The scoop on “OSU beetles”

11/22/2011 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

Last fall, while gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows of my building, I noticed something strange. There were bugs — lots of them — congregating on the glass of the windows and the sunny side of the building’s exterior wall. They were brown, beetle-like, with orange markings and long antennae. And did I mention there were a lot of them? I’d never seen anything like it in Oregon. The sunny autumn days of 2010 stretched on, and the insects hung around too. A time or two, I heard people laugh about the “OSU beetles.”

A room with a view... a view of bugs. Photo Rachel Beck

This summer, the bugs relocated from campus to my house. A mass of them took up residence on the south-facing side of a garden shed. They didn’t seem to bite, or sting, or eat the shed, but their sheer numbers were a little unnerving. They disappeared when the weather turned, but a few weeks ago, I spotted a few more on the side of my house. What in the heck are these things? I wondered. And are they causing any harm?

Formerly known as an "OSU beetle"

I submitted my questions, and some photos of the brown beetles, to  OSU’s Ask an Expert site. About 16 hours later, I received a thorough response from Larry Sutton, an OSU Master Gardener:

From the picture and the description of the habits of your beetle it would appear that you have box elder bugs or more appropriately beetles. The good news is that they are not going to harm you or your structure. According to the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet 06-84, “Managing Boxelder Bugs,” while they may cause minor damage to maples and other trees, they are more of a nuisance than problem for plants. In the spring and fall they will tend to congregate on the south or west facing walls of buildings to take advantage of the warmth. If they are too much of a nuisance they may be treated with hot or soapy water or even a pesticide. As the weather cools they will try to enter the building in order to survive the winter. Of course if the building is your home you may not like your new housemates. The best indoor treatment is a vacuum cleaner. After vacuuming them up be sure to remove the bag and place it outdoors before the beetles crawl out to regain their freedom.

I was pleased to have an official name for the things other than “OSU bugs” or, as I had taken to calling them, “the millions of bugs.” It was also nice to know I could probably get rid of them without pesticides. As it turned out, before I could do anything, the weather got cold and wet. According to this PDF on Boxelder bugs from OSU, my wait-until-they-go-away approach is standard practice, too.


Entry filed under: Pests and Pest Control. Tags: , , .

Quince, no longer a mystery Happy Thanksgiving!

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