Spring: You might see some weird things, but it’s normal

These boxelder bugs descend in droves every spring, if you live near their host plants they like to eat. Don’t worry, they’ll be gone soon.

If you see weird, foamy masses that look like packing peanuts on your plants, fence or house, don’t despair. This crunchy ornament attached to a currant bush is full of praying mantis eggs.

Spring is a time when everything comes alive and people begin to notice the newness of the world again. Chicks are hatching, newborn lambs are frolicking about and that vibrant, unmistakable green is sprouting up all over the place.

It’s a time when we come out of our dens to enjoy the gift of the extended hours of daylight. We start to notice things in the yard — maybe they were there last year and we just didn’t see them, or maybe they’re new.

If you look around your yard, you might see a few of these things and wonder what they’re about. They’re perfectly normal and some are strictly here in springtime, but here’s a little explanation for the inquiring minds that want to know.

Boxelder bugs

If you notice one of these guys, chances are there are a few hundred (make that thousand) nearby. But don’t worry, these little black and red critters are nothing more than a nuisance and won’t cause permanent damage.

And there’s absolutely no need to break out the heavy-duty pesticides, because they’re pretty harmless and their stay is short-lived.

Boxelder bugs overwinter as adults and emerge in droves from sheltered places. They are attracted to neighborhoods that have (you guessed it!) boxelder trees, because they munch the seedpods, which are only found on female boxelders.

Every spring, they emerge from the cracks and crannies and are seemingly evident in small armies overnight. Don’t worry, they’ll go away soon enough.

If you really have a ton of these annoying bugs, I suggest spraying them directly with insecticidal soap. There’s no need for chemicals, really, and using a broad-spectrum pesticide will harm the beneficial insects that are emerging.

If the boxelder bugs start to invade your house, make a game out of sucking them up with the vacuum cleaner. It’s good, clean fun.


Praying mantis egg mass

If you see something that looks like spray foam or packing peanuts hanging from your trees, house, bushes or vines, don’t panic.

This is a sign that the good guys liked your yard and will be back to fight the war on pests this year. Praying mantids lay hundreds of eggs in these meringue-like masses that hatch in late spring, and if you’re lucky, yours survived the mild winter we had and you will have plenty of little green ninjas eating up the bad guys this year.

According to Colorado State University Extension, immature mantids eat gnats and other small insects, but hunt and eat increasingly bigger prey as they grow. Eventually, they can eat large flies and grasshoppers, among other pests.

If you find one of these foamy treasures, you should feel special because mantids only produce a single generation each year. It chose your yard for a reason!


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