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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - February 02, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Box elder beetles in Austin TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have an large infestation of box elder beetles. They are crawling all over the yard and sometimes on the outside of the house. When you walk in the yard a cloud of them rises up and fills the air. They are annoying and land all over you. Can you recommend how best to eliminate box elder beetles or someone who know how to eliminate them?

ANSWER:

 Acer negundo (Ash-leaf maple) or Box elder, is native to Austin, and the seeds on the female are apparently a main food for the bug. University of Wisconsin article Box Elder Bugs discusses ways to deal with them that do not necessarily include pesticides. They will be attracted to warm, sunny places to overwinter, sometimes ending up inside the house. Some of the information we looked at recommended getting rid of any female box elder trees you have. Everything we read said that the bugs don't harm the trees, but may cause disfiguring of the fruits of some trees. Mainly they are, as you say, a nuisance.

Although we didn't see this particular explanation for their presence now, in mid-winter, we are wondering if the very mild winter we have had could have caused them to overwinter without having to take shelter anywhere. Where is a good hard freeze when you need it? We also saw a reference to the bug reproducing in 10-year cycles, but didn't find out where in that cycle we would be right now.

We are native plant people, not entomologists, so beyond referring you to articles that discuss the bug, we are afraid we can't help. If this is a common problem in your yard, it probably is for others in the area. We would suggest you contact the Extension Education Office for Travis County.

 

From the Image Gallery


Box elder
Acer negundo

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