The Killing Field

2016-03-28 by

Originally published on Blogspot Tuesday, November 17, 2015

This fall we had a major invasion by an insect known as the Boxelder bug. We seemed to have been unusually blessed by their presence. None of our neighbors had this problem.

Boxelder bugThey are actually a relatively attractive bug - black with red on their wings.

According to a University of Minnesota web page, its technical name is Boisea trivittatus. It's been a while since I studied biology, but I wonder if that means it came from around Boise. In any case, it's certainly not a trivial bug.

These bugs are said to live in the Boxelder tree, from which they get their name. The tree is a member of the Maple family. I don't know if we have any of those Boxelder trees around, but we do have maples, which is supposedly another of their possible hangouts.

In a matter of a day or two, hundreds of them appeared, generally on the west and south sides of our house. I began taking them out - the result in one area is the killing field. Each dark spot on the driveway is one dead bug.boxelder bugs - dead

These bugs are said just to be a nuisance by their numbers - supposedly just looking for a warm place (like our house) to survive the winter. Fortunately, we've never found one inside.

They are also said not to bite humans, but I felt something like one biting me after landing on my neck during one killing session. That one died a moment later in retaliation.

These are not the smartest things in the world. Evolution has not treated them kindly. Some animals who develop coloration to blend with their environment tend to survive in greater numbers. These critters seem to prefer landing on white surfaces so they stand out rather than blend with their environment.

If I miss one or there is another nearby, they fly off for a few seconds, then return to a nearby spot - even onto my white t-shirt - like just waiting to be killed. It's amazing they've survived in these numbers with such characteristics.

I did observe some behavior which might support evolutionary theory, though. As I killed those I could reach from the ground, those higher up on the house survived. The next day, more were higher up than before - but still on a white surface.

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