Some homeowners welcome the cold weather, believing that the lower temperatures will kill their unwanted pests. This is a common misconception, and in fact, there are many bugs that will use your house as shelter in the winter months.

Insect Winter Survival Strategies

When temperatures are low, the fluid around and inside of an insect’s cells can freeze and develop ice crystals. This can be lethal—so it would seem that insects exposed to the winter elements would freeze and die—but bugs have developed traits that adapt to such winter conditions. Many insects fall into one of two categories: freeze tolerant or freeze avoidant. Freeze-tolerant bugs experience a slow freeze—their bodies have high levels of alcohol molecules that slow down the ice formation process during freezing temperatures. Freeze-avoidant insects have antifreeze proteins in their bodies, which stops the ice crystals from forming altogether. Both of these biological traits allow bugs to survive freezing temperatures—however, they may still seek shelter in your home.

During a process known as overwintering, insects will reduce their activity and wait out the colder temperatures in protective shelter. Some insects, like monarch butterflies, wait out the colder weather by migrating to a warmer climate. Other insects burrow in the dirt under leaves, mulch, or logs. And then there are the critters that will seek the comfort of your home for shelter. The types of winter bugs that may infest your home vary, depending on your region. Listed below are four common examples.

Common Insect Home Invaders

  1. Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs. Although these critters are native to Asia, they are also found throughout the United States. They can be a particular nuisance to those living in Virginia and Maryland. In the winter, they tend to huddle near entry points of homes like doors and windows. If they manage to get inside the home, they tend to hide in attics, near baseboards, and under beds and sofas. While these stink bugs do not bite humans, they do release a very unpleasant odor when they feel threatened.

  2. Boxelder Bugs. These bugs have black bodies with three red markings, and they are found throughout the US. In the winter, they tend to seek cracks in walls and around doors and windows for shelter. Once inside, boxelder bugs will hide under baseboards, around windows and exhaust fans, and near light fixtures in ceilings. These insects are dreaded by homeowners because they can release a very unpleasant odor, and they sometimes stain light-colored surfaces.

  3. Elm Leaf Beetles. These yellow or green insects are known for infesting elm trees and eating the elf tree leaves. In the winter, they can also infest homes. They like to hide in woodpiles, under leaves surrounding homes, and in walls. According to experts, elm leaf beetles become active in late winter or on particularly warm winter days, meaning you may see a lot of them walking about your home before spring arrives.

  4. Lady Beetles. Lady beetles, or ladybugs, are considered cute by many, but having a large group hiding away in your home may not be so adorable. These critters are also native to Asia, and they can spend the winter months huddled in homes. You may find them in cracks around the roof, near windows and doors, and under plant debris near the home. When ladybugs overwinter in your home, they leave a pheromone scent that attracts other ladybugs, which can lead to large groups sharing a space in your home.

Have a Critter-Free Winter

To protect your home from these common home invaders, there are a few things that you can do. Remove any leaves or debris that may be surrounding the foundation of your home, as this can attract bugs. Make sure all potential entry points (windows, chimneys, crawlspaces, etc.) are properly secure by caulking or otherwise sealing the area. To get rid of the bugs that are currently inside your home, seek professional advice from a Best Pick pest control company.

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Sources: Colorado State University; EPA; Mother Nature Network; Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences; Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension; The New York Times; University of Illinois Extension; University of Minnesota Extension.

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