Toothbrush Bug

Superman and I were the only witnesses to this nighttime scene. After which, I released the bug and retired the toothbrush.

I have not told the owner of the toothbrush.

“MOM,” he yelled to me next morning, “Is the new green toothbrush mine?”

“YES,” I yelled back, “The white one was worn out.” 

But what I didn’t add was, “and it’s in the trash because a giant Western Conifer Seed Bug was sucking on it.”

The Western Conifer Seed Bug’s genus name is Leptoglossus.
Lepto is “fine, thin, delicate,” and glossus is tongue.
You’d need a “fine, thin, delicate” tongue in order to suck sap from immature pine cones.

Why is it on a toothbrush?
These bugs can overwinter inside Nashville homes, biding their time till they can get outside to the new crop of cones.

This is the second one I’ve found in the loo, but the first I’ve found sucking Scope-flavored Crest from a toothbrush.

Bathrooms are humid, and thus a likely place to find uninvited insect guests year-round, like Stink bugs, Assassin bugs, House Centipedes, Hackberry Psyllids, Jumping Spiders, and so forth. All are harmless to humans.

I offer this post to show that not every animal who enters our homes uninvited is an enemy.

When I meet a visitor, I try to find out
WHO they are,
WHAT they want,
and who wants THEM.

Western Conifer Seed Bugs:
Are native to Western North America but have expanded Eastward (and beyond),
They don’t hurt the trees they suck,
They are not “Kissing bugs,”
They don’t bite (but they can poke you with their mouthpart if the situation warrants),
They release a Pine-Sol scent if frightened,
They can buzz and look like a bee (the stripes show during flight!).
They get eaten by “spiders, assassin bugs, and birds.”

It would’ve been no problem to wash this toothbrush, but I should have tossed it ages ago.

Penn State has a good site with photos of the life stages. Our local host plants are pines, Eastern Hemlock, and Eastern Red-cedar trees. (link)

The iNaturalist project “Never Home Alone,” is for observations of any uninvited wild creatures found inside our homes. (link)

Robert Dunn, the project’s founder, wrote a book about such things: Never Home Alone: from Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live (2018) (Amazon link).


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Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss at and on Instagram (@Jo_Brichetto); and her essays have appeared in Creative NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, City Creatures, The Fourth River, and other journals. An almanac of urban nature encounters is forthcoming.

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