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Creepy-Crawlies Look for Warm Winter Homes

ladybugCLEMSON, S.C. – Shorter, cooler days send a signal to many insects that it’s time to look for a warm winter home — perhaps yours. Clemson University has researchers devoted to “six-legged-science,” and some specialize in exploring ways to keep pests and people apart. This year there are new creepy-crawlies to keep an eye on.

Entomologist Patricia Zungoli is an expert in household and structural urban entomology, which focuses on insect pests that cause problems in and around structures used by people.

“It’s not just about problems found in cities,” Zungoli said. “It affects all of us wherever we work, live or play.”

Most of us can call to mind — perhaps with a yucky shiver — the bugs that, well, bug us. Cockroaches, fleas, ants, ticks, flies, termites, wasps don’t get “friended” by anyone. And the list of unfriendly insects gets longer every year.

“We have some new additions coming in from the cold: the kudzu bug and the brown marmorated stink bug,” Zungoli said. “They won’t hurt you, but they can make a mess, causing stains and producing unpleasant odors, and their numbers can be very high.“

The best offense for all the seasonal invaders is a good defense that focuses on exclusion, according to Zungoli. Preparations should be done now before less daylight and colder weather prompts insects to move indoors.

Sealing access off is the way to start, Zungoli advises.

Here’s a to-do list:

  • Use weather stripping or other sealers to reduce small openings around doors, windows and garages.
  • Make sure window screening is intact and that screens fit tightly into window frames.
  • Check screens on openings leading into the structure from eaves, soffits and attics.
  • Pay attention to plumbing inserts and areas where telephone, cable and electrical lines come into the building.
  • Check chimneys for a tight damper fit in the closed position when not in use.

Insecticides can be useful. Read labels and follow directions.

“Applications should be focused on entry points, but be aware that unless treatments are well placed, the insecticide will break down quickly,” Zungoli said.

For insects that do get in, there’s a simple solution: vacuum them up, disposing of the vacuum bag in a sealed container.

If the problem is larger than a vacuum can resolve, then calling a pest management professional is a good option. Clemson works closely with professional pest controllers, according to Zungoli.

“We provide  information for professionals in the industry through our research and Extension programs,” she said.

Another arm of Clemson University, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, works to protect health, property and the environment by promoting the safe and proper use of pesticides.

Programs include applicator licensing and education, pesticide container recycling, integrated pest management in schools, endangered species protection and the worker protection program. The Department of Pesticide Regulation is the enforcement and investigative authority in South Carolina for pesticide use, pesticide misuse and substandard termite treatments.

In South Carolina the pest-control industry represents revenues estimated at approximately $100 million annually and employs nearly 4,000 people, who in turn provide services for many of the 4.5 million residents of the state. Termite control alone is estimated to cost the consumer in South Carolina approximately $31.9 million, and that does not begin to consider the cost of damage and repair.