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Let us spray: Box elder bugs get their due

Sun., July 6, 2008

Columnist’s note: Today’s column contains gruesome, graphic and ghastly depictions of insect death that will shock members of PETA, environmentalists and other pansies. Kids, however, will really enjoy all the cool stuff about killing bugs.

I’m happier than Dr. Guillotine with a fresh blade.

No messy, one-at-a-time executions for me.

I’m armed with a weapon of mass extermination: a green plastic yard and garden sprayer carrying a 2-gallon payload of insect doom known as …


On the Fourth of July, I walked around the outside of my house humming “The Star-Spangled Banner” while dispensing liquid death on the box elder bugs that have plagued the Clark family for 20 years.

“Tah-ta-tah, ta-ta …”


“Tah-ta-tah, ta-ta …”


Soon the small almond-shaped winged beasties with red-and-black markings were dropping off the sides of my house, tumbling to a wriggling, shriveling demise.

Just as Buggslayer inventor Brian Weekley promised. After finding his Web site, I called the Minnesota man to quiz him about his claim of cracking the box elder bug conundrum.

“This is the answer,” he told me.

How is it that a pseudoscience crackpot like Al Gore gets a Nobel Prize, while a bug-murdering genius like Brian Weekley gets bupkis?

If you recall, I wrote of my box elder travails a couple weeks ago. The insects had finally pushed me over the brink when I awoke to find three bugs stuck to a lint roller on my night table.

That’s one of the really annoying factors about these critters. When the weather cools they invade your home like laid-off relatives.

On hot days the box elder buttheads cling to the sunny sides of your house, baking in the rays by the yucky hundreds and thousands.

That’s annoying thing No. 2.

Plus they are harder to get rid of than paparazzi outside Lindsay Lohan’s favorite bar.

Get rid of three. Six more show up the next day.

They’re more persistent than door-to-door religious fanatics.

Some of my readers tried to help me.

“Had thousands of box elders,” wrote Irv Bailey, of St. John. “Turned some chickens loose. Haven’t seen a box elder for years.”

Oh, yeah. Chickens. That’ll go over swell with the neighbors.

I learned all about box elder bugs when I took my infested roller to the Washington State University/Spokane County Extension office.

Penny Simonson, who oversees the Master Gardener program, didn’t offer much hope.

Box elder bugs don’t bite. They’re just a nuisance …

(Add “wasting money” to that description and you could be talking about Spokane County commissioners.)

The bugs are fond of box elder and maple trees.

There’s no way to predict what draws them to certain houses, but they obviously consider mine a bug-and-breakfast.

“They love you, Doug,” Simonson said cheerily. It’s “a whole new fan base.”

So live and let live. And everybody sing, “We Are the World.”

Like hell.

I’m an American. I want the invaders d-e-a-d, DEAD!!!

Weekley felt my pain. Minnesota apparently has more box elder bugs than Job had boils.

Killing them is no problem. A lot of chemicals will accomplish that.

But Weekley said his “deltamethrin” is derived from chrysanthemum flowers, which makes his poison sound happier.

The odorless, nonstaining formula binds to surfaces, Weekley said. It will remain there days and days, waiting for new bugs to dispatch.

I sent him 38 bucks. Thursday afternoon I came home to find a small package on my porch.

I tore it open like child on Christmas morning and soon whipped up a batch: 4 ounces per gallon of water.

The next day, before commencing my attack, I conducted a little experiment.

Step One: I brushed 13 box elder bugs off the side of my house and into a jar. (The fact that Step One took less than 30 seconds should explain the extent of my box elder problem.)

Step Two: I spritzed a bit of Buggslayer into said jar.

Step Three: A short wait later my captives were deader than Nixon.

“Look, Emily,” I said excitedly to my daughter, holding up the corpse jar.

“Come help me get the rest of them.”

Emily called box elders “beetle bugs” when she was a kid. She hated them because they’d creep into her room and crawl on her in the night.

But now Emily is grown up and married.

“I’m not killing bugs with you on the Fourth of July,” she sneered before walking away.

I’ve failed as a father. I forgot to teach my daughter that freedom from bugs is part of what Independence Day is all about.

Tah-ta-tah, ta-ta …



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