What Attracts Boxelder Bugs? The Science Behind The Attraction

folder_openHemiptera, Insecta
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Boxelder bugs, belonging to the Rhopalidae family, are often considered a nuisance due to their affinity for invading homes and buildings in search of a warm place to hibernate during the colder months.

While these insects are generally harmless, their presence can be quite bothersome, especially when they appear in large numbers. So, understanding what attracts them can help you take the necessary preventive measures.

These bugs are commonly found on boxelder, maple, and ash trees as they feed on their leaves, flowers, and seeds.

Their populations tend to increase significantly during hot, dry summers, making them more likely to search for shelter as temperatures drop.

What Attracts Boxelder Bugs
Western Boxelder Bug

In addition to their primary food sources, boxelder bugs may also be seen on certain fruit trees, such as almond, apple, cherry, peach, pear, and plum trees.

Boxelder bugs, attracted to warmth and light, often gather on the sunny side of buildings during the day. As the fall season approaches, they’ll start seeking out protected areas where they can spend the colder months hibernating.

This is why you might find them around your windows, doors, and other small cracks or spaces in your home or building.

What Are Boxelder Bugs

Boxelder bugs are a type of insect that belongs to the Rhopalidae family, which are known as “scentless plant bugs.”

These insects are related to the Coreidae family, which includes stink bugs and squash bugs, but the boxelder bugs do not emit a strong odor like their relatives 1.

These insects have an oval-shaped body, six legs, two antennae, and red eyes. Their wings are flat and overlap each other to form an ‘X’ 5. Boxelder bugs can be identified by their distinctive adult and nymph stages.

Adult Boxelder Bugs:

  • Black with red or orange markings
  • About 1/2-inch long
  • Three stripes on the prothorax, behind the head

Nymphs (Immature Bugs):

  • Bright red when they first hatch
  • Grow larger and darker as they mature

Boxelder bugs are attracted to sunny walls and light-colored surfaces, especially on western or southern exposures 4. These insects are not harmful to humans or structures, but they can be a nuisance when they congregate in large numbers.

Eastern Boxelder Bug

Remember, boxelder bugs are most abundant during hot and dry seasons. So, it’s crucial to be aware of their presence and take appropriate measures to deter them from your living space.

Being familiar with their characteristics will help you identify and manage these harmless, yet annoying insects more effectively.

Habitat and Behavior

Boxelder bugs are attracted to specific types of trees in their environment. For example, they feed on boxelder trees and can sometimes be found on ash trees.

Additionally, these insects may feed on fruit trees, such as apple and pear trees, during the fall season.

These bugs prefer a sunny and warm environment, with their population becoming most abundant during hot weather conditions. As the seasons change, you may notice an increase in their activity.

  • Spring: Boxelder bugs emerge from their overwintering sites.
  • Summer: They feed on their favorite trees, mate, and lay eggs.
  • Fall: Boxelder bugs search for shelter to overwinter and may feed on fruit trees.
  • Winter: They hibernate in their chosen shelter.

When it comes to selecting their overwintering sites, boxelder bugs look for sheltered areas. These can include crevices in tree bark, leaf litter, or even inside your home.

They tend to gather in large numbers, especially if suitable shelter is scarce. In early fall, these bugs may swarm on the sunlit sides of buildings, seeking warmth.

So, when considering boxelder bugs and their behavior, remember that:

  • They are attracted to boxelder trees, ash trees, and sometimes fruit trees.
  • They prefer sunny, warm environments.
  • They tend to gather in large numbers to overwinter in sheltered spots.

By understanding the habitat and behavior of boxelder bugs, you can better identify their presence and take necessary preventive measures to protect your trees and home from infestations.

What Attracts Boxelder Bugs?

Boxelder bugs are attracted to a variety of factors in and around your home. In this section, we’ll cover the main attractors for these pesky insects.

Light and Warmth: Boxelder bugs are drawn to warmth and light. They often congregate on the sunny sides of buildings, particularly those with a southern or western exposure. Always check these areas for large numbers of boxelder bugs.

Cracks and Gaps: These bugs can easily find their way into your home through cracks, crevices, and gaps in walls, windowsills, and vents. To prevent an infestation, be sure to seal any potential entry points.

Western Bexelder Bug

For instance, you might find boxelder bugs:

  • Around windows
  • Near doors
  • In the corners of walls

Buildings and Homes: Boxelder bugs are often found in and around buildings, especially homes. They can be attracted to the warmth and shelter that structures provide, making it important to keep an eye out for signs of their presence.

To sum up, boxelder bugs are attracted to light, warmth, cracks, crevices, and buildings. Be vigilant by checking these areas and sealing any potential entry points to keep your home bug-free.

Food Sources

Boxelder bugs are attracted to specific types of trees for their food source. Some common trees that attract these bugs include:

  • Maple trees
  • Seed-bearing boxelder trees
  • Apple trees

Boxelder bugs primarily feed on the seed pods of boxelder trees, but they also consume maple tree seeds and, occasionally, apple tree seeds.

Making your yard less attractive to them involves considering these food sources.

For example, planting non-seed-bearing boxelder trees can reduce their presence.

Water is another element that attracts boxelder bugs. They often gather near water sources, such as puddles or birdbaths. Ensuring that stagnant water sources are minimized can help deter them.

Boxelder Bug Nymph

To summarize, some of the key food sources for boxelder bugs include:

  • Seed pods from seed-bearing boxelder trees
  • Maple tree seeds
  • Apple tree seeds

In addition to these food sources, boxelder bugs are attracted to water sources. Managing both food sources and standing water can help control their populations in your environment.

Prevention and Control

To prevent boxelder bugs, it’s essential to create an inhospitable environment for them.

One effective approach is to get rid of their food source, which mainly consists of boxelder and maple trees.

However, if removing these trees is not feasible, here are some other prevention methods:

  • Apply insecticides or pesticides on infested trees and around your home’s perimeter. Make sure to use products labeled for boxelder bug control.
  • Install screens on windows and doors to prevent their entry.
  • Seal gaps and cracks around your home using caulk and install door sweeps on exterior doors.

In case you’re already dealing with an infestation, here are some tips to control and eliminate boxelder bugs:

  • Spray them directly with a mixture of soapy water or dish soap. This solution causes bugs to suffocate and die.
  • For indoor infestations, vacuum or sweep them up and dispose of them in a sealed bag. Be sure to clean your vacuum afterwards.

By following these simple preventive measures and control methods, you can protect your home from boxelder bugs and ensure a bug-free environment.

Potential Damage of Boxelder Bugs Infestations

Boxelder bugs can be quite a nuisance when they infest homes and other buildings. They don’t usually bite humans, but let’s discuss the potential damages they can cause.

Their infestations can result in unsightly clusters inside or outside of your home.

During their intrusions, these pests may damage surfaces by leaving stains from their feces. These stains can be difficult to clean and might even leave a permanent mark.

In addition to being annoying, boxelder bugs can harm your houseplants. They feed off the sap from trees and plants, possibly causing stress and damage to them.

If left uncontrolled, these infestations may lead to weaker trees and plants in your yard.

Although boxelder bugs aren’t known to carry diseases, their presence may still decrease your overall comfort and peace of mind within your home.

To prevent and manage these infestations, consider pest-proofing your home and removing any boxelder trees nearby where they commonly feed and reproduce.

Comparison with Other Pests

Boxelder bugs, stink bugs, cicadas, and beetles are all different types of insects that can cause problems in homes and gardens. Let’s take a closer look at these pests and see how they compare to one another.

Boxelder Bugs are attracted to boxelder trees, as well as maple and ash trees. They are generally harmless, but can become a nuisance when they invade homes seeking warmth.

When disturbed, boxelder bugs may excrete a staining liquid. To curb an infestation, you can try using a soapy water solution.

Stink Bugs, as the name suggests, release an unpleasant odor when crushed or threatened. They are attracted to various plants and can damage crops. You can also use the soapy water method to collect and dispose of them.

Cicadas are known for their loud, buzzing sound. They live underground and only emerge to mate and lay eggs. Cicadas do not cause significant damage to plants and usually do not require control measures.

Beetles are a diverse group of insects, with some causing minimal problems, while others become significant pests. For instance, Japanese beetles feed on a wide range of plants, causing visible damage to leaves and flowers.

Here’s a comparison table:

InsectDamage to plantsAttracted toControl Measures
Boxelder BugsMinimalBoxelder, maple, and ash treesSoapy water solution
Stink BugsModerateVarious plantsSoapy water solution
CicadasMinimaln/aNot necessary
BeetlesVariesDepends on the speciesDepends on the beetle

In summary, boxelder bugs and the other pests mentioned each have their own unique characteristics and impacts on plants and human habitats. By understanding the differences and similarities, you can better assess and manage these unwanted visitors.


In summary, the key to understanding and managing boxelder bugs lies in recognizing what draws them to our spaces.

These insects are primarily attracted to boxelder, maple, and ash trees for food. They seek warmth and light, often gathering on the sunny sides of buildings, especially during cooler seasons.

Their presence is heightened in hot, dry summers, leading them to invade homes through cracks and gaps for hibernation.

Effective management involves preventive measures like sealing entry points, reducing their preferred food sources, and maintaining a dry environment to deter them.

For existing infestations, simple solutions like soapy water sprays or vacuuming can be effective.

Understanding these attractors and implementing targeted strategies can help maintain a bug-free environment, keeping these harmless yet bothersome insects at bay.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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17 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Bugman, This time of the year, this would be a good candidate, for nuisance of the month!

  • I have seen these at my Great Grandmas in Salt Lake and always thought they were so cool but never knew what they were.

    I have the same feelings about bugs. I love them and am glad you do not offer extermination advice or even give it. thank you so much.

  • Curtis Morgan
    January 22, 2015 1:07 pm

    I have a 50′ cypress pine tree that is infested with these bugs under the bark. The bark of the tree is falling off. Do these bugs kill the tree? How do I get rid of them? We live in the Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley area.

    • They will not harm the tree. They are probably hibernating under loose bark. We do not provide extermination advice.

  • I have a bug that looks like this eating my ripe blackberrys. Does not eat them unless they are ripe.

  • What can I do to get rid of these bugs? Can I keep them from getting into my home?

  • Over a thousand outside by a block do they bite

  • You wouldn’t think they were cool if they invaded your home. They wake us up at night crawling all over our faces, head, neck and anything else exposed. Woke up yesterday morning with one crawling on my eye.

    Can’t get rid of them because they love box elder and ash trees and we have an abundance of both in our neighborhood.

    • I only recall finding them ‘cool’ when they were outside the house. When they were inside, I wanted to get them out. They belong outside, not in the house. Nevertheless, I am still grateful for them.

  • Are they toxic to livestock?

  • Jeanne Jones
    April 1, 2020 1:15 pm

    My house is almost covered with boxelder bugs. I live in Florida. What can I do. They seem to be nesting in the eaves where I cannot get to them. They are getting into the house. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • We call them democrat bugs because they do nothing.


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