Pests of Fall and Holiday Decorations

Fall and holiday decorations are used to “liven up” the atmosphere at home while we move into the fall months. But this needs to be done thoughtfully so you don’t initiate pest problems in the home. Although live insects may put the scare back into Halloween, here are some considerations as you begin to decorate your home for the fall.

Figure 1. Honeydew and resulting sooty mold can be signs of an active pest problem (Photo: Ric Bessin, UK)

Live plants and greenery brought into the home can be the sources of aphids, mites, caterpillars, scale, whiteflies, and spiders. Fall is also the time when temperature-sensitive houseplants are brought back into the house. The key to limiting the introduction of insect pests into homes on greenery and plants is careful inspection before they are brought inside. Begin by looking for holes in the leaves, a sign of chewing insects, such as caterpillars. Flip over the leaves and look for whiteflies, aphids, and mites and examine the stems for scale insects. Finally, scan for honeydew and sooty mold on lower leaves as these can be signs of an active pest infestation with sucking insect pests.  It is best to keep plants that have just been brought into the house separate from those that have been inside for the summer until you know they are pest free.

Figure 2. Fall decorations bring color and excitement to the holidays, but we should inspect them for pests first. (Photo: Ric Bessin, UK)

Other fall decorations that can increase pest problems include ornamental corn and corn shock displays. While these are of low risk outside, brought indoors they may bring some insect pests on the ear that could lead to pantry pest problems. Angumois grain moth and some grain beetles can begin their infestations in the field before harvest. As with houseplants and greenery, it is best to inspect them carefully for pests and signs of pests before bringing them inside. After the holiday season, I would recommend disposing of these decorations instead of saving them for next year as these can be food for grain pests and rodents while in storage.

By Ric Bessin, Entomology Extension Specialist

Posted in Household Pests
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