CO-Horts Blog

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Home Invasion of the Creepy Crawlies

Sitting here in my Grand Junction office, it doesn’t seem like fall since it is 72 degrees outside although the trees are showing beautiful colors.  But the insects are telling us that it is time to get ready for colder weather.  We have had many samples come into our office the last few weeks.   These insects are just looking for a warm place to rest for the winter and your home seems like a good place to them.  Some of these insects like a large cat-faced spider who was so fat she could hardly walk are pretty cool.  Extension is one of those places that you can find us odd people who actually like bugs.  Miss Cat-face got released into our perennial border.
Cat-faced Spider, Photo by Bob Hammon

These insects include many types of spiders, millipedes, ladybugs, boxelder bugs and other seed bugs among the many others that are looking for a winter home.  Most of these insects can be simply swept or vacuumed up.  Luckily this invasion only lasts a few weeks if you aren’t too creeped out.  But if you want to know other methods to get rid of them Colorado State University has some fact sheets. 
I recently had a gal that had a gal that called and said she had insects that roll up and she called them crunchies because when you step on them they crunch.  Most times we need more of a description than that but that day I actually guessed the right insect and sent her the following factsheet.
Milipedes, Centipedes and Sowbugs and Pillbugs aka Roly-Poly

Pillbug, Photo by Bob Hammon

Milipedes, centipedes, sowbugs and pillbugs primarily eat organic matter that is decaying.  However, the last two years we say some vegetables gardens with high populations of these insects specifically the sowbugs and pillbugs were eating fresh vegetables.  One thing that contributed to this issue was that way too much organic matter had been applied to the garden attracting the insects in high numbers.  Another factor may be the mild winters we have had on the western slope so more insects are making it through the winter.  Maybe too many are getting inside to keep warm.  Sorry, that may give some of you the heebie jeebies.   Told you, some of us Extension people are bug nerds.
Spiders are large and more apparent at this time of year with foliage falling off most plants.  The good news is we have very few spiders that are poisonous to people in Colorado. The most prominent poisonous spider is the Black Widow and luckily she is pretty shy.  She makes a web that is very messy.  And look for the red hour glass on her abdomen to identify her.  Just make sure that you always know where you are reaching.  We had a gal that has an outdoor shower and reached up to open the curtain and something bit her.  When they looked they found a spider. And the squashed the spider before they brought it to us.  By the time I got it to an entomologist on the Front Range, it was too damaged to id with the exception that it was not a Black Widow or Brown Recluse.   Spiders tend to get a bad image but they are great eaters of other unwanted insects so instead of squishing try catching and releasing.  And if you need something identified by one of our offices, please do not kill it by stepping on it.  We need a fresh sample.
Boxelder Bug, Photo by Bob Hammon

Boxelder bugs are red and black insects that are eat the seeds of the Boxelder tree.  The best way to avoid attracting them is to plant a male boxelder tree.  A good cultivar is Acer negundo ‘Sensation’.  The insect is harmless to us accept for the fact that they can get into the house.  See our fact sheet for other ideas.
If you have other insects coming into your house, bring a non-squished sample to your local CSU Extension office for identification.  And don’t get too freaked out, they are just looking for a winter home.  Best bet is to find out where they are coming from.  And put those spiders back outside so they can be around for Halloween. 

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