Alan Eaton has had his share of encounters with the western conifer seed bugs that have invaded his Barrington home this fall.
A specialist in entomology at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, Eaton found a dozen or more of the slow-crawling bugs last weekend while sealing up his house.
He even had one drop into his bowl of Cheerios.
“They’re just looking for a place to (spend the winter),” Eaton said.
The insects are harmless to humans, experts say, but they’ve generated a lot of calls to the UNH Cooperative Extension’s education center and local pest management companies over the past few weeks.
Many homeowners have reported what appears to be an invasion as the bugs with long legs and antennas search for openings to crawl inside warm homes to hang out for the winter months.
The western conifer seed bug can emit an odor when handled as a defense mechanism. Eaton said it’s in a family of insects closely related to the stink bug, but it isn’t really a stink bug.
While they first showed up in New England in the 1990s after arriving from western states, the western conifer seed bug’s seasonal invasion this fall has been more noticeable than in past years.
“It appears there might be more of them this year for whatever reason,” Eaton said.
Most of the calls to Pesky Critters Pest Control in Raymond in recent weeks have been about the western conifer seed bug.
“They’re really startling a lot of people because they show up out of nowhere. They’re just very daunting looking. They’re slow moving and almost look prehistoric, that’s what a lot of people say,” said Danielle Clough, administrative assistant for the pest control company that serves New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
The bugs look intimidating and show up just about anywhere. If they’re not clinging to the windows or siding outside a home, they’re inside hanging around windows and doors and on curtains, pillows, and clothing.
Experts say fall is the time of year when the bugs begin making their way indoors through any crack they can find. Once they settle in for a long winter they’ll hardly be seen until a warm spell when they emerge from the walls, attic or other hiding spot.
Eaton said they usually return to the outdoors by April to find coniferous trees to feed on immature seeds and cones. Some of the trees they prefer are white pine, red pine, Scotch pine, Austrian pine, Mugho pine, white spruce, Douglas fir and hemlock.
Andy Carace, owner of Pest End in Plaistow, said his company has received more calls about the western conifer seed bug this year than ever before.
“They’re really just docile creatures that want a place to (spend the winter). What you really need is a tight house,” he said.
While pesticide treatment varies from state to state, Carace said his best advice is to make sure things are closed up, but if they do get in, a homeowner should grab the vacuum cleaner and suck them up.
Eaton said his best advice for next year is for homeowners to seal up around doors and windows before Sept. 20.
He also strongly recommended against any pesticide to address the problem.
“Just pick them up and remove them. Show them the door,” he said.