"Crickets and sting bugs--Oh My!"
Column #815 10/2/10
On The Level
Q. Crickets and stink bugs are big problem all of a sudden. The garage is full of them. Basement too. Sticky glue traps seem to get a lot of them near the sliding door so I'm pretty sure that their main entrance is our sliding door at ground level. When I slide the door open some crickets will leap up from the track. Is there a way to replace the seal under the door? Would I be better off replacing the whole door? What would you suggest? Stink bugs seem to just show up.
A. Crickets and our newest pest, the Asian stink bug, sense the change of season and seek shelter to wait out the winter. Mice too, so watch for signs of them. Your house looks like a good spot to hide out so here they come. Your slider is just one of probably a dozen potential entry points. Replacing the door with a newer door would surely help from an energy standpoint. A modern swinging door set with top to bottom weatherstripping might be tighter but don’t depend on that as an invading insect cure.
Crickets love dark corners and dank recesses so you'll find them in outside stairwells to basements and in garages. They get into the house through tiny openings under doors and around windows and once in the house they go looking for something to drink which is why you'll frequently find them in the basement near the sump pit. I know there are different types of crickets that get into houses but they are all the same to me. Stink bugs just seem to hang out on walls and other flat surfaces.
Perimeter spraying with some of the available broad spectrum insecticides may reduce the numbers of crickets and other household pests such as ants but in the long run we all know it won't eliminate them. EPA has slowly but surely reduced the selection of anti-pest agents for valid health-risk reasons and the substitutes never seem to match up to the effectiveness of the banned chemicals. After all, we are trying to kill living things in great numbers and in so doing we can hurt ourselves too. Some anti-insect measures attack the mechanics of the pest's body in ways that are harmless to pets and humans such as using chemicals that dehydrate. Crickets hop over that stuff and the best thing for them was a nerve agent that I agree shouldn't be used where children and pets can be exposed. There is currently no chemical agent directly recommended for stink bugs.
You can try to reduce the entry points by making sure all doors to outside have tight weather-stripping especially at thresholds. Attaching a sweep like weatherstrip piece to outside lower stile of slider panels might help but again, don’t count on it. Check basement window edges and sills. Caulk as needed.
A garage is a losing battle. The door stays open while cars and people come and go and so do pests. Even closed, garage doors are notoriously loose fitting. Garages tend to be repositories of all manner of things such as lawn equipment, athletic gear, boat stuff, grilles, bicycles etc, providing dozens of little nooks and crannies where crickets can hide. They love garbage cans. Stink bugs just meander in.
I generally take a tolerant view of most living things until they take up residence in the house with me, uninvited. The cricket strain I dislike the most are the ones that become ensconced in a corner or under a couch and start chirping for a mate while I'm trying to sleep. All those stories about them being good luck aside I can't sleep until I've silenced the offender and sometimes the search is maddeningly long. I've been told that if they can't find a moisture source they eventually dry out and die inside the house. I can't wait that long. Some recommendations for stink bugs is to vaccum them. I guess they expire in the vacuum cleaner bag because the recommenders don’t say what to do beyond sucking them up. Don’t squish them or you’ll find out why they’re called stink bugs. They stink.
Like you, the non-toxic long-term solution that I've come to employ is setting out sticky traps. Crickets jump onto them and that's their last leap. I have taken to using our old stand-by-- duct tape-- in strips about eight inches long and placed side by side to make it about eight inches wide placed glue side up in room corners and behind furniture and it seems to work as well as sticky traps and a whole lot cheaper. I attack stink bugs one at a time when I see them in the house and don’t bother them outside.
I've been told that a healthy cat will significantly reduce the cricket population in the house. I’m not sure about stink bugs but you can contact the University of Maryland Agricultural Extension for more information at www.hgic.umd.edu or 1-800-342-2507. If you use the sticky traps or duct tape strips, hide them behind things where kids, cat or dog can't get to them.
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