When summer comes to a close and fall begins to set in, there are numerous changes to account for. From the dips in temperature to preparing your home and family for the string of holidays, autumn is pretty much the definition of change. And that goes for the critters of the world too, because there’s a new round of pests that may affect you and your homes as we move into cooler months.
For the most part, pests like flies and mosquitoes die off in the fall and winter. Unfortunately, though, many of the pests that wreak havoc on your lawns and homes in the summer start to move inside in the fall, and that’s because many of these pests can’t survive outdoors as temperatures drop.
“Insects don’t technically hibernate in winter but many go into diapause, a dormant state that allows them to withstand cold temperatures,” said Brian Kunkel, a University of Delaware entomologist. This technique allows many of the pests you see thriving in the summer to survive some of the harshest winters.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at pests you should be looking out for as the fall season rolls in.
On the whole, spiders aren’t exactly known for moving inside, but there are specific breeds of spiders that are adept to the living conditions inside your home. For instance, just because there may be a banana spider hanging in the trees outside your home in the summer, that doesn’t mean you need to worry about the yellow, eight-legged beast renting out a room in your home in October. This may be a rare occurrence, though, because bigger hunting spiders have been found to sometimes accidentally enter homes and set up camp. They won’t survive long, are often harmless, and they don’t reproduce indoors, so if you have the confidence, simply kick them out. It’s likely they won’t return.
In fact, Rod Crawford, an arachnid curator at the Burke Museum in Washington, revealed that less than 5 percent of spiders that you see indoors have ever been outdoors in the first place. Crawford wrote that there are specific breeds of spiders that have adapted to living indoors for thousands of years. Some species of spiders found in your home include:
- American house spider
- Cellar spider
- Domestic house spider
- Cupboard spider
These house spiders typically enter your residence through their eggs that are embedded and laid in furniture, wood flooring, and the walls of your home. They feed on other pests like mosquitoes, flies, and cockroaches, so they can actually be helpful to your home—almost like a natural (and free!) home pest service.
Unfortunately, cockroaches are a problem throughout the year. They thrive best in warmer summer temperatures. Many move between outdoors and indoors in that time, mating with whoever wants to and feeding on whatever they like. But as they cooler months come, cockroaches strictly move indoors because their bodies can’t stand the colder temperatures.
If cockroaches can’t find their way into your home, they try to find piles of leaves and shrubbery outside to stay warm. They typically die once temperatures dip below freezing, though.
Cockroaches will also set up shop in sewer drains, walls, and basements in order to find warmth. The only place to then go for food and water is inside. Cockroaches can carry a wide range of diseases like the plague, salmonellosis, and typhoid fever. They can also trigger asthma attacks, so it’s imperative you keep an eye out for cockroaches and take the necessary steps to prevent them from proliferating.
Rodents like mice and rats are the most likely of all pests to deliberately crawl into your house to seek warm for the winter. They feed on just about any type of food, especially if the container for the food is open, allowing its aroma to spread right into the rodents’ nostrils. Rodents have been reported to destroy enough food to feed 200 million people every year.
Some signs of rodents include:
- Droppings (the most common)
- Small gnaw marks in bags of food
- Open wiring that looks like it was ripped or torn open
The biggest issue with rodents—aside from how much food they chew up—is the number of diseases they can bring into your home. They’ve been known to spread the plague, salmonellosis, tularemia, and about 30 other diseases, and they spread it through their saliva and droppings.
Just as rodents do, ants seek warmth as the weather starts to get cooler. A Stanford study discovered that ants were more likely to enter your home the colder and wetter it got outside, noting that the type of weather outside directly related to how many ants you had in your home. Conversely, the study also found that the amount of pesticide you used outside did not result in ants pushing closer to your home. Therefore, if you notice ants in your home after treating your landscape, it’s most likely due to the weather and not your attempted preventative measures.
Researchers at Texas A&M actually suggest the fall as a perfect time to set up traps for ants, particularly fire ants, and especially if they’re near or around your home.
Pests that sting—bees and wasps, in particular—can become a problem in the fall, which is when they feed and store up food for the cold winter.
Most species of bees use the fall as a last-minute effort to store up enough honey in their hives. “As the days shorten, the bees know it’s time to go into this food-gathering mode,” said Debbie Delaney, a researcher at the University of Delaware. Bees aren’t trying to sting you or ruin your outdoor fun.” As for wasps, the fall is also prime feeding time because fallen fruit and nectar is in abundance, so they are particularly active.
This can cause both bees and wasps to accidentally slip into your home. They aren’t out to hurt you, though, and they are important to the ecosystem. If you do encounter either of these, call a professional who can make sure swarms of bees and wasps are removed carefully.
There are some general preventative steps you can take to make your home as least susceptible as possible to pests looking to enter and thrive in your home.
- Clear up outside: As mentioned before, many of these pests hide in piles of leaves and bushes during the winter to try to stay warm. Make sure to consistently rake leaves and make sure too much shrubbery doesn’t pile up on your lawn, especially the closer you get to your home.
- Clean inside your home: When inside your house, pests thrive off leftover food and water. Scrub counters and wipe them down to make sure no crumbs or standing water are leftover for cockroaches and rodents to feed off while you’re sleeping. Also make sure that trash cans are tightly sealed and aren’t left sitting around if full. Just as pests seek warmth in piles of debris outside, they do the same indoors, so clean up accumulations of clothes and laundry.
- Check for holes and clearings from outside of your home: Pests need to get into your home somehow. Clearings at the base of your home give way for pests to enter through the basement and pipings underground. Also, holes near gutters give pests an entryway into your walls, where they’ll live all season long if you’re not careful.
You should watch out for what you decorate your home with in the fall, too. It’s tempting to place pumpkins, aromatic wood chips, and scarecrows in and around your home, but piles of straw, wood, and rotting food are all attractive to pests. Make sure to solve your initial pest problem before deciding to decorate your home with fall decor.
If you still see a pest presence after tidying up your home to the best of your ability, contact a professional for help.