With warm summer weather comes… house centipedes? Yuck! It’s an inescapable fact: when the snow and ice melts and temperatures begin to reliably double the freezing point (32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius) bugs will become an unavoidable part of daily life. From warding off fruit flies to avoiding hornet’s nests in the corners of outdoor structures, you’ll want to do whatever you can to protect the safety and health of your family and pets. Especially if one of the insects imbibes an experimental growth hormone at a local lab and grows to the size of a minivan. Luckily at this point in history such a possibility has been limited to Sci-Fi films and conspiracy theories, but one can never be too careful.
So just where do bugs go all winter anyway? Well, some die and some hibernate. You see, insects are what’s known as ectotherms. Ectotherms are lifeforms unable to regulate their own body temperature. When temperatures fall below freezing, they will freeze from the inside out. Pretty gruesome stuff.
Many insects and arachnids complete their life cycles by reproducing. They lay eggs that remain in stasis until the weather breaks, at which time the progeny hatch and begin to annoy us at picnics. Mantises, for example, lay eggs in the autumn. If the eggs remain undisturbed, nearly 200 baby mantises will emerge in late spring and repeat the cycle.
What are the health and safety hazards associated with bugs in your home? Well, let’s start with structural risks. May I remind you of the existence of the not-so-humble termite? Termites feast on decaying plant material and what is a load-bearing support beam but a giant plank of decaying plant material? Termites are especially common if you live within reasonable proximity of a body of water (river, lake, creek). Luckily, most termite species are not a significant threat to homes, but the few bad eggs are bad and they are increasing in prevalence due to the effects of climate change.
Then there are the insects that ruin food and spread bacteria. We’re talking houseflies, fruit flies, flour bugs, and the like. There are multiple solutions on the market to combat them from proactive to reactive. There are bug killing sprays, adhesive traps, old fashioned sugar traps, and chemical compounds that can be sprayed for first line deterrence.
There are also the creepy crawlies that pose more immediate health hazards. Venomous spiders like the brown recluse and black widow (Don’t call them poisonous, poison is ingested not injected), the ever-worrisome Lyme-carrying tick, and the apian horde (bees, hornets, wasps). If you’re allergic to bee venom, you probably already have emergency epinephrine on hand. Finally, let’s not forget the ever-pesky mosquito!
Of course, it’s not a zero-sum game. Much like having a cat can limit the presence of rodents, disregarding a harmless spider or two can cut down on flies. If you’re not chiroptophobia (Possessing a fear of bats), installing a bat box on your property in accordance with DNR regulations can do wonders where mosquitos, and really any flying bugs, are concerned. A single bat can eat up to 8,000 insects a night.
If your pantry items are in air proof containers, you have bug lights and employ insect repelling candles, and have properly sealed windows and doors and still have issues with bugs in your home, it’s time to contact a professional. Exterminators will be able to advise you on the most up to date child and pet safe methods of eradication or displacement. Now, enjoy the sunshine!