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Elm Seed Bug (Arocatus melanocephalus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Elm Seed Bug



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Image Credit: Jenny R.
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The name and large swarming tendencies of Elm Seed Bugs suggest it is dangerous, but the harmless insect is really just a seasonal nuisance.



Updated: 09/25/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
First sighted in 2009 in counties in Idaho, the Elm Seed Bug is native to Europe and how it came to North America is unknown. It is a relative of Boxelder Bugs and Stink Bugs, and like them, produces an odor when crushed or smashed. What makes them so troublesome is their swarming nature. Hundreds of them congregate and have a tendency to find their way indoors. They do not harm people, or even the tree they are named after, but the infestation inside a home is naturally disturbing. Because adults do not die in winter, they tend to look for warmer places to ride out the cold weather. They also tend to look for cooler environments in the hot summer, so ridding a house or building of them may be a biannual chore.

Government agencies in Idaho and Utah suggest vacuuming (using a Shop-vac or other brand of workshop vacuum) any swarms that get indoors and establishing routine insecticide treatments around the perimeter of an infiltrated house or building. Treating window wells and door frames also helps deter Elm Seed Bugs from using them as entry points. Larval Elm Seed Bugs feed on the seeds of elm trees during the spring and early summer. They are therefore likely to be found in neighborhoods or regions where elms are present. Preventing an invasion is easier than removing one, so raking up and destroying fallen elm seeds and inspecting firewood before bringing it indoors are recommended.

Our thanks to Fred and Jan T. in Idaho for their assistance in identifying this insect.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hemiptera
        Family: Lygaeidae
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          Genus: Arocatus
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            Species: melanocephalus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Arocatus melanocephalus
Category: True Bug
Size (Adult; Length): 8mm to 13mm (0.31" to 0.51")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown, tan
Descriptors: stinky, smelly, swarm, horde, infestation, invasion, cluster, flying, triangle, tree pest
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 8mm (0.3in) and 13mm (0.5in)
Lo: 8mm
Md: 10.5mm
Hi: 13mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
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* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Elm Seed Bug may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Elm Seed Bug. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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