October 21, 2014

Swarms of Democrats occupy Williston

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‘Boisea trivittata,’ commonly known as boxelder bugs, have also been called ‘Democrat bugs’ for their tendency to appear in droves during election season. Williston has seen large numbers of the black and red bugs recently, which typically creep into homes in cold weather conditions. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

If insects could vote, local Democrats would have next Tuesday’s election in the bag.

That’s assuming, of course, that the “Democrat bug” demographic stopped sunning itself long enough to crawl to the polling booths.

“Democrat bugs” is an obscure nickname for the insect species Boisea trivittata, more commonly known as boxelder bugs, which tend to invade people’s homes around election season.

Unlike the bugs that turned up in the Watergate complex in 1972, the bugs that have recently raided Williston are essentially harmless.

“They’re a common nuisance insect that really don’t cause any damage at all to houses or structures,” said Ann Hazelrigg of the University of Vermont’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic. “We see them so much in the fall because they like sunny sides of buildings. As the temperatures are dropping, they aggregate on the sunny walls of buildings.”

A report by UVM’s Extension Master Gardener Program describes boxelder bugs as “dark brownish-black with three lengthwise, red stripes on the thorax.” It states that full-grown adults hibernate in “cracks and crevices in walls, in door and window casings, around foundations, in stone piles, in tree holes, and in other protected places.”

Hazelrigg, a Williston resident, speculated that the recent rash of the little buggers could be due to last year’s mild winter. She said they can be vacuumed if they infiltrate a home, but she advised against pesticide use.

“If they’re getting in your house, you want to seal up cracks and crevices and tighten up your house, but I don’t think it’s ever worth homeowners using a pesticide to control these, because they are just a nuisance,” Hazelrigg said.

She added that another preventive measure is the removal of boxelder trees—the bugs’ food of choice.

“Since they do prefer these female boxelder trees, if people have those in their yards, they may want to get rid of those,” Hazelrigg said. “They’re just kind of a weed tree anyway.”

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