We all hate them. But there's going to be a lot of them this summer.
Home and garden specialists predict a record number of bugs this season because of the mild winter.
"Because of the warmer weather the insect life should be pretty good. And that means that there will be more of an insect problem," said Ray Bosmans, regional extention specialist with the State Home andGarden Information Center.
He said people are already complainingabout the box elder bug, which is common to Maryland.
"They don'thurt anything, but they drive people crazy," he said.
Bosmans said the box elder bug is attracted to box elder trees, which are abundant in Maryland.
He said the black-and-red insects can get in houses and if you step on them they leave a red stain on carpets and floors.
To get rid of them Bosmans suggests spraying the insects with insecticide or better yet, chopping down the box elder trees.
For growers of fruits and vegetables, the one to watch out for is the fleabeetle. They enjoy eating greens, particularly spinach, said Denise Sharp, another regional extention specialist.
Bosmans and Sharp are just two of four specialists available to answer questions about gardening at the Home and Garden Information Center, which is state-funded and located in Howard County.
Last year there was a home and garden extention agent in Harford County but because of budget cutbacks, that position has been eliminated.
To get information about gardening, Harford County residents can call the state information center at 1-800-342-2507. Tape-recorded messages providing information on gardening run 24 hours a day.
Specialists are also available to answer questions weekdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Bosmans said the center has been operating for three years and currently receives about 60,000 calls a year, double the amount it received when it first opened.
Bosmans, who specializes in flowers, trees and shrubs, said themiddle of March is a good time for Howard County residents to start cleaning up their yards because weeds and disease from last year willhamper this year's gardening.
He said it's still too early to start planting flowers, but the weather should be warm enough by early May.
Although the mild winter will herald in record numbers of bugs, Bosmans said the warmer temperatures will be good for trees and shrubs, which have not dried out too much.
Bosmans said drying out occurs in colder-than-normal winters, and when winter warm spells are followed by cold spells.
"If we don't get any more cold spells it will be good," he said.
Sharp said Howard County residents who intend to grow fruits and vegetables this year should begin treating their soil and their trees now.
She said there are about 20 different kinds of fruits and vegetables that people grow in Harford County.
The most popular kinds of fruits grown are apples, pears and peaches, she said.
"But actually," she said, "those are more difficult togrow."
She said smaller fruits such as strawberries are easier because they're not preyed upon by as many bugs.
Tomatoes and squashare the most popular vegetables grown in Harford County, Sharp said.
"Tomatoes are popular," she said, "because they're very easy to grow and they grow well even if you do little with them. And they produce all summer."
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE ALSO APPEARED IN HARFORD COUNTY SUN EDITION