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Doug Clark: When bugs move in, kindness won’t cut it

Tue., June 24, 2008

Monday morning I took a bug-infested lint roller to the Washington State University/Spokane County Extension office for analysis.

“Oh, yes,” said Penny Simonson upon seeing the baggie that contained the vermin roller. “They’re box elder bugs.”

I already knew that, of course.

The Clarks have been plagued by these invasive beasties for years.

Box elder bugs – or “Boisea trivittatus” – are small almond-shaped winged insects with black and red markings.

For some reason – and I’m not ruling out the Gypsy Curse laid on Spokane by the late Jimmy Marks – these pests view my home as the Marriott Insect Inn.

On sunny days they cling to the sides, basking in the rays like little sun-worshipping nudists. Sometimes it’s quite a colony, with hundreds upon hundreds of them lazing in the heat.

During cold spells some of the bugs wander inside and make themselves at home.

Monday, for example, I awoke to discover three box elder bugs stuck to the sticky surface of a lint roller I had left on a night table.

“Serves you right,” I jeered at them.

Then I entered the bathroom. And stopped.

A lone bug was making left turns around the toilet seat as if he were Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“That’s it!” I shouted. “You freeloaders have gone too far.”

So to be perfectly truthful it wasn’t analysis I wanted from Simonson, who coordinates the area’s Master Gardner program. I was looking for ways to make each and every last one of these intrusive moochers die a horrible, excruciating death.

And therein is the box elder bug conundrum.

These suckers are harder to stamp out than al-Qaida.

Take the scary advertisement I received the other day from a pest controller. The glossy ad featured terrifying color photographs of the stars from some of your worst entomological nightmares. We’re talking ants, earwigs plus the dreaded hobo and black widow spiders.

The service claimed it could get rid of them. So I gave the exterminators a call.

Box elder bugs?

The nice-sounding woman had heard that request before. She told me her company could attempt to nail them. But it would take three applications and, sorry, results can’t be guaranteed.

It would probably be just as effective, she added, for me to douse them with soapy water.

Good Lord. I want to murder the devils, not give them a spa treatment.

If you ask me this country really started going downhill when they took away the citizen’s constitutional right to bear DDT.

My hope was that Simonson’s Extension Office experience would have empowered her with secret bug-destroying knowledge.

Wrong. Essentially her advice for me was to seal up my house to keep them out.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. My home is old. It has more leaks than the Spokane County Building and Planning Department.

“They don’t bite,” added Simonson. “They’re really more of a nuisance.”

Penny. Please. Let’s keep my editors out of it.

I can’t fault the Extension Office at 222 N. Havana. These people are usually quite helpful.

Day in and day out, in fact, Simonson and her Master Gardner volunteers attempt to answer the public’s questions regarding gardening, landscaping, urban forestry, water conservation and pest control.

“I’m willing to go on record that this is the first lint brush we’ve ever received,” she told me.

That’s something, I guess.

On the way back home I stopped at Northwest Seed & Pet on the off chance this landmark company had a box elder exit strategy.

At my mere mention of the words “box elder bugs,” employee Rick Safran actually dropped his head and sighed.

Then he told me that, yes, he could sell me some poison that would kill every bug it touched.

But the next day, he added, all their mourners would come “to the funeral.”

Box elder bug annihilation is a lot like pork barrel legislation.

Get rid of one. Three more take its place.

Back home I turned to an Internet site I studied once before.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Minnesota-based company claims to hold the answer to my prayers for sending box elders to the Great Buggy Beyond.

I mailed off a $38 check for a pint of Buggslayer, a miracle extract from chrysanthemum flowers that is lethal and long-lasting when box elder bugs come into contact with it.

When it arrives, I will spray it on my house and report the results in a future column.

If it actually works I will shout the praises of Buggslayer creator Brian Weekley.

If it doesn’t work?

I’ll probably drink it.


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