Monday, February 11, 2008

Box Elder Bug

This is a box elder bug. They generally feed on box elder trees, but I found this one under a maple. The tree has not yet leafed out, but the bugs have become active. I think they are lovely: black with thin red lines. Many people think they are pests, even though they do little damage to trees. They can become numerous and invade dwellings when they are looking for shelter in the fall. If they are a problem for you, make sure your home is tight: caulk openings and put in weatherstripping to keep them out. Once they are inside, vacuuming is the best way to deal with them. I saw only adults, so I think they are looking for love right now. Later on they will lay eggs that will develop into nymphs.

To most people, any small crawly thing is a bug. A fly is a bug, a centipede is a bug, even an earthworm is a bug. But to an entomologist, only something in the order hemiptera is called a bug. The box elder bug is a true bug, and you can tell because of the v-shape on its back. "Hemiptera" means half-wing, and the V marks the wing where it changes from hard to membranous. Stink bugs are also true bugs.

February is always spring in Berkeley, as evidenced by the activity of the insect and plants. The cabbage whites are flying, the birds are singing, and so many things are in bloom: manzanitas, acacias, daphne, oxalis, and on and on. We had our rain in January, so Feburary is a time to enjoy all the flowers that result.