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Protect Your Home from Fall Invaders

submitted by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator

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Roly Poly's are common ground invaders

Most pests reach their maximum population levels around August or September, and their favorite places to escape the heat of the summer sun or the oncoming winter cold are homes. Keeping fall pests out can be a challenge, but being prepared and properly treating infestations can make fall a much more pleasant time for homeowners.

The first type of invaders come in on the ground: crickets, cockroaches, centipedes, millipedes, ground beetles, spiders and ants. These pests are attracted to the leaf litter and debris found around the foundation of houses, as well as the shade offered by surrounding landscape vegetation. From the foundation, these ground invaders will then wiggle their way into homes through any crack or crevice they can find.

Every fall, homeowners should systematically walk around their homes and look for any potential openings bugs can slip through. All cracks should be caulked and sealed. Check the seal around windows and replace any broken screens. Make sure door gaskets are firmly in place and that all other openings are sealed. Also check plumbing fixtures like water spigots for potential entryways into homes.

Homeowners who are anticipating a ground pest problem also can apply a perimeter spray. A number of insecticide products are available at garden centers and superstores, but make sure they are labeled for outside use. Spray up the house walls for 3 to 4 feet and out from the house for 3 to 5 feet. This will establish a barrier that kills bugs.

The second type of fall invaders enter homes in the air: house flies, cluster flies, yellow jackets, fruit flies, boxelder bugs, miller moths and mosquitoes. Unlike ground invaders, these airborne pests are generally not affected by foundation sprays. Because of this it is even more important to seal and caulk all cracks and openings. Many of these pests are also highly attracted to outdoor lights, such as porch lights, and enter homes when nearby doors are open. Turning off outdoor lights when they are not in use not only saves energy but helps keeps pests out of homes.

Fruit flies, however, can still get into homes because they are small enough to fit through window screens. Fruit flies may also enter homes as eggs already laid in fresh produce, or they are attracted to fruits and vegetables sitting inside. Keeping all produce in secure containers inside refrigerators and dumping compost buckets daily will help prevent homes from becoming attractive destinations for fruit flies.

If bugs do get inside a home, the first step should be to set out sticky traps. Not only will this remove many of these unwanted guests, but it will help monitor which pests are inside. If any unidentifiable spiders are captured in sticky traps, take them to a garden center or local extension office for positive identification to ensure they are not the poisonous brown recluse.

For more serious problems, indoor-use aerosol sprays are available. If the infestation is severe, it is always best to hire a professional pest control operator. However, there is no need to call pest control at the sight of a single cricket or centipede. Sticky traps, along with the old-fashioned strategies of sucking bugs up in a vacuum cleaner or picking them up in a tissue, can usually get the job done without chemical sprays.

When using sprays, always be sure to follow label directions. Chemicals are only effective and safe, for humans and pets, when used according to their directions. Source: Fred Baxendale, Ph.D., UNL Extension Entomologist

This resource was added September 2011 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

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