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Boxelder bugs: a nuisance, but nothing more.

Warm weather will bring boxelder bugs out of winter hiding - to the chagrin of many homeowners in areas inhabited by the creatures. The bugs find their way inside houses through gaps and cracks in windows and doors.

"Although boxelder bugs are not harmful to humans or pets - and don't bite - they can be a real nuisance," says Mary Kay Malinoski, an entomologist with the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service, Maryland Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources. "Usually, if you have boxelder bugs, you don't just have one or two, but huge numbers of them. And they tend to stain fabrics when they are squashed."

Identification tips

Adult boxelder bugs are black and have brick red markings on the edges of their front wings. They are about half an inch long when full grown. Immature bugs, called nymphs, have black legs and wing pads, and a red abdomen.

Although homeowners may find them in and on their houses, boxelder bugs spend most of their lives on boxelder trees (also known as ash-leaved maples).

Eggs hatch into nymphs in late spring and early summer. The nymphs then join adults in feeding on leaves, twigs and seeds of the trees, where they appear to do little damage. Boxelder bugs seem to be drawn primarily to female trees, which bear winged seed pods.

In the fall, the nymphs and adults gather in masses on the trunks of boxelder trees near the ground. Adults later fly away to seek winter protection in buildings, rock piles, fallen leaves or other sheltered places-until warm weather arrives.

If you are plagued by swarms of boxelder bugs in or on your house, Malinoski suggests that you:

* Remove female (pod-bearing) boxelder trees where the bugs breed. (Male boxelder trees usually can be grown without a significant bug problem.)

* Eliminate such hiding places as piles of lumber, rocks and trash close to your house.

* Tighten windows, doors and ventilators to prevent entry. If the bugs enter the house, they can be easily picked up with a vacuum cleaner.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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