Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Annoying, Conspecific Houseguests

Guy Fleegman: "Sure, they're cute now, but in a second they're gonna get mean, and they're gonna get ugly somehow, and there's gonna be a million more of them." 

There really is a Galaxy Quest quote to fit almost any occasion in life.  But in this case the initial evaluation of "cute" is debatable.  

We have guests.

This is a Box Elder bug, also known as a Maple Bug.  I have always felt, based on their tiny heads and seemingly dim behaviour, that these must be about the stupidest creatures on earth.  Every fall we find them massed near the doorways of our house, trying to find a way in for the winter.  Which I guess is a fairly smart thing to be doing when you actually consider it.  They get swept, stomped, vacuumed up in bulk.

But every winter some make it in.

Mostly they are happy to just sit.  But on a warm day you always see a few come creeping out of their hiding places to sun themselves on a toasty window sill next to the radiator.  Because our autumn border patrol efforts are fairly diligent I must reluctantly conclude that they have also found a way in among the siding and insulation of our house, and that the inside of our walls contains a huge hive of the damn things.

Ick.  Brings to mind one of the movies that Galaxy Quest was sort of mocking....Aliens.

So what's really the deal with these guys?

The alternate name, Maple Bugs, explains some of it.  We have a bunch of maple trees and these little red dudes eat maple seed pods.  I figure they are none too efficient at it, as we still have lots of maple seedlings popping up in all available garden spaces.

And in the fall?  Well, according to the oh so smartypants Wikipedia:

"This is especially a problem during the cooler months, when they sometimes invade houses and other man-made structures seeking warmth or a place to overwinter. They remain inactive inside the walls (and behind siding) while the weather is cool."

And when unexpected heat comes their way?  (This must be the bug equivalent of global warming btw).

"When the heating systems revive them, some may falsely perceive it to be springtime and enter inhabited parts of the building in search of food, water, and  conspecifics."

OK, makes sense I guess.  You wake up after a long nap and food and water would be priorities.  But conspecifics?

In bug biology terms it means of the same species, or at least close enough for breeding purposes.

I get the impression that the Box Elder bugs are not all that picky.

Great, just about the ideal house guests.  Uninvited.  Gonna stay a long time.  Under foot. And inside the walls of my house having an enormous, conspecific insect Woodstock.


Honeybee said...

Detritus: The visual, created by that last paragraph, gave me a case of the heebie-jeebies (sp? - who cares!) I have found one or two in the house this winter, but that's one or two too many, given your enlightening post this morning. Gee, thanks.

Dan said...

I wonder if you could create a border of diatomaceous earth?

Harry said...

We get these too! Fairly rare, maybe one or two a week in the winter flitting around a lamp or wandering lost on a window. Though now I do wonder what's hiding out in the walls. *shudder*