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Boxelder Bugs, Asian Lady Beetles, and Spider Silk

Have the boxelder bugs been bothering you this fall? They have been inspecting lots of homes in search of a nice warm place to spend the winter.

Boxelder bugs can be a real nuisance, but they pose no real threat. They do not sting or bite. But the next time you have the urge to smack them on the wall or couch, you may want to reconsider. Boxelder bugs have body fluids that can stain upholstery.

To reduce the boxelder bugs in your homes, make a point to inspect the exterior for cracks and such that provide an entry point for the bugs. Then calk or fill them in to keep the bugs outside.

It is much the same for lady beetles. If you are seeing an abundance of lady beetles this fall, they are likely not a native species. More likely, they are Asian lady beetles. This species has accidentally been introduced to North America and also deliberately introduced to eat aphids. At any rate, they too can stain upholstery, so be careful how you handle them as well.

And if you are on the lookout for boxelder bugs and lady bugs, you will probably also see some spiders. It might surprise you, but spider silk is receiving lots of interest these days.

Spider silk is protein. It has been described as being stronger than steel, and yet more flexible than rubber. So, it is no surprise that some manufacturers have been looking at ways to incorporate spider silk into various products.

But spider silk is a complex substance. Spiders produce several types of silk with various functions including webs, a spider’s version of a parachute, or perhaps a spider safety rope. Furthermore, spider silk and associated components consist of over two hundred compounds.

We may be wearing clothes containing spider silk in the not-so-distant future. Some companies have already produced spider silk in genetically engineered yeast and bacteria. And there is a lightweight shoe that is partially constructed of spider silk. In addition, North Face has incorporated engineered spider silk in a prototype parka. And a combination of spider silk and silkworm silk is in the works for “ballistic protections,” assumedly bulletproof vests and the like.

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota"and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers.
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