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Extension > Yard and Garden News > January 2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

Boxelder bugs inside homes during winter

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

With the recent mild weather we have experienced, some residents have been finding boxelder bugs and lady beetles in their homes. This is actually not unusual in the middle of the winter. These insects remain inactive as long as their hiding places in various wall voids, attics, and other nooks and crannies in and around buildings remain cold. However, if we receive mild, sunny temperatures, this can cause these overwintering insects to break their dormancy and become active. They then move towards the warmth inside the building where residents find them crawling around. Once active, they do not live much more than a few days to about a week.
Boxelder bugs do not damage property but can be very
annoying when found indoors.  Photo: Jeff Hahn, U of M

Despite the circumstantial evidence; these insects are not laying eggs and reproducing indoors. All of the boxelder bugs or lady beetles that are seen indoors now entered buildings last fall. Unfortunately, there are not many good options for dealing with boxelder bugs and lady beetles at this time of year. It is not possible to prevent them from emerging from wall voids and other spaces. And once they become active in your home, they only realistic option is to physically remove them, e.g. with a vacuum cleaner.

The best time to deal with boxelder bugs and other insects that seek harborage for the winter is in late summer or fall before they start to move into buildings. The best methods for reducing these insects are seal up cracks and spaces that may allow them into your home combined with a timely treatment of an appropriate residual insecticide. Some insects will still get inside but you should be able to reduce the number that would otherwise get inside.

For more information, see the University of Minnesota Extension publication Boxelder bugs.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Plight of the bumble bee: MN's threatened and endangered bumble bees

Elaine Evans, Extension Educator, Entomology/Pollinators/Bee Lab

Bumble bees are a common site in most Minnesota gardens, but some species have become increasingly uncommon, particularly over the last 20 years. Historically, Minnesota is home to 23 of North America’s 48 bumble bee species. Five species out of these 23 are in serious decline with severe loss of range as well as declines in numbers of bees. Another 3 species are in decline, though the losses are not as dramatic. This means that over one in three bumble bee species in Minnesota are vulnerable to decline. Although bumble bees may still be a common site in gardens, prairies, meadows, and fields, the bumble bee community you are seeing today is most likely a less diverse
group of bumble bees.
The rusty-patched bumble bee is now on
the endangered species list.  Photo:
Heather Holm

On December 11th, 2016, one of Minnesota’s declining bumble bee species, Bombus affinis, the rusty-patched bumble bee, was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the first bumble bee to be given this status and the first bee in the continental U.S. In the United States, endangered species are protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which as amended, is one of the most far-reaching wildlife conservation laws ever enacted by any nation. The listing focuses conservation planning and funding, raises awareness, and by regulation protects listed species from intentional and unintentional harm.

Historically, the rusty-patched bumble bee was commonly seen throughout its range which spread from Minnesota to the east coast, north into southern parts of Canada and south through the Appalachian mountains. Declines were first noticed in the late 1990s. Through the efforts of both professional and citizen scientists, evidence shows that rusty-patched bumble bee populations have declined by about 87%. In addition, their geographic distribution has decreased. They are only found in about 13% of their former range. While evidence of the decline is clear, the cause or causes of the decline are not fully understood. The probable causes include disease (possibly transmitted by managed bumble bees), habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides.

The greater Twin Cities area is one of a handful of areas where the rusty-patched bumble bee is found with regularity. As Minnesotans, we have an opportunity before us to prevent the extinction of a species! Bee-friendly gardening could be a key step in preserving this species. Plant flowers, including flowering trees and shrubs preferred by bees. Aim to have something blooming at all times between mid-April and September. Native plants are a great choice for supporting bumble bees, as well as other native wildlife. Avoid pesticides. If you can’t avoid pesticide use, apply them only where needed and avoid drift into non-target areas. Join efforts to document the rusty-patched and other declining bumble bees. Get out your camera this summer and join Bumble Bee Watch. Strap on your boots and volunteer for bumble bee surveys in the Twin Cities with the Minnesota Bumble Bee Survey or state-wide with the Minnesota Bee Atlas. Together, we can help the recovery of the rusty-patched bumble bee.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Caring for your amaryllis

Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator

'Picotee' - note the thin red
margins on the white petals
Whether the first bulb or the fiftieth, there is high anticipation for the plant owner when the large, bright green bud emerges from a beefy amaryllis bulb! Amaryllis may be purchased as bare or planted bulbs, and are prized for their exotic trumpet-shaped flowers born on 1 to 2 foot leafless stalks or “scapes.” They add dramatic color to homes and gardens, and make wonderful gifts to gardeners from beginners to experts. Read more on the new Extension publication Growing and Caring for Amaryllis
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