I had a nice afternoon tea with a dear old friend who has been hibernating all winter. Ms. Boxelder Bug. I must say she was pretty spry for one who hasn’t eaten in seven months. Around and around the tea saucer she paced. Yes it is spring, really spring. Seemed like it would never get here. But Ms. Boxelder bug is a sure sign of spring!
Let me tell you a little about her. Her scientific name is Boisea trivittata. She is a true bug of the order ‘hemiptera’ and hails from eastern U.S., but her family has spread to almost all of the continental U.S.. She won’t eat your houseplants, damage your home, get in hour hair or bite you. But if you bother her too much, she will make a stink. I mean look at her, she is black and red, that is the same as saying, “Stay away or you will be sorry.”
Early spring she will survive on detritus and plant matter on the ground until the seeds are available. Then she will dine solely on seeds of maple trees (Acer). Why maple trees? Its all about evolution. She preferes the Box Elder, which are a type of maple, and where this bug got it’s name.
As an aside, did you know maple seeds are good to eat! Yes, those helicopter like seeds that twirl down from the trees, they are tasty. Last year I watch dozens of squirrels and many chipmunks gathering the seeds from our silver maple tree. It was like a rodent bioblitz out there. I did some research, found out the seeds are edible. Tried some and surprise, they are good. I put them on my salads, they taste like pine nuts, and they are free for the taking all over the lawn. Awesome.
Back to Ms. Boxelder, she is NOT considered a pest to the maple trees. As the seeds become available she will eat, find a mate, climb up the trunk of a female maple tree. Yes, female, the ones with the seeds, and deposit her eggs.
Being a true bug metamorphosis is gradual, the nymphs slightly resemble the adult throughout their development. The babies are are born bright red, don’t eat them! Eventually the nymphs take on the black coloring. As they reach adulthood delicate wings form and lay flat over their bodies, overlapping each other to form a lovely ‘X’.