What do crickets, millipedes, Asian lady beetles, box elder bugs, wolf spiders, and other creepy crawlies all have in common this time of the year? You have probably figured it out; they are looking for a cozy place to hole up for the winter.
Let's visit a little bit about crickets and some of the other insects that become pests by entering houses in the fall. Crickets are a critical part of our ecosystem. They feed on a lot of different plants, decaying organic matter, and even other dead insects. They also are a valuable food source for other animals such as spiders, birds, and snakes.
Millipedes are thin, hard shelled, worm-like arthropods with many legs. They feed on organic matter and are efficient recyclers of plant material. Millipedes are less annoying but still will enter your house and dry up into hard shells for you to clean up. The next most common invader is the Asian lady beetle, which is beneficial for much of the year since it feeds on soybean aphids and other harmful insects. At this time of the year, however, these critters begin to enter buildings. If a cricket happens to sneak into your house and start chirping in the middle of the night, it can drive you crazy.
Asian lady beetles will congregate in large numbers and will enter by the hundreds or even thousands if you have a nice overwintering site. They have a disagreeable odor and can stain areas when you crush them. The only good news that I can think of from this incredibly dry weather is that it has kept cricket, millipede, and other insect numbers much lower than normal in most areas. Soybean aphid numbers were very low and this will limit lady beetle populations, as well.
Any cool snap will begin to drive these creatures to looking for better quarters, so now is the time to prepare for these annoyances. Look for gaps in windows and doors, cracks in foundations, and any other openings which will give easy access. Fill the gaps with foam sealant or any other material that will prevent entry. Outside, heavy mulch, boards, and wood piles around the foundation make excellent hiding places where these critters can stage for a home invasion. Remove these hiding areas if you can.
Create an insecticide "barrier" by spraying the exterior of structures along the foundation with a wide band of about 4-5 feet. Spray about 2 feet up the foundation as well. Make sure you spray the product to the point where you can see the material running down the foundation to give you extra residual. Keep pets and children away from the area until the surface dries.
You can purchase these barrier insecticides at your local hardware store. Many of the so-called "Home Defense" type products are good choices for a barrier spray. I don't normally like to single out a product, but Tempo is now available for homeowners and is an excellent barrier spray. If you have ornamental beds and lawns adjacent to the foundation, it may be advisable to treat those as well. One last comment; these products don't last for one year like the advertisements may say. Depending on weather conditions, you may have to spray every 2 to 4 weeks until we get a hard freeze.
Good luck on the home front.