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Winter drives bugs inside

As harvest time removes corn from the fields and the apples from the trees and the cool evenings hint at the winter to come, outdoor pests — such as the brown marmorated stink bug — look for a warmer home. So now is the time for residents to repair their homes to avoid sharing space with the bugs.

The brown marmorated stink bug comes from Asia and was first documented in Allentown in 1998, according to Tom Ford, a commercial horticulture educator with the Cambria County Office of the Penn State Extension. In late summer, the stink bug feeds on sweet corn in the fields and apples and peaches in orchards. After harvest time, the invasive bug seeks a new place to spend winter.

Now that the stink bugs have been around awhile, their population peaks and wanes from year-to-year. Weather has little impact on the stink bugs.

“No one really tracks (numbers), Ford said. “We gauge it informally by the number of calls we receive and anecdotal information provided by commercial growers on what they are seeing in the fields,” he said. “Blair and Bedford regional growers saw some significant injury to their apple crops in 2018.”

Another common fall nuisance are boxelder bugs — so named because they are found on and around boxelder trees, especially around streams.

“In Altoona, Mill Run residents get them a lot, and in Hollidaysburg they’re common in Gaysport,” Ford said.

Prevention is best, according Ford. If insects congregate in the walls, people should take action to keep the bugs out of their house. If they die in the wall, their carcasses attract more insects.

“The best thing homeowners can do is to make sure the house is tightly sealed. Cracks and crevices can be repaired with weather striping and caulking. The best means for prevention is to keep them from coming into the home in the first place,” Ford said. “We don’t recommend any chemical treatments inside the house.”

He advises residents to look for signs of a potential infestation.

“From now to mid-October, look on the warmest side of your house — usually the side with southern exposure. Stink bugs, boxelder bugs and lady bugs are more attracted to white or light-colored homes as they tend to be more reflective and warmer.”

And stink bugs aren’t the only bugs looking for a warm winter home. Ford has seen thousands upon thousands of boxelder and lady bugs congregate on a dwelling to “sun themselves.

If they enter the home and get into a wall void and then die, they will draw in other insects that eat off their carcasses, such as carpet beetles. Once that food source disappears, the insects feed on animal hides such as taxidermy pieces like a bear rug or Persian and other natural fiber rugs,” he said.

Stink, boxelder and lady bugs all release a chemical odor when threatened. When attempting to remove a single stink bug, Ford recommends taking a tissue or paper and cautiously gathering the bug into the tissue without crushing it.

The bug can then be flushed down the toilet.

The boxelder bug shouldn’t be crushed against a wall as it releases an orange stain.

For a larger infestations, Ford recommends using a vacuum cleaner with a modification.

“You don’t want to vacuum them straight into your vacuum,” Ford warned. “If you do, they’ll release their musky odor and odor will stay in the vacuum even after you replace the bag. Everytime you turn the vacuum on, you will get that odor.”

Mirror Staff Writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.

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