Invasive elm seed bugs were a big nuisance in the Okanagan this year - InfoNews

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Invasive elm seed bugs were a big nuisance in the Okanagan this year

The elm seed bug, first reported in Kelowna in 2016, was proliferate in the Okanagan this summer.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Lisa Scott
November 17, 2019 - 6:00 PM

There’s a relatively new pest in the Okanagan and Kamloops that, while not dangerous, is proving itself to be a real nuisance.

Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society co-ordinator Lisa Scott says her organization received a significant number of calls from residents looking for information on how to control the elm seed bug, which has been invading households in large numbers and leaving fecal droppings behind.

She recently attended a meeting in Naramata where the insect was a hot topic with the audience.

“The elm bugs really increased this year. They are really catching residents' attention. It’s hard to say whether it's cyclical, because of climate change, or our increased travel and trade that we’re seeing more of them,” she says.

Scott says the bug isn’t a health hazard to humans and does not impact crops, so there is little incentive for any provincial legislation to control the species.

The first report of elm seed bugs was in Kelowna in 2016, but Scott suspects they were around for a while prior to being detected.

The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture says it has received unconfirmed reports of elm seed bugs in the Kamloops area, while a local entomologist at Thompson Rivers University has confirmed their presence in the city.

She says the species has a high reproductive rate and is small enough to easily find its way into buildings.

The bugs are looking for a warm place to settle into winter dormancy these days, if they haven’t already found a place. They’ll wake up in March or April, and when they start to move, that’s when the calls start coming in.

Scott says they become a nuisance once more around July when they move again, this time to seek shelter from the heat.

“First they are trying to warm up, then they are trying to cool down,” she says.

The bug feeds on the seeds and leaves of the Siberian elm, which is itself an invasive plant.

However, they don’t cause significant damage to the plant, so they aren’t even useful in keeping that invasive species under control.

The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture recommends sealing your residence as much as you can to keep the bugs at bay, in addition to using a shop vacuum with a couple of inches of soapy water in the bottom to collect the bugs in the house.

Removal and pruning of elm trees is also recommended, but Scott says you can have an infestation of the bugs even without Siberian elm nearby.

Sticky traps around window sills and a thorough inspection of incoming firewood is also recommended to control the bugs entering your home.

 

An adult elm seed bug.
An adult elm seed bug.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Dr. Ward Strong

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