Thursday, August 11, 2011

Box Elder Blues

I feel my job here today on the Byway is to warn you to never plant a Box Elder tree near your house. Unless you want the company of its little friends - the Box Elder Bug gang, which will join you every summer, seeking out the parts of your house that are warmed by the sun and doing their best to join you inside your house. Or they will settle for hanging out with you on your patio or porch. But they will be there. And there will be nothing you can do to get rid of them. Until the weather cools and they die. And return next summer when its good and hot.

Ahhh the Box Elder tree. Also known as Acer Negundo or Box Elder Maple or Maple Ash. While I think I had heard of this tree in the past, I never had any experience with them until we moved into our rental house in Salt Lake City a year and a half ago. We have two Box Elder trees in our backyard - big trees that provide lovely shade and greenery to the patio. The only problem is that Box Elder trees bring Box Elder bugs (boise a trivittata).

From Wikipedia

They come because they only eat the seeds of these trees. They aren't bad looking as far as bugs go (yes I know, they are insects - I just prefer to call them bugs). They aren't scary bugs and they remind me of the lightning bugs I grew up with back east. But I hate them. Because they are everywhere when its hot and they crawl into my house and die. They come in through the poorly insulated door frames and windows and they die all over my window sills and floor. I spend my late summer days with the dust buster collecting tiny carcasses here and there and occasionally having to be the slaughterer of the box elders, which I can't stand. I don't like them, but I like squishing the poor little things even less. It makes me feel like I need to go and cleanse my spirit somehow. I think of karma and how they are harmless and I am killing them and it makes me feel crappy. But seriously I don't want them crawling on me in my bed at night, or worse yet, having babies in the house! So they have to go.

You see them outside on the patio or on the window outside, mating, and I am yelling don't mate, don't make more babies! Like a crazy person. The other day we found two in the house, on the ceiling, mating. I made my husband kill them. See, again, the slaughterer. Sigh.

I might be making this sound worse than it is. It is not like having some kind of ant or other infestation in your house or even in your yard. It is not that bad. I just hate that they come into the house. But it is a problem that we have to deal with. If you ignore it, it can get worse. This year we had a cool, late spring which killed off a lot of their eggs resulting in many less bugs this year than last, and I am extremely grateful to the weather gods.

You might be asking yourself, why don't they try to control these insects? Well, we do. We have a company come and spray all the time - which I hate doing, but it is necessary. They spray the house and the window sills and doorways - which is why they come into the house and then die. They spray around the trees. But they always tell us - you can't get rid of them. You can only control the population. The only thing you can do is cut down and remove the Box Elder trees - which we can't do because its not our house and property. But some people tell me that even if you cut them down and remove them, you will have Box Elder bugs for a long time because they are born knowing to return to their home site. I am not sure if I believe that or not, but its a scary possibility if you are a homeowner dealing with this problem.

Thankfully we aren't the owners of these Box Elders and next year we will leave them, and their bugs, behind, smarter and more in the know now to avoid these trees in future rental or purchased properties. I would advise that you do the same.

Seriously why would anyone decide to select these trees and plant them on their property? I don't get it. Why? If you know, please tell me.

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