What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Insects as Problem Indicators

Shortly after moving into this house we noticed a problem with creepy crawlies.  Now I'm not terrified of insects but I would prefer them to not be in our house.  Some of these insects were to be expected given the location and design of the house.  What we really learned is insects can be a very good indicator of other problems such as moisture.  If you eliminate the causation then you eliminate the insects.  We also learned that even though you eliminate the cause it can sometimes take a couple of weeks to notice any change in the number of insects.  At times especially if the insect problem is caused from infiltration though cracks and crevices it is quite possible to seal these effectively sealing the insects in the house.  In this case it may take manual removal as well a natural die off to eliminate those insects inadvertently trapped in the house.   

spiders, centipedes, earwigsCreepy Crawlies

We identified a few problem insects like the huge diving spiders (top left) and large black funnel spiders (top right).  The boxwoods edging the lower patio were laiden with funnel spiders giving them easy access to indoors.  Originally we thought the multitude of house centipedes (bottom left) were normal but after considerable research we found they were actually beneficial insects and indicators of other insect infestations combined with moisture.  Earwigs (bottom right) were quite common around the foundation and occasionally a few found their way indoors.  Other insects not pictured that enjoyed our indoors during our first year were pill bugs, millipedes, carpenter ants and a small fuzzy brown beetle with yellow markings. 

We took an aggessive approach to sealing insects out of the house that involved a lot of caulking.  However, the lower main living area including kitchen is mainly below grade with windows and patio door at ground level making any tiny gap an insect point of entry.  Despite our efforts the centipedes remained our house companions all be it in much lower numbers.  Up to the time of the discovery of our major plumbing problem in 2009 the centipede count was up to 17.

new line end of dayEnd of Day

In August of 2009 we discovered the reason for some of our major plumbing problems that caused flooding in the furnace room.  The portion of the drainage pipes were dug up from the house to the side of the patio leaving us with a lovely hole resembling a grave for a couple of weeks while the plumber did a lot of troubleshooting to discover the actual problem.  Having dealt with having the front yard dug up the year before due to plumbing problems we knew it would likely be a huge mess.   This solution resulted in running new drainage lines tearing up a good portion of our backyard.  Pictured is the backyard after the new lines were run.

With fall quickly approaching I geared up for the increased sightings of earwigs and centipedes.  Instead what happened is I spotted one centipede in mid September and that was it.  Apparently with the drainage working properly thanks to the aggressive approach we took, the area around the foundation quickly drained and dried.  During the rains the water drained quickly away.  So the centipedes were an indicator of other moisture liking insects (pill bugs, earwigs).  We have seen no pill bugs or earwigs indoors other than an occasional on that comes through the patio door.  A residual insecticide along the patio door threshold as well as the outer window sills has stopped insects before they can get inside.  Removing the moisture problem eliminated these insects which in turn eliminated a source of food for the centipedes resulting in eliminating the centipedes.  Or at least I think they are eliminated.  Spring is coming so that will be the confirming test even though we have stayed centipede free since mid September.

Garden Gnome