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Dealing with nuisance insects this time of year
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Dealing with nuisance insects this time of year

Nebraska Extension

Tiny biting insects, sticky sap dripping onto cars, thousand-legged worms crawling into basements and fruit flies in kitchens.

Every fall brings some type of nuisance insect or pest as these increase in numbers over summer or begin looking for overwintering sites. Those previously mentioned are some of my current questions.

Tiny black insects that inflict painful bite are minute pirate bugs. They are eighth-inch long, mostly black and oval shaped. While their bite is painful and may cause a welt and itching, they are otherwise harmless. These bugs do not feed on blood, inject a venom or transmit diseases to people.

Minute pirate bugs are beneficial as they are effective predators of harmful insects like mites and aphids. Since they feed on plant pests, they are found in trees and on other plants. However, it is not practical or effective to apply insecticides to trees for control.

Insect repellents do not work because pirate bugs are not attracted to carbon dioxide like ticks and mosquitoes. To help reduce biting, wear dark clothing on warm days as these bugs are attracted to light colored clothing. Covering exposed skin with baby oil may reduce bites.

Aphids are responsible for sticky sap dripping onto cars or patio furniture beneath trees. As aphids feed on plant sap, they exude excess sugars out of their bodies. This honeydew is what drips onto anything sitting near or beneath the tree.

Again, because of the size of trees, insecticides sprays will not reach enough of leaf undersides to provide much control of aphids. And since these insects do not cause long-term damage to trees, control is not warranted. It is best to park elsewhere or move patio furniture until the honeydew disappears.

Millipedes are also known as thousand legged worms. They are a little over one inch long, dark brown and have numerous short legs on many body segments. These are crustaceans, not insects; hence the body segments are fairly hard and resistant to insecticides.

Millipedes like moisture and feed on organic matter in soil. All of the rainfall this year was ideal for development of a high millipede population. They may be seen crawling on the sides of homes but are harmless.

At this time of year, they may enter basements in search of overwintering sites. If the basement is not moist, most millipedes will dry up and die. Those that do not will cause no harm. To keep millipedes out of basements, do a good job of caulking and weather stripping to exclude them.

Fruit flies are small, gnat-like and have fairly large red eyes. When these pesky insects are found indoors, add about 1 inch of apple cider vinegar to a glass or jar and place it on the counter. Add a drop or two of dish soap to the vinegar. Soap will break the surface tension so when fruit flies or other small gnats are attracted to the mix, they will sink and drown.

This is an effective trap for those flying around inside the home. To help reduce numbers indoors, keep fresh fruits and vegetables off of counters or use it up quickly. Keep screens in good repair and see that doors and windows have tight fittings.

Insecticide sprays are not recommended for fruit fly control. These are not effective and may not be safe to use in food preparation areas. Keeping fresh produce off counters and using apple cider vinegar traps are the best way to manage fruit flies and other nuisance gnats indoors.

Kelly Feehan is a community environment educator for Nebraska Extension-Platte County.


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