Tips for Getting Rid of Boxelder Bugs

Rose Morrison

Dec 24, 2021


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Boxelder bugs rank right up there with the Asian lady beetle as annoying pests. While they don’t do much damage, they can be a nuisance and release a stench if they feel threatened. They don’t cause major damage to homes or serious harm to plants, but they can stain light-colored surfaces, such as patio furniture or window sills. 

Where do you find boxelder bugs? According to the National Pesticide Information Center, they like the sunniest exterior wall on buildings. During spring and summer, the insects feast on box elder trees. They sometimes munch on maple, ash and fruit trees, but typically hide under debris or tree stumps. 

Getting ride of boxelder bugs is easier than you think. There’s no need to use harsh chemicals in the process. Most of the solutions for an infestation are simple changes to the surroundings. Keep reading for tips on getting rid of boxelder bugs safely and effectively.

Step 1: Make Sure They Are Boxelder Bugs

Boxelders are anthropods and often try to get indoors during the fall and find a place to overwinter. Boxelder bugs are black and have orange or red marks on the back. They look a bit like a flattened oval and are around half an inch long. 

Some bugs that look similar include the kissing bug and western conifer seed bug. Insects with similar overwintering behavior include Asian lady beetles, paper wasps and cluster flies. If you’re unsure, contact your local entomologist organization or university extension. 

Step 2: Use Your Vacuum 

If you find boxelder bugs inside your home, you’ll want to dispose of them immediately, so they don’t stain light surfaces. Invest in a bagged vacuum cleaner and suck them up whenever you see them. 

Either take the bag outside to the trash immediately or put it inside a sealed bag and freeze overnight. The cold temperatures kill the bugs and keep them from escaping back into your home.

Step 3: Preserve Their Lives

Since the bugs aren’t particularly harmful, the idea of killing them might not sit well with you. You can also capture them by sweeping them up and releasing them outside. However, they may return to your home again. Be careful not to squish them as they release a stench and also a substance staining surfaces. 

Step 4: Caulk and Seal

The bugs won’t do structural damage but are quite annoying. They release chemicals to attract their friends, so a swarm will likely follow once a few get inside. They’ve developed resistance to pesticides, so avoid using harsh chemicals and seek out more natural ways of dissuading them from visiting.

Your first line of defense is sealing up the ways they get into your home. Look for any gaps around windows or doors where they might be entering and seal them off. Other places they might enter include soffits, dryer vents, siding, outdoor faucets and via ceiling lights. 

Step 5: Get Rid of Their Food

It should come as no surprise that getting ride of boxelder bugs requires you to get rid of their food.

Boxelder bugs come by their name via the type of tree they enjoy eating. They primarily feast on female boxelder trees, which bear fruit, but also occasionally munch on male boxelders. If you adore your current landscaping, you can attempt replacing female varieties with males, but it might be best to go with another type altogether.

If you love your trees and want to keep them, you can also trim branches back and make sure you immediately clean up any seeds falling to the ground. Remove any other debris at the base of the trees. 

Step 6: Spray the Outside

Water can kill young boxelder bugs. You can also spray them with a mixture of water and dish soap. Clean any places they’ve gathered inside, such as a windowsill with the same solution. 

When frightened, they leave a reddish stain behind. The sooner you remove the residue, the less likely it is to discolor your home. 

Annoying But Harmless

Boxelder bugs are annoying to homeowners dealing with an infestation, but they are harmless. They won’t cause any permanent damage other than mild staining. Fortunately, getting rid of boxelder bugs is easy with a few non-pesticide steps. 

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