Box Elder Bugs! What are they?

I was pulling weeds in my garden and came across this insect that I haven't seen before and have never heard of Box Elder Bugs.  When I pulled my weeds they came out of the ground like bees that were invaded.  Thinking that others may have the same problem I decided to do some research on these red and black bugs.

Boxelder bugs are mostly a nuisance pest but these bugs can bite. Their mouthpieces are designed to break through the skin of a fruit and are capable of piercing human skin, but they don't generally care to bite humans.

What are Boxelder bugs?

Boxelder bugs are a black, almond-shaped agricultural pest, with reddish orange trim. These bugs live on boxelder and maple trees during the summer months, feasting on leaves, flowers, and seeds, but also enjoy a nice plum or apple. When fall comes, these bugs will attempt to overwinter in homes. This is when they become a pest for homeowners. They are not only unsightly, as they stack upon the window sills and climb upon the walls, their excrement can stain curtains, carpets, and upholstery. If you deal with boxelder bugs, you might even have a nice white shirt that has been ruined by one of these frustrating insects.

The boxelder bug:

  • likes to bask in the sun
  • feeds on seed-bearing female boxelder trees, but also like maple and ash trees
  • lays eggs on the trunks of these trees
  • seeks shelter in cracks and crevices on buildings to survive winter seasons
  • emerges in spring once temperatures are warmer, but will occassionally emerge earlier on sunny days
  • choose the south and west sides of buildings to swarm to because they're the sunniest and warmest
  • population is most abundant during hot, dry summers
  • Boxelder is highly sensitive to 2,4-D (a common herbicide), and is susceptible to fire and mechanical damage due to its thin bark.

The boxelder tree:

Boxelder Tree

And these are the seed pods.

Boxelder pods

If you have one of these trees in your yard and it happens to be a female, you're most likely going to attract more boxelder bugs than the neighbor down the road with no trees in his yard. This does not whatsoever mean that you should cut that tree down. It just explains why these boxelder bugs are swarming to your property.

Boxelders on Tree

Let's face it. Even if you don't have a boxelder tree in your yard, there could be other factors making your house look more awesome to a boxelder bug. And besides, there are ways to kill boxelder bugs before they even become a nuisance.

How to get rid of boxelder bugs.
Myths vs. Reality.

  1. Will soapy water kill boxelder bugs? Sorry folks. This will make them fall off of your house and may drown a few, but it's not going to solve the problem. They're still going to keep flying onto your house if the sun's out.

  2. Will bug bombs get rid of boxelder bugs in the house? Boxelder bugs can leave marks on your curtains and walls, they smell bad and they're SO CREEPY and ANNOYING! Bombs are a mess though. And the truth is, bombs will push them further into wall voids where they're just going to spend time reproducing. FAIL.
  3. If I put moth balls in my attic will they kill boxelder bugs? Besides smelling awful, these will do absolutely NOTHING to control boxelder bugs.  Wah Wahhhhh...



So how do you get rid of boxelder bugs?

Prevention, TAP insulation and exclusion. What?? Think about it. If you know boxelder bugs are terrible in the spring and fall, take action before they even start flocking to the inside of your house during those seasons. I know this is easier said than done a lot of times. You typically don't think about bugs until you see them. Totally understandable. But that only means you have an opportunity to be smarter about this next year.


A bug infestation of any sort is harder to control once it's in full swing. A lot of our customers know when to expect their house to become inundated with these annoying boxelder bugs. We have designed a program around that to treat the exteriors of their houses before the bugs get bad. The products we use last up to three months and will continue to repel all kinds of bugs that try to land on the house. It works so well for boxelder bugs and asian beetles, spiders, flies, and pretty much any other creepy crawler that tries to invade your home. Without doing major repairs on your house, this is the next best thing. It's cost effective, will keep the bugs out for the most part and will give you peace of mind.


Featured image is from:  National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

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