Manitoba Maple – beauty and bugs

photo credit 
By SriMesh (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

The Manitoba Maple (Acer Negundo), aka box elder, is found in yards and parks all over the Canadian prairies. It is a relatively fast growing softwood maple, valued for the shade provided by its wide spreading branches. Those sturdy, spreading branches invite children to come and climb. It is a true maple; maple syrup can be made from its sap, although it takes much longer to boil it down than the sap from eastern hardwood maples with a higher sugar content.

It is also the host for the disgusting maple bug (aka box elder beetle). These insects are unseen all summer long, but in fall hordes of them appear and cluster on the sunny sides of buildings, or even on a fence post as in the following picture.

A mass of boxelder bugs on a fencepost in Bolton, Ontario in September 2018.

Inevitably, some of those bugs will get into the house. Maybe a lot of them. They are harmless, they don’t bite or chew on fabrics or food. They are just immensely annoying, walking across floors, walls, ceilings, desks, arms. . . Swatting or squashing them is not a good idea, they leave a red stain. The best idea is to go after them with a hand vac. They’re not very bright, they can fly, but when they see or hear the hand vac coming at them they just walk faster. When they fly, they don’t seem to know where they’re going, every once in a while one bounces off the side of my head.

Yesterday I picked up my coffee mug to drink the last little bit. I felt something touch my lips that didn’t feel like coffee grounds. I spat it back into the mug, then looked looked into the mug. Sure enough, there was a maple bug walking around on the bottom. Disgusting.

We try to spray the bugs on the outside of the house, before they get in. This year, stores sold out of the best type of insecticide for these bugs three weeks ago. There are other insecticides that work and we have sprayed around the house many times. The dead bugs around the perimeter of the house show that the bug spry works. Still, we have an infestation in the house that reminds us of the plagues of Egypt.

We still like our maple trees. These infestations come in cycles, most yeas are not bad at all. And there is absolutely no sign of bugs on the trees in the warm weather.

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