Home & Garden News: When pests make themselves at home

By Debra Levey Larson
Media/Communications Specialist, University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

URBANA, Ill. — It is time for the annual pesky ladybug invasion. Every fall, it happens: as the weather turns cooler, there is another outbreak of critters that want to come inside where it’s warm. Rhonda Ferree, horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension, said to take time now while the weather is still amenable to prepare your home.

Spiders, box elder bugs, Asian lady beetles, and mice would all like to share your home with you this winter,” Ferree said. “Fall cleaning activities such as sweeping spider webs away from windows and corners and raking accumulated leaves and grass away from the foundations help eliminate hiding places, eggs and easy access to your house by the pests.”

Ferree said the best way to keep critters out of your home is to prevent their entrance by caulking around windows and doors and at the top of the foundation.

This will help keep out drafts, too,” Ferree said. “Be sure weather seals at the bottoms of doors are tight. To keep mice from entering the house, cover all holes that are at least as big as the diameter of a lead pencil. Place one-quarter-inch wire mesh, smaller screening, or sheet metal around pipes and over ventilators or other holes.”

Most pests that come indoors die in a few days, she said. However, box elder bugs, ladybugs, and spiders may live indoors all winter.

After they’ve come inside, the simplest way to eliminate them is to vacuum them up, rather than spraying,” Ferree said. “Try not to crush box elder bugs and ladybugs, as they leave a stain and odor. These insects do not feed or reproduce indoors, and are only seeking shelter. Spiders, on the other hand, will continue their normal habits, but only if they have insects on which they can live.”

When dealing with mice, Ferree recommended trapping as the most effective method of eliminating small numbers of mice, but sanitation is equally important.

Store food in tightly closing containers,” she said. “Do the dishes daily, and always wipe up crumbs from tables and counter tops. Remove nesting sites in garages and around the home or other buildings.”

For more about this or other horticultural issues, visit www.extension.illinois.edu. Ferree also welcomes questions on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ferree.horticulture.

From the Nov. 9-15, 2011, issue

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