There are two very common pests in North American homes in the summer and spring seasons. In this article, we compare the elm seed bug vs box elder bug.
Few things are more frustrating than finding your home taken over by nuisance pests.
Especially with the arrival of the warm weather, box elder bugs and elm seed bugs are a common sight in homes.
The two pests are similar in several aspects, and homeowners often find it challenging to distinguish them from each other.
If you came here trying to find out more about how they differ, rest assured that you won’t be disappointed.
What Are The Similarities?
Elm seed bugs and box elder bugs are quite similar in several ways, which we’ll quickly go over:
- Appearance: The two bugs even look somewhat similar to each other, with dark bodies and red or orange markings. Unless you specifically know how they look, it can be hard to differentiate.
- Scent glands: Both these bugs release a pungent odor when attacked or killed. Like the infamous stink bug, they have scent glands that allow them to do this.
- No structural damage: Neither of the two pests causes any structural damage. They don’t pose a threat to your furniture or other belongings.
- Fecal stains: One of the biggest problems with the elm seed bug and the boxelder bug is that they leave dirty fecal spots all over. When these bugs infest your home, you’ll start noticing these fecal stains on the walls, curtains, and other surfaces.
- Non-venomous: Thankfully, neither of them is venomous. They don’t pose a direct danger to humans, and they do not bite.
- Infestation habits: Until late summer, they continue to enter homes in large numbers. You might even find them covering the entire perimeter of your home.
- Overwintering: Boxelder bugs and elm seed bugs aren’t active during the cold months. They enter hidden spaces like wall cracks, crevices, and leaf litter to overwinter.
- Frequent reproduction: With three to four generations of these bugs hatching each year, they can multiply very fast. This makes their infestations particularly irritating and troublesome.
What Are The Differences?
So, how can you differentiate between an elm seed bug and a box elder bug? Here are a few ways in which the two bugs are different from each other:
Although the two bugs are somewhat similar in appearance, you can spot the differences if you know what to look for.
Firstly, adult elm seed bugs grow up to only a third or a fourth of an inch, while box elder bugs can grow two inches long.
Box elder bugs have bright red or orange outlines on their backs. On the other hand, elm seed bugs have alternating red and black stripes just outside the wings.
2. Preferred habitat
As the name suggests, elm seed bugs prefer to live and feed on elm trees besides linden and oak.
You’ll find boxelder bugs mostly on boxelder, maple, and ash trees. You can differentiate between the two bugs based on where they’re coming from and the trees around your home.
3. The time of the year
The time of the year is a potential indicator too. In case the bugs are infesting your property, and you notice their nymphs as early as May, they’re likely elm seed bugs.
Box elder bugs don’t come out so early; you won’t usually see them until late summer.
How To Control Them?
Due to how fast both these bugs reproduce and multiply, you may not be able to get rid of them completely. However, you can control the number of elm seed bugs and box elder bugs on your property through the following means:
- Vacuum the bugs: Using a vacuum cleaner is one of the simplest ways to get rid of a large number of bugs at the same time. When you come across a bunch of elm seed or box elder bugs, just vacuum them up.
- Be careful what you bring home: Before you take home any firewood, carefully inspect it for bugs. Other pests besides elm seed bugs and box elder bugs might be present too.
- Block entry points: Another important step to take is to block all access points through which the bugs might get inside your home. Install screens over your windows, as keeping them closed all the time may not be feasible. You may also place sticky traps on the window sill to trap the bugs.
- Remove food sources: Get rid of any potential food source that might attract these pests to your property. This means you should prune elm or boxelder trees and remove volunteer ones. Keep your lawn and your gutters clean of debris and destroy elm seeds.
If it gets too bad, you might have to contact a pest control company and get them to carry out professional treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are elm seed bugs the same as boxelder bugs?
Although elm seed bugs and boxelder bugs share several similarities and can be equally troublesome, they aren’t the same species.
They are two different types of insects, with several differences to distinguish them from each other.
Do box elder bugs like elm trees?
No, if the bugs on your property are coming from elm trees, they’re likely elm seed bugs.
Box elder bugs mostly live on box elder, maple, and ash trees. You won’t find them on elm trees.
What other bugs look like box elder bugs?
Although box elder bugs have a relatively unique appearance with their markings, they do share similarities with a few other bug species too.
Kissing bugs, elm seed bugs, and conifer seed bugs look like box elder bugs and are often confused with each other.
What do elm seed bugs look like?
Elm seed bugs have a flat and elongated oval-shaped body, growing up to 1/3rd or 1/4th inch long. While the dorsal side of the body is dark brown, the abdomen is red on the underside. You’ll also notice alternating patterns of red/orange and black strips on the sides of the body.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have an infestation of elm seed bugs or boxelder bugs in your home, remember not to squish them.
It will only cause them to release a foul odor and make your home smelly. In case these bugs are very common in your region or you start noticing them, take preventive measures immediately.
Remove dead elm and boxelder tree trunks, keep your yard clean, and leave no entry points. Taking these steps early on will save you the hassle of dealing with the infestation later.
These two bugs are so similar that many of our veteran readers also get confused between them.
Over the years, we have got the same query several times, and we wanted to share one of the discussions with you. Do go through for a quiet chuckle!
Letter 1 – Western Conifer Seed Bug and Boxelder Bug – Two popular query subjects in the same letter
Two mysterious bugs
I have recently moved to a new property and the critters here are curious to me – I can’t figure out what they are, but I find a few every day in the house. They can fly short distances. I usually find them close to windows or wherever there is a good amount of light. I live in a fairly wooded area and very close to a river. I live in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. [first insect[: – body (excluding antenae) about 3/4 inch long. – body underneath wings is striped orange (sorry, it was hard to get a picture of that) – feisty when captured. [second insect] – body (excluding antenae) about 1/2 inch long. – body underneath wings is red (sorry, it was hard to get a picture of that) – plays dead when captured. Can you identify what these bugs?
|Western Conifer Seed Bug||Boxelder Bug|
We know from your follow-up letter that you correctly identified both the Western Conifer Seed Bug and the Boxelder Bug from images on our site.
I kept poking around on your web site and I believe I have answered my own questions. It’s amazing how different the bugs can look while they are maturing. Your bug page had a half dozen samples of the same bugs at different stages, so I was able to make a match (I think!): image365 is a western conifer seed bug, and image368 is a box elder Am I right? Well, at least you have some more sample pictures now. Your web site is an excellent resource! Excellent work. Thanks,
Letter 1 – Mating Boxelder Bugs
Help with bugWe have been over run with these little bugs and don’t know what they are, can you help? We are in Tampa , Florida and the bugs seem to be mainly in the wood chips or tree base.
And judging by the mating pair, you will soon have even more Eastern Boxelder Bugs, Leptocoris trivittatus.
Letter 2 – Mating Boxelder Bugs
box elder bug love May 5, 2010 Not sure if you are interested in another one,but here is a picture of mating box elder bugs from our local playground. My 3 year old wanted to know why they had 2 heads, which evolved into a very interesting conversation…. Sara Bridgewater, NJ Hi Sara, Thanks so much for sending us your photo of mating Eastern Boxelder Bugs, Boisea trivittata. We are happy to post it.
Letter 3 – Immature Boxelder Bug
Subject: Red bodied bug on ground next to maple tree Location: Oveland Park, KS June 4, 2014 10:04 pm Dear What’s that bug, There are hundreds of these bugs on the ground next to our Red Maple tree. The body is about 1/4 inch long. I would love to know what they are (and if they are helpful or harmful or neither). Thank you and all the best, Neal Schuster Overland Park, KS Signature: Neal Schuster Hi Neal, This is an immature Eastern Boxelder Bug, and they are often found in large aggregations. Hi Daniel, Thank you so much for your quick response. I am a bug-fan and I always enjoy figuring out what they are. Thank you for maintaining your site. It’s fabulous. All the best, Neal Schuster
Letter 4 – Mating Boxelder Bugs
Subject: More kissing bugs? Location: Pennsylvania April 20, 2016 11:11 am Hi, I sent a photo earlier today of a bug to see if it was a kissing bug. Here are a couple more photos. There are dozens of these guys all around my house. If you could help me identify them I would appreciate it. I’m terrified that they are deadly kissing bugs! There are a bunch of these on the screens outside my house. I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I have occasionally found them inside. Some are bigger without the red markings, but up too high so I can’t get a good photo. If it is a kissing bug, how worried should I be. And how should I get rid of them? Thanks! Thanks for your help! Signature: Michelle Dear Michelle, You have nothing to fear from these mating Eastern Boxelder Bugs. They are harmless, though they can pose a considerable nuisance when they form large aggregations on exterior walls of homes. They tend to favor walls with light colors and sunny exposures, exactly like those in your image. You may or may not be amused that Eastern Boxelder Bugs are also known as Democrat Bugs because of the large aggregations they form. Seems they are making a timely appearance with your Pennsylvania primary election occurring next week. Thank you so much!! I really appreciate you getting back to me!
Letter 5 – Immature Boxelder Bug
Subject: Please identify Location: Albany NY July 10, 2017 10:08 am 1/48to 3/8″ long In fkower bed near Alany NY First appeared in June. WHole bunches clustered on edging. Signature: Ann Dear Ann, This is an immature Eastern Boxelder Bug nymph, and immature individuals are known to aggregate in tremendous numbers with adults, leading to the use of the common name Democrat Bug. Other similar looking, closely related insects that also form large aggregations include the Western Boxelder Bugs and Red Shouldered Bugs.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Western Conifer Seed Bug
what IS that? October 20, 2009 this rather large fellow was on the screen door this morning. Never saw the like before. Bill & Family Massachusettes Dear Bill & Family, Every year at this time, we get reports of Western Conifer Seed Bugs, Leptoglossus occidentalis. They are noticed as they enter homes to hibernate as winter approaches. This species is native to the Pacific Northwest, but has spread across the continent since the 1970s. They are harmless.
Letter 2 – Western Conifer Seed Bug
Large, brown bug infestation terrifying college students! October 25, 2009 Hello! We’ve been finding these large, dark brown bugs (roughing a few inches in length) all over our apartment, especially on windows and in lamps. They can crawl rather quickly, but do not fly. We’d love to get rid of them, but have no idea what they are or how to go about eliminating them! Any advice would be greatly appreciated. College Students from Massachusetts Windows, walls and lamps Dear Terrified College Students, The Western Conifer Seed Bugs that have been invading are perfectly harmless. They are merely seeking shelter from the upcoming cold weather. The Western Conifer Seed Bug is native to the Pacific Northwest, not Massachusetts. Beginning the in 1970s, it greatly expanded its range across North America in the northern latitudes.
Letter 3 – Western Conifer Seed Bug: and What’s That Bug? book preview. Follow up Masked Hunter
Assassin bug November 13, 2009 I was going to send you a burying beetle, but then this one popped up unexpectedly so here he is. I’ll save the burying beetle for another night. The cat loves/hates them. Loves to stalk, hates being spit on. Oroboros Denver, CO Dear Oroboros, you snake, This is not an Assassin Bug. It is a Western Conifer Seed Bug, one of the Leaf Footed Bugs in the family Coreidae. Just this morning we wrote about the Western Conifer Seed Bug for the Household Intruders chapter of our book, so we are just going to post that section as part of your reply. We hope our readership enjoys this short preview. Western Conifer Seed Bug (excerpt from Curious World of Bugs draft)Had it remained confined to its native Pacific Northwest range, the Western Conifer Seed Bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, would never have made our Rogue’s List of household intruders, but during the 1970s, individuals were noticed in the eastern portions of North America, thousands of miles from their home territory. These introductions were probably due to human assistance, though the exact source of the accidental establishment cannot be ascertained. The Western Conifer Seed Bug found the climate in the eastern part of the continent to its liking, and there was a readily available food source, and the species multiplied. Both adult and immature Western Conifer Seed Bugs feed on the sap of the resin rich green pine cones, and occasionally the twigs and needles of many species of conifers, so they do little damage to the trees themselves, though they do have a negative effect on the developing cones which wither and fall off the tree. The Western Conifer Seed Bug is now very well established across North America, everywhere but the southern and gulf states. In the very late twentieth century and into the early twenty first century, reports of sightings in many European countries were confirmed, doubtless due to the importation of stacks of lumber that may have contained hibernating adults. The Western Conifer Seed Bug can be recognized both by its dull orange and brown coloration and its long antennae. Its most distinguishing feature though is the widening on the hind leg that gives the family members a shared common name of Leaf Footed Bug or Big Legged Bug. Since homemakers are often prone to swatting this relatively large intruder should it be encountered inside, this action releases what some to find to be an offensive odor, and what others have described as the scent of apples, the smell of grass, or the odor of pine. Because of the scent, the Western Conifer Seed Bug is sometimes mistaken for a Stink Bug, though the odor released by a Stink Bug is rarely described as pleasant. Because of their habit of entering homes to seek shelter from the winter cold, Western Conifer Seed Bugs gain attention in the autumn along with some true Stink Bugs like the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. None of these species pose any threat to humans, pets or to the home. They will not breed indoors and they will not bite. Since they are just seeking shelter from the elements, if they escape notice upon entering, they will find a secluded place and rest until the warm sunny days of spring arrive. At that time, they again attract attention as they seek egress at the bright windows. Update with new photo How fascinating! I was quite sure of the general identity before I sent that, so I am really glad now for the serendipity that caused me to choose it and learn something new. I do tend to find them closest to the window that is right next to a pine tree which now makes a lot of sense. So here’s a followup then. I found this guy in my bathtub, and suspect that they are the same species but perhaps this is a juvenile? I named the photo replicator because something about it reminded me of the replicators from the Stargate series. Your replicator is an Assassin Bug, an immature Masked Hunter. It may bite, but does not spread Chagas. Thanks to clickbeetle for pointing out there was a link with a new image.
Letter 4 – Western Conifer Seed Bug
Stink Bug December 20, 2009 This bug shows up at my parents house (the house is in a wooded area) every fall. They are pretty flat bugs and seem to crawl into the house under doors and windows. We find hundreds of them around. No one we’ve ever talked to can seem to identify them. Not even exterminators. We call them a “stink bug” because they give off a relativley fowl spell if you step on them. I would be happy to give you more details if you need. Thank you! Rob Peterson Minnesota – Subberb east of the Twin Cities – Stilwater, MN Hi Rob, The Western Conifer Seed Bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, often enters homes when cold weather arrives so that it can pass the winter in hibernation. It is a benign species that will not harm your home, your furnishings, your pets nor you.
Letter 5 – Western Conifer Seed Bug
Need insect ID January 14, 2010 My husband gets this bug on his desk in his 3rd floor attic office about once a month. It is very slow moving. We live in Woodinville, Washington which is about 20 miles east of Seattle. Susie Woodinville, Washington USA (Seattle) Hi Susie, We just finished posting another letter of a Western Conifer Seed Bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, that had been smashed, so it is nice to follow that with your photo of a living specimen. Western Conifer Seed Bugs are native to the Pacific Northwest, so this is a local native insect for you. Adults often seek shelter indoors when the weather begins to cool. They will hibernate and become active again when the weather warms in the spring. They are a benign species that will not harm you, your home or its furnishings. Adults and nymps feed on the sap from the cones of conifer trees, so they don’t even damage the host trees. Daniel, Thank you so much for the ID and the helpful information. Susie Egan www.cottagelakegardens.com
Letter 6 – Western Conifer Seed Bug
Please Identify This NJ-based Insect April 1, 2010 Hello. Thank you for reviewing my request. Please assist with an identification. We have recently had a LOT of rain, and before that snow, in Northern New Jersey. I have a bathroom built just over the ground. I have seen two of these insects so far in the bathroom, so I presume they may have been living in the dirt and were “uprooted” by all the rain. They move very slowly. I am just interested to learn what they are. Thank you. Al Northern New Jersey Dear Al, This is a Western Conifer Seed Bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, a species native to the Pacific Northwest that greatly expanded its range beginning in the 1960s. It is a harmless species that often hibernates inside homes when cold weather arrives. It is frequently noticed by the unknowing “land lords” when warmer weather approaches, and the insects become active again.
Letter 7 – Western Conifer Seed Bug
Is this related to your October 2010 Bug of the Month? Location: Wilmington, MA October 30, 2010 8:56 pm Hi! I have seen about dozen of these bugs around my home in the past couple months. I live in Wilmington, MA. I’ve never seen anything like this before. There was a good lull between the last one I saw and the one today. I was losing hope because I would love to have this identified. This bug doesn’t stink, that I’m aware of, though we do have a dog and two cats, so I may just be blaming a stink in the house on them! This bug is slow crawling, almost like it thinks I won’t see it if it doesn’t move/moves slowly. But once I caught it, it moved much quicker. Also, one of the bugs about a month ago did fly, which scared the bejesus out of me because I wasn’t expecting it! I hope I’m not rambling too much and provided enough information! Thanks for your help!! Signature: Christine L Dear Christine, You have provided a photo of a Western Conifer Seed Bug, one of the Leaf Footed Bugs in the family Coreidae. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is in the family Pentatomidae, but both families are considered True Bugs in the suborder Heteroptera. Like Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, the Western Conifer Seed Bugs will enter homes to hibernate as the cooler weather arrives. They will not harm you, your pets or your home. They just want to come in out of the cold. The Western Conifer Seed Bug is native to the Pacific Northwest, but beginning in the 1960s, there was a significant range expansion that now includes much of Eastern North America. It is unclear if this was a natural range expansion, or if there was human intervention, or if it can be attributed to global warming. In the early twenty first century, reports began to arrive that the species was becoming established in Northern Europe.
Letter 8 – Whitecrossed Seed Bug in Hawaii
black redish orange bug Location: Hawaii/Oahu May 11, 2011 3:58 pm found this on my window on the 5th floor of an apt building?? what is it? and is it dangerous? i have kids.. help please..thank you. Signature: Elgee Dear Elgee, Your bug is the spitting image of the Whitecrossed Seed Bug, Neacoryphus bicrucis, which we quickly identified on Bugguide which states it is: “widely distributed but apparently uncommon.“
Letter 9 – Birch Catkin Bugs
Kleidocerys resedae I think Location: Beloeil, Quebec, Canada August 23, 2011 11:52 am hello bugman, I noticed those little insects (~4mm) clustered on the end leaves of our white birch and also on the maple tree next to it, but much more so on the birch, they seem to feed off the stems or actual seeds of the tree. I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned even if that tree has been attacked by fungus in the past and is likely not going to last another decade? I found it in bugguide but not on your site, but perhaps it goes by another name? Thank you! 🙂 Signature: Frederic Hi Frederic, Thanks so much for taking the time to self identify your Birch Catkin Bugs, Kleidocerys resedae, and BugGuide is a wonderful place to search for North American species, however, as you must know, this can sometimes take considerable time. We really appreciate you saving us some time, yet providing us with a posting of a new species for our site.
Letter 10 – Giant Western Conifer Seed Bug terrorizes Michigan
the other Michigan invader? Location: Lansing, Michigan October 5, 2011 7:11 pm Hello, Since early spring, I’ve seen a certain species of insect that I’ve never seen in MI. It’s some sort of beetle, loves windows, walks extremely slow and flies when necessary. There’s been a lot of talk regarding the Stink beetle but I don’t think this the same insect. I’ve seen big ones and little one and they are everywhere. What is it? Signature: paw print Dear paw print, We love your photo that reminds us of a scene from a 1950s era science fiction film of giant bugs terrorizing the world. The culprit is a Western Conifer Seed Bug, and though it is a Leaf Footed Bug that is not in the same family as the Stink Bugs, they are members of the same suborder Heteroptera. The Western Conifer Seed Bug is native to the Pacific Northwest, but since the 1970s, it has been expanding its range to the east and in the early 21st millenium, it was accidentally introduced to Europe where it has naturalized. Daniel, You have solved my year-long mystery! Thanks! Amariliz
Letter 11 – Mediterranean Seed Bug
What is this? Location: Northern California November 8, 2011 10:59 pm I have found 2 of these recently on the kitchen floor and one just now crawling across the carpet! I live in Northern California and it is winter time here! Interesting pattern….but I’d rather NOT find them in my house… Cockroach or beetle??? Blegh…. Best advice on how to get rid of them? Signature: Ms. No Thank You Bugs! Dear Ms. No Thank You Bugs!, Sorry for the delay. We are trying to catch up on unanswered requests. This is a Mediterranean Seed Bug, Xanthochilus saturnius, an introduced species that according to BugGuide is: “Locally abundant in parts of California. Also reported from Oregon and Washington.”
Letter 12 – Whitecrossed Seed Bug
Subject: mystery bathroom bug Location: Midwest US January 7, 2013 7:50 pm Found this bug in my bathroom. Wondering what it is, and if I should worry that there are more or if it’s harmful? I live in the midwest. In an apartment. Signature: C Dear C, This is a Whitecrossed Seed Bug, Neacoryphus bicrucis, and according to American Insects: “Over much of its range, this species is associated primarily with Ragwort, Senecio anonymus. Males attempt to hold and guard a territory, a cluster of flower heads. Females need access to these flower heads for feeding, mating, and ovipositing.” Many True Bugs seek shelter indoors to hibernate, and we suspect that might be the case with this individual. The Whitecrossed Seed Bug will not harm you or your apartment.
Letter 13 – Western Conifer Seed Bug
Subject: Name that bug Location: Waltham, MA February 28, 2013 8:24 pm We found this bug flying around our apartment in MA. Any idea what it is? Thanks. Signature: Been bugging me Really? This Western Conifer Seed Bug appears to be swimming, not flying. They often enter homes during the winter to hibernate. Thw Western Conifer Seed Bug is native to the pacific northwest, but since the 1970s, it has been increasing its range across North America and it has been introduced to Europe in the 21st millennium.
Letter 14 – Elm Seed Bug Infestation in Idaho
Subject: Bug identificatio Location: Boise, Idaho July 1, 2013 3:02 pm We live in Boise, Idaho and have an infestation of these small bugs. They can fly, but we see them mainly crawling. They are outside, but are also inside our house and camper. Signature: bugged and curious Dear bugged and curious, This one was almost a stumper because this is a newly reported invasive, exotic species, the Elm Seed Bug, Arocatus melanocephalus, a Seed Bug in the family Lygaeidae that was first reported in North America in 2012. Even BugGuide does not have a photo yet, however, BugGuide does provide this information: “Detected in sw Idaho, marking the first time it’s been spotted in the U.S. according USDA Native to south-central Europe” and “Invade homes during the summer to escape heat, and then stick around through the winter.” Finally, BugGuide notes: “One generation per year and adults overwinter. Doesn’t pose a threat to trees, despite their name — but does tend to enter houses and buildings in huge swarms.” We generally take our identification needs to BugGuide first as it is such a comprehensive database for North American species, and though we suspected this was some type of Seed Bug, the lack of photo caused us to check other possibilities in vain. Finally, we just did a web search of “true bug infestation Idaho” and we found a photo and a link to the Barrier Lawn & Pest Inc. commercial site with photos and a description. There was a common name but no scientific name, and this helpful information is provided: “The Elm Seed Bug is a new invasive species in Idaho, discovered in the treasure valley in the summer of 2012. … Elm seed bugs originate in south-central Europe, and are closely related in appearance to the Box Elder Bug, the only obvious difference is the size, with Elm Seed Bugs measuring at just under a quarter of an inch. Elm seed bugs are nuisance insects: They don’t bite or cause damage, but become problematic because of their large numbers and tendency to enter homes. Elm seed bugs overwinter as adults, mate in the spring and lay eggs on elm trees. The larvae feed on seeds (particularly of elm trees) in May-June, and become adults in the summer. Like most true bugs, the Elm Seed bug has scent glands that produce an unpleasant odor when crushed.” Additional searching led us to a pdf fact sheet produced by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture that has extensive information on the Elm Seed Bug.
Letter 15 – Mediterranean Seed Bug
Subject: Beetle ID Location: Yuba City, CA. N of Sacramento July 2, 2013 10:04 pm what kind of bugs are these?? They are all over my yard, and a few are in the house. they are about 3/8 – 1/2 inch Signature: Scott Dear Scott, You have Mediterranean Seed Bugs, Xanthochilus saturnius, an invasive, exotic species that is, according to BugGuide: “native to Europe and the Mediterranean, adventive in NA (WA-CA) and now locally abundant” and “can be very abundant in grass seed fields in so. OR.” It was first reported in North America in 1994. Great thanks…. So how do i get rid of them!!! We do not provide extermination advice, and we tried unsuccessfully to find an agricultural fact sheet on them.
Letter 16 – Non-Native Dirt Colored Seed Bug: Rhyparochromus vulgaris
Subject: Help! Bug Showed Up. Location: Bend Oregon October 6, 2013 2:21 pm Can you help me identify what this bug is. I just showed up and there are hundreds of them on my front porch. They don’t bite but are a bother. Signature: Jason Hi Jason, Whenever a person is suddenly troubled with large numbers of small insects that we don’t recognize, we suspect an invasive, exotic species, and in your instance, our instincts were correct. This is a Dirt Colored Seed Bug, Rhyparochromus vulgaris, and it is a relatively recent introduction to the Pacific Northwest. According to BugGuide, it is: “native to Europe, recently introduced to NA (Seattle, WA area)” and “earliest NA record: WA 2001; since 2003, large congregations have been reported in nw. WA; expected to spread to BC.” BugGuide also mentions that these Dirt Colored Seed Bugs are found: “on the ground and on tree trunks; tends to congregate around buildings late in the season seeking shelter.” The government shutdown has negatively impacted our ability to link to any information provided by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) as they are deemed not essential at this time. British Bugs has some information, including: “The London records are from dry grasslands; this species seems much more of a generalist than R. pini, which is mainly found on heathland in the south-east. Adults overwinter, mating in the spring. The new generation is complete from late July onwards.” Now we are wondering if the Dirt Colored Seed Bug nymphs from Montana we posted some time back might be Rhyparochromus vulgaris.
Letter 17 – Stink Bug and Western Conifer Seed Bug
Subject: What is it? Location: California November 25, 2013 2:34 pm I know it’s a type of beetle but which one? I found two. I suspect they are kissing bugs. Pest control came by did an analysis on the sample and claimed common garden beetle but it doesn’t look like one. Signature: Clueplease Dear Clueplease, Your pest control guy does not know his bugs very well, because he is wrong, but so are you. These are not beetles. Both are True Bugs, so if we were awarding points to the person who was more correct, that would be you because Kissing Bugs are also True Bugs in the order Hemiptera. The dead black bug with the border is a Say’s Stink Bug, Chlorochroa sayi, and it poses no harm to you or your home. See BugGuide to confirm our identification. The other bug is a Western Conifer Seed Bug or a closely related member of the genus Leptoglossus. Both Stink Bugs and Conifer Seed Bugs have been known to seek shelter indoors when the weather turns cooler. They seek a sheltered place to hibernate, and they will not harm your home, but if the are plentiful, they may become a nuisance.
Letter 18 – Possibly immature Dirt Colored Seed Bug
Subject: Please help Location: Anza, CA December 28, 2013 9:12 pm I found these guys in my home. I have lived here for ten years and have never seen them before. I have taken an insect identification class before, but I am not experienced enough to figure this out. It looks like a Hemiptera of some sort. It’s about a millimeter long and it is pretty difficult to get a picture of it. It’s winter here in Southern California, and I am in the high desert. Could you please help? I don’t think it is the brown marmorated stink bug because it doesn’t have true bug characteristics and there’s no odor. I suspect it is coming in through a crack somewhere for warmth, but who knows what it is. I don’t think it is butting me or my animals because it doesn’t have apparent piercing/sucking mouthparts. Please help. Signature: Cass Dear Cass, Though your photo is blurry, your immature Hemipteran closely resembles the bugs in this photo from our archives that we tentatively identified as Dirt Colored Seed Bug nymphs, though there is some question that they might be Chinch Bug nymphs.
Letter 19 – Probably False Chinch Bug Nymphs and Frit Fly
Subject: tiny bugs on outside walls of house Location: Phoenix AZ April 28, 2014 3:22 pm we just noticed these buggers on our outside walls. they don’t appear to fly; when i touch the wall near one, it falls,. the photo is of a bougainvillea petal floating in our pool, with what (i think?) appears to be a queen! either that, or something wanting to eat them all. please help, so we know what to do, if you can. they are getting inside one window which doesn’t seal properly and a parakeet lives near that window! thank you!! Signature: suzy Dear Suzy, These immature Heteropterans look remarkably like some still unidentified, possibly Dirt Colored Seed Bugs we posted from Montana in 2012. The Fly may be a Syrphid Fly, a family that has many species with larvae that feed on Aphids, members of the same insect order as your True Bugs. We will try to get Eric Eaton’s opinion on this identification. Eric Eaton Responds Daniel: Wow, immatures are really hard. I suspect something in the “Lygaeoidea” like you do, but….Fly might be a Chloropidae [Ed. Note: See BugGuide]. This whole image looks like something out of a sweep net sample through a grassland. Eric Ed. Note: May 2, 2014 We posted some images of a very similar Heteropteran nymph that might be a False Chinch Bug, Nysius raphanus, and the same is likely true for this posting. According to Colorado State University Extension: “Mass migrations of false chinch bugs in the vicinity of buildings are primarily associated with very hot, dry weather. This may force the insects to move from drying weed hosts to seek shelter and higher humidity. Migrations indoors may occur through openings and cause nuisance problems. However, false chinch bugs do not bite, do not feed nor damage anything indoors, and will ultimately die out if trapped inside. Irrigated landscapes adjacent to buildings may further encourage false chinch bug migrations to these areas. Therefore it may be desirable to temporarily discontinue watering in the immediate vicinity of the building when a problem migration is in progress. Providing cool, humid areas at some distance may encourage the insects to move away more rapidly.” According to BugGuide: “3 (or more) species are introduced N. caledoniae, huttoni, vinitor” which supports our believe that this might be an invasive exotic species.
Letter 20 – Probably Immature False Chinch Bugs from Arizona
Subject: Thousands of these tiny bugs in my garden Location: Tempe, AZ April 30, 2014 7:30 pm Hello, I have a permaculture garden in the front yard. Mostly covered in wood chips and compost. I live in Tempe, Arizona. This evening, I saw thousands of these critters crawling among the rocks, concrete patio and among my sweet alyssum plants. I have a lot of kale in the yard, one watermelon patch, some cucumber, zucchini, and lots of nasturtium among other edible plants. Not sure what they are. I don’t normally bother with garden pest because I do organic gardening to avoid killing bees and pollinators. But the shear number of these bugs scared me a little bit. Please help me identify. They are tiny, the largest ones I could find is about 2mm. Attached is photo of the larger one and a group of the smaller ones, that were about 1mm. These were taken with point and shoot camera and cropped really tight to show the insects. Signature: Yes A few days ago, we posted an image, also from Arizona, of a very similar immature Heteropteran that we tentatively identified as a Dirt Colored Seed Bug in the family Rhyparochromidae. It can be very difficult to ascertain a proper identification based on an immature specimen. Perhaps we will soon learn a proper identification if there is a statewide outbreak of these numerous nymphs. Dear Daniel, Thank you so much for writing back. After hours of looking through Google. I came to what is the closet to all the different stages of the bug that is in my photo. False Chinch Bugs http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05603.html Looks like my photos match exactly the different stages of the photo they have on the site “Figure 2. False chinch bug adults and nymphs.” I also posted a lot more photos I took here: http://www.phoenixpermaculture.org/forum/topics/i-have-a-huge-amount-of-crawlers-in-the-yard What do you think? Thank you. Sincerely, Jacq Davis Hi Jacq, We believe your False Chinch Bug identification might be correct. Nymphs can be very difficult to properly identify. According to BugGuide: “3 (or more) species are introduced N. caledoniae, huttoni, vinitor” which supports our believe that this might be an invasive exotic species.
Letter 21 – Long Necked Seed Bug
Subject: What Is This May I Ask? Location: Arkansas, USA June 5, 2014 3:24 am Found several of these around the edge of the vanity sink. Some of they have even crawled into my towels. Can you help me identify what this bug is? Signature: Lee Hi Lee, This looks like a Long Necked Seed Bug, Myodocha serripes, but we cannot tell you why it has entered the home. Though they hibernate, this is the wrong season to find them indoors. There is more information available on BugGuide.
Letter 22 – Possibly Dirt Colored Seed Bugs in Utah
Subject: Bug everywhere Location: Roy utah November 13, 2014 8:47 am This bug has been in my house everywhere festering in Curtians blankets clothes anything! It’s making me feel like a dirty person no matter what I do I can’t get rid of them and I think they bite there was one in my daughters diaper I put on her the other day and she grabbed her privates and cried so I took her diaper off and there the bug was! Why are these is my house everywhere what can I do to keep them out! What kind of bug is it please help! Signature: Jaimie Dear Jaimie, This is probably a Dirt Colored Seed Bug in the family Rhyparochromidae. So where does it come from? How come they are everywhere in my home what do I do to keep them out do they bite are they dangerous? We can think of two possibilities. One is that their habitat was destroyed, possibly with the clearing of a weed covered lot, and then then moved to your property. Another possibility is that they are coming indoors to hibernate. Dirt Colored Seed Bugs are not dangerous, but as you noticed, they can be a nuisance if they are plentiful. See more on Dirt Colored Seed Bugs on BugGuide. There are also some images on the Utah Pests website.
Letter 23 – Probably Dirt Colored Seed Bugs
Subject: Tiny brown bugs everywhere! Location: Central California November 17, 2014 4:26 pm Woke up this morning to hundreds (!!!) of these little bugs at our back door. They are teeny tiny, only barely bigger than a flea. Others in the area have noticed they are swarming too, starting yesterday. If it helps any, we are located along the Central Coast of California Signature: Morgan Hi Morgan, These appear to be immature Dirt Colored Seed Bugs in the family Rhyparochromidae, but we are not certain of the species. Sometimes when fields are cleared, there is a migration of insects to gardens. We are not certain of the species, but you can read more on the Dirt Colored Seed Bugs on BugGuide.
Letter 24 – Possibly Seed Bug Nymphs
Subject: hemipteran nymph Location: Valley View, South Australia February 27, 2015 9:58 pm I found thousands of tiny bugs climbing my back fence from the ground upwards this morning and wondered what they were. I took the attached micrograph using a USB microscope. The background grid is 5mm squares Signature: Geoff Smith Hi Geoff, Since these Hemipterans are immature nymphs, they may be difficult to identify to the species or genus level. We believe they are Dirt Colored Seed Bugs in the family Rhyparochromidae, and they do not look too dissimilar than these unidentified nymphs from Australia, and they also resemble these nymphs from California. Whenever a species appears in a heretofore new location, we suspect it may be an invasive, exotic, introduced species without natural predators. The climate in California and Australia are similar enough that species from either location can easily adapt, so they may be native, or introduced, and since they look so similar to the California sighting, it is possible they are the same species, and that one or the other, or both, are introduced. Many thanks Daniel I agree with what you’ve said – interestingly the block behind my house has recently been cleared and the bugs are swarming all over the fences around this newly bare ground. They are all still there today and the ants don’t appear to like them, although I noted that a small spider had eaten just a few of them overnight. I accidentally squashed a few against my hand when I first noticed them and they smell unpleasant. Regards Geoff
Letter 25 – Mediterranean Seed Bugs we believe
Subject: Thousands of beetles! Location: Southern California (Thousand Oaks) April 17, 2015 3:17 pm Hi, My property is covered with these tiny beetles running around – and I would like to know what they are. They vary in size from not much bigger than a flea, to about 1/4″ long. They run in sort of like “fits and spurts”, and if I gently pick one up with a tissue to bring it back outside (some are getting in the house) they leave a brownish/reddish spot on the tissue (looks like blood, but I’m pretty sure I’m not smooshing them so it is probably more of an excretion). A couple of larger ones appeared to have an “X” design on their backs. I would appreciate any help in identifying them! Sorry I can’t get a better picture. Signature: Thanks, Eve-Marier Hi Eve, This is not a beetle, but a True Bug, but there is not enough detail in your image to provide a more specific identification. Daniel, Thank you for your reply. Here is a picture of a larger one where the design on its back is visible. Can you ID it? Thanks so much! Eve-Marie That is a big help Eve-Marie, We believe you are being troubled by Mediterranean Seed Bugs, Xanthochilus saturnius, a species well represented on BugGuide where it states: “native to Europe and the Mediterranean, adventive in NA (WA-CA) and now locally abundant … earliest NA record: CA 1994 can be very abundant in grass seed fields in so. OR.” According to the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook: “The Mediterranean seed bug, Xanthochilus saturnius, is very small with even more distinctive markings of black-on-tan. Behind the head is the thorax with a jet black band followed by a band of stippled brown. The large triangle between the wings (scutellum) is also jet black. A light stripe outlines the scutellum, and the posterior edge of the leathery portion of the wing, forming a distinct X. There are also three other jet black blotch markings on the wings. Oregon reports “It can be very abundant in grass seed fields in southern Oregon, indicating that it does feed on grass seed.” For that reason, it continues to be “regulated in foreign trade”. Even though they do no damage to house, humans, or pets, these seed bugs become a huge annoyance and costly to exterminate when they migrate into households.”
Letter 26 – CaliforniaFalse Chinch Bugs, we believe
Subject: HELP whole ground is moving Location: West Texas May 17, 2015 11:17 am I need to see if someone could identify this bug so that I can get this under control. Had an exterminator tell me it was a chich bug and then a stink bug. My well groomed yard has none. My outside yard has weeds they were green now dead. I’ve seen some in my winow seals. they give me the chill bumps. Going out of my mind. Signature: chilledtothebone Dear chilledtothebone, These are immature True Bugs, and nymphs can be very difficult to identify. Your individuals look very similar to these still unidentified nymphs from Montana we posted several years back, and we suspect you may also have Dirt Colored Seed Bugs in the family Rhyparochromidae. Do yall happen to know anything about them? I did notice so.ething this morning I had not seen and that was several black bugs around but no nymphs. I will take pictures in the moring or evening to see if it helps any I’ve attached a video to help as well. And will send a couple more pictures on next email. And what they are living in. Do you know if they are harmful to anything? Dear chilledtothebone, Thanks for sending additional images that contain winged adults. That should make identification easier. We believe the transparent wings on the adults and the markings on the nymphs are a good match for these California False Chinch Bugs, Xyonysius californicus, that are pictured on BugGuide. According to BugGuide, they are: “common on trees in Mar-Apr in Central TX.” The Arthropods of Orange County site has some excellent images.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Mating Boxelder Bugs
Can you identify these? They showed up in our neighborhood about 4 years ago, and are prolific breeders. Their young resemble “large” aphids with orange-ish red abdomens. The adults have the same orange/red abdomen that is exposed when they take flight. In the picture attached, I believe the smaller one (on the left) is the male mating with a female. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Ron Hi Ron, The Boxelder Bug, Boisea trivittata, is one of our most frequent query subjects due to the mass aggregations they form. Though they may be a nuisance when they appear in large numbers, they are not harmful to you or your home. Your mating couple is a nice addition to our site.