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Fickle weather sends pests out of control


By Anna Archibald
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fifteen pairs of black and white striped legs scuttle away as the bed sheets fling up into the air and hit the ceiling. Waking up to a house centipede staring down at you can be alarming.

GSP resident Jenna Schwartz said the building been having a problem with centipedes for the last couple weeks.

"One girl found one on her ceiling when she woke up one morning, and we've also been finding them on our clothes," Schwartz, Eden Prairie, Minn. freshman. said.

Deb Smith, associate professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, said that when the weather fluctuates between warm and cold temperatures, as it has in the past few weeks, temperatures aren't cold enough to kill the bugs but are still cool enough for them to look for warmth in residences.

Smith said if the cold weather was more continuous, insects wouldn't be as active. "There have been too many episodes of warming and cooling to keep them away," she said.

Consequently, students often end up with an unwanted, multi-legged roommate.

Although house centipedes are predatory, which means they hunt other insects, Smith said they don't pose a threat to people.

"When you see them around, it usually means there are or there used to be other insects around, as well," she said.

The house centipede is just one of many types of insects creeping and crawling through dark corners of houses this time of year.

Smith said the most common pests are box elder beetles, mouse spiders, grass spiders and the Asian lady beetle, which is usually mistaken for a common ladybug.

"These beetles were originally brought here to control the population of other types of insects, but have now become more of a nuisance themselves," Smith said. "And honey bees generally come out on these warmish days to eat and dump waste, so they're around more, meaning people are more likely to come into contact with them."

Schwartz said there were always five to 10 of the ladybug-like beetles by her windows in her room.

"They've been getting a lot worse," she said. "It's kind of confusing, though, because my window is closed and I don't know how they are getting in."

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