When is it time to call the exterminator?
March 16, 2006 9:09 PM   Subscribe

I keep finding live flying bugs in my windows and lights and our house is very tight and doors open only rarely. I can't tell if this is normal springtime bug populations or if I have an infestation in my attic. When is it time to call the exterminator?

We moved into a new house last fall and I remember seeing lots of dead flies on window sills for the first couple weeks. I assumed it was because we were always moving stuff into and out of the house, so the front/back doors were wide open for extended periods of time. The bugs eventually stopped.

It's now almost spring and suddenly I'm seeing 2 or 3 live ladybugs or house flies crawling on windows (trying to get out) and I'm again finding 3-4 dead flies and ladybugs every few days near windows. The trouble is, it's still super cold outside and we haven't been opening doors or windows much at all. It's a new house and tightly sealed (it's dead quiet, amidst nearby construction).

Are these bugs coming from inside the house, perhaps in the attic going back to when the house was being built last summer? Should I call an exterminator and prepare to bug fog the whole house? Or is 2 or 3 bugs a day a normal amount of bugs to be appearing out of thin air?
posted by mathowie to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
I presume these are regular houseflies -- bluebottle and greenbottle? Sometimes "flies" found inside an otherwise sealed house are actually winged termites.

If they're just houseflies, I wouldn't be terribly concerned, although I would make doubly sure to clean up behind kitchen counters and around trash areas.

The ladybugs would actually be helpful, not harmful, but they may indicate the presence of something else. Should be able to get up into the attic with a flashlight and poke around. But again, I wouldn't be terribly concerned.
posted by frogan at 9:32 PM on March 16, 2006

Ladybugs will often hibernate in or around the walls of a building, and the internal heat my bring them out months earlier than usual. Not a big deal, although maybe sad since those ladybugs probably won't make it till the real spring outside.
posted by luftmensch at 9:47 PM on March 16, 2006

Insects will find their way under aluminum or vinyl siding with the onset of cool/cold weather and from there they can find ways into the house. This is true of ladybugs and cluster flies among others. Around here(Southwestern Ontario), it's not ladybugs per se but their evil dopplegangers the multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis). The ones in my house have started to wake up with the onset of warmer weather.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 9:58 PM on March 16, 2006

On a practical note, if live flying insects of the undesirable propensity is a problem, consider an electric flyswatter (not affiliated, random google link).

I have a different model and it's great. It'll even do wasps. Just pick up or vacuum away afterwards. No muss, no fuss.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:26 PM on March 16, 2006

Is it a concrete foundation, or a pier-and-beam? I've got a whole or two in my pier-and-beam, and bugs sometimes manage to squeeze in thru cracks or thru holes drilled for cables to come thru..
posted by vanoakenfold at 2:42 AM on March 17, 2006

Around here, it's ladybug and housefly season right now. I assume they are hatching in the walls and/or attic. We see one or two little holes in the ceiling that the bulk of the ladybugs crawl through and they do seem to be limiting themselves to just a few at a time. It's possible to have a ladybug infestation, and if you had that, I'd do something about it, but otherwise I'd leave it be.

As far as flies go, you might have cluster flies. They are more of a problem and can spread disease, but they are also usually a changing seasons thing, unless you have a dead animal in your walls or under your house. You'll see them more on windows at the end of winter and particularly the end of Autumn when there is a temperature differential between inside and outside and the windows of your house are the warmest place to be. I've used those little sticky shelves on the windows to grab up most of these little buggers, but it's really not for everyone. Spraying some sort of toxic chemicals around windows and doors will really deal with most of the problem, or it has for me for years running. I'd suggest spraying with some commonly available fly repellent (if you decide to go that way) and then leave the house for a half a day minimum. Then just make sure that your kitchen is clean and dry and food and trash are covered and you should be set for the majority of the problem.
posted by jessamyn at 3:29 AM on March 17, 2006

We also moved into a newly-built house, last Spring, and we had a huge number of ladybugs through the Fall and into Winter. The last live one I saw was about six weeks ago.

A guy at work claims that the ladybugs swarm on yellow buildings - said his house is yellow, and one day he found one outside wall of his garage turned pink because of the bugs. Our house is also yellow. Yours?

We've had some houseflies, too. Not a lot, but nobody likes them. I think shoesfullofdust is probably right that both kinds of bugs harbor under the siding and find openings in the walls. Most houses have lots of openings, for wiring, gas aqnd water pipes, etc. Our house is built on a slab, if that is somehow a factor.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:15 AM on March 17, 2006

In our climate, the ladybugs blunder into the building I work in and hibernate, someplace, and they do come out far too early in the spring. We have both the real ones and the Asiatic ones that bite.
I read somewhere the asiatic ones hibernate at home in white cliffs and our building is several stories of plain white, which seems to attract them from far, far away.
As long as it's a few a day, I would live with that rather than escalate to chemistry with a baby in the house.

Flies are a nuisance and nasty. I just turn off all the lights in the house, leave the computer screen or TV on, and sneak up behind them with a tissue and grab them. Apparently, they can't see you coming that way and are easy to gift wrap and flush. (I am anything but fast, and I can catch them that way.) It's a little labor intensive, but ecologically sound, safe for children and pets.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:14 AM on March 17, 2006

Sorry, I didn't address your main question the first time around. So: When is it time to call the exterminator? For me this would be when the pests are known to be causing significant structural damage to your house or they pose a significant threat to your family's physical/mental health and other attemps at control(physical removal, exclusion etc.) have failed. Keep in mind that bringing in an exterminator can be costly, you may have to(or want to) vacate the house for a period of time and you will be introducing toxic chemicals into your living environment. I would consider 2-3 bugs a day a minor nuisance. However, if a pristine and sterile environment is what you are after then the exterminator may be your only choice. Just keep in mind that the insects originate from outdoors and they may come back. Consider trying out some inexpensive things like fly strips and bug traps and see if they don't help. There also some organic household bug control options you may want to look into. Good luck.

p.s. Yes, it is entirely possible that the bugs entered the structure of the house during the contruction phase, then went dormant for the winter and are now reemerging. You may actually have a well sealed house and you may not have as bad a problem in future years.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 12:39 PM on March 17, 2006

OK... so you’re worried about getting a couple of bugs in your house every day? Look at it this way... its worse for the bugs. They just keep repeating the same hard-wired behaviors until they die on the windowsil. Its a good thing people are smarter than that.
posted by Huplescat at 6:20 PM on March 17, 2006

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