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Invasive bug spreads across Utah, leeching into people's homes

Posted at 10:18 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 00:18:08-04

MAGNA, Utah — Utahns may be noticing a new kind of bug around their house, that they've never seen before. It's an invasive species, and it's spreading around the state.

Ayden Reeves was eager to point out the strange little things he's been seeing around his family's Magna apartment. The 4-year old has been finding them on the walls, the ceilings and on his belongings.

"A bug!" he called out, pointing to the sliding glass door. His 2-year old brother Greysen walked up and looked, adding an "Oooohhhh!"

"It's right there!" Ayden exclaimed.

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Mom Tiffanie Reeves indicated that this is a daily occurrence, as the boys find bugs all over their apartment. At first, she had no clue what the bugs were. After posting on Facebook, she found out they are elm seed bugs.

Reeves estimated that she's vacuumed up hundreds of them in the past couple months.

"They'd be all up here," she said, gesturing to the living room windows and walls behind her. "They'd be in the windows, and coming out of my kids' bedroom vents, the bathroom vents, the kitchen vents... just anywhere they can come in."

Ayden looked up at the ceiling, as little brown dots crawled around.

"There's one right there, and right there, and right there, and right there, and right there," he said, pointing them out.

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Not far away in West Valley City, Beeline Pest Control Technician Jake Hudson pulled up to a home, to treat an infestation of elm seed bugs.

"We're seeing just an explosion in numbers this year, for sure," Hudson said. He explained that many people who call are confused about what kind of bug it is.

As the name suggests, they live in elm trees and feed on the tree seeds.

The elm seed bug is invasive, Hudson said, and is continuing to grow in number along the Wasatch front and down to central Utah.

Hudson talked about how the hot weather this year has led the non-native bug to spread out into new areas.

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"It just tends to be the way they reproduce; they enjoy the heat," Hudson said. "When you see them on the side of your house, they enjoy basking in the sun like reptiles would."

At first glance, the elm seed bug looks very similar to a box elder bug. But there are some key differences that help technicians like Hudson tell them apart.

For one, the elm seed bug is smaller, Hudson explained, and browner in color. There is a signature hourglass pattern on its back.

Hudson picked one up and pointed to its markings.

"There's a black triangle right there on the back of their head, you can see it's just a black triangle," he said. "That's usually the major, that's what we use to identify them the most."

Hudson described how the elm seed bug is not a threat to anything-- so there's no need to worry about trees, plants, homes, or people.

But Hudson pointed out, that doesn't mean they aren't a headache to deal with.

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He suggested hiring a pest control company or said that people can buy sprays to spray the outside of their home, especially around doors and windows.

He also recommended spraying inside around doors and windows as well. Beeline uses a nontoxic spray that is safe for pets and humans. Because of that, Hudson went to town spraying the entire outside of the home in West Valley City to keep the bugs at bay.

Reeves said she's been making all natural sprays and vacuuming up the bugs. But for her second story apartment, it's not keeping the bugs away.
"There's one right there! It's dead," an eager Ayden pointed out.

The little boy said he wants his house to be clean and doesn't like the bugs.

"They're harmless," Reeves said. "But they're rather annoying, because they still get into things."