New York State IPM Program

March 28, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Managing monsters: Ladybugs problematic for many this winter

Managing monsters: Ladybugs problematic for many this winter

Originally published on March 24, 2018 – Courtesy of Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County

Unlike for vampires, there are no silver bullets for Harmonia axyridis. But good screens certainly help.  Photo: John Flannery

Pest management used to be a lot simpler, and more effective. For those bothersome vampire problems you had your basic wooden stakes, cheap and readily available. The well-to-do could afford silver bullets, an elegant and tidier solution. And of course, garlic was the solution to prevent repeat infestations. These days many people are asking where to find teeny silver bullets for Asian multicolor lady-beetles, because they are a real problem this winter.

On sunny fall days, the Asian multicolored lady-beetle, Harmonia axyridis, often hangs out with its pals on west or south-facing walls. The insect may be beneficial for gardens and harmless to us, but as winter approaches, these insects quit swarming to seek shelter in outbuildings, wall cavities, firewood piles and other nooks and crannies. Eventually, some of them find their way inside our homes. I don’t know what the sanctioned collective noun is for a gathering of Harmonia axyridis, but it should be a drove, since they can be enough to drive you out of the house.

From what I can tell, the orange-and-black ladybug, darling of small children everywhere, first arrived in the U.S. — at our invitation — in about 1916, as a control for aphids on pecan trees and other crops. Adorable lady-beetles didn’t turn into ogres until the mid-1990s. There is evidence to suggest the current population might be a strain accidentally released at the Port of New Orleans in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Whatever their origin, these new lady-beetles are here to stay.

Asian multicolored lady-beetles don’t carry disease, damage structures, suck blood or sting, and they eat harmful agricultural pests. More importantly, they do not breed indoors. However, they stain, give off a foul odor when disturbed and will even pinch one’s skin on occasion. It’s their sheer numbers, though, amassing in corners of garages and porches, coating the insides of picture windows, which unnerves and bugs us.

Managing ladybugs, it turns out, can cut your heating bill. Caulking around windows, vents and where cable or other utilities come through the wall, and between the foundation and sill, will help immensely with lady-beetle control, and somewhat with reducing drafts.  Photo: Joellen Lampman

Managing ladybugs, it turns out, can cut your heating bill. They are looking for someplace rent-free and cozy to spend the winter, and as warm air leaks out here and there from your house, they follow it to its source and let themselves in. Caulking around windows, vents and where cable or other utilities come through the wall, and between the foundation and sill, will help immensely with lady-beetle control, and somewhat with reducing drafts. It is also helpful to ensure that door sweeps/thresholds are tight, and check for cracked seals around garage doors. Installing screens on attic vents and inspecting all window screens is in order as well.

It’s best to avoid swatting or crushing them because they will release a smelly, staining yellow defense fluid. For a variety of reasons including the ladybugs’ habit of seeking inaccessible areas, indoor pesticides are practically useless against them. Spraying inside is strongly discouraged. Instead, use a broom and dustpan to knock them down and then suck them up with a vacuum cleaner or shop-vac.

You can use a simple knee high stocking to ensure vacuumed lady-beetles don’t end up in the vacuum bag or canister and can be easily dealt with.  Photo: Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann

You can make a reusable “mini-bag” out of a knee-high nylon stocking inserted into the hose of a canister-type vacuum. Secure it on the outside with a rubber band and hang onto it as you clean up the bugs. Just remember to quickly empty it into a pail of soapy water (gas or kero is hazardous and unnecessary).

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to combat multicolored Asian lady-beetles once they are inside — we have to persevere and vacuum and sweep them out for now. Home improvements this summer will help prevent repeat bug visits. I have no doubt that it must be more satisfying to dispatch vampires in one easy step than to fight endless lady-beetles, but I would bet it is a lot more dangerous, too.

Contact Paul Hetzler of Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County at ph59@cornell.edu.

For more information on multicolored asian lady beetle, brown marmorated stink bugs, boxelder bugs, and other occasional invaders, check out How to deal with occasional invaders on the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program’s What’s Bugging You? page.

August 16, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Sometimes I get questions about using ultrasonic devices for coping with pests. “Mrs. Jones uses them and she never sees a mouse!” is often how it goes. I understand the appeal: plug in this thing and my problem is solved. Sure! They also have great marketing campaign: this device will emit a sound you can’t hear that scares or annoys pests — forcing them to leave.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Cute, but ... wrong place, wrong time.

Cute, but … wrong place, wrong time.

History Lesson
The concept of using sound or vibration to deter pests was invented long before electricity. Ancient civilizations might well have used wind and water-powered devices to create vibration, movement or sound to ward off pests. And the concept of ultrasound as deterrent? Well, that might be based on the observation that some insects such as moths and crickets avoid high frequencies that mimic bat predators; similarly, certain sounds could distress rodents.

The Science
This theoretical frameworks aside, there’s no proof that ultrasonic devices really deter pests. In fact, scientific evaluations of ultrasonic devices have found no effect on target pests: German cockroaches, bed bugs and rodents. (See Literature section below.) In some cases, the frequency and intensity manufacturers claim don’t match up with actual output. Not only that, but some devices exceed limits imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) for human tolerance of sound exposure.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

What Does Work?
So why doesn’t Mrs. Jones have mice? Well, prevention is cardinal to good IPM, and perhaps her house is well constructed and sealed against outdoor pest invasions. Or perhaps she keeps a clean home with no spilled food or water. Again, prevention is numero uno in IPM.

If a pest did invade her home, her best chance at management would involve eliminating access to food, water and shelter, then reducing the pest population by trapping or baiting. Again, core IPM.

Next time you’re dealing with a pest problem, figure out why they’re there and address that issue. Consult our IPM pest fact sheets to guide your way. And put away those ineffective ultrasonic devices.

Selected Literature

  • Bomford, M, & PH O’Brien. 1990. Sonic Deterrents in Animal Damage Control: A Review of the Device Tests and Effectiveness. Wildlife Society Bulletin 18(4): 411-422.
  • Gold, RE, TN Decker, & AD Vance. 1990. Acoustical Characterization and Efficacy Evaluation of Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Marketed for Control of German Cockroaches (Orthoptera: Blattellidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 77: 1507-1512.
  • Koehler, PG, RS Patterson, & JC Webb. 1986. Efficacy of Ultrasound for German Cockroach (Orthoptera: Blattellidae) and Oriental Rat Flea (Siphonoptera: Pulicidae) Control. Journal of Economic Entomology 79: 1027-1031.
  • Shumake, SA. 1997. Electronic Rodent Repellent Devices: A Review of Efficacy Test Protocols and Regulatory Actions. In (ed.) JR Mason: Repellents in Wildlife Management (August 8-10, 1995, Denver, CO). USDA, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO.
  • Yturralde, KM, & RW Hofstetter. 2012. Efficacy of Commercially Available Ultrasonic Pest Repellent Devices to Affect Behavior of Bed Bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 105(6): 2107-2114.

 

Are you ready for fall invaders?

September 10, 2015 by Matt Frye

Insects exhibit a variety of behaviors or adaptations that help them to survive the harsh conditions of winter. One that can be quite frustrating to homeowners belongs to the the group of insects we call “overwintering pests.” These organisms survive winter by taking refuge in South or West facing cracks and crevices, which maximizes exposure to the warm sun and buffers them from wind and freezing cold. While trees and rocky hillsides provide overwintering sites in nature, man-made structures that now dominate the landscape are perfectly acceptable to these insects.

The Culprits. Multicolored Asian ladybird beetles, boxelder bugs, western conifer seed bugs, cluster flies, and the brown marmorated stink bug are common fall invaders in the Northeast. Some of these insects are exotic invasive species that were accidentally introduced to the US, such as the stink bug, which was first identified from samples collected in Allentown, Pennsylvania in the 1990’s. A new insect, the kudzu bug, was introduced to Georgia in the early 2000’s and may soon invade homes in the Northeast.

Note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug [note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body]

Boxelder

Boxelder Bug [center of 3 stripes partially covered by pin]

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Western Conifer Seed Bug

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Multicolored Asian Lady-Bird Beetle [note “M” pattern on white thorax]

Can they be Stopped? If overwintering pests gain access to buildings through cracks and crevices, it seems reasonable that sealing these openings will keep pests out. While no formal research has tested this hypothesis, a recent grant awarded by the Pest Management Foundation will evaluate the effectiveness of exclusion as a technique to keep stink bugs and other overwintering pests out of homes (Note: the Pest Management Foundation is the education, research and training arm of the National Pest Management Association). In the mean time, below are some common recommendations to dealing with overwintering pests:

  • Using an appropriate sealant labeled for doors and windows, seal exterior gaps that could allow entry into the home. Remember to inspect locations where wires, pipes, and other utility lines enter the structure, especially on the South and West facing side of buildings.
Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 4.03.58 PM

Look for and seal gaps around window and door frames.

Repair torn screens

  • Make sure that screens are tight fitting in the window frame, and they do not have any tears.
  • Keep attic doors and fold-down stairs closed during winter months. Insects can enter attic spaces through soffits, later entering the livable space when they are attracted to lights and heat.
  • Flues should be closed in the fireplace when it is not in use.

Trapping Pests. On warm winter days, stink bugs and other overwintering pests may become active. During the day, they can be found at windows, while at night they may fly towards artificial lights from the television, computer or lamps. One indoor trap type that is easy to make and effective is a pan trap. Read more about this device here: Stink bugs beware! Homemade stink bug traps squash store-bought models, Virginia Tech researchers find.

Additional Resources:

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Factsheet

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Prezi

This gallery contains 5 photos

May 20, 2015
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Inside-Outs of Dermestid Beetles

Inside-Outs of Dermestid Beetles

After a long, cold winter it seems we skipped spring and jumped into summer! The days are growing longer and May’s flowers are in full bloom. Concurrent with this change in seasons is a programmed response of many insects to emerge from overwintering and start their annual cycle. In some cases, these insects have spent the winter inside buildings and homes, and are now trying to get out!

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Dermestid beetle larvae. Photo by Joseph Burger, Bugwood.org

Overwintering insects such as the brown marmorated stink bug, boxelder bug, and ladybird beetles (ladybugs) are notorious for their emergence within homes in the spring. Meanwhile, a small colorful beetle that develops in homes year-round goes largely undetected. Dermestid beetles, such as the varied carpet beetle, develop as larvae on a tremendous variety of food sources. As pantry pests, dermestid larvae may feed on spices, grains and other dried food items. As fabric pests, they may feed on natural animal fibers such as wool, cashmere, silk and leather. As decomposers, they may feed on human and pet dander, or even dead insects and animals within the walls.

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Adult beetles may go undetected because of their small size.

Adult dermestid beetles are much more refined in their food preferences. In the spring, adults may be observed on walls or windowsills attempting to get outside to feed on pollen from those flowers that are just starting to pop. Once they have fed and reproduced, beetles are attracted to come back indoors and lay eggs near food sources.

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Adult dermestid beetles are approximately 2-4 mm long (seen here next to a quarter)

If you find dermestid beetles in your home, consider revisiting your spring-cleaning! Vacuum to remove dust, dander and food spillage, especially in rooms where you see beetles. Focus on those out of sight, out of mind places such as under furniture and in corners. During the summer when windows are open, make sure that screens fit snugly in the window frame and that no tears are present. This will prevent dermestid beetles from entering the home to lay eggs.

For additional information, see our What’s Bugging You? page.

April 21, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on An Unwelcome House Guest: the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

An Unwelcome House Guest: the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The shield-shaped adult brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) are between ½ to ¾ inch long with grayish-brown speckling on the top and bottom. “Marmorated” refers to the light and dark bands along the edges of the body. Now (April – May) is the time that they emerge from their overwintering places in our houses to mate and lay eggs through the summer. Although the BMSB is not a threat to human health, people become alarmed when large numbers invade their homes (and even hotel rooms).

Note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body.

Note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body.

Did You Know…?

  • Unwelcome, but not demanding: Indoors, BMSB do not form a nest, do not feed, do not reproduce and do not cause damage to the structure.
  • Northward (or Eastward) Ho! The majority of insects will enter on the south or west facing side of a building, which are warmed by afternoon sunlight throughout the winter.
  • Just pretend we’re not here: Once inside, they will hide in protected and dark places, such as wall voids, folds of curtains, and furniture.
  • They stink! While they do not form health risk, they will give off an unpleasantly pungent smell if crushed.
  • Build them out: This summer, seal cracks, crevices, corners, and other dark areas around windows and doors, gutters, flashing, etc. with a highly elastomeric sealant.
It's spring! Time to go! Photo: Dr. Matthew Frye

It’s spring! Time to go!

See The Unwelcome House Guest: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug —A Guide for Residents, Property Managers, and Pest Management Professionals fact sheet for more information on BMSB and how to manage them.

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