As a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent, I see a lot of insects. People leave jars of them on my desk, send me photos or call me out to their gardens to identify them and give control recommendations.
Often I speak to folks about how to bring pollinators to their gardens, to have more insects instead of less. Because of this, I am somewhat inured to insects and I forget what most folks think about them, which often goes along the lines of “eek,” “aaahhh,” or “squish it!” At least until the shoe is on the other foot, or rather the other hand, as I’m swatting at an insect that is in my home. As much as I love looking for monarch caterpillars on milkweed or bumblebees on echinacea, some insects are pests and need to be managed. Here are a few insect pests to watch out for this season in and around the home.
Ants interrupting a picnic is a common summer trope, and no one wants fire ants interrupting summer fun — they are aggressive when disturbed and their stings are painful. For smaller areas of less than an acre, treating individual mounds is advised, and there are numerous contact pesticides, granular, mound drenches and dusts that are effective for individual mound control. The most important advice for using these chemicals is to follow label instructions. For most treatments, it is important not to disturb the mound. Read carefully and apply pesticides as directed for the highest level of efficacy. For more detailed information see our Extension publication on Managing Imported Fire Ants in Urban Areas.
Fly populations increase in summer and occasionally become home pests. Prevention is the key to controlling these opportunistic pests. Take garbage out of the home at least twice a week and, if you compost, make sure to keep material waiting to go to the pile covered. Keep outdoor garbage cans tightly closed and clean them regularly to prevent spilled garbage or leaky bags from providing an ideal breeding ground for flies. Also, place garbage cans far from building entrances. If flies do make their way indoors, sprays labeled for flies or good, old-fashioned swatters can take down the stray fly or two and keep them from reproducing. For higher numbers, sticky traps with the chemical attractant Z-9-tricosene are effective for control.
Mosquitos are hands-down the worst summer pest. Not only are their bites itchy, certain species of mosquitos can spread diseases. Mosquitos need standing water to reproduce, and many homes grow their own population of mosquitos simply by allowing collected water to stand. Prevent mosquitos by eliminating areas of your yard that could hold water. There are many possibly culprits, including plant containers, toys, and even tarps on boats or other equipment that may collect water. Don’t forget to refresh water in bird baths at least once a week. Managing standing water is especially useful for controlling day-biting mosquitos, which are most likely the Asian tiger mosquito, which cannot travel far from larval habitats. To keep your backyard comfortable, avoid or repel low levels of mosquitos that are present in the evening using fans and repellant lanterns with a heat source.
Wasps and Hornets
Lots of folks are alarmed by wasps and hornets but, left alone, these insects are not aggressive. In addition, they are important pollinators and can help control pest populations. Unless nests are very near doors or other high traffic areas, leave them, but be mindful of the nests and give them a bit of space. In the winter, those colonies will die and nests can be easily removed.
Preparing for fall
While I mostly associate summer with outdoor pests, many insects will start looking for warmth as temperatures begin to cool down. Asian ladybugs and brown marmorated stink bugs can invade houses by the hundreds. Now is the time to prepare your home against these cooler-weather invaders. Make sure cracks around windows are caulked, window screens are intact and door sweeps are installed on exterior doors. Essentially, plug up any opening that could allow insects to enter. In addition, a residual pesticide around the exterior of the house, especially at potential entry points, can prevent insects from entering. Preparing by late summer can prevent an insect invasion in the fall.
For more in-depth information about home pests, check out UGA Extension Publications including Management of Pest Insects In and Around the Home, Stinging and Biting Pests and Managing Imported Fire Ants in Urban Areas.