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New bug crawling into town

But don’t worry, it’s not a serious pest — probably

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OGDEN — There's a new bug in town, and its name is Rhyparochromus alboacuminatus.

Its scientific name is a tongue-twister, but it's more simply called a seed-eater bug, said Thomas Henry, a researcher with a United States Department of Agriculture entomology laboratory in Washington, D.C. Henry and Utah State University entomologist Jay Karren are searching this week for signs of the bug in the Ogden area.

The insect has no official common name. It's described as a smaller, faster, darker version of the box elder bug. But it's only supposed to be found in Europe.

The bug made its first big splash in a new Logan city library in the fall of 1999. Thousands of them showed up when boxes of books were unpacked. Library officials called Karren, who then sent specimens off to Washington.

The reply was, "Hey, that's a new species," Karren said. Because it's more a nuisance than any kind of a threat to humans, he advised using a vacuum at the Logan library instead of fumigating. In other words, the seed-eater bugs won't be grabbing headlines away from the grasshoppers and Mormon crickets that have been munching their way through crops and gardens in portions of rural Utah.

What Karren and Henry have learned since is that the bug was only hibernating in the library's boxes and not particularly interested in the books as food. Various types of weed seeds seem to be its diet of choice. But it's been popping up more and more in homes and other places. How they got here remains a mystery.

"It has somehow been imported," said Henry. "This country has a lot of commerce coming in from other parts of the world. Lots of insects are intercepted — some get through."

This flying seed-eater is about one-quarter-inch-long, dark, with pale lines on its wings.

"It's actually kind of an attractive little thing, as far as insects go," Henry said.

Last year it was a household problem in Logan; now it's getting into homes in the Ogden area. It's been three years, Henry said, and they're still showing up. He assured it's probably not a serious pest. No exterminator would be needed and a simple household spray or a vacuum should remedy the problem.

E-MAIL: sspeckman@desnews.com