You probably never heard of boxelder bugs until you started seeing them skitter across the floor. And while these bugs aren’t damaging to your home, their feces can do some serious staining to your furniture and linens (gross).
Have no fear – we’re here to help you get rid of these unsightly bugs once and for all. But first, a little education on what these bugs are, where they nest, and their lifecycle.
Infestation, Characteristics, And Breeding Habits Of Boxelder Bugs
These insects swarm in very large numbers as this tweet would attest to:
The past two days I have killed about 4362 boxelder bugs in my apartment
— Q (@QuinnMcGlothlin) September 30, 2017
In the spring, boxelder bugs hatch in the boxelder tree. Chances are very good that if you have a boxelder tree in your backyard, then your property will attract a lot of these flying pests. However, it is not all about the boxelder tree. They also hatch in different types of fruit trees, as well as ash and maple. Because these insects eat seeds, twigs, and leaves, it is very difficult to eradicate their food source.
Typical boxelder bug habits and characteristics:
- These bugs like the sun and they seem to enjoy basking in it.
- They prefer to feed on seed-bearing female boxelder trees as well as ash and maple trees.
- They lay their eggs on the trunks of the trees that they feed on.
- During winter, these insects seek shelter in cracks and crevices on buildings in order to survive the frigid weather.
- They typically come out to play in spring when the weather is warmer and friendlier. They do, however, sometimes emerge early if there are sunny days.
- They tend to swarm to the west and south sides of buildings because they’re often warmer and sunnier.
- They swarm in large numbers during summer and spring when the temperatures are warm to hot.
Here is a tweet showing you how it looks like when boxelder bugs invade:
No one likes when the boxelder bugs invade. #fallpests https://t.co/TTVuQuwbag via @MyFOX9 pic.twitter.com/UIhtUCcZuH
— Plunkett's Pest (@plunkettspest) October 2, 2017
Once you learn how they behave, you can quickly come up with a plan of how to kill boxelder bugs. That being said, there are still some widespread myths on how to get rid of these insects that quite frankly, as the name would suggest, do not work. Here is a list of some myths as well as tips on how to kill boxelder bugs:
What Not to Do
A lot of wives tales have gone around from the internet to your local neighborhood conversations on ways to deal with boxelder bugs. If you have tried them then you are familiar with their ineffectiveness. If you have not (tried them) then here they are so that you do not waste your time and resources to a disappointing end;
- Soapy water – In the mind, this may seem like a viable option because there is soap and there is water. Bugs do not like a lot of water, it drowns them and soap contains chemicals that are not conducive for their existence. This will, however, drown and kill a few but will not necessarily deal with their rapid breeding, so no, this is not a viable option
- Mothballs – This is another common boxelder bug control option which to some may seem legit. Well, moth balls are good when dealing with moths but just because moths and boxelder bugs are all insects does not necessarily mean that they would be eradicated through the same means. So save yourself from the awful odors of mothballs if you are not dealing with moths
- Bug bombs – Again, not all bugs are eliminated by the same chemical combinations. Fact is boxelder bugs do not like bug bombs, but this just causes them to seek other parts to dwell in within your house like deeper into the walls as they continue to breed and multiply. Plus, bug bombs are counter-productive to the intended mission considering that they too like boxelder bugs cause smelly messes and stains around your house
Insecticide dust is ready to use and is mainly meant to cover the crevices and cracks in your home which a boxelder bug would use to get into and out of your home. There are specific dust insecticides labeled boxelder bug meant to precisely deal with the boxelder bugs.
They also include application instructions which should be followed to the letter for effectiveness and safety purposes. This insecticide is usually applied in areas around the house including; under appliances, under furniture, below sinks, in voids behind outlets, door and window frames, and in cracks and crevices of course.
Note that these insecticides can be toxic and should be kept away from children’s’ reach.
All in all, the best way to deal with pest infestation is by tackling the problem at its roots before it sprouts. Also, prevention is quite cost effective as it saves you money that you would otherwise spend in the eradication process. You should also know that these prevention and eradication methods need a professional’s touch so seek some for efficiency.
Where Do They Nest?
The boxelder bug is found primarily outdoors in the spring and summer months. They nest in – you guessed it – boxelder trees, a type of maple tree that is also known as Acer negundo. And while they prefer these trees, they may also nest in other types of maple trees as well as ash trees.
Once the cold weather rolls in, these bugs will migrate indoors to buildings and homes. They make their way inside through small crevices and cracks in the building, and they will remain there until spring arrives.
Boxelder bugs tend to hang out in the warmest regions of the structure’s walls.
How to Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs Inside
You have boxelder bugs in your house. Great. Now what?
How do you get rid of them? What kills boxelder bugs?
First, it’s important to remember that these bugs rarely stay indoors for more than a few days. Once the cold weather arrives, they go dormant until spring, which means they won’t leave their hiding spot in the walls.
Because they don’t nest nor breed indoors, they really just want to find their way out once they emerge.
While it may not seem like it, their goal isn’t to stain everything they can get their hands on before heading outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather.
Experts do not recommend using insecticides on these bugs because they really aren’t effective and won’t necessarily prevent more from making their way into your home. The only thing you’ll really be doing is spraying potentially toxic products around your home.
With that said, there are other measures you can take to keep these pesky insects out of your home.
Bug-Proof Your Home
The best boxelder bugs control is prevention, and the key to prevention is bug-proofing your home.
The University of Minnesota suggests the following:
Sealing and Repairing Entryways
Boxelder bugs can make their way inside through tiny openings, so you’ll want to seal and repair any potential entryways they may be using.
Start by checking the door and window screens in your home. Look for any damage or large holes, and repair or replace as necessary.
Damaged screens in kitchen or bathroom fans or soffit and roof vents should be repaired or replaced as well.
These bugs can get inside through openings where utility lines run into the home, like phone lines, TV cable connections, pipes and wires. Seal any areas around these objects where they enter your home.
Larger cracks and crevices should be sealed with caulk, copper mesh or another type of sealant.
Door thresholds or sweeps should be installed on any exterior doors, and the bottoms of garage doors should be fitted with rubber seals.
Vacuum Them Up
A simple but really effective way to get rid of these bugs is to just vacuum them up. Remember, these guys do not nest or reproduce in buildings, so once they’re gone – they’re gone.
Do yourself a favor and try to use a vacuum that uses a bag rather than a canister. Bags can be tossed after vacuuming up the bugs, which will save you from having to smell that awful stench these buggers release.
If you only have a bagless vacuum, do be prepared to throw out the trash right away – and keep some air freshener on hand just in case the stench gets out of control.
Natural Killers: Boxelder Bugs Spray and Diatomaceous Earth
If you’re dealing with a pretty significant infestation, you can try a boxelder bug spray. Sprays for cracks and crevices that contain pyrethrins work best. They work to kill the bugs while breaking down quickly in the environment.
You may also consider laying down diatomaceous earth along the bottoms of window sills and door jams. This powdery substance will kill other bugs as well by piercing their exoskeletons and sucking up their moisture, causing them to dehydrate and die.
If you don’t have diatomaceous earth or cannot find it in stores, borax will work in a pinch. Just be careful not to place borax anywhere where children or pets can get to it.
It’s often worth searching out diatomaceous earth because it’s non-toxic to pets and humans. This substance is just the fossilized remains of a certain type of algae. You can even put it on your pet’s coat to prevent fleas.
Additional Boxelder Facts
- They congregate in very large numbers.
- An over-wintering pest that will remain active once in your home.
- Lay their eggs on and around the female boxelder tree.
- The best time for control is late August to mid-October.
- Commonly found in Burnsville, Eagan, and Apple Valley, as well as other river valleys.
Is it boxelder or box elder? Either way, we get rid of them!
*NOTE: in the event of a long fall, an additional service may be needed. A minimum of 85-90% control can be expected.
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What To Do If A Boxelder Bug Bites You?
First of all, these bugs do not bite humans because they have nothing to do with humans. The food that they eat comes from plants and trees, they live in the garden and try to enter your home only for hibernation. The rare instances where boxelder bugs can bite you is when you are trying to destroy their colony or remove them from your house. This will only be a defensive reaction from the bug and will not cause any serious problems as these bugs are free of poison or any other disease-carrying microorganisms. If this happens with you, there is no need to panic. The bite punctures the skin causing irritation and itchiness and looks exactly like a mosquito bite, and the treatment will also be same as a mosquito bite (26). Use one of the following home remedies to treat a boxelder bug bite:
- Peppermint Oil: Peppermint essential oil is a natural cooling and calming agent, and it can be applied on various bites and rashes including this bug’s bite. Rub some peppermint oil on the bite for instant relief (27).
- Ice: Ice packs are a solution for any rash on the body, it also helps calm the bite from a boxelder bug. Put some ice in a cool, moist cloth and hold it on the bite to alleviate the pain and discomfort (28).
- Baking Soda: Baking soda is a boon when it comes to treating bug bites, especially the bites which haven’t transmitted any harmful, disease-causing microorganisms. Mix baking soda with water and make a smooth paste, apply it on and around the bite like an anti-septic cream. Remember to never use baking soda on an open wound (29).
- Meat Tenderizer: Using meat tenderizer may not sound like your general idea of a home remedy, but it actually works. Just mix it with water to make a paste, which you can apply on the bite to stabilize it (30).
- Medicinal Lotions: Your nonprescription hydrocortisone cream or a calamine lotion are the best bid when treating an uninfected bug bite (31).
You can do nothing about these bugs and be absolutely fine because they don’t pose a problem unless there are a lot of them, but it is suggested that you stop that from happening by taking the preventive measures mentioned in the beginning. Even then, if these bugs manage to multiply enough to cause a nuisance, which is a very rare chance, you can use these methods to get rid of boxelder bugs. The degree of effectiveness and time taken varies in all the methods, but if you use them as explained, you can make your house and garden free of these bugs.
How to Get Rid of Them
Many homeowners find that because of their slim shape, boxelder bugs can make their way through small cracks, crevices, and gaps between window screens and into the home. These bugs are harmless and are simply enjoying the warmth of your home, but once they’re inside, they can be a nuisance t0 get rid of.
At Ledford’s Pest Control, we don’t recommend using chemical pesticides to get rid of boxelder bugs, since chemicals can pose a threat indoors. Instead, the best way to get rid of them is to prevent them:
- Seal up any cracks or crevices in your home.
- Sprinkle borax or diatomaceous earth at the bottom of window sills and around door jambs to discourage entry.
- Fix loose siding (which can be confused as bark to the bugs).
- Eliminate wood piles and landscape debris.
If you find you still have an infestation, contact our Columbia pest control experts today.