When I was walking along the laneway, I noticed a streak of bright red in the grass and paused to investigate. The red turned out to be a congregation of Box Elder Bugs (Boisea trivittata) on an old branch. There were hundreds of nymphs in various stages of growth and a few adults tumbling over each other.
While many of us are inclined to call anything of a creepy-crawly nature a bug, strictly speaking, the term bug refers to a specific order of insects. While all bugs are insects, not all insects are bugs. Bugs belong to the order Hemiptera and are distinguished from other insects by their sucking, beaklike mouthparts and incomplete metamorphosis. Bug nymphs typically resemble adults although they don’t have wings and often have different colour patterns. Included in the order of bugs are cicadas and spittlebugs, aphids and mealybugs, stink bugs and squash bugs and water bugs.
If you look closely at this photograph, you will notice that the nymphs vary in size and details of their colour pattern, each variation representing a different stage or instar of growth.
Box Elder bugs could be called Manitoba Maple bugs around here. The trees that are known as Box Elder in the U.S. are actually Acer negundo. This species is unique among native maples in having compound leaves, and is known as the Manitoba Maple in Ontario.
Manitoba maples are plentiful here, and so are Box Elder bugs. These colourful bugs are often conspicous in the fall when they congregate in large numbers to hibernate and they sometimes manage to find their way indoors. I noticed a smaller number of Box Elder bugs on the side of the house, no doubt in search of comfortable winter lodgings.
For terrific images of Box Elder bugs laying eggs in spring, visit Seabrooke’s blog, The Marvelous in Nature, linked here.