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Birmingham — A smelly, invasive species first found in North America in 2012 has been found in Michigan for the first time.

Three elm seed bugs were recovered from a Birmingham residence on Oct. 12. On Dec. 2, they were confirmed to be the exotic tree pest, said Jennifer Holton, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which tracks terrestrial invasive species.

People who encounter the home-invading bug might think twice before killing it, though.

“It doesn’t smell pretty” when squashed, Holton warned.

She advised using a spare vacuum cleaner to get rid of the bug: “I wouldn’t use the one I vacuum my floor with, though.”

The elm seed bug is described as a “significant household nuisance” that “enters buildings in large numbers” to escape cold weather.

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According to the state, while the elm seed bug “uses its needle-like mouthparts to penetrate seeds and extract nutrients,” it’s only a “minor pest” to elm and other trees.

The elm seed bug is native to south-central Europe and was first found on North America in summer 2012 in Idaho. News reports from Idaho describe the bug as a major irritant.

“We don’t know” how the bug got to Birmingham, Holton said, “and we may never know.” There is a thought that hitchhikers brought the bug to America years ago, but no one can say for sure, according to state experts.

Because it is not a threat to human health, doesn’t cause structural damage to homes, and isn’t a significant pest to elm and other trees, the state will not be monitoring the bug’s spread in Michigan or managing infestations when they occur, the state says.

“This is not like the emerald ash borer,” Holton said, referring to the invasive species, first discovered in Michigan in 2002, that killed some 50 million ash trees in Michigan and surrounding states.

The elm seed bug poses no such threat to tree life, it’s just a nuisance that can affect quality of life as it looks to escape the Michigan winter.

jdickson@detroitnews.com

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