Boxelder bugs are a common nuisance, especially around homes and buildings near boxelder, ash, and maple trees.
These insects often appear in large numbers during hot, dry summers, and they can be a frustrating problem for homeowners.
However, there are natural ways to get rid of them without resorting to harmful chemicals.
One effective method to deter boxelder bugs is by washing them off the sides of your home with water.
This works best during cooler temperatures when the bugs are less likely to fly away.
Another preventative measure can be removing boxelder trees from your property, as these insects primarily feed on such trees.
Using natural remedies not only helps protect your home environment but also keeps the larger ecosystem’s balance in check.
By exploring these eco-friendly techniques, you can enjoy a boxelder bug-free space while reducing your ecological impact.
Understanding Boxelder Bugs
Biology and Behavior
Boxelder bugs are part of the “true bugs” family, which includes stink bugs and cicadas. These insects have piercing and sucking mouthparts, and they release a bad odor when crushed.
They mainly feed on the sap of female boxelder trees, but can also attack ash and maple trees, as well as raspberry and strawberry plants1.
Nymphs are smaller than adults and have distinct red markings2.
- Piercing and sucking mouthparts
- Bad odor when crushed
- Mainly feed on female boxelder trees
- Can attack other trees and plants
Boxelder bugs are most active during warm seasons like spring and summer3.
They tend to overwinter in buildings, and with the approach of fall, they gather in large numbers on the south side of trees and structures4.
In summary, understanding the biology and behavior of boxelder bugs, as well as their seasonal activity, is crucial to effectively get rid of them naturally.
How to Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs Naturally
- Easy and quick method
- Safe for pets
Vacuuming is a simple and effective method to remove boxelder bugs. Use a vacuum with a hose attachment to suck up the bugs in infested areas. Dispose of the vacuum bag outdoors to prevent the bugs from returning indoors.
- Non-toxic solution
- Apply on affected areas
A soap and water spray is a safe and environmentally-friendly option to eliminate boxelder bugs. Mix a few drops of dish soap with water in a spray bottle.
Apply the solution directly onto the bugs or affected surfaces, making sure not to harm any plants in the process.
- Non-toxic insecticide
- Wear protective gear
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an effective non-toxic insecticide that can be used against boxelder bugs. Sprinkle DE in areas where the bugs are present, like windowsills and doorways.
Make sure to wear gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask when handling DE to protect yourself from any irritation.
Homemade Boxelder Trap
- DIY solution
- Requires simple materials
Creating a homemade boxelder trap is an inexpensive way to catch these pests. Here’s an example:
- A plastic container with a lid
- A small dish, like a disposable aluminum tray
- A hole punch
- Fill the aluminum tray with soapy water.
- Place it inside the plastic container.
- Punch several holes in the container lid, just big enough for the boxelder bugs to enter.
- Seal the container with the lid and place it in areas where the bugs are commonly found.
The bugs will be attracted to the trap, crawl through the holes, and ultimately drown in the soapy water. CrossAxisAlignment
|Vacuuming||Quick, easy, pet-safe||Need to dispose of vacuum bag outdoors|
|Soap Spray||Non-toxic, environmentally-friendly||Need to reapply, may harm plants|
|Diatomaceous Earth||Non-toxic insecticide, effective||Requires protective gear when handling|
|Homemade Boxelder Trap||Inexpensive, DIY solution||May require regular cleaning and maintenance|
Preventing Boxelder Bug Infestations
- Seal entry points: Close all gaps and openings around doors, windows, vents, roof, and cracks with caulk.
- Install door sweeps and window screens: Place tight-fitting door sweeps on exterior doors and fine mesh screens on windows.
- Cover soffit vents: Use fine mesh screens on soffit vents to prevent bugs from entering.
An example of effective exclusion methods includes installing door sweeps on exterior doors, which helps in preventing boxelder bugs from entering your home.
Comparing door sweeps to window screens, both serve the purpose of keeping bugs out, but door sweeps are specifically designed for doors while window screens cover windows.
- Remove seed-bearing boxelder trees: Boxelder bugs primarily feed on seed-bearing boxelder trees, ash trees, and maple trees. Remove or reduce these trees in your yard.
- Regular pruning: Trim branches to reduce the resting and hiding spots for boxelder bugs.
- Keep gardens clean: Clean fallen leaves and debris from your yard, as they can serve as a breeding ground for these insects.
Pros of removing seed-bearing trees:
- Reduces boxelder bug food sources
- Decreases potential infestations
Cons of removing seed-bearing trees:
- Loss of tree benefits, such as shade and aesthetics
- Use a garden hose: Dislodge boxelder bugs from plants by spraying them with a strong jet of water.
- Pest control: Consider using natural pest control solutions, such as diatomaceous earth or neem oil, to deter boxelder bugs in gardens.
- Monitor temperatures: Boxelder bugs thrive in hot temperatures, which makes taking precautions during warm months crucial.
Taking good care of your garden is essential in preventing boxelder bug infestations.
Keep in mind that diligent tree maintenance and garden care can significantly reduce boxelder bug populations and protect your home from possible infestations.
Natural Enemies of Boxelder Bugs
Boxelder bugs, while often seen as pests in many households, play a role in the broader ecosystem, serving as food for several predators.
Leveraging these natural adversaries can offer an environmentally-friendly approach to managing boxelder bug populations.
Birds: A variety of avian species have been observed feeding on boxelder bugs. Among them, robins, sparrows, and starlings are particularly keen on these insects, especially during their more vulnerable nymph stages.
Encouraging these birds to visit your garden, perhaps by setting up birdhouses or providing seeds, can help in naturally reducing boxelder bug numbers.
These beetles not only help in controlling boxelder bug populations but also target other garden pests, making them valuable allies for gardeners.
Spiders: Many spider species are opportunistic feeders and won’t hesitate to capture and consume boxelder bugs.
Praying Mantises: These fascinating insects are known for their predatory prowess. They have a varied diet and will readily consume boxelder bugs when available.
Promoting a garden environment that welcomes these natural predators can help strike a balance in the local ecosystem.
Safe and Effective Disposal
Properly Handling Pests
Vacuuming can be a quick method to capture boxelder bugs. Empty the vacuum’s dust bag immediately to prevent their escape1.
Sealing vents and openings can help keep these nuisance insects out of your home2.
Remember, boxelder bugs are harmless and don’t bite or sting. They are a nuisance insect, not a threat to your health.
Avoiding Stains and Injuries
When dealing with boxelder bugs, be cautious not to crush them. Their “juices” can cause stains on fabrics3.
Sweep them outside or use a vacuum for easy cleanup4. Dermestid beetles, a similar nuisance insect, can also be handled in the same way.
|Vacuuming||Quick and easy way to capture bugs||Must empty dust bag immediately|
|Sealing Vents||Keeps bugs out of your home||May require extra maintenance|
|Sweeping||Avoids staining fabrics and easy cleanup||More time-consuming than vacuuming|
Additional Tips and Considerations
Potential Harm to Humans and Pets
Although boxelder bugs are not poisonous, their excrement can stain fabrics, making them unwelcome indoor visitors.
In addition, some pets, like dogs, may experience drooling if they come into contact with the bugs.
To safeguard humans and pets from potential harm, consider using natural remedies when dealing with boxelder bug infestations.
- Liquid dish soap: A mixture of water and liquid dish soap can help reduce their numbers. Spray it directly on the bugs and egg clusters.
- Vinegar: A vinegar solution can be used to clean the areas where the bugs have been spotted.
Boxelder bugs, while harmless, can be a significant nuisance, especially when they invade homes in large numbers. Understanding their biology, behavior, and seasonal activity is crucial for effective management.
While there are various methods to remove and prevent these bugs, opting for natural remedies and leveraging their natural predators can offer an environmentally-friendly approach.
By taking proactive measures and being informed, homeowners can ensure a boxelder bug-free environment, safeguarding both their homes and the broader ecosystem.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about boxelder bugs. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Boxelder Bugs
the Box Elder Bug
(Name Withheld by Request) here, a US citizen in Alberta Canada, (should you cite me, just refer to me as SW in Alberta). Re: the Box Elder Bug. When I lived in NW Indiana, our house covered on the southern (sunny) outer wall before later when the house was invaded by them.
We had them all through the winter months. They lived in the heating ducts. They “spotted” our drapes. I tried a local hardware store (where they sold pest sprays). They had a big, thick book on what to do to rid this or that bug, but on the Box Elder Bug, it said, cut down the box elder tree.
We didn’t have any near my house so I tried Venus fly traps. They were so slow closing on them, I basically had to catch and force feed them. I’m glad I moved away from them. BUT, when I got to this part of Alberta (in the prairies) they call the same bug a Maple Bug.
I know the Maple Leaf is on the Canadian flag, but I see very few Maple trees here. I think the Cottonwood tree is most prevalent.
Medicine Hat, Alberta
Letter 2 – Boxelder Bugs
Bigger red bugs?
I live in Kansas and was just going to plant a planter in my yard. Upon pulling up an old plant from last summer, I unearthed thousands of little red bugs. At first I thought they were “baby lady bugs” but on further inspection….they have no spots and are a brighter, deeper red.
It appears that the adults are about 1/4 ” long and the babies are 1/8″. I felt as though I had unearthed an ant den……..that’s how they scattered. Also, they have black heads and fine black legs ( hardly visible) Any ideas what they are….or if they are harmful?
The planter is connected to the house. Should I be concerned? Do I need to exterminate before replanting? Thanks in advance for your help!
I wish you had a photo. They might be Box Elder Bugs. Here is an image of an aggregation. They are difficult to erradicate.
Thank you for your response. After further investigation……..you are correct they are boxedler bugs. I guess it was just a bunch of babies…..because I saw no adults…………until I checked back later. Boxelder bugs are common around here. I’m not too concerned. Anyway, thanks again!
Letter 3 – Boxelder Bugs
There are many of these infiltrating our house just recently.
And we have been innundated with questions wanting them identified. Seems no matter how many photos of Boxelder Bugs we post, no one ever bothers to scroll down the page.
Letter 4 – Boxelder Bugs
Can you tell me what this is?
These showed up in my yard last week—I’ve never seen them around before (I live in St. Louis, MO) I have them in what appear to all stages from babies to adults, only the adults seem to fly, and they seem to eat other bugs—dead ones—but I don’t know what else.
I don’t know if they are harmful or not. Can you help? I’ve done quite a few web searches, and I must be putting in the wrong search parameters, because I keep getting ladybugs. These are NOT ladybugs!
Carol in MO
You should be able to find plenty of information online now that you know you have Boxelder Bugs. They form huge aggregations of both adults and wingless nymphs and feed on boxelder and maple trees. Get rid of them with a mild soapy water.
Letter 5 – Boxelder Bugs
I’ve got these guys all over my siding, and occasionally they make their way into the house. I have no idea what they are, but I’d like to know if they’re going to do any damage to the house or bite anyone.
My house is in St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. Any assistance that you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
These are not beetles, but Boxelder Bugs. They seek shelter inside homes to hibernate. They get very numerous, forming huge aggregations. We currently have an advertiser on our site that claims to be able to erradicate them.
Letter 6 – Boxelder Bugs
What is this?
I live in Southern Ontario and these insects are congregating on the sun warmed side of my home. This is the first time I have encountered these insects in the three years I have lived here. I have googled them but can’t locate any information to identify them or see if they are harmful or beneficial. Any assistance would be appreciated.
Please return to our website at www.whatsthatbug.com and scroll past the Ask WTB? link to the huge image of the featured Bug of the Month and tell us if the Boxelder Bug looks like a match. While there please click on a few ads to help generate some revenue.
Ed. Note: Try as we might to provide easy identifications for our readership, we continue to be baffled at the problems some of our readers claim to have regarding googling their mystery creatures and being unable to locate information. As college instructors, we realize that people just hate to do any research.
Letter 7 – Boxelder Bugs
what’s this bug!
hi, i have never seen this bug until about 5 years ago. i live in western pennsylvania. when i see these bugs there is not just one but many. the first time i noticed them was when there were so many covering the tire of my daughter’s car that the wheel looked red in color.
the immature ones are brighter red and the older and bigger they get, the darker the red becomes and the black markings appear. right now they are crawling up the big tree in my yard and are in my flower bed. do they eat plants and will they destroy them? thanks for the input!
Armed with the information that these are Boxelder Bugs, you should be able to find volumes of information online regarding them. Our own site has countless letters and photos, and we always keep one on our homepage which you must have missed. You will also probably find numerous ads on our site claiming to be able to rid you of these remarkably fertile insects.
Letter 8 – Boxelder Bugs
Masses of green and orange bugs
I was trying to identify a bug. They’re dark green with orange markings, and they are all over the exterior of my house. Are they potentially damaging? Should I be afraid? Very, very afraid? I’ve attached a jpg of a mass of them; if you could let me know what you know, I’d be grateful. All best,
Hi, again. I think that the bugs in the picture I sent you are eastern boxelder bugs. They’re a little freaky, though: any suggestions for thinning their numbers? Thanks again,
Glad you properly identified your Boxelder Bugs. We have heard that spraying them with soapy water does the trick.
Letter 9 – Boxelder Bugs
need help identifying
We have these beetles on the outside of our house and some in our basement. We live in central Indiana. Do you know what they are and if they can be problematic? Thank you,
The Boxelder Bug is one of our commonest query subjects. There is tons of information on our site and online in general.