A real-life nightmare on elm trees is unfolding at a Penticton apartment building.
Elm seed bugs, which are a recent arrival in Canada, have been making life miserable for Haynes Street resident Lynda Bell.
Thousands of the tiny pests, which measure about seven millimetres (one-third of an inch) in length, have taken up residence on her third-floor patio and occasionally even inside her apartment. She’s now at her wit’s end.
“I’ve been in tears. I’ve gotten so mad I’ve gone for a walk because I can’t stand being here,” said Bell.
The bugs first appeared last spring, but died back fairly quickly, then returned with a vengeance this spring.
As their name suggests, the bugs feed on elm seeds, which are in abundance thanks to a stand of elm trees on a neighbouring property just meters from Bell’s balcony.
She said her landlord has raised the possibility of at least trimming back the elm trees, but to date no action has been taken. Bell has been left to fend off the invaders using glue strips, pesticides and homemade bug repellant.
City of Penticton parks supervisor Todd Whyte said in an email he’s received “some” other complaints about elm seed bugs.
“We did some pruning of city trees in the area last year to reduce the leaf canopy,” added Whyte, who refers people seeking advice on the problem to follow the guidance in bulletin issued by the B.C. Agriculture Ministry.
The bulletin recommends most of the measures Bell has tried, such as using barrier sprays, vacuuming up the bugs where possible and setting out sticky traps.
Elm seed bugs “do not pose a health risk to humans or pets and do not bite,” the bulletin adds, but “are a nuisance when they invade homes and structures in large numbers.” They also “emit unpleasant odours when crushed and their fecal droppings on structures such as doors and windows can be unsightly.”
The first Canadian appearance of the bugs, which are native to Europe and the Mediterranean, was recorded in Kelowna in 2016, according to the Agriculture Ministry, which said in a statement it received “many” complaints about the pest last year throughout the Okanagan Valley, but has only gotten “a few” this year and none from new areas.
Having tried every recommendation of the ministry to rid her home of the bugs, Bell is now turning to the community for help restoring her peace of mind.
“You become obsessed with it because there are so many,” said Bell. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
If you have a tried and true method of getting rid of elm seed bugs, please share it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll print any suggestions we get.