Intercepting Stink Bugs in the Wintertime

Intercepting Stink Bugs

Unlike many other pests in our part of the world, stink bugs don’t infest homes during the spring or summer. Instead, Michigan’s newest neighbor tends to start infesting homes in late fall and early winter. If you see a stink bug in your home come early spring, it’s probably because it spent winter with you.

We know that’s not exactly great news. Stink bugs survive winter by getting cozy in shelter and basically going dormant until spring comes. But, as we keep our homes nice and warm, it’s not uncommon to see a few stink bugs in your home during the winter. If you don’t want to run into them in a few months, you should consider intercepting them now. Here’s everything you need to know to do it.

How They Survive

How stink bugs survive winterWhen temperatures drop, stink bugs enter a special hibernation-like state called diapause. Diapause dramatically slows down the stink bug’s metabolism, allowing it to survive without food for long periods of time. Instead of feeding, stink bugs in diapause burn through nutrients they spent the spring and summer stockpiling. Basically, they fatten themselves up for winter just like squirrels.

Stink bugs have to enter diapause in winter because the fruits, seeds, and nuts they feed on aren’t available. It solves their food problem, but they’re on their own when it comes to the cold problem. Stink bugs are native to Southeast Asia, and never developed adaptations to help them survive cold. Even if they entered diapause outside, their bodies would freeze and they would die. Unfortunately, that’s where your home comes in. Stink bugs try to sneak into structures for one reason: to keep warm and sleep away the winter.

Where They Go

where stink bugs go in winterStink bugs enter buildings via the same access points most pests find. Usually, they crawl through cracks and crevices around door and window frames or utility lines. Stink bugs fly and climb surfaces, so they may use vents, chimneys, or roofing damage to get in, as well. It’s only after stink bugs infiltrate a home successfully that their behavior becomes a bit more unique.

When stink bugs enter diapause, they can’t move and only have a minimal awareness of their surroundings. They have to be very careful about where they enter diapause if they ever want to wake back up! Once inside, stink bugs shack up in the quietest, most inaccessible or forgotten part of your home. They might be in air vents, under appliances, behind walls or flooring, or even hiding inside furniture. You’ll probably never find stink bugs inside unless you go looking for them.

Are they a Problem?

are stink bugs a problem in winter?No. When stink bugs enter homes, it’s only ever to stay warm while they sleep away the winter. They don’t eat or infest your food, damage structural material, create nests, mate, or lay eggs. In fact, stink bugs won’t begin their mating season or lay eggs in spring until after they’ve left your home. Pretty considerate of them, really. The pests don’t transmit diseases or harm humans and pests in any other way, either.

That being said, there is the matter of their name. Stink bugs… stink. When threatened or startled, they secrete a foul-smelling liquid from a scent gland. The scent has been compared to cilantro or coriander. The secretion is mostly harmless, though it may trigger allergic reactions or stain fabrics in concentrated amounts. Stink bugs may also produce a pheromone that attracts other stink bugs to their location. A lot of stink bugs aren’t any more dangerous or destructive than a few, but they are stinkier.  

What To Do About Them

what to do about stink bugsFirst, vacuum up the stink bugs you find with a shop vac. Remove and dispose of the vacuum bag into an outdoor dumpster when you’re finished. Clean the surfaces where you find stink bugs with soapy water and a washcloth. Try not to crush stink bugs when you find them, because they’ll release their scent on death. Remember to check the secluded or hidden areas where stink bugs like to hide. Cleaning these areas regularly will make them far less attractive to the pest.

When you’ve removed all the stink bugs you can find, focus on locating where they got in. Look for cracks and crevices around baseboards, door and window frames, the foundation, or insulation. Seal up cracks with caulk to prevent additional bugs from following residual scent left behind by the first infestation. Stink bugs’ bodies are quite flat, so even small cracks provide them with enough room to sneak through.

 

Stink bugs aren’t the most disruptive of winter pests, but you shouldn’t have to share your home with them. Come spring, any stink bugs you don’t find now will make themselves apparent, often in upsetting ways. Luckily, by getting to know stink bugs and following these steps, you can ensure that doesn’t happen.

And if ever you need some help ensuring that doesn’t happen, you know who to call. We’ve been fighting stink bugs since they showed their ugly mugs in Michigan, and we’re pretty good at it. Give us a call anytime and we’ll make sure you head into spring smelling good.

How Do Spiders Survive Winter?

How Do Spiders Make It Through Winter?

Spiders are mysterious creatures. How do they know how to build those webs so perfectly? Why do they have so many legs? Most importantly, where are they coming from and how can you get rid of them? This time of year, you may have noticed that your leggy pals don’t seem to be around as much.

First, you probably felt relieved… then, you started to feel suspicious. Where’d they go? What are they planning?! We can’t promise to make you feel better, but we can provide you with an answer. Different spider species cope with winter in all kinds of different ways. If you can’t find your spiders this winter (and you want to, for some reason), here’s where they’ve probably gone.

Nests During the Winter

spider nestsSpider eggs can’t survive freezing temperatures, so spiders that want their eggs to survive winter have to get creative. Many spider species mate and produce their eggs starting in early fall. As temperatures begin to fall, many spider moms begin carefully choosing the places they lay their eggs. Spiders prefer to lay eggs in hidden, dark, and secluded locations like chimneys, downspouts, or burrows. These sheltered areas keep the eggs warm and alive until spring.

In many cases, spiders construct special, nest-like webs where they lay their eggs. Usually, these webs incorporate sheltered surroundings. A spider might create a wall of webbing to cover an exposed corner or fill in a crack. Young spiders inside the nest eat their way out as soon as it’s warm enough to survive exposure. Many of the spiders that build nests for their young die after they finish. Now that’s motherly love!

Insulation from the Cold

spider insulation sacIf it wasn’t obvious already, spiders are quite resourceful! Some spiders survive winter by building themselves a cozy little pod to hunker down in until things warm up. These pods are quite similar to spider egg nests. The spider finds an enclosed, secluded area, and seals themselves within the space by covering openings with their webbing. The webbing blocks cold air, hopefully creating an environment that’s warm enough for the spider to survive in.

Some spiders build their sacs near the ground and let snow build up over them for an added insulating layer. Others build onto the high corners of roofing or siding on buildings. If you look closely, you might see small webbing sacs affixed to the sides of sturdier shelters in winter. On warm days, spiders break through their web sacs in order to hunt for food. When temperatures cool again, they’ll return to their sac and re-seal it.

Spiders Natural Antifreeze

spiders can produce antifreeze inside their bodiesSpider species native to cold climates have been developing adaptations to freezing temperatures for centuries. When these spiders sense dropping temperatures, they begin accumulating glycol compounds in their bloodstream. These compounds function very similarly to the antifreeze commonly used in car engines. They allow the spider’s tissues to “supercool” and remain unfrozen even when exposed to below-freezing temperatures. While this trick keeps the spiders from freezing completely, it won’t save them forever on its own.

After building up glycol compounds, the spider seeks out a shelter where they can hide for the winter. Many antifreeze-producing spiders work their way through the top layer of snow and soil, reaching the “subnivean zone”. The subnivean zone insulates the spider from the worst cold while letting them move around and even hunt prey. Spiders stop producing their biological antifreeze when the air temperature begins rising again in spring.

Spiders in Your Home During the Winter

spiders may infiltrate homes to keep warmWithout the ability to survive freezing temperatures, spiders need shelter to make it through winter. What better shelter could there be than your home? After all, it works for you! Like many pests, some spider aggressively attempt to enter enclosed shelters in fall and winter.

When spiders choose where to overwinter, they’re looking for a warm, humid place where they can build a web in peace. If your home provides them with a place like this, they’ll be all over it. Spiders are excellent climbers, so they often infiltrate homes by climbing through gaps in windows, siding, or roof shingles. Attics, basements, closets, and dark pantries are all favored spider haunts. They also like any place where they can continue catching prey. If you have other pest problems this winter, spiders will come looking to capitalize on them.

As you can see, there’s no need to feel sorry for spiders that get locked out this season. Something tells us they’re going to be just fine. Maybe it’s the fact that they can make antifreeze in their bodies!

If you don’t have to feel sorry for spiders outside, then you really don’t have to worry about kicking spiders out of your home! If you have a couple of problems with eight legs, give Griffin a call anytime. We’ll make sure your spiders use all eight of those legs to step out of your life.

Pestproofing Before Your Holiday Trip

Pestproofing Before Your Holiday Trip

Getting away for the holidays is great! Getting ready to get away for the holidays is… not great. It’s hard not to stress out about leaving your home for any extended period of time. Worrying about gross bugs and rats getting in while you’re gone can’t help, either. Unfortunately, pests aren’t about to give you a break just because you’re busy.

A lot of pest infestations occur right before or during the holidays. Pests are kind of like Home Alone’s “wet bandits”; they’re just waiting for the right opportunity. Don’t give them that opportunity. Here are Griffin’s four best tips for winter pestproofing. Follow these instructions before you go on your trip, and even the most clever bug bandit won’t be able to get its grinch during the holidays.

Find Drafts

Find and seal drafts to prevent pest infestationDrafts happen when a gap in the wall of a home allows cold air to seep in. That cold air replaces warm air in the home by sucking it out the same gap where it got in. Pests feel this hot air from outside and follow it, hoping to find a place to keep warm. Mice are particularly good at finding and following drafts. Just about any gap wide enough to create a draft could be wide enough to let mice in.

Most drafts happen around doors and windows, or in basements and attics. Inside the home, drafts feel like cold areas in otherwise warm rooms. If the problem is bad enough, you may even be able to hear the “whoosh” of air escaping. Drafts may also cause visible or measurable humidity problems. Seal the gaps that create drafts with caulk and/or insulation material where applicable.  

Fix Leaks

Fix plumbing leaks to prevent pest infestationsAll living creatures need water to live, even overwintering pests. Moisture and humidity attracts pests almost as much as the promise of warmth. Little insects don’t require much water to get by, so even a small plumbing leak works just fine. Pests find the moisture they need by sensing air humidity or smelling loose moisture. Even small plumbing leaks can drive up a home’s humidity enough to attract pests.

Don’t assume you don’t have any plumbing leaks. Dripping faucets, hairline fractures, and other minor problems are hard to notice, but pests will find them. Even “invisible leaks” can attract pests if they’re leaking water into the walls or ceiling. You can use your water meter’s “leak indicator” to figure out if your home has a leak. This indicator moves to tell you when water is flowing through your pipes. If it’s moving when your home’s water is turned off, you probably have a leak.

Store Food

Store food in sealed boxes to prevent pest infestationsFood attracts pests just as reliably in winter as it does the rest of the year. Cereals, bread, and other grains are particularly attractive to pests. Some pests, like rodents or boxelders, are content to simply munch on food through winter. Others, like pantry moths, might infest your food and even lay eggs in it. You don’t want to come home to a pantry moth infestation.

Start by disposing of any food that’ll go bad while you’re away. Put food you’re throwing away in airtight plastic bags, and take it to your outdoor dumpster directly. Have a neighbor put out your garbage, so leftover food doesn’t sit around in your dumpster for weeks. Store any food you’re keeping in your house in airtight, hard plastic containers. Finally, clean up the kitchen and dining room right before you leave, so you don’t leave crumbs behind.

Seal Entryways

Seal entryways to prevent pest infestationsWe started talking about this during the draft section, but it bears repeating. Entryways like doors and windows are the number one way pests get into homes. Tiny gaps naturally develop near doors and windows in several ways. The elements wear away at thresholds and weatherstripping. Continual use may warp or damage joints, housing, or moving parts. Some pests even work away at sealing surrounding thresholds themselves.

Weatherstripping on doors and windows is sturdy, but it also wears away quickly. You should consider re-stripping each door and window in your home seasonally. While you’re at it, make sure doors and windows sit properly in their frames. If you can see light peeking through corners, you should reinstall the fixture. Seal any gaps you find in thresholds with caulk. If your older windows look worn down or don’t fit their frames properly, consider having them replaced.

 

Even if you’re busier than ever during the holidays, taking time to pestproof your home before a trip is worth it. Following these four steps doesn’t take long at all, and they’ll buy you some much-needed peace of mind while you’re away.

Speaking of peace of mind, remember: even if you end up with a pest infestation this winter, don’t panic. Just call Griffin Pest Control and we’ll take care of it quickly, effectively, and permanently. You’ve got enough to worry about this time of year, so let us sweat the small stuff. Happy Holidays!

What Are Those Bugs in Your Basement?

Bugs in your basement

Bugs LOVE a basement. They’re dark, quiet, warm, and usually pretty humid to boot. If you have a bug infestation in your home, chances are they’re hanging out downstairs. Basements are a little spooky even under better circumstances, so we’re guessing you’re not terribly pleased to hear this.

There’s more bad news. Some bugs like basements more than others. The ones that really like basements are some of the freakiest-looking bugs around. Before you burn your house down, however, consider: these bugs are mostly terrifying because you don’t understand them. They aren’t the most dangerous pests in Michigan, or the scariest, or even the most stubborn. They’re just the freakiest ones that are here. This is everything you need to know about the monsters in your basement. The more you know, the less afraid you’ll be (we hope).

Earwigs

earwigWe’ll grant you: earwigs look like they crawled directly out of a nightmare. They’re about two inches long, with dark brown, reddish bodies, creepy light orange extremities… and GIANT PINCERS ON THEIR BACKSIDES. Earwigs are actually harmless to humans (and definitely don’t crawl into people’s ears) but… yeah, we get why you’d want to give them a wide berth. These insects love basements because they’re attracted to darkness and humidity. They feed on decaying plant material and sometimes hunt other insects.

Earwigs can’t fly or climb very well, so if they entered your home, they did it from the ground level. They usually find cracks near window wells and frames, or cracks in the foundation of the home. Earwigs often end up behind wallpaper or crammed into basement insulation after they sneak through low gaps. If you have earwigs in your home, it’s probably because your basement has a humidity problem. Consider investing in a dehumidifier and look for leaks.  

Silverfish

silverfishSilverfish are those tiny, silver-grey insects that really look more like shrimp than fish or bugs. Their long, thin bodies wiggle back and forth when they crawl, making it look like they’re swimming. “Silver” because of the color. “Fish” because of what they look like. Like earwigs, silverfish love moisture. They’re also attracted to warm and dark places where they can move around without being bothered. Silverfish are nocturnal, so chances are you’ll only see them at night.

Silverfish eat the starch naturally found in materials like paper, cotton, glue, carpeting, and other common household materials. They may also destroy clothing. Silverfish make use of their tiny size and thinness to get into homes. Usually, they sneak through narrow gaps in baseboards or flooring. They may even live inside walls if they can find a wide enough pathway. Humidity control is important for controlling silverfish, as is temperature control. Silverfish need temperatures of over 60℉ to breed.

Pillbugs

pillbugPillbugs are very small, black bugs that are about as wide as they are long. Their backs are made up of seven overlapping, segmented plates that look hard and shiny, like a beetle’s shell. Pillbugs roll into a ball to protect themselves when threatened. These “bugs” (they’re actually related to crabs!) are a common sight in gardens. They consume decaying vegetable matter beneath the top layer of soil. Most pillbugs live bury themselves several inches under soil, because they’re very temperature sensitive.

Pillbugs can’t climb sheer surfaces, so they only enter basements via the ground level of the home. Usually, they’ll find gaps under the soil, around baseboards, foundations, or siding. Once inside, pillbugs generally cover themselves by hiding under furniture, boxes, or other clutter. Pillbugs can only survive in a basement if they have a source of moisture. Check for plumbing leaks, condensation, or puddling, especially around corners and the bottom of the wall.

House Centipedes

house centipedeIf basement pests are monsters, then you probably think of this guy as the “big bad”. House centipedes are inch long, tan-yellow bugs with very long longs. Those legs enable the bug to move very quickly, often in a rapid, darting motion. House centipedes are nocturnal predators that use their speed and venom-injecting claws to hunt other insects. These centipedes are capable of using these claws to “sting” humans too. The venom injected isn’t serious, but it hurts like a bee sting would.

House centipedes commonly follow their prey into homes through gaps near windows or cracks in the flooring or siding. Once they’re inside, they spend their days hiding and their nights hunting. Like most of the pests on this list, house centipedes love moist environments. Check for leaks and puddles in your basement, and consider a dehumidifier. Patching gaps may help with the humidity problem and deprive bugs of their access points at the same time.

 

We hope this blog helps you feel less afraid of venturing into the dark abyss that is your basement at night. Even if it doesn’t, however, at least now you can take action? Remember: your basement is your turf, not those bug’s. Even if house centipedes are just about the scariest things ever.

If you ever decide you need a little help with your basement monster slaying, feel free to call Griffin Pest Control anytime. We’re always happy to lend you our sword.

4 Ways to Keep Squirrels Off Your Bird Feeder

4 Ways to Keep Squirrels Away from Your Feeder

Squirrels are always rather mercenary when it comes to getting food, but fall is when they become relentless. Nobody knows this better than the innocent bird lover. You’re thinking about taking your feeder down for the year, but a few feathered friends still rely on it. So, your bird feeder remains, perched against the fall like a bird seed-based symbol of defiance. Then… the squirrels come.

These rodential rascals stop at nothing to deprive your birds of the meal that’s meant for them. They’ll hang upside down, perform death-defying acrobatics, and get shockingly aggressive, all in the name of a little seed. They seem unstoppable. They’re not. You just need to get even more creative than they are. Here are four ideas to help you get started.

Baffle Them

baffles may help keep squirrels away... as long as they're big enoughYou can find a bowl-like contraption called a squirrel bafflefor sale at most hardware stores. They’re designed to, well, baffle squirrels. Baffles are made of plastic or metal and hang near the bird feeder. If your feeder hangs from a tree, then the baffle attaches above the feeder. If your feeder rests on a pole sticking out of the ground, then the baffle goes beneath the feeder on the pole.

Place the “bowl” upside down, so that the concave opening points down. When squirrels try to climb on the baffle, they won’t be able to find purchase. Instead of getting at your feeder, they’ll slide off the plastic slope and fall off. Don’t worry–squirrels are master acrobats, so a little fall won’t hurt them. It is pretty funny to watch, though. Baffles are cheap and relatively easy to make. Make sure your homemade baffle is wide enough that squirrels can’t stretch around it. If they can, you know they will…

Diversion

distract your squirrels with a different source of foodBased on the gusto they exhibit in the act, it’s easy to assume squirrels enjoy their feats of robbery. Believe it or not, however, that’s not the case. Squirrels go to great lengths to get at your feeder for one reason: they’re opportunists. When temperatures start to drop, squirrels get desperate to fatten up for winter. They need the food, and they’ve got the skills, so why not stage their high-flying heists on your feeder?

But what if they didn’t need to? Squirrels are all about the path of least resistance. If you were to, say, distract them with a more accessible food source, they’d leave your feeder alone. We’re not saying this idea doesn’t have drawbacks. You’d need a lot of food. Squirrels are nigh-insatiable this time of year. Plus, you’d invite more squirrels to your yard than ever. And you’d be feeding the enemy. When it comes to keeping squirrels away from a vulnerable feeder, however, a diversion may well be your best option. Everybody eats, everybody wins.  

Spice It Up!

use spicy bird seed in your feeders to scare off squirrelsAlright, so you don’t want to deal with any more squirrels than you have to. And you don’t want to feed those glorified bandits anyway. Fair enough. What if you could make the food you’re leaving for birds into something only birds would want to eat? You wouldn’t have to set out more food or even go to great lengths to squirrel-proof your feeder!

Well, did you know that birds don’t mind spicy seeds? They can’t taste the difference. Guess what can? Sprinkle some cayenne pepper or a similar spice onto your birdseed before you put it out. Birds will eat the seed just fine, but squirrels will smell the heat and stay well clear. You’ll have to re-apply the spice frequently, however, or it’ll wash off or blow away. Squirrels will notice the spice is gone as quickly as they smelled it in the first place, and then you’ll be back to square one. Some stores also sell bird seed that starts spicy, so you don’t have to add the spice yourself.

Suspension

suspend your squirrel feeder in the air to frustrate squirrelsThe squirrels around your house can leap up to 10 feet horizontally, but they can’t fly. If you could figure out a way to suspend your feeder just right, you could make it a birds-only zone. The easiest way to manage this gravity-defying trick would be to string up a wire between two trees.

First, find two mature trees that are at least 10 feet away from each other. Run the wire between the trees and pull it taut. Then, run some “spinners” along the wire to prevent particularly determined tightrope walkers. Spinners can be plastic soda bottles, yarn spools, or anything else that rolls. Squirrels won’t be able to walk across the spinner without rolling off the wire and onto the ground. Finally, hang your bird feeder in the dead center of the wire, far from either tree. Voila! You have a floating bird feeder. Terrestrial mammals need not apply. Just make sure the bird feeder is high enough off the ground, too. All this work won’t matter if your squirrels can just leap up and knock seed down whenever they want.

Look, all of these ideas may make it sound like we hate squirrels. We don’t! We actually find their determination and resourcefulness charming. Plus, they have those bushy little tails. The fact of the matter is, though, squirrels don’t need your birdseed. They’ll be just fine on their own. They got this far, after all.

Unfortunately, squirrels aren’t the only wildlife you’ll have be on the look-out for this fall–and most of the rest of it isn’t nearly as charming. If you have a pest problem in your home, whether it’s rodent or insect based, give Griffin a call today. We’ll set you up for winter right, so you have nothing to worry about. Happy bird watching!