Harmful, harmless or helpful? A look at the common summertime bugs you find in your home

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Posted at 8:27 AM, Jul 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-05 18:16:48-04

CLEVELAND — It is mosquito season and did you know, if you're bitten by a mosquito it's a female. They need the proteins in our blood to make their eggs.

They also need somewhere to lay their eggs, and the wet weather can make your home a breeding ground.

“When it's raining like this, you want to make sure you're not raising your own mosquitoes in your backyard," said Mark Willis, entomologist and professor in the biology department at Case Western Reserve University.

You will want to dump out all the standing water around your home because that's where mosquitoes love to lay their eggs.

There are four mosquito-borne diseases that may occur locally in Ohio, including the West Nile virus.

Mosquitoes are blood feeders and are drawn to us like moths to a flame.

“Natural selection has delivered them a sensory system that allows them to track the carbon dioxide from our breath," explained Willis.

Willis is helping us sort through some common summertime bugs we find at home as either harmful, harmless or helpful.

"Most of the insects that share our home with us are mainly harmless," said Willis.

He called mosquitoes harmful because they feed on us and can transmit disease.

He said the same goes for bed bugs. He categorized them as harmful because they feed on us, and like mosquitos, are experts are tracking the carbon dioxide we emit.

Some others might surprise you.

Spiders are arachnids, not insects. Willis says a lot of species of spiders have adapted to live with us and most are harmless.

In fact, he calls them helpful.

“Although spiders creep some people out, they're there because they're eating other things in your house that you probably don't want there," he said.

The house centipede has a high creep factor too, but Willis says they categorize as helpful.

Willis says they're nocturnal predators that, like spiders, are important to our home's ecology.

“They're hunting down other things in your basement, or the dark corners of your house," he said.

What about harvestmen and cellar spiders? Both commonly referred to as daddy long legs.

Willis says they're different kinds of arachnids. He called both helpful but said the cellar spider is more predatory; hunting insects in your basement while the harvestman is outside eating dead plants and bugs.

“I don't think I've ever experienced a harvestmen inside the house," he said.

He calls ants a nuisance. Except for carpenter ants.

“Literally, the biggest ants you will see," he said.

He says they're harmful. They love wood and it's bad news if you find them in your house.

“They're even more difficult to get rid of than termites," Willis said.

What about the boxelder and milkweed bugs?

Willis says they’re related. He says they’re harmless plant feeders who are probably lost if you’ve found them in your house and they’d prefer to be outside.

Wasps in your home are harmful. Willis says they keep their stinger and can sting you multiple times. He says they’re attracted to the smell of meat and are looking for protein to feed their young.

Honey bees on the other hand, have a barbed stinger that stays in you when they sting, he says. It is a fatal experience for the bee.

Willis says outside, both wasps and bees are helpful. He says wasps are beneficial because they eat other insects. Bees are important pollinators.

Willis is a fan of catch and release if these bugs are bugging you in your home. He demonstrated using a glass to put over the bug, then sliding a piece of paper beneath so you can release them outside unharmed.

He says spray poisons are bad for the environment.

Finally, the cloths moth. Willis says they’re harmful because they eat our stuff – specifically our cloths and rugs made of natural fibers.

He described an incredible way you can get rid of clothes moths by using tiny parasitic wasps. Listen to how it works, below.

How to get rid of clothes moths

Willis says the adult parasitoids die after they lay their eggs into the moth eggs. He says once the moth populations are eliminated in your home, the wasp will be gone too since they can’t survive without their host.