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Boxelder Bugs

Boxelder bugs are a nuisance in and around homes from fall through early spring.

Giant Water Bugs

Boxelder Bugs

Adult boxelder bugs are flat-backed, elongate, narrow, about 1/2 inch long, 1/3 inch wide and dark brownish-black with three lengthwise red stripes on the pronotum (area behind the head). The head is black with the “beak” or proboscis reddish-orange and the long, thin, four-segmented antennae are half as long as the body. Wings are thick and leathery at the base and membranous at the tip.

There are red veins in the wings and the abdomen is bright red under the wings. The nymphs, or immatures, resemble the adults in shape except they are smaller, more rounded, wingless and bright red. Eggs are dark reddish-brown.

Boxelder bugs are primarily a nuisance because they enter homes and other buildings, often in large numbers. Fortunately, they do not bite people and are essentially harmless to property. When abundant, they can stain walls, curtains, and other surfaces with their excrement. Occasionally some may seek moisture and may be found around houseplants, although they rarely attack them. In the few cases when they do feed, boxelder bugs are very unlikely to injure indoor plants

With their powerful front legs they are able to grab other bugs and prey as big as small fish, frogs and salamanders. They pierce their prey with their sharp beak and secrete enzymes that dissolve the body tissues, thus allowing them to suck up the resulting liquid.

Boxelder Bugs nymph

Boxelder Bugs nymph

Life Cycle: Boxelder bugs emerge from overwintering sites during spring as the weather starts to warm up. Adults feed on low vegetation and seeds on the ground during spring and early summer, and begin mating a couple weeks after they started feeding. Starting in mid July, they move to female seed-bearing boxelder trees where they lay eggs on trunks, branches, and leaves. They are rarely found on male boxelder trees. Boxelder bugs may also feed on maple or ash trees. There is no noticeable feeding injury to these trees. During years of high populations, you may find nymphs on the ground or in gardens feeding throughout the summer.

During late summer and fall, boxelder bugs start to leave the trees from where they were feeding to find protected areas for the winter. Although nymphs may be present in the fall, only fully grown adults survive the winter. Adult boxelder bugs typically can fly several blocks, although in some cases they can travel as far as two miles.

Some homes are especially attractive to boxelder bugs, while neighboring buildings may have few. This usually depends upon the amount of sunny exposure a building receives. Boxelder bugs like warm areas and are attracted to buildings with a large southern or western exposure. Buildings standing taller than surrounding structures or standing isolated on flat ground can also attract large numbers of boxelder bugs. Color does not appear to influence boxelder bugs as they are found on buildings of all hues.

As the weather cools, boxelder bugs push into cracks and spaces around homes. In some cases they end up in the interior of buildings where they are often found around windows. They remain active until it becomes cold, which could continue into winter when the weather is mild. While you may see persistent numbers of these bugs, individuals are short-lived, only surviving for a few days up to a week. Other boxelder bugs end up in sheltered areas in walls, attics and similar areas where they remain until it warms up.

Boxelder Bugs

Boxelder Bugs

During winter, boxelder bugs are generally inactive. However, during mild, sunny days, boxelder bugs become mobile with the increased temperature. They enter a home’s interior from overwintering areas within the home, e.g in walls or attics. As they wake up, they follow the warmth into the home’s living quarters. Once there, they typically move towards windows and other sunny areas. However, the warmth does not reach the insects equally and they do not all become active at the same time.

Eventually by spring, all the surviving boxelder bugs that overwintered inside buildings become active. They try to move outdoors but many remain trapped inside. Despite the circumstantial evidence, they do not reproduce in homes — all the boxelder bugs seen inside during winter and spring entered buildings the previous fall. Boxelder bugs are not a serious problem every year. They are most abundant during hot, dry summers when followed by warm springs.

Damage: The bugs do little damage to ornamental trees. They may occasionally cause puckering or distortion of fruit in commercial orchards, but this is rarely a significant problem. They do not injure people or pets, but when they come indoors they can be annoying and may spot curtains, furnishings, and clothing with their excrement. When crushed, they give off an offensive odor. They do not breed indoors. If trapped in basements or houses, they will eventually die.

Boxelder Bugs Eggs

Boxelder Bugs Eggs

Control: Since boxelder bugs feed and reproduce primarily on pistillate (female) boxelder trees, removal of these trees, especially around the house, would eliminate nuisance populations. Some towns have outlawed pistillate trees. However, adults are capable of flying two or more miles for suitable hibernation quarters.

If boxelder trees are desirable for shade, ornamental beauty or other purposes, use only propagation (cuttings) from the staminate (male) trees. Eliminate potential hiding places such as piles of boards, rocks, leaves, grass and other debris close to the house. Rake leaves and grass away from the foundation in a six- to ten-foot-wide strip, especially on the south and west sides of the structure. Be sure to caulk and close openings where boxelder bugs can enter the house.

such as around light fixtures, doors and windows, unscreened vents, holes in walls and foundations, around utility pipes or conduits, air conditioners, etc. They are also attracted to lights and can fly in open doors or windows. Screen all windows, doors, crawl spaces, exhaust and roof vents and louvers. Clusters of bugs may be killed by pouring boiling water on them. Be careful to avoid killing grass and other desirable plants with boiling water.

If you ever have any bug related questions feel free to call us either at Beyond Pest Control. Once again, and I can’t stress this enough we are on call twenty four hours a day seven days a week to kill those bugs, we aren’t kidding whether you call us at 9 am or midnight we will be available to take your call and either get rid of the bug infestation, or answer any questions you may have concerning the bug issue.
I can honestly guarantee that there will be someone to answer that call. We make it our business to make you bug free!

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