HPPR hosts & contributors
Prairie Ramblings Episode
Thu November 8, 2012
Orange and Black Ellis Bugs
Like death and taxes, I count on box elder beetles invading every year. These nuisances creep into every crack and crevice of our house, silently multiplying until nowhere is sacred. I have even had them fall off a showerhead while I shampooed my hair.
Unfortunately, I don’t know much about these creatures other than that they show up like a bad penny every fall. They squeeze through airtight windows, out of electrical sockets, and under door jambs like Mongol hordes. What lures them, I don’t know.
I’d be curious to discover if they, like salmon and geese, migrate to their birth places to reproduce. But how will I ever know? They all look alike.
I don’t think they have a very long life span, thank goodness. Guessing from the carcasses I sweep frequently, they can’t survive much longer than the common house fly--which is not very long.
The good news about these insidious pests is they don’t bite or sting--humans at least. The next good thing about them is that they don’t appear to mind when children play with them.
Oddly enough, many youngsters have a fascination with these beetles. Our little blondes thought it tickled as the bugs crawled on their arms and legs. One boy I knew liked to eat them until he discovered how upset his momma got when she caught him dining on little orange and black insects.
Now that my girls are grown, they see these bugs the same way I do--as royal pains. In fact, time has erased the recollections of when box elder bugs intrigued them instead of disgusting them. Of course, these black and orange beetles were never as interesting as lightning bugs...but... they were slower. That meant that toddlers and pre-kindergartners could capture scores of them in little bug houses.
The benefit of being able to catch the slow moving critters means it keeps tikes busy and out of serious trouble as long they understand they shouldn’t eat them. The disadvantage is that small children bond quickly with anything they capture and perceive as a pet. This means you might end up with more box elder bugs than you normally would find in your house, and they’d each be named.
The neighbor girls liked these bugs as much as my girls did, so all four young ladies spent a great deal of time catching and discussing them. Imagine my surprise when my friend’s 3-year-old asked my 2-year-old if we had Ellis bugs too.
Ellis bugs!!! What???
After thinking about it, the explanation was quite logical. The little girl’s big brother played football for the Ellis Railroaders, a team that wore black and orange uniforms. His little sis assumed that since the insects were orange and black they must be for Ellis--hence the name Ellis bugs.
Since then, I never see one of those annoyances without thinking, the Ellis bugs are here. Somehow it makes them a bit more welcome.