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Creepy crawlies in your house    Send a link to a friend

[SEPT. 24, 2004]  URBANA -- There are numerous insects, such as boxelder bugs and lady beetles, and insect relatives, such as millipedes and sow bugs (other names are pill bug and rolly poly), that migrate into homes to stay warm as temperatures drop in the fall, said James Schuster, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator based in Cook County.

"Most of these home invaders are not going to eat our food, clothing or anything else. They are just unwanted nuisance guests," he said.

Insect relatives such as the millipedes and sow bugs need relatively high humidity to survive. If the humidity is too low, these insectlike creatures (insects have six legs, while these creepy crawlies have many more legs than six; hence, they are insect relatives) tend to dry out and die.

"How soon they die depends on how low the humidity is in your house," said Schuster. "Generally people handle 30 percent humidity very well. However, these insect relatives will dry out quickly at 30 percent humidity."

Insects such as ground beetles (longer than wide and usually very dark brown) and soldier beetles (also longer than wide and may vary in color from gold and brown, reddish-orange and black to reddish-yellow and black or golden brown) are good guys.

"They eat other insects, so instead of killing them, carefully pick them up with a tissue and throw them back outside," said Schuster.

"Two insects that are more of a problem (and not because they eat anything in the house) are the boxelder bug and the multicolored lady beetle. If squashed, boxelder bugs will leave permanent red stains on almost everything found in the house -- so be careful. Pick them if there are only a few and give them the ‘royal’ flush. If there are many, use the vacuum cleaner and then take it outside and empty the bag."


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He added that the multicolored lady beetle can bite.

"You may also feel six tiny claws sticking into your skin. If a dog eats one of these lady beetles, they have been known to cause dogs to foam at the mouth -- like a rabid dog," he noted.

The first multicolored beetle into the walls of your home will give off a scent that draws thousands more, he said.

"This is why one homeowner will have a major infestation and a next-door neighbor won't have one," he said. "This lady beetle was imported from Southeast Asia. It overwinters in cracks found in cliffs in its homeland. Our houses make good substitute cliffs. Control is the same as for boxelder bugs."

During the winter and early spring some of these creepy crawlies may periodically show up. On sunny days when temperatures near the freezing point or go a little above freezing, some of these pests may move inside from the wall voids. The ones that can fly are often attracted to light, so they tend to congregate around windows during daylight.

"The use of an insecticide is not suggested since the house is usually sealed for the winter," said Schuster. "The vacuum cleaner is your best defense."

[University of Illinois news release]

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