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Insects are marching one by one (and more) into my house

Three insects are determined to make their way inside our house: boxelder bugs, Asian lady beetles and stripey flies.

A black and orange boxelder bug.
Boxelder bugs look for indoor protection from the elements in the fall. They find it in Ann Bailey's house.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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Along with the end of summer and early fall comes the demise of pesky insects, such as wasps, biting flies and mosquitoes, all of which diminish my outdoor experience.

Since temperatures dropped into the low teens a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t been bothered by those bugs as I finish up our fall chores on the farmstead. I can even sit out on the patio with a glass of lemonade without having an unwelcome visitor swimming in my glass.

But ... I’m still getting bugged by three insects that are determined to make their way inside our house: boxelder bugs, Asian lady beetles and stripey flies. I’m sure there is a more official name for the latter than the one I gave it, but I don’t know what it is and my name for the fly is descriptive of its appearance.

The boxelder bugs, particularly, are determined to make themselves over-winter house guests. They are crawling across our floors, sunning themselves on the windows and clinging to our ceilings.

This, of course, is not the first time that our century-plus home has been invaded by boxelder bugs. Our farmstead has many of the trees for which the bugs are named and also plum and apple trees that have the fruit they also like feasting upon, so we usually have some of the insects spending time with us over the winter.

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The numbers of boxelder bugs are highest when warm springs are followed by hot dry summers, according to a University of Minnesota Extension website, They were “numerous in 1988, 1987, 1978, 1977, and 1975 and abundant in 1958, 1949, and the hot dry years of 1936 and 1935,” the website said.

“Numerous” and “abundant” are relative terms, but my hunch is that the population that is outside and inside our house are neither of those. Still, one inside our house is one too many for me, especially when we are entertaining guests.

This fall I have encouraged visitors to not look up when they are seated at our dining room or kitchen tables. I’m not squeamish, but the sight of boxelder bugs skittering across the ceiling isn’t appetizing.

Even less so are the Asian lady beetles, which met their demise in the candelabras of our dining room chandelier and are stacked up in the glass bobeche. I noticed those the other day when I was visiting with guests. Though I wanted to get out the vacuum and use the wand attachment to remove the lady beetles, I didn’t because that would have drawn attention to what I was hoping the guests wouldn’t notice.

An orange insect with black spots.
Asian lady beetles headed into Ann Bailey's homes after the soybean harvest.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Instead, I averted my eyes and continued talking. No one said anything, so either they didn’t notice or were too polite to comment. Later, I used the wand of our vacuum to dispose of the lady beetles.

According to Minnesota Extension, vacuuming or sweeping up boxelder bugs with a broom into a dustpan also is the best method of control for them. If they’re vacuumed, the bag should be disposed of so the bugs don’t escape,

Meanwhile, the broom and dustpan method of removal has to be done delicately because the boxelder bugs, like Asian lady beetles, emit a strong, unpleasant odor if they are crushed or roughly handled.

Fortunately, the boxelder bugs hide when they find cracks — our house should be a hotel for them — so they will be out of sight, out of mind, soon. The Asian lady beetles, judging by past years, will also make haste for unseen interior locations so I won’t have to look at them, either.

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A striped fly walks down a window frame.
"Stripey" flies invaded Ann Bailey's home when the temperature outdoors dropped.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

As far as the stripey flies, if the past is any indication, every time temperatures warm up during the winter, they will come to life and hover around the sinks in our home. If that’s the case, I’m sunk and will be bugged all winter.

Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, N.D., that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or abailey@agweek.com.

Opinion by Ann Bailey
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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