What’s bugging me

Another topic for today: boxelder bugs, otherwise known as maple bugs. This little critter is one reason to hope winter arrives soon, but not a strongly compelling one. They don’t survive winter outdoors, but those who sneak into your house will be found scurrying around well into February.

Scholarly references always contain the word “pest.” Then there will quickly be a caveat that, while the huge numbers that gather when the bugs hatch are an amazing sight to behold, they are harmless. They don’t harm plants, buildings or other structures, unless you consider bug poop on your siding and windows as damage.

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Their main food source is boxelder tree seeds and newly developing leaves and sometimes plum and apple tree fruit.

Conversely, as well as being harmless they don’t have many predators. The website Sciencing lists predators as rodents, a limited number of other insects and a few bird species. Another site indicates most spiders will eat them. The few predators who eat the bugs will eat only a few at a time and will choose them only if a preferred food source is not available.

The bug’s colouration accounts for the lack of predators. The bright red veins in wings and abdomen beneath the wings is a warning they might be poisonous. It’s a red herring. They aren’t, although they smell less the delectable when squished. As for how they taste, I’m not going to be the first one to check that out.

It is my conclusion the maple bug is no more than a manifestation of Mother Nature’s wry sense of humour. She gets her jollies from creating a critter that seems to have no purpose. It’s a deep philosophical question for us to explore as we chase them around the house with our handheld vacuum cleaners all winter.

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