Wilderness Underfoot: Autumn's annual box elder bug bust-in

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112975171613382.jpg’, ”, ‘The box elder bug –Leptocoris trivittatus are classified as true bugs—with two pairs of wings, needlelike mouthparts (for sucking juices from plants), and young that resemble adults (rather than the wormlike larvae of other insects.) Some insects are commonly called bugs, but they don’t have these features, and therefore they don’t actually fit the classification. Box elder bugs are named after one of the trees they attack. They do minor damage, feeding on leaves, flowers and seed pods. These bugs will attack other kinds of maple trees, as well as ash, cherry, and apple, but their strongest attraction is to the female box elder tree. ‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112975172313382.jpg’, ”, ”);

Each year, hordes of these bugs show up at your house looking for lodging before winter strikes

You’re probably seeing lots of box elder bugs now, especially in the afternoon when the sun heats up the sides of buildings where they like to settle. Basking in the sun warms up these “cold-blooded” creatures so they can carry on with their daily activities.

This time of the year, the primary activity of the box elder bug is finding a place to stay during the winter—and it turns out your house is the ideal winter shelter. These insects will slip through every crack or hole they find to get inside your house. You can minimize their intrusions by caulking holes, and sealing windows and doors.

Box elder bugs don’t bite, they don’t breed indoors, and they don’t cause any damage. The main problem with these insects is they get into everything in your house. They fall into food containers, they crawl in clothes, and they get trapped in sinks and tubs. If crushed, they leave a red stain and a foul scent.

This year, because of the drought, we may see an increase in box elder bug populations. The bugs are susceptible to a fungal disease that thrives in wet conditions. But without much moisture to encourage its growth, the fungus has had a diminished influence in controlling these bugs. The drought has also weakened trees’ natural defenses against parasites like the box elder bug.

These insects can be identified by their color: black with red markings. The red color follows the edges of the wings and the sides of the body, but it varies slightly from bug to bug, and from one region to another.

Box elder bugs will spend winter in windows and inside the walls of your house, and as soon as the weather warms, they’ll leave to lay eggs on box elder trees. During the warm season, these bugs are usually able to raise two generations of offspring.

From the Oct. 19-25, 2005, issue

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