You can be sure they do!!! There’s a whole host of moisture related insects native to New Jersey that might start making an appearance in your home in the mid- to late- spring. As a matter of fact, almost all insects are intricately tied to moisture, many smaller insects tend to feed on molds and fungi which develop in high moisture conditions. Other insects can’t access their primary food sources until they become moist; Termites, Carpenter Ants and Wood Destroying Beetles all need a higher-than-normal level of moisture in wood before they can begin their attack.
Besides these perennial pests and year-round trouble makers, I’d like to give a brief overview of the quick to pop up, here today, gone tomorrow insects that you’ll find during times of heavy rain and high moisture. Keep in mind the season or the date isn’t the common element, so much as the moisture itself. Sometimes a construction style of a building or the current maintenance can cause a high moisture level year round.
The Fungus Gnat- The blanket term fungus gnat is used to describe small dark winged flies from six different insect families. They are members of the Order Diptera and are related to house flies and mosquitoes. As the name implies they feed primarily on fungus and do most of their feeding during their larval, or immature, phase. Adults have a very short lifespan (usually only about 7-10 days) while the immature stage can last for up to a month. Adult Fungus Gnats will lay their eggs in rich, moist soils so the larvae can feed on decaying plant roots and the fungi associated with their decomposition.
Fungus gnats can quickly become a nuisance indoors due to their high reproductive potential as each female can lay up to 300 eggs! During the developmental phase, the larvae are very rarely seen due to their size and environment but afterwards the adults can become quite a nuisance. Adult Fungus Gnats will feed on pollen or nectar from plants and can be attracted to floral scents or lotions, both real and synthetic. Frequently, adult fungus gnats may “buzz” or annoy humans who use these kinds of soaps and lotions and seem to be an ever present pest. Fortunately Fungus Gnats don’t bite, as a matter of fact, they don’t even have the proper mouth parts to puncture human skin.
Control measures can be very simple and the majority deal with moisture and water control in and around your home. If high numbers are breeding outdoors, reducing available moisture through landscaping changes might be in order. Indoors, fungus gnats can be found breeding in potted plants and a half inch layer of sand on top of the flower pots will interrupt the egg laying behavior of the female fungus gnat.
Silverfish- The Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) is from an ancient order of insect (Thysanura) whose earliest members colonized dry land some 400 million years ago. They can most certainly be considered a living fossil like a Coelacanth or Horseshoe Crab. Unlike most insects who have a set number of developmental stages or “molts”, silver fish have an indeterminate number and can molt up to 60 times over the course of their life.
Although not directly related to moisture, silverfish do require a moist climate (75%-95% humidity) and as moisture levels increase, their developmental time decreases and their food sources increase. Silverfish feed primarily upon starches and dextrin, but are omnivorous scavengers, consuming dead insects, linens, silks and even their own shed exoskeletons!!
The most effective methods for control and prevention of Silverfish (and their close cousins, the Firebrat) are based around sanitation and moisture control. A general cleaning and de-cluttering of your basement, attic and closets would deprive these insects of not only their food sources but their harborage areas as well. As clutter decreases, there will be fewer micro-environments with high humidity for insects to access. The next step would be building- or area-wide moisture management. Installing a dehumidifier and ensuring proper ventilation of basements or crawlspaces would be ideal. In worse cases, applying a waterproofing agent to foundations might be required.
Plaster Beetles- These tiny insects (1-3mm) are scavenging beetles from the family Lathridiidae and feed solely upon mildew, mold and fungus. They got their common name from their occurrence in new homes; as plaster dried after construction, moisture in the environment would slow the plaster allowing time for mold and mildew to grow. Once the mold and mildew was available, it was only a matter of time until these tiny beetles moved into the home and started reproducing in large numbers. Don’t be fooled by the name, plaster is not required for a Plaster Beetle infestation. They will often be found in modern sheet-rocked homes whenever a leak may bring moisture into the wall.
Plaster Beetles become a nuisance in homes as populations increase and adults head for windows and light fixtures in search of light sources. The combination of their size, hidden breeding locations and reproductive rate can lead homeowners to think “hundreds of tiny beetles, arriving at once” have moved into the home.
As with most moisture related pests, the best control method is a removal of moisture from the situation. Since Plaster Beetles require not only significant amounts of mold and mildew but a quiet, secluded breeding area, they tend to occur in areas of a home with a significant moisture leak. These beetles can be found in bathrooms when tile has shifted or grout has failed. The can also be found in any area of the home that is subject to a water leak from either the roof or exterior walls. Finding the moisture source and repairing it are the only realistic avenues for control. .
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