CAPITAL REGION — If you’re a homeowner in upstate New York, you may find a few unexpected guests staying with you this season.
Boxelder bugs, the brown marmorated stink bug and all varieties of small rodents are escaping the first chills of fall by making their way into homes and businesses. They infiltrate through crevices, cracked window screens and roof joints.
Rodents – mice, rats and squirrels – are the most raucous of the unwanted houseguests, and there’s more of them searching for winter homes this year, thanks to last winter’s mild temperatures said Daimon Marcello, a manager at Orkin, the national pest control company.
“These (rodents) cause the most damage,” Marcello said.
Rats can chew holes in a home’s foundation. Squirrels can destroy a home’s electrical system, and mice reproduce quickly; an average female can have around 15 litters a year.
Marcello warned that if a rodent is visible, there is probably already an infestation.
“They’re naturally secretive animals, so you might be seeing them because of overpopulation within the home or because they’re really comfortable,” Marcello said.
As frost starts hitting the Capital Region, homeowners may start to notice even smaller creatures trying to come in from the cold.
Boxelder bugs are black and red along the thorax, measuring from 11 to 14 millimeters in length, and the brown marmorated stink bug is slightly smaller, at around 12 millimeters long.
During the warmer months, boxelder bugs usually make their homes in maple and ash trees. The stink bugs prefer fruit trees.
In the colder months, they seek warm, dry shelter, and while they aren’t known to cause structural damage, their droppings can leave stains wherever they decide to nest.
For the most part, the bugs tend to stay in the background. They hibernate for the winter, and during the summer, they keep to themselves and their maple or ash trees.
But in September, they can be seen crawling in droves toward the warmest parts of a home.
Cluster flies are known to be similarly intrusive.
“They’re more of a nuisance,” said Jim Guston, of Thomas Pest Services in Albany. He’s been in the bug business for 24 years and said the best time to treat boxelder and cluster flies problems is usually in September. However, because this season has been so warm, homeowners hadn’t noticed the bugs until recently.
“These bugs are cold-blooded, so they will be searching for the warmest side of your house, Guston said. “Then at night, there’s heat currents leaking from the outside of the home, and the insects can sense it and follow it.”
Once cluster flies are in a home, homeowners probably won’t notice them until a warmer winter day, when the bugs have enough energy to crawl through walls and crevices and into window sills.
There are some exclusionary recommendations from pest control experts.
Repair cracked window frames and install door sweeps on exterior doors. Reseal cracked siding, and use weep hole plugs to repair mortar or cement that may have deteriorated brick siding.
Spraying or removing any maple or ash trees on the property is also recommended. However, this might not entirely solve the infestation problem if a neighbor has either type of tree.
If the guests have already entered the home, then vacuuming or sweeping them into another location may work. But at that point, Marcello, with Orkin, recommended homeowners consider a professionally applied chemical treatment.
For those who are looking for a “greener” pest treatment option, Guston recommends a plant-based solution.
“We have a botanical-based line of products with essential oils like clove oil,” Guston said.
Homeowners who are hoping to have the place to themselves during the chilly months should be on the lookout for any not-so-stealthy creatures.
Rising bed bugs still an issue all across the state
In early 2016, the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area was deemed one of Orkin’s top 50 areas in the country with the biggest bed bug infestation.
“The problem is all across the state, too,” said Damian Marcello, a branch manager at Orkin.
Bed bugs are the size of an apple seed and are red in color. They aren’t known to cause structural damage to homes, though they do leave stains when they die and when they defecate.
The proliferation of the creepy-crawlies is mostly due to people traveling more.
“At this point in time, no diseases have been transmitted (by bed bugs),” Marcello said.
He cautioned that, through his years of working in the industry, he’s never seen the infestation as bad as it has been over the past year or so.
“We find them everywhere: in schools, in homes, in hospitals, in libraries, in movie theaters, in buses and subways,” he said.
Signs of an infestation:
Bug skins cast off during the molting process
Small spots of red or black fecal matter
Miniscule eggs — usually cream colored — in dark crevices of furniture or fixtures.