Springtime brings warmer weather, refreshing rain, energizing sunshine, beautifully budding trees, and blooming flowers. But with all of this comes the reemergence of insects. While insects are absolutely critical for the proper functioning of the ecosystem and are important creatures, they can cause problems. Whether they bite, get into your home, or simply swarm about, some insects are troublesome.
Many types of insects are able to overwinter and use a variety of methods to do so. The most common method is by laying eggs in the fall. A protective layer of leaves and soil combines with an insulating layer of snow to protect the eggs and larvae. Then spring comes and it’s warm enough for them to emerge from dormancy.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common spring bugs and insects that you might encounter during this revitalizing time of year.
Some ants may invade your house in fall or winter to escape the cold. Most will overwinter in the ground as larvae and emerge once the ground thaws to become a spring pest. Some adults can overwinter as well by simply slowing their bodies to the point of appearing dead. They recover movement once the warmer temperatures return. Oftentimes, they seek out the walls of our homes during this time for easy access to both food and shelter.
Carpenter ants, in particular, are cause for concern. They make their homes in wood and can cause significant structural damage.
Though not technically insects (spiders are arachnids), we’re including them in this list. More than 50% of people group spiders with insects and they also tend to emerge in the spring after a winter spent hibernating. Often vilified, spiders play quite a substantial role in controlling insect populations. They help control flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and many others.
Even in your home, spiders often help more than they harm. Nonetheless, they can become a springtime pest when many of them begin to emerge at once. This can lead to potential infestations or having too many spiders around for comfort. Often, you can simply release them outside where they can benefit the natural environment by eating insects. They also serve as a food source for birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and some mammals. Spiders can establish themselves in your home, though, and might cause more issues if you allow their population to increase.
Mosquitoes are one of the most understandably dreaded bugs in both spring and summer. These pests don’t waste any time and will emerge as soon as temperatures are around 50°F (10°C). Some mosquito species can overwinter as adults, retreating into hollow trees, manmade structures, or holes in the ground for several months. Many other species lay their eggs in standing water before temperatures drop below freezing. Here, the eggs and larvae enter a state called diapause (which essentially pauses their development during the coldest months). They will then emerge in the spring and summer.
Mosquitoes do have some ecological purpose. They provide food for other organisms and help to control animal populations by spreading disease. The latter reason is why mosquitoes are such pests. They bite, suck blood, and leave behind itchy bumps on our skin, which can cause allergic reactions. Even worse, they spread diseases like the Zika virus, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever, and malaria. They even spread heartworms that can harm your pets.
These particular insects don’t really pose a threat to you or your home. They emerge in the spring and often again in the fall. Boxelder bugs form droves that cover the outside of houses like a carpet. It is fairly easy for them to infiltrate homes, where they can live for months.
They are named after the boxelder trees (which belong to the maple family rather than the elder family) that they feed and lay their eggs on. Boxelder bugs are small- to medium-sized creatures that look like beetles. They are black with red-orange markings on their backs. They often overwinter in homes or in boxelder trees, going dormant in late autumn and becoming active again in the spring. You can find them in much of Canada and the U.S.
A true creepy-crawly, earwigs are slender insects with sharp pincers on their butts. You can find these pests on every continent except Antarctica. They’re quite hardy and can often withstand cold temperatures. Winters usually kill the adults, but they can sometimes survive by hiding under stones, in homes, or in well-insulated soil. Their typical overwintering strategy is to lay eggs (usually in clusters of around 30 to 50) in the winter before dying. The soil and snow then insulate and protect the eggs. When the eggs hatch in spring, the larvae and adults then infiltrate gardens, garages, and homes.
While earwigs don’t typically cause harm, their large population size and small, sharp pinchers make them an unwelcome springtime pest.
It’s important to note that wasps are not the same as bees. Bees are essential for human survival because they pollinate our crops as well as oxygenating plants. Keep in mind that not all wasps are bad.
Some wasp species, such as paper wasps, yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets, and most other hornets, are not only real pests but are quite mean. They won’t hesitate not only to sting you multiple times but will even chase you if you attempt to escape. (Bald-faced hornets can even squirt venom from their stingers, causing severe eye pain).
Approximately 90% of adult wasps die in the winter. The remaining 10% are females that have mated and are known as “mated queens.” They typically overwinter in underground nests or in manmade structures, laying their eggs in the spring to start a new colony from scratch. The juveniles seek places to build nests and search for food. These sites can include basements, garages, houses, eaves, and in the soil of your yard.
If you encounter a stinging insect, take a moment to identify it first. If it’s a bee, which is usually pretty easy to distinguish from a wasp or a hornet, please leave it be. In the U.S., approximately 40% of bee species are already extinct. This number jumps to 50% in Europe (with another 25% in danger of extinction).