Apartment and bug filter. Stay or leave?
October 19, 2014 5:05 AM   Subscribe

My, very expensive, new apartment has something management calls box bugs and small, centipede-like black bugs. I don't know the name of this second type, they might be the young? Management has promised to call Terminex but they are adamant this isn't roaches and that as it gets colder, they'll disappear.

I'm in the Midwest and finding an apartment in my city is difficult, my commute will probably be much longer, and I just moved with all the unpacking and financial issues that entails. For all those reasons I am reluctant to move. My next door neighbor says she hasn't had any problems but I haven't spoken to the person above me. My unit is above a garage and storage area.

Are they correct? Is this no big deal? Will the bugs be eradicated by an exterminator and the weather? If I had known, I wouldn't have moved in so this is a deal-breaker if the situation can't be resolved.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're talking about boxelder bugs, they are correct, they are not a problem..they will come and go based on changes in temperature...

As for the "centipede like black bugs", without a photo we're going to have a hard time providing information, but, I doubt they have anything to do with the other.
posted by HuronBob at 5:25 AM on October 19, 2014

If the first one are boxelder bugs (here), then they're nothing to worry about. Very common and just a nuisance not a threat. Nothing like roaches either.

I wouldn't bother with Terminex--I'd be more worried about what they'll be spraying than the boxelders. You can mix up a solution of soap and water and spray them. Any bug it touches will die, and you can sweep them up.

As for the black centipedes, I'm not sure what those are, sorry.
posted by limagringo at 5:25 AM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I live in the Midwest too. The "box bugs" are boxelder bugs and yeah, they're around a lot this time of year. They do tend to disappear in the winter, in my experience.

Not sure what the other bugs are, from your description, but they're not immature box bugs. Do you have a picture?
posted by slenderloris at 5:28 AM on October 19, 2014

We had one year where we had about a million boxelder bugs and they got in the house - for some reason they really liked the back steps that year. After that, I've only seen them occasionally. Check and see if there's a particular window or other spot where they are congregating. They are harmless and they do go away.

I have seen tiny glossy black millipede-like bugs a couple of times - maybe that's what you're talking about? I've never seen an infestation of them, though. Where in the apartment is it worst? If I were seeing those regularly, I would want some kind of steps taken - that is probably something that the pest company can help with.

I would not move on account of this, though - you really only have one insect problem, and although (if they're the kind I think) they are pretty creepy, I bet that can be resolved. Whether you have millipedes or centipedes, it seems like damp and the availability either of other insects to eat or rotting plant matter to eat would draw them - it's weird that you're seeing a lot of them. Maybe they're eating the boxelder bugs?
posted by Frowner at 5:39 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might look around the perimeter of your apartment, inside and out, to see if there are any gaps between doorjambs and walls, windows and walls, around the sink drain pipe behind the cabinets, and so on. Sealing up these spaces can do a better job of preventing infestations than poison (which leaves you cleaning up dead bugs instead of live ones, which is not much better).
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 6:16 AM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Boxelder beetles are nothing to worry about - heck, I don't even know what they eat while they're lounging in the sunny spots of my kitchen. Their immature versions are mostly red though, so the other bugs are definitely not them.

I'm not familiar with the centipede-looking things. You're not talking about wood lice / pill bugs are you? Like this? Though I've never seen those inside a house.

I don't think I'd move either way, and I probably wouldn't let them spray either. You'll be okay.
posted by checkitnice at 6:33 AM on October 19, 2014

We had little black millipede-looking mother fuckers. Sometimes it looked like a horror movie in my kitchen. But whatever bug spray they put down, they'd all be dead within an hour or so. It's kind of gross, and you have to sweep a lot. But they won't carry you off.

I will say that with the weather cooling off, they've disappeared. But I expect them again next summer. I've got some caulk, so I'm going to tackle that at some point.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:00 AM on October 19, 2014

We had little millipedes and centipedes growing up, and while I think it meant that the house had some humidity issues, they were pretty harmless and would go away in the winter. They're probably coming in from the garage below you.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:28 AM on October 19, 2014

You don't want an exterminator.

You want a handyman to go through your place and seal cracks, apply new weather stripping, and make sure all screens are secure, etc..
posted by jbenben at 8:04 AM on October 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

Are you talking about house centipedes? (Can't google to photo for you right now because the hair will stand up on the back of my neck, also I just woke up.) Those actually can reach infestation levels of gross, but if you seal up cracks around your apartments and only see the occasional young one, that seems pretty normal for a Midwestern apartment.

Same with box elders-- I've lived in places that had a shit ton of those things, but generally they're no big deal.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:34 AM on October 19, 2014

The bugs to really worry about are bed bugs, cockroaches, termites and maybe nuisance bugs like beetles or moths that infest rugs, clothes or grain. Centipedes are carnivorous, so maybe they came inside to eat the box elder bugs? I wouldn't want nasty chemicals introduced into my living space just as the cold weather is coming. Give this time to sort itself out.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:17 AM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Boxelders are totally harmless, and actually kind of cute.

And yes, we would need a photo to comment on the black centipede-like bugs. Since this question is anonymous, maybe you can upload a photo to Imgur and ask the mods to post a link to it?

Are we talking about a few bugs here and there, or a full-blown infestation, or something in between? If it's just a few, and if the bugs are harmless (i.e., they aren't a species that bites or stings, carries disease, causes damage to the building, or gets into your food), then you should just get used to it. A few bugs absolutely aren't worth moving over or even thinking much about, especially something as innocuous as a boxelder.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:55 AM on October 19, 2014

I wonder if the small "centipede" bugs are a late hatching crop of ladybug nymphs. They are extremely creepy looking if you don't know what they are, but are really the fuzzy little kittens of the insect world and enormously beneficial. I wouldn't spray for either of these bugs. (But then again, I don't spray for anything and I live in centipede/black widow/cockroach territory. I do squish as necessary though. Of course, YMMV.)
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 10:45 AM on October 19, 2014

I just googled "small insects that look like centipedes" and came up with sowbugs or pillbugs. I'll bet that's what you have. We always get tons of these heading indoors in late summer/early fall. If that's what you have, they are perfectly harmless. We sweep them up (they roll into little balls) and toss them outdoors where they feed on leaf litter. If there's a compost pile nearby or piled up leaf debris, that's where they're coming from and where they'd rather be. (When we were kids, they were my favorite kinds of bugs to find because you could roll them up and bat them around a bit in the palm of your hand. Fun!)
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2014

If you have a concentration of boxelder bugs, just vacuum them up and make sure you take the bag (or dump the container) outside immediately. They are harmless, their appearance is unpredictable, and they love to swarm and get through screens, cracks, and what have you, but particularly they prefer any surface warmed by the sun. If there's some dead brush or tree branches near the house, that may be where they came from; they love to hitch rides on trucks and campers, too. But unless you have an actual box elder tree nearby, you are very unlikely to see them again next year.
posted by dhartung at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2014

If they're house centipedes (which I never encountered til I moved to Chicago, but yep, they're everywhere) they WILL disappear when it gets cold.

That said, if you're anywhere near Chicago, it's cold enough now that your house centipedes should have disappeared already. They like warm, humid weather.
posted by artemisia at 3:19 PM on October 19, 2014

Boxelder bugs are roughly 1/2 inch (12.5 mm) in length and are commonly characterized by the red markings along an otherwise black or dark brown abdomen. They are attracted to the boxelder tree, but may also gather in places where maple and ash trees grow. Removing boxelder bugs is relatively easy, and will save you from dealing with creepy-crawlies around your home. I would rather suggest you to call an exterminator to get rid of it or you can also take care on your own.


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