Boxelder bugs are a nuisance but don’t bite humans

Published 6:37 am Sunday, April 14, 2013

Column: Nature’s World, by Al Batt

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

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“Everything is nearly copacetic. I’m as happy as if I had good sense. Life can be like a Carnival Cruise that never ends. There are days when I couldn’t find my rear end if I had a search warrant. At least I have my memories. Those from yesterday are particularly vivid. Still Bill, he has to speed up to come to a stop, is on his winter hours. That means he sleeps from can until cannot. He’ll never drown in his own sweat. His hobby is sitting with his mouth open and waiting for a fried chicken to fly in. Still Bill doesn’t listen to weather reports. If he wants to know what the weather will be tomorrow, he waits until tomorrow to see what it is. That method has proved to be 100 percent accurate. Still Bill does have his foibles, but I try to overlook them. I made a list of his 10 major faults. In your case, I made a list of your 100 greatest character flaws.”

Photo of a female cardinal looks surprised by the snow by Al Batt.

Photo of a female cardinal looks surprised by the snow by Al Batt.

“What are Still Bill’s faults?” I wonder aloud.

“To tell the truth, I never did get around to listing them, but whenever he does or says something that makes me mad, I tell myself, ‘Lucky for Still Bill that’s one of the 10.’”


Nature by the yard

I heard a maple tree cough.

It’s the tree I tap to get cough syrup.

A dove cried mournfully and gulls flew overhead. There was a group in the 1980s called A Flock of Seagulls that sang “And I ran, I ran so far away. I just ran, I ran all night and day.”

I didn’t want to run away. The yard is a perfect place to be on a sunny, spring day.

A red squirrel chattered. The American red squirrel is also called a pine squirrel or a chickaree. Red squirrels are somewhat larger than chipmunks.

I saw a boxelder bug on the deck. A single boxelder bug or lady beetle in the house can be adorable. A thousand of them in the house is creepy.

I did a bit of a dance as I walked on the lawn. It was a sidestep meant to avoid stepping on dog poop. Where are the dung beetles when I need them? A dung beetle does just as its name suggests. It rolls a bit of dung into a ball, rolls it away and buries it. The ball is used by the female to lay eggs in or it becomes food.

Robins seemed to be everywhere. It was as if the word “ubiquitous” was coined to describe their presence. Batman isn’t the only one with a robin. We all have our very own robin.

Q and A

Donald Batt of Hartland asked what good boxelder bugs are. They have been numerous in homes. A dry summer and the opportunity to have an extra generation last year has made it possible for many of the bugs to look for rent-free housing over the winter. Boxelder bugs can be a nuisance, but they don’t bite people and are nearly harmless to property. When abundant, they can stain walls, curtains and other surfaces with their excrement. The surviving boxelder bugs that overwintered inside buildings become active in the spring. They try to move outdoors but many remain trapped inside. They do not reproduce in homes. The boxelder bugs seen inside during winter and spring entered buildings in the fall. Boxelder bugs are most abundant during hot, dry summers when followed by warm springs. During the summer, they live, feed and reproduce on trees, including boxelders, maples, ashes and others. They feed on sap from their host plants, but do not cause significant damage. As to their value, I think there are some creatures whose value is yet to be discovered by us. We are incapable of doing so in some cases. The value of most things can be difficult to determine and tends to be subjective. I find a beauty in a boxelder bug. That is easier than finding a way to eradicate them from the house.

“Will a robin use its nest from last year?” A nest is occasionally reused. The structure of a robin’s nest is such that it typically weakens over the winter. Robins often return to the same site, especially if they had reproductive success. They generally build a new nest for each brood during a summer.

“Do mourning doves eat insects?” Seeds make up about 99 percent of a mourning dove’s diet, including cultivated grains, wild grasses, weed seeds and infrequently, berries. Preferred weed seeds include pigweed, foxtails, wild sunflower and ragweed. Preferred grains include corn and millet. Insects make up a tiny portion of a dove’s menu. Doves can travel up to eight miles for food. There are a number of collective nouns that describe a group of doves, including a bevy, cote, dole, dule and flight. I wonder what a group of collective nouns is called?

“Do carpenter ants eat wood?” No, nor do they remodel kitchens. These large black or black and red ants feed on protein and sugar sources. Those foods include insects, honeydew (a sweet liquid produced by aphids and scale insects), meats, syrup, honey, sugar, jelly, etc. Carpenter ants remove wood as they create nests and tunnels.


Thanks for stopping by

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.” — Susan B. Anthony

“One has only to sit down in the woods or fields, or by the shore of the river or lake and nearly everything of interest will come round to him – the birds, the animals, the insects; and presently, after his eye has got accustomed to the place, and to the light and shade, he will probably see some plant or flower that he had sought in vain for, and that is a pleasant surprise to him.” — John Burroughs




Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at