You may have seen black and orange bugs on your home and wondered what they were. These bugs have bold colors and tend to group together, which can create quite the distraction. But are they dangerous? Should you be concerned when you find them on or in your home? This ultimate guide to boxelder bugs can help calm your fears and help you prevent infestations within your home.
Boxelder Bug Identification
Boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata) are very recognizable because of their unique coloring. They are black or dark brown with red or orange vein-like markings that appear along the edge of the wings and abdomen. Boxelder bugs are oval shaped and slightly flattened with wings, antennae, and 6 legs. They also typically have 3 red stripes right behind the head and the wings overlap to form a red X. Adult bugs are about ½ an inch long. Nymphs have the same general shape, but do not have wings and are bright red in color. These bugs are native to the western United States, but are now found throughout eastern Canada and the Eastern United States as well.
Boxelder Bug Behavior
Boxelder bugs got their name from the fact that they are found on and around boxelder trees. Other host trees can include maples and ash. They feed on the boxelder seeds, but will also suck on the leaves. Most of their life revolves around these trees. They will eat, lay eggs, and develop on the trees. As winter approaches, boxelder bugs will leave the trees and find a warm place to overwinter. They will often congregate in large numbers on the sunny side of trees and buildings where the sun creates the most warmth. They are particularly common on south and southwest sides of buildings that are taller than surrounding structures or are isolated.
Once they have gathered on the outside of the walls, they will attempt to find a way inside. They do this by squeezing through cracks and gaps to find shelter in attics, crawl spaces, and wall voids. They will then enter hibernation where they will remain inactive until the next spring. Boxelder bugs that do not enter human structures will overwinter in protected places like among plant debris. Adults that have overwintered will wake up in late March or early April and return to the boxelder trees when the buds begin to open. Occasionally, boxelder bugs in homes can become active before spring arrives. This can cause confusion, and homeowners may be surprised to see boxelder bugs flying clumsily around the room toward windows.
Are Boxelder Bugs Dangerous? Do Boxelder Bugs Bite?
Boxelder bugs are generally harmless. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, they generally do not bite, they do not sting, do not carry diseases, and are not dangerous. In fact, they do not even breed indoors, so an infestation will not grow. They are merely a nuisance pest by their presence in homes. The only other problems that might occur because of boxelder bugs is the chance that they might contribute to indoor allergies, and the fact that their excrement may stain fabrics and other porous surfaces. If crushed, boxelder bugs emit a pungent smell that also may be annoying. Regardless of the fact that they are harmless, nobody wants a whole swarm of bugs living in their home.
How to Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs
Once boxelder bugs enter a structure, it is very difficult to get rid of them, so prevention efforts are key. Sealing the exterior of the house is essential. Small cracks or crevices can be sealed using caulk. Larger gaps or holes can be filled with copper mesh and then plugged with expandable spray foam. It is especially important to seal areas where cables, wire, or pipes enter the home. It is also important to check all screens on windows and doors. If they are not in good condition, they should be repaired or replaced. Similarly, the weather stripping and door sweeps should fit snugly. Garages also pose a problem, so ensure that the rubber strip around the door forms a tight seal. Other places to check are soffits, chimneys, vents, and weep holes. To prevent insects from entering, these areas can be covered with fine mesh.
Boxelder Bug Control Methods
Once boxelder bugs have entered the home, options are limited. One of the best and most effective methods is physical removal. This can be done with a vacuum cleaner or good old broom and dust pan. It may seem a slow and tedious way of doing things, but it is highly recommended.
Physical removal of the trees where boxelder bugs live is another possible solution. This method often isn’t practical because boxelder bugs can fly several miles, so unless there are no other boxelder, maple, or ash trees in the area, you may still experience bug problems. Tree removal should be used as a last resort if no other control methods work.
Spraying the exterior of the home with a good residual pesticide is a great way to prevent all kinds of pests, including boxelder bugs. If boxelder bugs are the biggest problem, make sure that you focus on the south and southwest walls. Also focus on eaves, around windows and doors, and under siding. Spraying for these bugs should be done in spring or early summer and in the fall. Spray the walls 3 feet up from the foundation. A fast-acting synthetic pyrethroid is a good option.
Liquid or Aerosol Insecticide
Some liquid insecticides are labeled for use indoors. These can be used to spot treat areas that may be a concern. Areas that are common hiding spots are corners, baseboards, near plumbing, around door and window frames, under sinks, and in basements. Any time you use a chemical, be sure to read the label and follow directions to prevent exposure.
Insecticidal dusts are great for hard to reach areas where bugs might be hiding. Use a bellow hand duster to get under appliances, inside wall voids, behind outlets, and in cracks and corners. Dusts are long lasting, but may take a while to achieve results.
Glue boards are not a great control method, but they can be an important monitoring tool. If you are concerned that you may have boxelder bugs in your home, you can place glue traps around windows, closets, and corners to help you catch strays or determine their hiding spots.
Products to Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs
PF Harris has a wide range of products available to treat any household pest infestation, including Boxelder bugs. Harris Asian Lady Beetle and Boxelder Bug Killer is a great solution. If you are dealing with boxelder bugs or any other pests, we have the solution for you. Harris is America’s oldest EPA registered pest control brand. You can trust our expertise and experience to help you take back control of your home.