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Bug invasion in Utah town covers children, dogs, food -- 'they just crawl everywhere'

Residents in Portage, Utah, can't seem to get rid of boxelder bugs that have swarmed their small town. KSL's Mike Anderson reports.

In Portage, Utah, they're everywhere: on children, on dogs, in the food, in basements and along window sills. Residents there and in much of Utah are used to seeing these visitors, known as boxelder bugs, but not in the numbers that this year has produced.

"They've just been awful this fall," Keith Wadman told NBC station KSL-TV. "They're in your food, they're in your house ... they just crawl everywhere."

"They're in the kitchen, they're in the bathroom, they're in the bedroom. They walk right on the dogs even," added Lisa Bryant, one of the few hundred residents of Portage, a town near the Idaho state line.

"Every time the kids come in, we play a little game to see how many they have on them," said Nick Tree, "then we kill 'em."


Tree added that while he constantly vacuums them from his basement, "somehow they creep back in."

Diane Alston, a bug expert at Utah State University, had some advice for terminating the bugs until the winter cold does it for them.

"At my house I like to use an insecticidal soap product and just spray it up on the sides of the house," she told KSL. "That soap will break down the wax covering on their body and dry them out."

The university also has a list of tips for dealing with boxelder bugs, among them: "Avoid squishing adults because they can leave a stain on fabrics and can release a foul odor."

The university suspects this year has been particularly bad because of wet weather last year, a mild winter and then a warm summer.

As you might expect, boxelder bugs are a hot topic not just in Portage but across Utah. KSL reader comments on the story included these:

  • One suggested using the dead bugs as garden fertilizer. "Sounds a little grotesque, but hey, maybe it would be a good solution for some folks."
  • Deploying chickens to eat live bugs was suggested by a few readers. "We have had a dozen free-range chickens for years and NEVER see one," posted a reader.
  • A mix of water and dishwater soap to kill them was endorsed by several. "I used 3 spray bottles full and soon we had snow-shovels full of dead bugs to dump in the garbage," one reader stated.
  • "I think I perpetuated the problem by bringing about 20 plus back in the crevices of my car from the Idaho side of Cache valley," lamented another reader. "It's not cool when you're driving and they pop out at you in the car. This is the first year however that they have gotten inside our house."
  • And from nearby Rose Canyon, a reader had this to say: "They are bad here!! You can't even tell the color of my house during the day."

Wadman, the Portage resident, did see a silver lining. "The only redeeming quality they have," he said of the bugs, "is that they don't bite."

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