, it should also be noted that there is a spray foam available as well. This type of sealant is a lot messier and even harder to remove once installed.

Aluminum Screening 

The aluminum screening will be perfect for sealing behind soffits and attic vents. Any place where ventilation is still needed will be ideal for this type of material

Hardware Cloth 

Hardware cloth can act as a heavy-duty screen, similar to that of aluminum screening

Pot Scrubbers – This material is perfect for small gaps and holes, as it’ll nicely fit into place when properly installed

Whether you have questions, concerns, or want to schedule an in-home assessment, we can dispatch out a tech. Our North Carolina offices are busy all year, but we are always more than willing to adapt for our customers. We can usually have someone out at the property within 24 to 48 hours after you make that initial call. However, we do have emergency services available for those in need. Whatever the situation, just give us a call and we’ll see about getting your issues cleared up as soon as possible in the most efficient manners possible.

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