Not all garden insects are badWhen many of us see a solitary bug in the house or garden, we become intrigued by it and tend to look at it a little closer. We observe its colors and how it moves. We look to see if it looks scary like a spider or pretty like a ladybug. However, anytime we see them in mass swarming around, regardless if they are indoors or out in the garden, frankly they give us all the creeps. Often it is their sheer number that tends to freak us out and not the individual bugs themselves.
By: John Zvirovski, The Jamestown Sun
When many of us see a solitary bug in the house or garden, we become intrigued by it and tend to look at it a little closer. We observe its colors and how it moves. We look to see if it looks scary like a spider or pretty like a ladybug. However, anytime we see them in mass swarming around, regardless if they are indoors or out in the garden, frankly they give us all the creeps. Often it is their sheer number that tends to freak us out and not the individual bugs themselves.
One of the bugs many of us are familiar with this time of year is the boxelder bug. This bug usually is most prevalent in the spring and fall seasons. We find them on the sunny sides of buildings, trees and other objects by the hundreds trying to warm themselves.
For the most part, many of us are completely unfamiliar with what they feed on and what kind of trouble they can cause. The facts of this insect might just surprise you. Other than being a nuisance in the home or garden by their sheer numbers, they are quite harmless to people or plants.
They do not bite or eat the leaves of most vegetation. They will not harm your pets, unless they are like my dogs, which try to eat as many of them as possible. Usually, the end result is the dogs tend to get sick somewhere in the house where I have the honors of cleaning up after them. That is always a great joy for me!
Boxelder bugs’ prime food source is the seeds of the female boxelder trees, seeds of the many maple selections, and occasionally ash tree seeds. Some will feed on lower vegetation on the ground, but this is rarely noticeable. Two weeks into feeding during the spring, these bugs will begin their mating process and deposit their eggs on the trucks, branches, and leaves of their host trees.
Young boxelder bugs, or nymphs, are bright red in color and quite small. As they mature, they develop a more striped pattern of red and black coloring. The insect is about a half-inch long when mature, with a narrow core and a pointed nose. They crawl during their juvenile stages, but will be able to fly as an adult. Most will only fly up to a block or two at any given time, but can travel as far as two miles.
They enjoy warm locations, thus we usually see them gathered by the dozens in many places. It is the warmth and not the color of a structure or object that encourages them to congregate in any given location.
Boxelder bugs are present every year during the warmer months, but in some years they are much more numerous than others. Their large numbers are usually the result of a mild spring followed by a hot and dry summer. The conditions this past year were ideal for their large numbers in our gardens. This past month I have noticed them most on the retaining walls in the garden and the south side of the house.
Since they do not cause a problem with the plants in the garden, I allow them to do their thing and just be a part of the natural landscape. I am not big into spraying insects unless they are extremely destructive. Spray not only kills the bugs you are trying to get rid of, but it also eliminates all the advantageous bugs in the garden. Always keep that in the back of your mind when trying to eradicate anything in the garden, as you may be doing more harm than good in most cases.
In the fall season when the weather tends to become cooler, these insects will try and enter the home to winter over in a warm location. Often times, you will find them by a sunny window where they try and stay warm. Many times, they will die in the home as they remain active in warmer temperatures, but do not reproduce. When they burrow into cracks and crevices around the house outdoors, they will hibernate until the warm temperatures of spring bring them out of their slumber to begin a new life cycle.
I have to admit, when I come across huge infestations of these insects outside, I get a little creeped, but they are quite harmless so that uneasiness quickly subsides to calmness. These are another group of nature’s creatures that just happen to be abundant in the garden. The good thing is, they do not harm anything in the landscape so we need to appreciate their uniqueness without any concern of being potential garden problems. I like to think of them as just another insect like the ladybug; pretty and abundant or … pretty abundant!
After this week’s cold temperatures, you will see less of these insects outdoors, but there may be extras in the home for a little while. Rest assured, the active ones in the home have a very short life cycle and will soon meet their own demise.