November Apples & Boxelder Bugs!By Sam Johnson
This warm weather has been
nice, there's no question about it. Rarely are we fortunate enough to enjoy an
"Indian Summer" for so much of October.
Apparently, October 2011 has been added to the
list of “Top 5 Best Octobers in North Dakota!” with more drier days than
normal, and overall warmer average temperatures.
This has allowed many farmers to finish
their harvest ahead of schedule, fishermen to enjoy an extended “Fall Fishing”
season, “Trick-or-Treaters” to revel in their own bountiful harvest of
neighborhood candy, and me to finish the fall yard work and winter-prep I never
seem to get done.
To accomplish this, I’ve spent most of
this past week “hanging around home” on ladders – cleaning the rain gutters,
cutting dead tree limbs close to the house, and picking all the Haralson apples
off our backyard tree.
Generally, the Haralson apples are harvested
from the end of September into October, but because the season got off to a
slow start and ended with this glorious golden stretch of warm weather, the
apples continued to grow and sweeten into November.
(I probably could have let them go a bit longer
but got spooked by reports of snow this weekend!)
Apple lovers and pie makers know the
Haralson apple as one of the best “bakers,” and is the predominant apple used for making pies. It is
crisp and tart and will keep all winter long if stored in a root cellar or
refrigerator. (It’s also a favorite of apple cider, apple wine, and apple jack
makers – so I’ve been told).
I also find them to be a good “eating
apple,” though most folks like something a little less tart.
The trick for harvesting Haralson apples
is to let them hang on the tree well into the fall through a couple light
frosts, and then pick them down. The frost concentrates the sugar in the apple
which results a “sweet zing” in your mouth when you take a crisp bite.
Since we haven’t had any serious “killing
frosts” or extreme freezing temperatures yet, the good news is the warm fall
has produced a bountiful harvest of November apples!
Boxelder Bugs Galore!
But, the warm weather has also
created a bountiful bunch of something else not nearly as wonderful – boxelder
Usually, the black and red beetles show up
at our place in the fall when the warm rays of the Indian summer sun heat up
the south side of the house. Generally, they are so few in number it's no big
deal, and, as Mary used to say, "They are kind of cute and don't do any
But this year, "cute" is
the last thing these beetles are being called as they cling to the south walls
of many local homes in clusters as big as your fist.
It wouldn't be so bad if the bugs
stayed outside, but some of the bumbling beetles manage to wobble their way
inside unnoticed, then come waddling out on the carpet in full view once they
know you’re sitting down and resting.
The last time we had to deal with the
“boxelder bug blues” was in our “old place” where we spent the better part of
our evenings picking up the waddling bugs as they intermittently plodded across
the carpet, t.v. screen, whatever we were reading or working on, or came
crashing into the glass reflector bowl of our old-fashioned brass floor lamp
like some kamikaze bug --"Buzzzzzzz.....clink."
And of course, we had to be
very careful when we took a sip from our coffee cups.
Though we don’t have quite the
same problem here in our “new place,” the extended fall warmth has the sneaky
bugs again congregating en masse on
the south side of the house.
Here’s the rap sheet on these bothersome
boxelder bug is a beautifully marked orange and black beetle that lives on the
seeds of its namesake tree, the box-elder.
The harmless (emphasis mine) beetles are most noticeable in the spring and
fall of the year when they can be found in abundance most everywhere it seems
(particularly in the Johnson's backyard) except in box-elder trees.
The adult beetles mate in late June. The eggs hatch in
late summer and as the weather cools, the beetles look for warm sheltered
places to spend the winter. (Such as the Johnson household).
As the weather begins to warm in the spring, the
surviving beetles (those that didn't get sucked up in the vacuum cleaner or
committed hari-kari by divebombing
into the floor lamp or a cup of hot coffee) surface and return to the box-elder
trees to start the cycle again. Larger populations of boxelder bugs occur
during extremely hot and dry weather. (Ah-ha!).
While the boxelder beetle poses no health threat to
humans and will not cause any damage, they can be an unpleasant nuisance.” (Oh,
So, like all else, an extended fall has its ups
and downs, but given the alternative – freezing cold and October snow storms –
I’ll take a bountiful harvest of November apples and boxelder bugs any day!
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