by Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent
Nothing is worse than pests during the holiday season. People bring all kinds of plant material, decorations and food into their homes during the holidays. This is a great way to introduce pests into your house.
In today’s article Phil Koehler, UF/IFAS Extension Entomology Professor, shares information on potential pests that may find their way into our homes during the holidays.
The Asian Lady Beetle may invade some homes here in northern Florida during the winter. It was intentionally introduced into the U.S. to control agriculturally important pests, as it eats aphids, scales and other crop bests. However, it can invade buildings in large numbers. They enter buildings around windows, doors, vents and other small openings to overwinter. They are often found dead on window sills and in light fixtures. hundred to thousands of these beetles have been found infested houses.
Sometimes there are cases of insects crawling out of Christmas trees. These insects may be misidentified as ticks. One such insect in the giant conifer aphid. Aphids are slow moving, small insects with soft, pear-shaped bodies. Aphids and Asian lady beetles can be removed from the room with a vacuum cleaner.
One trend is to use dough ornaments, popcorn strings and other food items to decorate the house and tree. All sorts of pest problems can proliferate with the use of food as decoration, especially if the food decorations are stored. Cigarette beetles, cockroaches, rodents and other pests may destroy the ornament and move into the kitchen and other areas of the home. It’s not wise to expect food to be preserved for a year in the attic or closet, especially when it’s not properly protected from pest attack.
Pest problems during the holidays may be different than during the rest of the year. Don’t take for granted that the slow moving bug crawling from the Christmas tree is a tick. It could be a giant conifer aphid shipped into Florida from a northern state.
Some holiday pest problems can be unique. Koehler explained, “A few years ago, a retiree was defrosting his holiday turkey in the garage. A wild cat came along and hate half the turkey, leaving the other half untouched. The retiree wanted to know whether the cat was rabid and whether it was safe to eat the untouched half of the turkey.”
Koehler wrote, “We caught the cat in a live trap and sent it to the health department for rabies analysis. The report said it was not rabid. The retiree decided to eat the turkey leftovers. Yuck! He probably invited a bunch of friends over for that special holiday feast!”