BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An invasive insect commonly found in south-central Europe has been detected in southwestern Idaho, marking the first time the elm seed bug has been spotted in the U.S.
A USDA specialist has confirmed the discovery of the pests that despite their name don't pose a threat to trees — but do tend to enter houses and buildings in huge swarms.
The Idaho Department of Agriculture issued a statement Wednesday warning that the bugs recently found in Ada and Canyon counties can prove to be a "significant nuisance" for homeowners. Elm seed bugs invade homes during the summer to escape heat, and then stick around through the winter, the department said.
The pests that feed on elm tree seeds do not pose a public health risk, officials said.
Federal authorities will take the lead role in investigating how the pest got to the U.S. and how it might spread.
"I would image they will be able to give us some indication of the possibilities," said Pamela Juker, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Agriculture.
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is expected to develop recommendations about management of the pests.
Meanwhile, state officials are asking residents outside of southwestern Idaho who come across the pests, which resemble tiny, brown cockroaches with triangular back markings, to collect a handful of the insects in a plastic sandwich bag and mail them to the Idaho Department of Agriculture's plant division in Boise.
The agency is also encouraging homeowners who encounter the quarter-inch bugs to contact their local university extension office for information on how to deal with the insects.
"What we're trying to do at this point is kind of track the bug in Idaho," Juker said.