It’s cold outside. Naturally, this makes you want to nestle up inside, where it’s nice and toasty. The problem is, certain bugs feel the same way. They, like us, prefer a comfortable wintertime retreat over the harsh weather outdoors. But while we can hibernate next to the fire or snuggle up under the covers, where do bugs go in the winter? Very likely inside your home, with you, unless you put a stop to them.
Here are 6 winter bugs to watch out for, along with some easy ways to make your home more comfortable while leaving those pesky insects out in the cold.
Common Winter Bugs
Unlike the pests we so often encounter over summer, which are more of the mischievous type, winter bugs are not much more than a nuisance. With the exception of cockroaches—they like to get into food pantries—most winter bugs tend to hang out and lazily spend their days inside your home, waiting for spring. Typically, they don’t breed and they don’t eat. They’re pretty much just living off their food stores and being an all-around annoyance to you, especially on warmer days when they tend to be more active and disruptive.
Here’s a quick guide to 6 of the most common winter bugs that just might, without proper prep, invade your home this winter.
Asian Lady Beetles
It’s hard not to love Asian lady beetles when they’re doing their thing in the garden. After all, they take care of piercing, plant-feeding insects just like their nearly identical friends, ladybugs. But unlike ladybugs, which find shelter outside in winter, Asian lady beetles tend to find their way indoors, and hanging out with them all winter long is no picnic. They’re attracted to light, so expect to find them in your windows or on lamps. Seems harmless? Well, they emit a foul odor and can leave a yellow stain when squished, so removing them is a bit of a task. The best way to get rid of Asian lady beetles is to sweep them up with a vacuum or scoop them into a cup and take them back outside.
Stink bugs congregate in large numbers and, like Asian lady beetles, are attracted to window light. As their name suggests, they ooze a potent, foul-smelling liquid when crushed, so use a vacuum to sweep them up, making sure to empty the bag or canister into an outside trash bin.
Most people think fleas can’t survive winter. Not only do some fleas persist in colder climes, but once they find an unassuming pet to carry them into your home, they can lay dormant in your animal’s bedding, as well as furniture cushions or thick carpeting. Talk with your vet about year-round flea control for Fido or Mr. Whiskers. In the meantime, stay vigilant inside your home: Frequently wash pet bedding in hot water (dry it in a dryer, if you can) and keep an eye out for signs of a flea infestation.
Perhaps the filthiest of all pests—winter bugs or otherwise—indoor cockroaches are at peak population when it’s cold, for one obvious reason: warmth and the presence of food. A combination of heat, moisture, and food makes kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and the space under appliances a cockroach’s dream. Besides getting into and contaminating food, cockroaches reproduce rapidly. Female cockroaches can lay one egg capsule a week, each containing 15-18 eggs. Do the math and you’ll see that just a single cockroach can produce about 20 new cockroaches a week. And then those 20 each produce 20 more, and, well, you get it! If you spot a cockroach, act fast (read our guide to killing cockroaches for help).
These black-and-orange or black-and-red bugs are cousins to stink bugs. In fact, boxelder bugs have a similar overwintering pattern: They come inside, don’t reproduce, and gather around doors and windows, seeking light. Unlike stink bugs, they can stain walls and surfaces if disturbed or crushed, so use a broom and dustpan to take them back outside, or a vacuum to carefully sweep them up. Just remember to throw the vacuum bag away in a lidded trash can outside.
Western Conifer Seed Bug
As off-putting as they may look with their long antennae, Western conifer seed bugs are another harmless type of pest. Outdoors, they feed on pine cones and other seeds. Indoors, they’re just waiting out the cold weather. Oftentimes, you’ll hear one buzzing around, sounding like a wasp or a hornet. Like many of the other winter bugs, this is one you do not want to swat, smash, or crush—unless you want a revolting smell released into the air.
Ways to Keep Bugs Out in Winter
Now that you’re aware of which winter bugs to watch out for, here are some easy home improvement projects to help make your house comfy-cozy in cold weather and stop winter bugs from coming inside.
1. Put the Outside to Bed
Tidying up outside has as much to do with keeping winter bugs at bay as it does with making things look good for you (and, perhaps, the neighbors). Without a proper outdoor clean-up, bugs have both a temporary hiding place and a potential gateway into your home. So, get rid of debris, clean out gutters, cut back landscape beds, harvest gardens, and trim trees and bushes to make sure branches are clear of siding, windows, and your rooftop. Be sure to stack or re-locate woodpiles away from the house, too. Cockroaches and even some dangerous spiders, like the brown recluse, can hide out in firewood stacks. Moving them farther from your home will make it a lot more difficult for bugs to wander inside.
2. Seal Cracks & Gaps
Look for entry points where winter bugs can make their way into your home. Any little opening where you see the tiniest bit of light shining through is fair game for winter bugs, like boxelder and stink bugs. Don’t forget to check all types of openings, including around dryer vents, outdoor faucets, cable wires, and piping. Look for cracks in foundation blocks, too. Then fill each crack, crevice, gap, and hole with caulk, expandable foam, wire mesh, or steel wool. For extra protection, create a long-lasting bug barrier around the outside perimeter of your entire home. Ortho® Home Defense Insect Killer For Indoor & Perimeter applied along the entire outside of your foundation will provide added reinforcement against any invaders.
3. Stop Drafts
Spend an hour or two caulking around doors and windows. Not only will it help keep winter bugs out, but it’ll also neaten up the look of your windows, warm up the interior of your home, and save on energy bills. Door sweeps and thresholds will block even more cold air while adding another layer of protection against winter bugs. When installing door sweeps, make sure the door corners are well covered or use caulk to fill in where the door sweep can’t reach. If you have sliding glass doors, replace worn seals or add some foam weather stripping under the bottom track to stop cold wind and winter bugs from coming through.
4. Organize Storage Areas
Well-organized spaces are not only visually more appealing, but they’re also a smart strategy for preventing insects from settling in. Take an afternoon, a weekend, or even just a few minutes every day to straighten up different areas of your home. In the kitchen, transfer cereals, grains, and other food items to pantry jars with tight-fitting lids. Take everything you can out of your mudroom or laundry room and wipe, sweep, vacuum, or mop. Put hats and gloves in lidded bins, and make sure everything is up off the floor on hooks or shelves. To keep things extra organized, add handwritten or printed labels, or chalkboard-style tags. Then declutter the attic, basement, or storage areas where winter bugs, such as stink bugs, like to hide. Finally, move treasured items into heavy-duty, bug-resistant bins with tight-fitting lids.
To help deter any new insects looking to make these areas their holiday haven, create a preventive winter bug barrier. When used as directed, Ortho® Home Defense Max® Indoor Insect Barrier will keep you protected for a full year. Spray into hard-to-reach places where insects hide, and once dry, put all your newly organized items back in neat, tidy order.
5. Update Fixtures and Fix Leaks
Unpleasant weather provides the perfect reason to get indoor chores done, like changing out old faucets and fixing under-the-sink leaks. This is one of those tasks that many people put off, but a sparkling new fixture will not only update the look of a kitchen or bath but stopping the drips will help thwart water-seeking bugs, like cockroaches.
6. Fire Things Up
Nothing says warm and cozy like a crackling fire in a fireplace. Unfortunately, a fireplace is also a way in for insects. So, before the first fire of the season, have your fireplace professionally inspected and cleaned, as well as properly capped or covered. If you decide to screen your chimney or fireplace yourself, contact your local fire department for help on how to do it safely.
Remember to bring firewood in only as you need it since winter bugs hiding in firewood can hitch a ride inside. If you use pine cones as fire starters or in crafts and décor, be sure to bake them first at 200ºF for about 30 minutes to kill insects, like Western conifer seed bugs, that could be hiding in them.
Creating a more comfortable indoor space come winter doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult. On the contrary: Prepping for winter and creating a warm and inviting home can be downright enjoyable. Start with bug-proofing your home. Then add in some cozy little extras. Before you know it, you’ll be nestled in, snug as a bug in a rug—without any actual bugs, of course!