By Bev Johnson Otter Tail County Master Gardner
Petunia hates bugs! That makes this time of year especially difficult for her as it seems her house has been invaded this spring. Her first encounter was house centipede. These creepy fellows have 15 pairs of legs, are brownish yellow with dark stripes on a flattened body. They move very fast, darting into cracks and other tight spaces. They sneak in through small cracks in the foundation and although they prefer damp places, they can be found most anywhere in a house. They are actually one of the “good guys” as they prey on other insects and related arthropods. Basement spiders, AKA Daddy Longlegs, are another predator Petunia found. The one in her bathtub almost made her swear off bathing. These spiders leave hunks of skeletons of their food in webs, so if you find a small web full of dark round hunks, you too have basement spiders. You can just smack these 2 with a shoe when you encounter them. To at least partially eliminate the centipedes, you will need to dry out the area you find them in. Sticky traps work well too. The next step is to examine the foundation. Remove any leaves or other debris that is lying next to the foundation and calk up any cracks. A crack doesn’t need to be very large to let a sneaky critter like a centipede in. Indoors, dry out the area with a fan or dehumidifier. Petunia wants immediate action, so she headed to the ant spray. This will get the ones she sees at least.
Another insect she may encounter this spring is a pinhead sized red mite. These minute creatures are clover mites. They are cousins to spiders and ticks. They live in the grass, feeding on the sap of grass, clover and other plants. They don’t do any damage outside. Last fall some of them decided to spend their winter vacation in Petunia’s house. They crept in to small cracks with the lady bugs already resting there. Her house is about 100 years old, so it has a lot of cracks and odd living spaces for winter and summer renters. The mites are harmless and are easily eliminated as are the lady bugs, with just a swipe of the vacuum cleaner. Bunkey had a flowerbed all around the foundation of the house, however, he had mulched it with wood chips, a perfect bridge into the house for a host of bugs. This spring he will only use eaves for mulch around the house and pull all of it off in the fall.
A Yellow Jacket colony moved into the wall void in the house last spring. Petunia freaked out all summer. She wanted the hole they were entering plugged up. Bunkey got her to listen to George about why that was a very bad idea. They will move into the house if they can’t get outside, he told her. She sent Bunkey out as soon as the weather warmed up to calk up the entrance. The colony dies in the winter, but the queen doesn’t, and she just may decide that was a nice place last summer, and move back in.
Just to be sure he has enough, our hero bought a case of calking this spring. He has been seen on his knees crawling around the foundation with a calk gun in his hand, almost every warm day this spring. He would do most anything not to hear that scream when Petunia encounters a bug.