Readers report plagues of box elder bugs, resent
I just read your article on box elder bugs. You
sarcastically ask "Why is it so important to eliminate them?" I
will tell you why!
My parents had a number of box elder trees on their
property and the box elder population was out of control. The south
side of their home was covered with the red and black buggers. It
looked like a scary movie. Your writer is correct that there was
nothing they could do. They tried everthing. We would vacuum them
off the siding with a shop vac and end up with gallons of bugs each
time. Then they started to invade the house. They poop and fly and
crawl. Despite their harmlessness, they became creepy. They would
crawl across dinner tables and counters. This is not the type of
atmosphere anyone wants to live in or a type of guest anyone wants
to live with. Finally their solution was to have all the box elder
trees cut down.
This all but elimated the problems except a few that
hang out on the barn. These are probably due to some strapling
trees replanting themselves here and there.
Finally, to suggest to fill all the nook and crannies
that a house might have to keep the bugs from entering has two
problems with it. It does not eliminate the pest from covering your
siding and second Mr. Glenn Hagge might have a few articles to talk
about sealing your house up too much causing a health problem in
the winter. I feel you have obviously not experienced the invasion
of box elder bugs! Sincerely,
I know how thick box elder bugs can be in fall. However, it is
entirely possible to have them in the house without experiencing
that degree of infestation. Since the question in that recent
article was about some box elder bugs inside in winter, not about
hordes in fall, I answered in that vein.
Sarcasm was not my intent. As often happens, I've been where
that reader is and want to help. I've also dealt with the fall
masses, so I know an occasional year of sweeping and vacuuming is
bearable but as a routine it's terrible. When heavy congregations
keep occurring, tree removal has to be considered, beginning with
seed-bearing female trees. Seeds last through winter and are a
critical spring food for the bugs.
What I asked was an honest question, seeking clarification.
People do answer and conversations do continue, in and out of these
If that other reader responds that they want to eliminate the
bugs because their child finds them too creepy, I'll suggest
including the child in sweeping, disposal... and education. It's a
tried and true defense against phobias, plus this bug's life cycle
is a fascinating ecology lesson.
If the answer is, "We hate the insect poop," I'll point out that
since these bugs don't eat in winter, a single one doesn't excrete
much. So where there are lots of little brown dots of "frass", many
bugs probably frequent that spot. Special focus on outer walls near
those places can pay off at caulking time.
Is it practical to expect to completely seal a house, or
desirable? No. But sealing at least some holes on the side where
the bugs congregate in fall makes a difference. It's a reasonable
first step, less drastic than removing trees.
"...I laugh at the suggestions that you
writes Y.B. "In the fall the box elder bugs cover the entire
front of my house including my front door and garage door. Guests
have to call me to let me know that they are either on their way or
have arrived. We buy the strongest pesticide on the market and we
spray those suckers until given a break from their presence at
least for the remainder of the day."
I sympathize, Y.B., but still say avoid pesticides. If box elder
congregations are chronic on your house but you can't remove nearby
trees, direct traffic to a back door during the fall or keep a hose
ready, equipped with a spray gun to knock the bugs back with water.
A malodorous fog of pesticide is not a good welcome mat. Also, some
products with a residual capable of killing non-feeding bugs work
through a bug's respiratory or nervous system -- not likely to be
good for you to inhale or absorb at every exit and homecoming.
Green thumbs up
to humor in dealing with catalog-obsessed gardeners. K.S. says
it was fun to intercept a dozen catalogs, bag them in clear
plastic, hang them from shrubs, then direct the afflicted gardener
on a treasure hunt. "Now our orders are based on a recent memory of
our actual garden!"
Green thumbs down
to watering indoor plants on gray days, unless they're wilted.
Better to leave them dry and wait a few days for sun than to water
when the plant is barely photosynthesizing. Photosynthesis draws
water up into foliage. Without it, water may sit around roots and
Originally published 1/18/03