Idaho ag experts say elm seed bugs may be returning
With warmer weather approaching, Idaho residents may soon start seeing the unwelcome return of the elm seed bug, said Pam Juker, spokeswoman for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
“The tiny insect tormented many Idahoans last summer by invading their dwellings. The elm seed bug, an invasive insect new to the United States, was detected in Ada and Canyon Counties in Idaho last July. It later was found in Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington counties and in Malheur County, Oregon,” Juker said.
Commonly distributed in central-southern Europe, the elm seed bug feeds primarily on the seeds of elm trees. The insect does not damage trees or buildings, nor does it present any threat to human health. However, due to its habit of entering houses and other buildings to escape the summer heat, it is a significant nuisance to homeowners.
Adult elm seed bugs are only about 1/3-inch long and are the color of dark chocolate. They are marked with a black triangle enclosed within a rust-colored rectangle on their backs and red segments on their abdomens. When disturbed or crushed, the bugs produce an unpleasant odor.
Management of elm seed bugs in houses and other buildings requires persistence and patience, experts said.
Direct contact with pesticides will kill elm seed bugs. However, pesticide treatments do little to prevent the next wave of the insects from entering the home.
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture recommends measures to combat the pest by excluding them access into dwellings.
Pest-proofing a house includes installing door sweeps, caulking around doors and windows, using foam weather stripping around sliding glass doors, sealing utility openings where pipes and wires enter the home’s foundation and repairing gaps and tears in window screens.
If the insects have already entered the building, a shop vac (with filter removed) with 1-2 inches of soapy water in the bottom container is often the best response to the elm seed bugs, since the water will prevent them from flying away.
(photo: courtesy Idaho State Department of Agriculture)