Neighbors fed up as vacant home becomes safe haven for bevy of bugs

CLEVELAND - A chronically vacant house in one Cleveland neighborhood continues to bug people living nearby as a large colony of flying insects has decided to move in.

Neighbors say the home in the 3000 block of West 32nd Street has been vacant for roughly a decade. The homeowner, neighbors said, hasn’t been seen on the property in years. The doorways are boarded up, the porch has given way and trash litters the overgrown vegetation around back.

Look close enough, however, and you’ll see what bothers neighbors the most. There are dozens and dozens of dime-sized boxelder bugs.

“I’m scared of them honestly. They give me the willies,” said neighbor Betty White, who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly five decades.

Last year, White and her husband Raymond acquired the land next door to their home after the vacant structure was demolished. Since then, they’ve been working hard to fill in the grass and beautify their expanded property. As part of that process, Raymond White cut down a hollowed out maple tree that straddled the property line he shares with the vacant house next door.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, the tree was infested with boxelder bugs, which feed on maple trees. Ever since then, the bugs have sought warmth and protection outside and inside the dilapidated house.

“When it gets warm out, there are billions and trillions. You can’t count them and you can’t kill enough of them,” White said. “They’re everywhere.”

On Friday afternoon, Raymond White surveyed the vacant house and went to work, using an old shoe to kill as many of the bugs as possible. The Whites know a futile act but they have to keep trying.

“I can’t kill no more. I’m fighting a losing battle. I’m getting tired just killing bugs,” White said.

The property owner, who could not be reached for comment, hasn’t paid property taxes in two years and a raze order has been issued, according to property records. If the home is demolished, White is hopeful but not too confident the bugs will be taken out along with it.

“They are a nuisance. They drive me nuts just thinking about it,” White said. “They might find another place to migrate to because there are too many of them.”

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