The black-and-red horde marches on

The black-and-red horde marches on by Bob Karolevitz Old houses leak.

No matter how you patch the holes and put weather-stripping on the doors, boxelder bugs will get in.

A decade ago I wrote a column about the gosh-awful things. I said then that there were 13,576,882,999,627 of them in and around our house. I think that number has now gone up.

I know they propagate and feed on the female boxelder tree which is a poor cousin of the sugar maple. We still have several of the gnarled old hulks on the farm, and I've been protective of them for historic reasons. Phyllis, however, does not share that preservation sentimentality as far as they're concerned, and so I have been handed an ultimatum.

"Those trees have got to go!" is the way she put it.

Before I get the chainsaw out, though, I try to explain to her that boxelder bugs will also suck the sap from ash trees, honey locusts and most anything else that's sweet. Entomologists also say that if you cut your trees down, the gregarious bugs will fly in from some place else. It's obviously a losing battle.

But Phyllis is adamant. The Leptocoris trivittatus bugs her!

Actually, boxelder bugs are just looking for a warm place for the winter. They don't fly south with the birds, so a nice, cozy house is very attractive to them. Unfortunately, by the time they sneak into a person's place, they've already laid their eggs for the next generation some place else.

We've sprayed and prayed. We've vacuumed up thousands of them, but the invasion continues. We've got more anti-boxelder bug remedies than we've got mole eradicators. Still the black-and-red horde marches on.

Right now I'm going to town to buy some peppermint mouth wash to put in plastic containers where the bugs congregate. They say it attracts them, and they fall into the liquid and drown. But they go out with sweet-smelling breath.

I try to calm Phyllis down by reading to her what an unknown columnist once wrote.

"The boxelder bug is a yuk. He crawls hither and yon, up or down. It makes no difference since he doesn't have the slightest idea where he's going. He doesn't even know where he's been ? Squashing him seems hardly worth the effort ? As a bug he's an utter flop. But he's legion and he endures."

My recitation gets nowhere. She's had it with the creepy, crawly things, and so our boxelder trees � which I think date back to homestead days � will probably become second-rate fire wood. They're not even much good for that.

Meanwhile, I've been given another husbandly chore. I've had to help her and our son-in-law Pat Garrity wash our windows which Phyllis insists have been spotted by the boxelder bugs (with help from house flies). When we were married, I don't recall the priest saying "love, honor, obey and wash windows," but apparently that goes with the marital commitment.

So I scrubbed away with soapy water and ammonia, followed by a Windex rinse, all of which activated my somewhat dormant bursitis. I can blame that on the boxelder bugs, too.

Needless to say, we'll go on singing "The Boxelder Bug Blues," which isn't exactly on our hit parade. Oops, there's one of the %#@*!''+* ubiquitous creatures now, crawling across my typewriter keys.

&#1691999 Robert F. Karolevitz

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