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<em>Harmonia axyridis</em>, the Japanese Lady Beetle, has almost completely displaced the native variety. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobstone/">Bob Stone</a>, CC <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en">some rights reserved</a>
Harmonia axyridis, the Japanese Lady Beetle, has almost completely displaced the native variety. Photo: Bob Stone, CC some rights reserved

Balmy days bring bugs inside

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It's the last full week of October, but it looks as though the North Country will be enjoying another several days of warm temperatures and sunny skies: good weather for enjoying the outdoors and finishing up fall chores.

But as Cornell Cooperative Extension's Amy Ivy tells Martha Foley, the late season warmth brings unwelcome insects inside. Cluster flies and ladybugs lead the list of bugs that commonly turn up inside this time of year. They're annoying she says, but not dangerous to humans or homes. The best thing to do? Sealing up the windows and woodwork to keep them out.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

“What’s happening is on these beautiful sunny warm days, after a really hard cold spell like we had, they swarm on the sunny side of your house. They just crawl all over the side,” Ivy told Foley.

Cluster flies are the first, but soon it will be ladybugs. Some people may have boxelder bugs, which are black and red and can show up in larger numbers. Good news is either you have them or you don’t.

“I have a few, but I live in an old farmhouse, and surprisingly we don’t have a huge bug problem, but do get a few of everything.” Foley described some of the bugs she has, “We have few ladybugs, a few flies, we have a few of those, I call them a John Wayne bug, they kind of wear chaps and kind of walk slow.” (Western conifer seed bug).

Ivy explained the overall bug situation, “All of these bugs that we’re talking about are just trying to find a place to spend the winter. They don’t cause structural damage, they don’t chew, they don’t breed in the house. Even though they keep appearing in numbers over the winter…”

To defend against these infestations, caulk around the outside of your house. Go around the windows, doors, trim, and any other area where there could be a hole. “You will not only be keeping the bugs out, but you will keep [out] the drafts… and that is such a good thing to do for energy conservation around your home.”

You can use latex caulking, but stay away from the foam caulking, as that is only for masonry, and can damage wood frames. The latex is permanent; when you apply it will stay there. For the inside of the windows Ivy uses putty style caulking that comes in a rope. Press that along all the moveable parts of your window. Another product is silicone caulk, which is removable as well. This will be a good week to caulk your home. Mild weather is better for caulk to cure.

Wasps also come indoors in winter and that can be a hazard. However, Ivy says they are not as dangerous during the colder months, because they are not very active. They are defensive during this time and will only sting if you aren’t careful when trying to remove or kill them. You don’t want to live with wasps, and will want to get them out, but there is no need to panic.

Ivy does not recommend spraying your house or using flea bombs. It is best to crack the window to let them out or vacuum them up.

Shifting the discussion to garlic, Foley said she still feels it is too warm to plant.

Ivy says you can plant it now, but don't be in a rush to do it. The weather forecast is mild for a bit. The soil temperature should be down around 50 degrees Fahrenheit when you plant garlic. The soil take a long time to cool down. Just because the temperatures are in the 50s doesn’t mean the soil is.

“So I could stick a thermometer down 3 to 4 inches in the soil to find out,” Foley said. Ivy agreed, saying it is the only way to really know.

There is plenty of time to plant garlic. You just want to make sure the garlic has enough time to grow roots, but not so much time that it forms top growth. “I would not rush into planting garlic; take the week to wash the windows and seal your house,” Ivy said. The next couple weeks should be an ideal time to plant.

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