Several species of insect pest gravitate into homes in overwhelming numbers in order to seek warm shelter during the fall and winter seasons in Texas. Some of these insect pests include Asian lady bugs, boxelder bugs and elm leaf beetles. During recent years, many residents of central Texas have been finding hundreds of black bugs collecting on window sills and the exterior walls of homes. When this occurs during the fall and winter, it seems that the tiny bugs are attempting to gain entrance indoors, and in many cases, they succeed. Residents who have found large numbers of these bugs on and/or within their home have phoned University extension services and pest control companies asking about the mysterious “black gnats,” and whether they pose a medical or structural threat. According to Wizzie Brown, an insect specialist with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office, these insects are commonly known as hackberry psyllids, and while they certainly pose a nuisance to residents, they will not harm humans or damage property.
Just as their common name suggests, hackberry psyllids are insects that feed on hackberry trees during the summer, but they usually go unnoticed until they suddenly appear in massive numbers on window sills. The insects nestle into small cracks and crevices on the exterior walls, window frames and door frames of a home, and from there, many find their way indoors. In the northern midwest region, these insect pests invade homes during the late summer and fall, and they may appear on sunny midwinter days. In central Texas, hackberry psyllids make an attempt to overwinter indoors during the fall and winter, and they are particularly abundant throughout the fall season. Although these insects can technically bite due to possessing sucking mouthparts, bites are relatively painless, and will not harm humans. There is little that can be done to control hackberry psyllids short of cutting down hackberry trees or installing new window screens that the insect pests cannot squeeze through. Although their habit of jumping about makes them a serious indoor nuisance, infestations usually last only for a short time. In some cases, professional pest control intervention is necessary.
Have you ever witnessed hackberry psyllids on or within your home?