DALY: Cooler weather brings insects indoors

Many area homeowners are observing insects invading their homes to seek shelter from the onset of colder temperatures, thus creating a nuisance for the occupants. Among the most troublesome are kudzu bugs and Asian lady beetles. Neither one is native to the area. In their native habitats in parts of Asia, as winter approached, they would seek cover in cavities in cliffs and other dry protected places. The insides of our homes have a similar environment and are attractive to the insects.

The Asian lady beetle was introduced to control aphids on pecan trees and other desirable plants. Over time their populations became established and they began spreading out over a wide area. On warm, sunny days in the fall, the lady beetles will congregate on the outsides of structures and then find their way inside. Some years they are present in greater numbers than other years, depending on availability of food and the weather conditions. The beetles present no harm to people or the contents of structures.

Originally detected in nine counties in northeast Georgia in 2009, as of June 2012 the kudzu bugs have now spread throughout the southeast. How they entered the country remains a mystery. Prior to this time, they have never been observed anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. The kudzu bug is roughly one-quarter of an inch in size, oblong in shape, and olive green to brown in color. In its native range in Asia, it feeds primarily on kudzu and other related plants. Locally, reports show it does only minimal damage to kudzu. They also have been observed infesting soybeans, which is a major crop in parts of the state. As the colder weather approaches, they begin to congregate on the south and west sides of buildings to soak up the sun's warmth.

What can be done to control these insects if they become troublesome? Applications of insecticides that are labeled for outdoor use can be applied to the parts of your home where the insects are gathering. Make sure you follow all label directions and safety precautions when using pesticides. Applying insecticides indoors generally is not effective in controlling the insects. Inside, use a vacuum cleaner to remove them. Tightly seal the vacuum bag and then dispose of it. Keeping them out of your home in the first place is essential. The window screens should be in place correctly. Doors and windows should form a tight seal when closed. Consider installing door sweeps if you do not have any. Make sure vents are also screened and seal cracks or holes on the outside of the structure.

Unfortunately there is no "silver bullet" available for controlling indoor invasions of the Asian lady beetle and kudzu bug. A combination of vacuum cleaning, sealing entry points on structures, and insecticide applications to the outside of the structure will help reduce infestations.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu.