Bugging Out

By Beacon Staff

We’ve had some unexpected guests in the house lately, which just happened to coincide with the cold weather. They’re on the kitchen counter, windowsills, in flowerpots, on the bathroom mirror, crawling up the curtains, and on the washing machine. In short, they’re everywhere, and I have just learned that these bugs are known as Boisea trivittata, commonly known as Box elder bugs, a delightful part of Montana’s wildlife that doesn’t garner nearly the attention of grizzlies. Though the bugs are easier to deal with when encountered unexpectedly.

Frankly, I can handle these bugs. They’re everywhere, but I find them totally inoffensive, particularly in light of the bugs I have dealt with elsewhere. During my time living in Atlanta, I battled many of the charmingly named, “Palmetto bugs.” While the name conjures up images of warm coastal breezes and swaying trees on the Carolina beaches, it’s a short-lived distraction from the reality that you’re dealing with nothing more than a large cockroach. In Boston, they’re referred to as “Water bugs” – not as poetic as the Palmetto, every bit as widespread and disgusting.

The Box elder bug is so innocuous and slow moving, I feel a twinge of remorse upon killing one. But there is only one course of action for the cockroach: swift death.

If I wore glasses, I would employ a trick for battling the roaches offered by a friend: take off your glasses so you can’t see how big the bugs actually are, and how much their innards splatter upon successful squishing. In my naiveté, shortly after moving into an apartment in an old building in midtown Atlanta, I once tried to suck up a cockroach with the attachment to my vacuum. I thought it might be less messy. But upon getting near the bug, it did something I wasn’t aware it could do: It took flight, toward my head.

The neighbors across the alley from my apartment, had they looked out their window at that moment, would have seen me falling backwards across my coffee table, yanking my vacuum cleaner over and shrieking in a distinctly un-masculine way. I learned quickly there’s no neat way to deal with a cockroach. I got out a shoe and started smacking.

But the Montana Box elder bug has never elicited such a reaction in me. They’re annoying, sure, but at least they don’t make you feel as if you’re wallowing in urban filth and decay. I could spray around the outside of the house, but for now, I’ll just keep picking up their little carcasses off the tile floor when they intrude. Winter is coming. We’re all trying to adjust.