Unwelcome guests: Some insects make themselves at home

by | Jan 14, 2015

Some house guests are notorious for overstaying their welcome or worse — coming over uninvited. In certain cases, those committing the social faux pas may be creepy-crawly insects!  Seeking out warm environments for overwintering, they cluster together and trespass into homes, causing anguish for N.C. homeowners every year.

Many of these insects emit an aggregation pheromone, which attracts others of their species, leading to sometimes massive congregations. At first, they may assemble on the outside of a house. As temperatures cool, they creep into the wall spaces, attics and other voids. In some cases, usually on a warm day or when they heater is turned on, they come out of their refuges and annoy their unsuspecting hosts and hostesses.

There are several of these insects that rudely make themselves at home. Topping the list are kudzu bugs and ladybugs.

Kudzu bugs have been spreading throughout the Southeast since their accidental introduction near Atlanta in 2009.  The good news is that this exotic insect eats kudzu, an invasive plant that threatens our forest ecosystems. The bad news is that the bug also eats soybeans.  Homeowners who have issues with kudzu bugs often live near a patch of kudzu and/or have a white or light colored home, which attracts the bugs.

Ladybugs are generally considered beneficial, as they feed on garden pests like aphids and scales. Unfortunately, the ladybug also has a dark side… the one that commonly invades homes is native to Asia and has almost displaced native ladybugs.

While these squatters may be quite the nuisance, they don’t cause long-term damage. To reduce the populations, homeowners should seal cracks and crevices, replace torn screens and resolve any other possible entry points. They can also be vacuumed up, although they may cause quite the stink in the vacuum cleaner (some recommendations include inserting a pantyhose in the filter so that they can be easily removed or purchasing a vacuum dedicated to the stinkers). Pesticides are usually not recommended. To prevent kudzu bugs, homeowners should search for nearby patches of kudzu and kill two birds with one stone: eliminating the kudzu will likely mean less kudzu bugs!