Thursday, September 30, 2010

Box Elder Bug

The fall season is definitely upon us.  The maples are exploding into dazzling crimson foliage, and the Box Elders Bugs are swarming on the south side of buildings.
Box Elder Bugs, Boisea trivittata, as their name implies, are partial to Box Elder trees, but also to maples and ashes.  They feed on sap, leaves, flowers and twigs, but usually do not do too much damage to the trees. The oddly patterned bug on the lower, center edge of this photo is an immature Box Elder Bug.

They are also known as Garage Bugs, since Box Elder Bugs invade homes to overwinter.  They usually remain in walls or behind siding, where they are inactive.  Like some other bugs, they produce glycerol that they use as an internal antifreeze. Often these bugs make their way deeper into our houses, usually as we turn the heat on for winter.  These bugs smell and taste bad--as their coloration seems to predict--and are sometimes called stink bugs (although other bugs also share this name). They do not feed during the winter.  The fact that they do not damage houses is fortunate, since there is little you can do to control an infestation of Box Elder Bugs once they get into your home.  You can try vacuuming them (Iowa State University).

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