How to Identify and Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs

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Whether you have a tiny garden or a large homestead, you know a thing or two about bugs. Some kill our plants, others can make us sick, and then there are those that are simply a pain in the you-know-what, such as boxelder bugs.

Boxelder bugs are pretty easy to recognize and if you’ve ever had an infestation in your house before, you know they’re a serious nuisance. While they won’t harm you, they can stain your clothes and furniture and they’re disconcerting flying around your food.

There’s no need to put up with a boxelder infestation. Here’s how to deal:

How to identify and get rid of boxelder bugs

A Bit About Boxelder Bugs

How to identify and get rid of boxelder bugs

Boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata) and Western boxelder bugs (Boisea rubrolineata) can be found across North America and in parts of South America, where they are an introduced, invasive species. Wherever there are boxelder trees there is a possibility of finding boxelder bugs.

Even though they primarily feed on boxelder trees you can occasionally find them in your maple or ash trees, as well. Here are some other facts about these common insects:

  • Boxelder bugs communicate via their scent glands and antennae
  • They are herbivores
  • They don’t carry any diseases
  • Boxelder bugs don’t offer benefits to your garden, but many animals feed on them
  • They can feed on and distort fruits from fruit trees

Identifying Boxelder Bugs

How to identify and get rid of boxelder bugs

One of the most distinctive features of boxelder bugs is their color. They have vibrant red or orange-red stripes over their backs, which make them instantly recognizable. Their wings lay flat, forming an “X” on their backs.

In terms of size, once boxelder bugs are fully grown they reach up to a half-inch in length, with a flattened and oval-shaped body. They also have six legs and two antennae.

A group of freshly laid boxelder bug eggs start yellow and turn to a reddish-orange when the egg starts to grow. These insects like warm climates and are usually more common in spring or summer.

The eggs gather on leaves, seedpods, and blooms of boxelder trees. The reason they appear on your property is that they are looking for mates and food. As soon as they arrive they stay on trees all summer long unless you intervene and get rid of them.

Are Boxelder Bugs Toxic?

Thankfully, the risk factor associated with Boxelder bugs in your garden is quite low. That being said, you don’t want to leave them there unnoticed if you catch a few climbing on your trees. Why?

Because, after they’ve hatched they prefer living in indoor spaces. That means, as the temperatures drop towards fall warm houses become more appealing to them and they will navigate their way inside as soon as they can.

Once they’re in your home, they hang out in warm areas like on south-facing windows and they leave behind black or brown liquid droppings everywhere they go. It can ruin your carpets, curtains, and furniture. Yuck!

Signs of an Infestation

How to identify and get rid of boxelder bugs

Obviously, the first sign of a boxelder infestation is seeing the distinctive bugs hanging out in or around your house or garden.

You might also see a yellow, brown, or black liquid that is the feces of the insects and can be traced to the boxelder tree. Inside, you can usually find these stains near windowsills and door frames, but they can be anywhere a bug travels.

Getting Rid of Boxelder Bugs Indoors

If you discover boxelder bugs living in your home, then you’ll need to know how to get rid of them. It’s not easy, but it’s possible, and you can definitely reduce the population enough that you won’t feel like you’re living in a horror movie.

1. Spray With Dish Soap

The first option in getting rid of boxelder bugs is using gentle dish soap on the insects. You can prepare your mixture with a tablespoon of dish soap and a cup of water.

The spray should kill off the bugs. And, if they don’t die, the spray will put them off the area and force them to go somewhere else. If you keep spraying the liquid they should eventually vanish.

However, you don’t want to spray any cloth or paper surface because the water will damage these.

2. Clean Surfaces

Boxelder bugs also enjoy living on warm surfaces so a fast way to get rid of them is by cleaning any heat-reflective areas. It’s also a great idea to spray the solution on your door and any cracks in your home as this will stop them from coming inside when the weather gets colder.

3. Use a Vaccum or Hand Pick Them

A classic household trick for clearing out bugs is using your vacuum around popular areas where insects gather. Just suck them up as you see them using your vacuum hose. If you have a vacuum with a bag, no need to do anything else.

However, if you have a bagless vacuum, dispose of the insects in a sealed container or in the outside trash. Otherwise, they’ll just make their way back into your home.

4. Seal Windows and Doors

For extra protection, you can also seal any windows and doors with caulk. That way, boxelder bugs won’t be able to squeeze your way through any spaces. Ensuring your house is closed off will give you some peace of mind about them making their way inside.

In addition to the windows and doors, you can also seal off any electrical sockets as that’s where bugs often enter the house. As these areas of the house are warm, it attracts these insects and gives them an easy way to inhabit your home.

You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth along windowsills or anywhere else that they enter the home.

5. Remove Boxelder Trees

Of course, you can always remove the boxelder trees from your property. Although this is an extreme measure it’s a guaranteed method for protecting the rest of your plants from these insects.

However, it’s best to try all the other options before resorting to this drastic step.

Controlling Box Elder Bugs Outdoors

How to identify and get rid of boxelder bugs

Before they can get inside, these bugs breed outdoors. You can get rid of them using the following steps:

1. Remove Host Trees

This might not be feasible for everything, but if boxelder bugs really bother you, remove boxelder trees from your property.

2. Spray With Oil

Spray any host trees with horticultural oil in the early spring when the tree is dormant as these bugs begin to emerge. This helps to eliminate an infestation before it can grow too large. Make sure you really get up under any gaps in the bark, because that’s where they live.

3. Spray with Pyrethrins

If you get really desperate, go ahead and spray the trees and outside of your buildings with a product that contains pyrethrins. Just remember that these sprays also kill other insects, even some of the good ones, so use caution and use them only as a last resort.

Stop Boxelder Bugs With These Easy Steps

How to identify and get rid of boxelder bugs

Compared to all the insects and bugs that you can find in your garden Boxelder bugs are not the worst. But, having the correct methods in place in case you have to deal with them keeps you protected.

Thankfully, a simple solution of dish soap and water can be enough to clear up any crowds of these insects. Even better, seal up the cracks and spaces in your home to stop them from entering and to keep them outside, as well as spraying and vacuuming them up.

If all that fails, attack the infestation at the source – outside.

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