Homeless insects and energy audits

When cold weather comes knocking, it should be no surprise that hundreds, or even thousands, of insects may be waiting for you to open the door this fall.  It’s not like you can really blame them.  They are just temporarily homeless critters looking for a warm place to spend the winter.

The small size of hackberry nipple-gall makers allows them to enter homes through window screens .

The small size of hackberry nipple-gall makers allows them to enter homes through window screens .

I was staying at a hotel this week in Austin for the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting, and on my 23rd floor window I looked out and saw dozens of hackberry nipple-gall maker insects on the outside.  These tiny insects seek shelter in homes every fall and, to judge by the recent calls I’ve been receiving, are very common again this year. Belonging to a family of insects called psyllids (SILL ids), nipple-gall makers emerge from galls in hackberry trees in the fall.  They are small enough to get around windows and doors, or to get through any of the myriad tiny exterior openings every house contains.

 

 

Other insects that enter Texas homes in the fall include paper wasps, box elder and red

Paper wasps commonly seek shelter in homes following the first freeze.

Paper wasps commonly seek shelter in homes following the first freeze.

shouldered bugs, and a host of little seed bugs. Paper wasps are paper nest-making wasps that are common in rural and urban areas alike.  They make the umbrella-shaped nests that hang from eaves or tree branches.  During the summer months, when paper wasps are building and maintaining their nests, they will actively defend their nests from intruders.  But during the late fall and winter months, after nests have been abandoned, paper wasps are quite docile.  Paper wasps usually enter buildings through gaps in siding or through roof vents in search for a warm place to spend the winter.

 

Box elder bugs may enter homes by the hundreds after feeding on box elder or maple seeds.

Box elder bugs may enter homes by the hundreds after feeding on box elder or maple seeds.

Box elder bugs and red shouldered bugs are some of the more colorful fall invaders.  Usually red and black, these medium-sized insects get into home through some of the same entries as paper wasps and psyllids.  They are mostly harmless, though they may put off a faint odor when crushed.

An Environmental Solution

Believe it or not, one of the best ways to prepare for this fall invasion is not an insecticide, but some general house repair.  Even better, these little bugs might even save you money if you use them as an excuse to get that energy audit you’ve been putting off.  An energy audit will help you locate poorly sealed windows and doors, and can tell you where some of those outdoor, energy-wasting leaks are.  We had one done on our home a couple of winters ago, and it was well worth it.  We had, we were told, many small leaks, that if put together, would add up to a 2.5 foot square hole in the side of our house.  Ouch.  And some of those leaks, you can bet, will be found by bugs!  For more information on energy audits in Texas, check out this site.

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