Boxelder bugs are pests but aren't damaging


November 15, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Bugs crawling all over the outside of my house look like black roaches with red edges. They flock to the sunny side. They do not seem to fly. Should I be concerned?

Boxelder bugs can make a pest of themselves in fall. They congregate in sunny areas, often on the south sides of homes, but are not damaging. They feed on the seeds of boxelder trees, a maple species with unusual leaves that resemble poison ivy though they have typical maple seeds. Spray boxelder bugs off the house with water or soapy water. If there is a sizable boxelder tree nearby, you might consider removing it. For more information, see our boxelder fact sheet or look under Pest Control on our Web site's Plant Diagnostic feature.

Two years ago, I put fanwort in my pond, and it attached to bottom stones. This year, growth reached the surface. Do I need to remove it for the winter or will it survive even touching ice?

This plant is a perennial and can be invasive here in the Northeast. Fanwort breaks apart in the late fall and fragments overwinter, growing into new plants the next season. New shoots also emerge from horizontal rhizomes in the spring. Your plant should be in at least 18 inches of water for freeze protection. Fanwort can form dense stands so you may need to thin it next season, but do not put it in any natural waterways where it invades. See our publications on water gardening.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at


* Invest in a water heater for your birdbath or backyard pond to keep an area of water ice-free for birds and other wildlife.

* Overwinter carrots, parsnips and turnips by covering the bed with a deep straw or leaf mulch. You can pull these root crops through the winter as needed.

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