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Box elder bugs, ladybugs invade

October 29, 1998

Box Elder BugBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer




While "Antz" swarmed movie theaters, bugs of a different kind began invading Tri-State area homes.

Ladybugs and box elder bugs, looking for warmth on cool, fall days, have become a nuisance in some neighborhoods, agricultural extension agents said.

By the thousands, the insects attach themselves to the sides of homes, even finding their way inside in some cases, agricultural extension agents said.

"It can get very, very bad. People can have lots of them flying around in their house" said Sandy Scott, horticulture consultant at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service in Hagerstown.

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One man, who lives in Big Pool, told Scott he slept in his car to get away from a plague of ladybugs in his house.

Although ladybugs and box elder bugs may cause headaches for those unlucky enough to be in their path, Scott said the winged creatures are basically harmless.

In fact, ladybugs help flowers and shrubs by eating aphids and mites. That's why Scott doesn't recommend killing them.

The best thing to do is prevent them from getting in your house by caulking around windows, vents and doors.

Also, when box elder bugs gather on the outside of houses, homeowners can spray them with soapy water.

If they manage to worm their way inside, the best way to deal with them is by using a vacuum cleaner, she said.

Scott began getting calls about the bugs last week.

"They came all of a sudden. I guess it's the weather," Scott said.

Every year about this time, ladybugs and box elder bugs begin seeking shelter from the cold.

Box elder bugs are longer and thinner than ladybugs with orange bodies and black wings.

This year there seemed to be an overabundance of both kinds of bugs, particularly in certain areas like Clear Spring, Leitersburg and Warfordsburg, Pa.

They tend to be more numerous in neighborhoods that border forests, she said.

Even the Franklin County Extension Office on Franklin Farm Lane in Chambersburg, Pa., is not immune.

Agent Robert Kessler said his office got a few box elder bugs from nearby box elder maple trees.

"There's not much you can do so you put up with the minor inconvenience," he said.

The abundance of the bugs is cyclic from year to year and varies by location, Scott said.

There's no way to predict when or where they'll pop up, she said.

Kessler said the number of the bugs is at least partially due to last year's mild winter, which allowed more of the bugs to survive.

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