Cockroaches can't fly

There's a bug in my soup!

As the waitress approached the table, tray in hand piled high with salads and soup, a box elder bug decided he was thirsty and flew into a bowl of chicken rice soup on her tray. Her eye caught a glimpse of the intruder as she lowered the tray to the serving stand and she turned abruptly, mumbling she had forgotten something and would be right back. The customers continued their conversation and sipped their cocktails oblivious that anything was wrong. A fresh bowl of soup was added to the tray and within minutes the waitress was back with the food.

It was the end of summer and the trees outside the atrium window were ablaze with color. A beautiful fall backdrop to an early evening dinner but the dreaded fear of the restaurant owner and staff; the invasion of the box elder bugs was eminent.

The restaurant was well established and popular but the planting of box elder shade trees in the park next door several years prior created an unexpected problem. Every year as the chill of fall filled the air the box elder bugs, that had been hatched in the spring and fed on the leaves of those trees, looked for places to winter. The hundred year old wood frame building of the restaurant was the perfect target. And so it was, that in the morning as the sun warmed the crisp fall air box elders sunned themselves on the siding of the restaurant building.

Exterminators could not help!

Although these repulsive pest resembled the cockroach, a restaurateurs nightmare, that was the only similarity. Cockroaches can't fly but box elder bugs do and their wings are streaked with red, decorating their black torso. They would fly onto the customers hair and clothing as they entered the restaurant. Others would make their way inside via a small hole in a raised window screen or crawl through the door jam. They were looking for a home for the winter.

The only thing that would kill the little pests was soapy water; and so the games began. Who would win?

In addition to his regular setup duties the frustrated restaurant owner found himself filling five gallon buckets with strong soapy water to douse the sides of the building. He also got a wet vac and filled the bottom with soap water and sucked up as many bugs as possible relying on a spray bottle of soapy water for the hard to reach spots. Caulk was applied to any visibly open area in the cedar siding to prevent over winter nesting. They kept coming! The exterior battle seemed endless with hundreds of dead box elder bugs surrounding the building. Inside was a different story, food was being served so the hunt for any stray box elder bugs was endless. You could kill hundreds of box elder bugs outside in one morning, but it only took one bug during the evening rush crawling across a customers table to bring the house down.

One table in particular had come to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The husband ordered champagne to be chilled at the table for the special evening. The waitress poured the champagne and returned to the kitchen to get the salads when a scream brought all the staff running into the dinning room. A box elder bug had landed in the brides beautiful long blond hair.  Screaming in horror she exited the restaurant with much drama!

Take a deep, deep breath...thought the owner! He apologetically approached each table to explain the invasion of the box elder bugs and was delighted to find an understanding and sympathetic audience. "They are at my house too", said one customer, while watching a small  box elder bug climb up her arm.

The next day the visit from the health department responding to a complaint was expected. After completing a through inspection he found no visible nesting areas inside the building. The owner, who had taken every KNOWN precaution, to rid his establishment of the friendly little creatures was vilified! "It could have come in on her hair." the health inspector commented. OH YEAH! These little visitors were everywhere for a few months in the area but caused NO health risk. And as the sweet smell of spring filled the air the box elder bugs were gone, as quickly as they had arrived. At least until next fall, no one had to worry about a bug in their soup!


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