Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When Seeds Look Like Bugs...

Insects are often blamed for many things and more often that you can imagine, strange shaped objects are identified as some "weird bug".  I could write a book on the strange things that come across my desk that a homeowner is convinced is an insect (I once had a sweet lady send me dried up spagetti, certain her kitchen was infested with worms).  But not every small object is is an insect.

Lately, I have had several individuals send me small, oval shaped objects that have been found anywhere from the bed to up the side of the house.  While they are too small to see any clear features with the naked eye, they do resemble the shape and color of an immature bed bug.  Thankfully, they are not!  These are actually seeds from an Oxalis plant.

The seeds can be found fairly high up on the side of the house, making one thing they crawled up there.  But, if you look closely, they don't move - they are stationary.  If you have a magnifier, you can see little striations or stripes along its exterior and little spikes along its edges (not to be mistaken for legs).
Oxalis seeds.  Photo by Dr. Mike Merchant.

The Oxalis plant holds its seeds in a pod and it will spit the seeds out when it is disturbed or touched.  The plant can throw that little seed feet!  It has a rough texture that allows it to stick to surfaces.  We have had some very rough, windy days in San Antonio lately, so I imagine that was enough of a disturbance to throw those little seeds against the side of the house. 

Now don't ask me what an Oxalis plant looks like in the landscape - I am an entomologist, not a horticulturist - I'll leave you to google that for yourself!

So, moral of the story - not everything that is immediately unidentifiable is an insect. And if you happen to find some tiny brown, roundish objects around the house (inside or out), the mystery may be as simple as seeds!

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