A friend of mine back home, Randy Wallace (United States) is an avid fan of covered bridges. He runs a Facebook page chronicling his adventures in ‘bridging’ and posts about everything from restorations, to the history, to the technical information regarding how they were built.
You can find his Facebook page here ——> https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Indiana-Covered-Bridges/271207486230890
Recently he posted a picture of some bugs he found on one of the bridges and was concerned if they were in fact damaging the bridge, since there were numerous holes around, or if they were harmless; a legitimate concern for a bridge enthusiast.
Well, the insects in question are called Boxelder bugs.
Photo credit: Randy Wallace
The Boxelder bug is a North American true bug and can commonly be found on or near, you guessed it, the Boxelder tree.
Photo credit: http://www.nativeohioplantlist.com
Although pretty to look at, unfortunately these guys get a bit of a bad rap. At the onset of the fall season, these bugs will usually congregate in large numbers on the sides of the trees, houses or structures, facing the sun. This is normally when people become aware of them since they can sometimes find their way into houses through cracks in an attempt to find a suitable winter lodging. Although they don’t cause any damage to houses or structures, the sheer numbers of these guys is enough to turn most people off.
The bugs later emerge from their hibernation sometime around April or May — just in time for the opening of the boxelder tree buds. They make their way back to the trees where they feed mostly on seeds and foliage and the females begin laying their spring eggs. Although they prefer the boxelder tree, maple and ash are other favorites.
Sometimes mistaken for stink bugs, these bugs are actually part of the family called Rhopalidae, or ‘scentless plant bugs’. Although they are able to release a pungent compound to thwart potential predators.