Mark Vanderwerp is a bug guy, an entomologist if you want to get fancy.
But we don’t just write about any old bug guys. Vanderwerp, 34, of Birmingham made a discovery in his backyard last summer. A tiny red-and-black elm seed bug, an invasive species never before spotted in Michigan. In fact, as far as people know, this insect hasn’t been spotted east of Idaho.
Well, this was a first for me. So, I’m pokin’ around in my backyard, doin’ things I like to do. And saw some of these bugs that I — didn’t know what they were — sittin’ on plants and various things in my yard, so I grab a couple, because that’s what entomologists do.
So was this like a hairy, ugly, beast of a bug?
No. Well, most insects are extremely good-looking. Of course, you know this. So these are fairly small, diminutive seed bugs … they feed on seeds. But they’re kind of black, mono black and red coloration, so I’d say they’re more on the attractive end as far as insects go.
Small and diminutive, how long would it take a rampaging army of these things to consume a human?
A long time. Longer than, apparently, we’ve had in history up to this point because it hasn’t happened.
Seriously, how long are the fangs on this thing?
Well, it doesn’t have fangs. But you’ll be happy to know, it does have a proboscis, so a long feeding tube. Not fangs, plural, but kind of like a long fang, singular.
So, no fangs, they don’t eat humans. Why should we be concerned about an invasive species?
Well, come on! It’s upsetting the ecosystem that we live in! Doesn’t that concern you? Apparently not.
Well, they’re little tiny things. Do they get into your house? They’re not going to KILL elm trees, right?
This is not what we would consider a terribly economically important pest. It is going to drive some homeowners bonkers if it gets established and grows in Michigan, which my guess is it probably will. There’s elm trees around. It seems to be doing just marvelously in my neighborhood. But we’ll see.
Did they get here in some guy’s suitcase? Any guesses on how they got here?
Come on! I’m still trying to answer why we care about ’em!
No, that’s all right. I’m long-winded here, Jim. I apologize. But, yeah, so how did they get here. … They almost certainly rode over on a semi or someone transporting, maybe, elm plantings? I don’t know.