Box Elder Bug Control
Boxelder bugs are named because they’re commonly found on boxelder trees, which are a type of maple tree. They’re also commonly found on other hardwoods, including maple and ash.
Adult boxelder bugs are about half an inch in length and are predominantly gray, brown, or black, with box-elder-bugorange margins on the wing pads, and red eyes. Nymphs are bright red in color. They feed mainly on the trees’ seeds and do not cause significant damage to the trees.
In fact, boxelder bugs are pretty polite as pests go. They don’t bite, sting, spread disease, eat our homes, or do any of the other things that more obnoxious insects do. They’re really pretty harmless, and if their presence doesn’t annoy you, then there’s no reason to do anything about them. They do no harm and present no danger.
Boxelder Bugs as Pests
On the other hand, boxelder bugs do have some annoying habits.
One of the annoying things that boxelder bugs do is overwinter in homes and other human-occupied buildings. In the Fall, when the weather is starting to get cool, they work their way behind the home’s exterior siding, planning to spend the winter there. Under normal circumstances, they overwinter there, remaining inactive during the whole winter and emerging only with the warmth of Spring.
The problem is that boxelder bugs aren’t especially smart. Sometimes, after they make themselves nice and cozy behind the siding, the homeowner turns on the heat, and the boxelder bugs mistake that for the arrival of Spring. Being attracted to the warmth, they make their way into the home looking for food, water, and mates. And because the home may not warm evenly, this emergence may not happen all at once. It could take weeks for all the bugs to emerge.
When boxelder bugs emerge inside a home, the sheer number of bugs frantically flying around can be mighty annoying. They usually congregate on the windows, trying to get outside to lay their eggs on trees and do all their other boxelder bug sorts of things. They may also congregate around houseplants or other sources moisture. The only damage they do, however, is possibly staining areas they land with their excrement.
Boxelder Bug Control
Boxelder bug control must be done before the bugs overwinter behind your siding. The best way to do this is by caulking and sealing the outside of the home to eliminate the cracks that the bugs use to get in, especially on the side of the home that receives the most light. If this is impractical, however, an exterior application of a properly-labeled insecticide can help reduce or eliminate the number of bugs who overwinter in your home.
There also are some bag-type traps that may help reduce the boxelder bug populations outside, before they start looking for places to overwinter. Although boxelder bugs are not smelly, they are attracted to many commercial “stink bug” traps.
Another possibility, if you know where the bugs are laying their eggs, would be to remove or treat those trees. Because boxelder bugs can fly pretty well, however, there’s no guarantee that the trees are on your property.
Once boxelder bugs get inside your home, it’s too late to do very much about them other than trapping them on sticky traps, spraying them with a contact insecticide (or a soapy-water mix) and then sweeping them up and discarding them, or vacuuming them up with a vacuum cleaner.
Light traps may also work if you use them at night and turn off all the other lights. On a warm day, you can also try turning down the heat inside and opening a window on the sunny, warm side of the house. Sometimes they’ll fly outside. Whatever you do, don’t step on or squash the bugs. They leave stains.
For more information about boxelder bugs, please contact the experts at Bugaboo Pest Control. The best time to call, if you’ve had problems with boxelder bugs in the past, is during the summer, before they have started looking for places to overwinter.