Boxelder bugs

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.

 November Apples!   
    
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).

Boxelder Bugs & Apples Resources

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Boxelder bugs & Apples

     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 bugs!
    
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 harm."     
    
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 bugs:

     BOXELDER BEETLE—“The 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, really?).

     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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