We just bought an old house and in the basement and on the lower outside walls of the house we have an infestation (I mean millions) of black bugs with thin, neatly drawn orange lines outlining their backs/wings. Thee bugs have narrow bodies, are about 3/4 of an inch long, and have long antennae. They fly occasionally, but mostly just crawl around, and they sit in large clusters–they pile right on top of each other. Strangely, we also have lots of lady bugs mixing in with them. I live in southern York county, PA (on the PA/MD line) and we have had an unusually warm winter.
Any idea what the black bugs are, why they and the lady
bugs are here, whether they are doing damage and what I can
do to get rid of them and prevent them from returning?
Many, many thanks.

Does this look familiar?

Dear Tricia,
Ladybugs are famous for communal hibernation, generally in mountainous areas. In recent years though, throughout the Eastern states, they have begun to invade homes. My internet search turned up this quote from the site http://www.uky.edu :

"People first started reporting large aggregations of lady beetles (ladybugs) on homes and buildings in Kentucky during the fall of 1993. Ladybugs are normally considered beneficial insects because they feed outdoors on aphids and other harmful plant pests. However, these beetles are congregating on the sides of buildings, and if given the opportunity, moving
inside. Lady beetles do not sting or carry diseases, nor do they infest food, clothing, or wood. Nonetheless, this particular species (Harmonia axyridis) can become a nuisance when large numbers begin crawling on windows, walls, light fixtures, and other indoor surfaces. When disturbed, they also secrete a foul-smelling orange-colored fluid that can spot and stain walls, carpeting, and other surfaces….
Because the Asian lady beetle is a tree-dwelling insect, homes and buildings in forested areas are especially prone to infestation. Suburban and landscaped industrial settings adjacent to wooded areas have also had large lady beetle aggregations. Once the beetles land on the sunny side of the
building, they attempt to locate cracks and other dark openings for hibernation sites. These locations may ultimately be on any side of the structure. Common overwintering sites include cracks and crevices around window and door frames, porches, garages and outbuildings, beneath exterior siding and roof shingles, and within wall voids, attics, and soffits. Structures in poor repair or with many cracks and openings are especially vulnerable to problems."

The site goes on to recomment removing the ladybugs with a vacuum cleaner. Your other insect is most probably a box elder bug (Leptocoris trivittatus).
On http://www.pma.edmonton.ab.ca it says, "When present in large enough numbers Box Elder Bugs can do damage to Manitoba Maple trees. Most people call us in the fall because they are curious about the large numbers on the walls of their houses or concerned about the numbers that are getting in the houses. Washing them off the walls of the house with a blast of cold water from a hose may help. The only way to ensure that they do not get inside the house is to fill in all
cracks where they could be getting in, a rather daunting and expensive task."
Though each of these insects is known to form communes, I have never heard of them bedding down together, but they’re not the strangest bedfellows I’ve encountered by far.

daniel, you are my hero. Many thanks for your help. We’re promptly getting out the hose and starting to fill in cracks–and I’m sleeping much better knowing that neither bug is eating my house into sawdust. What a valuable service you perform for those of us who are bug-clueless!
Many thanks again.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Dear What’s that Bug,
Last night in yoga class, while doing a spinal twist, I spotted a silverfish darting across the floorboards very near my mat. I broke my pose, grabbed a purple foam block, and squished the silverfish, leaving its mutilated body on the gleaming hardwood floors. I have two questions. First of all, is it bad karma to kill a bug in yoga class? Also, is there any way that I might bring an infestation back to my home?
Thank you,
Lethal Lotus

Dear Lethal Lotus,
Though we here at What’s That Bug? are not practicing Buddhists, we are aware that it is a Zen canon to think of ourselves as one with the universe, and that includes silverfish. Can’t we all just get along? Was the silverfish harming you in any way? I would strongly suggest that you do some karmic retribution.
Regarding your second question, to which former HomeBody of the Month Miss Swanlund will strongly attest, once silverfish become naturalized, they are nearly impossible for even the cleanest homemaker to eradicate. The silverfish themselves do not ascribe to the Zen way of life, hence they are interested in overrunning homes and eating books with little thought of how this might affect the human tenants. War is war. Silverfish are notorious for seeking out cramped quarters and crevices, especially those of the dark moist variety. It is entirely possible to transport one of the wily critters on your person, especially if it should somehow find itself in an environment not conducive to its needs, like a brightly lit room full of contorted bodies where the odds of getting squished are high. It is also possible that one of your fellow yoga enthusiasts transported the victim of your brutal attack, and its siblings, to the site of your encounter.

Dear What’s That Bug,
I have densely planted the "earth" in front of my apartment building. Along with broken glass and mammalian excreta, one of the chief components, by volume, of this earth is earwigs. These can be readily observed with a flashlight after dark, teeming about. Many plants are unaffected. However, some will be set upon at a young age and razed entirely – a four inch high clump of poppies will easily be eliminated in two nights. I don’t know why some small plants are attacked and not others of similar size and age. Just as frustrating is the earwigs’ appetite for flower petals which are quickly riddled with holes and finally eaten to shreds soon after they unfold to the sun. Diatomaceous earth doesn’t slow them down (in any quantity). I don’t want to spray "poison" – What can I do?

Dear m r k n
According to Hogue, no one is sure of the origin of the name earwig (Order Dermaptera) but "one guess is that the early Anglo-Saxons, who named them earwicga (ear beetle or worm) and who lived in sod huts, where these insects also lived, occasionally found them in their ears upon waking from a sound sleep on a straw mattress. The warm and tight ear opening of a slumbering person might well have been a snug hiding place for these crevice-loving creatures." Earwigs are omniverous, and are considered beneficial because they actually devour many insect pests, but like any flesh eater, they
occasionally crave some vegetable matter, and what better than tender young sprouts and flower petals? If you have an aversion to pesticides, we strongly suggest that you clean up the dog shit outside your apartment

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Help! I have crabs! Well, at least it looks like crabs… Actually, I’m kidding. I found a tiny little crawler in my shower today and I’ve never seen one before. I’m hoping you might tell me what the heck it is. It appeared to be crab-like, more like a scorpion without a tail but it was only about a millimeter long with two longer "pincer" type arms in the front. Am I being invaded? I live in western Alberta, Canada, if that helps at all…

I was restiching a pair of pants yesterday when out crawled a strange looking bug. It startled me and frightened me because I hadn’t ever seen anything like it before. It was no longer than say 4-6 mm. It was basically yellow, but with other colors on it. It had 2 "thingies" trailing behind it. It was rather flat and narrow and moved fairly fast considering it’s size. I killed it so I’m going by a 5-10 second memory recall. The pants are made of 100% polyester, from Guatemala. I realize that I haven’t given you much to work with , but if you can identify it I’d be appreciative.
Thanks for your time,
Mrs. Irish

It sounds like the dreaded silverfish, a household pest which will devour any and everything in the house. Sadly, and much to our embarassment here at What’s That Bug?, the silverfish is our one big failure story. As much as we tried, it seems we could never figure out a way for Miss Swanlund, former Homebody of the Month, to eradicate the pestilence from her tiny and cozy Hollywood starlet apartment, forcing her to buy a home and leave many of her prized books and possessions behind.

I live in New Hampshire and am having a problem with stink bugs. It is winter and we keep finding them in the house, on the windows, in the bathroom, etc. We seem to find one a week, where are they coming from?
Jane H.

Dear Jane H.
Stink bugs are notorious plant eaters, and they use their sucking mouthparts like a syringe to withdraw the vital fluids from their host plants. The most common species are either green or harlequin (red and black) and the green varieties are sometimes attracted to lights. These are the true stinkers in the insect world as well as being true bugs with incomplete metamorphosis. Without more information regarding the actual species I cannot conclude anything more than that perhaps the warm fall weather increased their survival rate outdoors and they entered the house for warmth, or else a houseplant, especially one that was outside this summer, has become their indoor host. Check your plants.

—Daniel Marlos