By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

We, the Extension Office, tells you that they are beneficial. They eat aphids including soybean aphids. We tell you that they really don’t bite, they just pinch you to see if you are edible. (Not to them anyway.)   But now, they are invading your house and you just want them GONE.  

Jeff Hahn, previous University Extension Entomologist to the rescue. His advice is to start by caulking and sealing all the places they can squeeze in. Concentrate along windows, door, rooflines, the foundation and utility lines. 

Don’t forget the telephone/computer line and the dryer vent. You have done all that and you still have a ceiling that makes you seasick watching the waves of beetles moving toward the lights. That’s the time to get out the heavy guns, sprays. Jeff says you should have sprayed before they got inside. (He lives in the city and probably doesn’t have kids who hold the door open 20 times a day to yell “mom.”

Check to be sure the spray is labeled for the exterior of buildings. He recommends; Bonide Household Insect Control, Ortho Home Defense Perimeter, Bayer Bug Buster, or Advance Home Pest Control Indoor and Outdoor Insect Killer, or Spectracide brand Bug Stop Indoor and Outdoor Home Insect Control. Spray the same areas you caulked. Never spray inside. You don’t want to be inhaling bug poison.

Get the vacuum out to suck up the party going on, on the ceiling. Never squish them. Not only do they stink, but the smelly liquid they excrete from the joints of their legs of all places, can stain light colored surfaces like your freshly painted cream-colored walls. When you have them all corralled in the vacuum bag, chuck it outside. Sucking them up just makes them mad, it doesn’t kill the darn things.

Now to get to another fall chore. It’s time to cut your iris down. This does three things. 1. You don’t have to deal with those snotty leaves next spring.  2. You reduce diseases especially iris borer and 3. You can get at the weeds that have snuck into the middle of the clump to hide and propagate.

Do mulch your flowerbeds heavily for the winter. The prediction is for a colder than normal winter. The mulch doesn’t keep the flowers warm in their beds, it keeps them from being heaved out of the soil by frost if uncovered. Dry leaves are excellent cover. They are free, mostly weed free; they may have tree seeds in them, and they add micronutrients as they rot. Straw can introduce weeds you have never seen before and find almost impossible to get rid of.

The experts say you should wait until the ground freezes to mulch. This is supposed to prevent critters from wintering in the garden. Since here, that can well be in December, picking leaves up in just a jacket beats doing it in December wearing a snowmobile suit. They are nice and warm but darned difficult to bend over in to pick up leaves in. Mulch as you pick the leaves up. Most of the time the critters we are dealing with are mice and they only eat off what is above the soil line. That part usually dies off in winter anyhow.

Speaking of mice, check and clean out your bird houses. Mice love them for winter condos. Not only can they carry Lyme disease, but they also wet the bed. After you clean out last summer’s nests, leave the door open to keep any furry residents from moving in for the winter.