Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankfully Yours

Boxelder bug - web photo
I’ve written about “Pestilence of the Moment” several times.  It’s included Japanese Beetles, Asian Beetles and a few more nasty varieties like ticks.  Today’s pestilence is the totally innocent Boxelder bug.

Totally innocent might be a stretch although Boxelder bugs don’t do any real harm to humans.

Since we live in an area where there is both heat and cold most insect populations ebb and flow over time.  Live long enough and nature will provide a natural predator for most insects.  We just hope it comes in time to save what they’re attacking.

Boxelder bugs “Boisea trivittatus” only become a nuisance because they seek the shelter of your home when the weather turns cool.  The best way to keep this from happening is have a home with no insect entry points – good luck if you own an older home.  It’s basically the same method used to keep cold air from entering your home through cracks and holes.

There is a chemical spray for the outside of buildings that may be used but it seems like sending the Marines in to swat a fly.  Some have good luck spraying with a soap solution.  This must come in direct contact with the insect.  (One tablespoon dish washing liquid to one cup water.)  Electronic attraction devices do not work on Boxelder bugs.

Once the Boxelder is inside, the best “control” and I use that word control loosely, is to vacuum or sweep them up.  They don’t reproduce inside.  Spraying insecticides inside the house doesn’t help.  You might try spreading Vaseline on piece of white poster board and putting on a sunny window sill.  Apparently, they get stuck and then you discard the whole mess.

The insects feed in the spring on the seeds of female “Acer” trees and prefer the Boxelder.  Removing these trees from your property doesn’t deter the insects since they can fly miles for food.  The value of maple trees outweighs the benefit of removing.  The insects are not considered an agricultural pest.

I have found no evidence Boxelder insects cause human health hazards. 

Boxelder infestations are not large every year.  2012 was the perfect Boxelder breeding year:  A warm wet spring followed by a hot, dry summer.  On the flip side, it was not a good year for Asian Beetles.

It is predicted the hot dry summer was also not good for Japanese Beetles as they couldn’t get far enough into the earth to reproduce.  I can only hope!

Boxelder leaves - web photo
On an extended information highway, the Boxelder tree is truly an “Acer” and that means it’s a Maple tree.  It’s native to North America.  It’s the only North American tree with compound leaves.  (Remember that one if you’re into trivia!)  The seed heads look like “helicopters” of other maple trees.  They must have a male and female tree to reproduce but those little helicopters are both very prolific and fertile.

Several birds and squirrels eat the seedpods and the Evening Grosbeck eats the seeds exclusively.  (You may thank me now for filling your trivia information gap!)

The only commercial uses outside of the landscape is using in fiberboard and wood turning.  It’s a fast growing weak tree and considered invasive in some parts of the world.  Flutes excavated from what is now Northeastern Arizona dated to 600 AD were made of this tree.

Today I can count my Blessings the Boxelder bug isn’t a big deal.  And, that is just the small when I think what Blessings I have to be thankful for this coming Thanksgiving.  A God who owes me nothing but gives me everything, family and friends, the drought is lessening and the garden is put to sleep for the winter.  Wishing you and yours a Blessed Thanksgiving, too.
Thankful for this beautiful sunrise.

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