Box Elder Bugs

Box elder bugs arrive en masse, and actually look like a terrifying mass of soldiers marching through your house. In the same family as cicadas and stink bugs, box elder bugs have piercing and sucking mouthparts and a shield-like exoskeleton. 

Although they cannot bite and will not damage your dwelling, the sight of so many large bugs is extremely disconcerting for a homeowner.

They can stain surfaces in your home and will emit a terrible odor when crushed. Box elder bugs will cause the most trouble in the fall when they are looking for warm places to hibernate in the winter. Although not necessarily dangerous to have in your home, these pests will definitely bug you. Read on to find out how you can keep your home free of box elder bugs. 

How can I identify box elder bugs?

Box elder bugs have a specific look to them. About one-half inch long, they are black with orange or red markings, and have three stripes right behind their head. They also have wings that lay flat over their bodies, overlapping and forming an “x” shape. The young bugs, or nymphs, are one-sixteenth of an inch long, and are bright red when they first hatch. In other words, you will definitely notice if box elder bugs show up in your house!

What is their growth and development like?

After passing the winter in hibernation, box elder bugs eat their way through the spring and early summer, usually on seeds they find on the ground. In the middle of the summer, they lay their eggs in maple or ash trees. When the nymphs hatch they are bright red but turn darker in color as they age. During the fall they start to find a protected place to pass the winter. They love to find their way in through windows. During the winter they will be inactive but possibly come out on sunny days. In the spring, box elder bugs begin to eat the seed pods of maple trees and the cycle starts again.

What do they want?

Box elder bugs want a warm place to relax, and will gravitate toward southern or western light exposure so they can lounge in the sun as long as possible each day. They need a cozy place to pass the winter months, and they need the seed pods of maple trees to live on. 

Therefore, if your home has a lot of light and especially from the west and south, box elder bugs would like to call it home. They most often infiltrate homes where there are maple trees nearby, so consider that when you are purchasing a home or landscaping. 

Where do they live?

Box elder bugs live inside or outside, depending on the season. During the warmer months, they reside in trees, eating the seed pods of trees in the maple family for their food. That is also where they lay their eggs. As the weather gets colder, they search for a warm sunny place, and often enter homes and buildings through the cracks in windows and door frames. They can infiltrate walls as they lay dormant through the winter.

How can I prevent box elder bugs?

The best way to prevent an outbreak of box elder bugs is to make sure your home is sealed up tightly. Caulk any openings near windows and doors so that the bugs cannot make their way into the house. With no easy way to get in, the bugs will be forced to stay outside. 

Another prevention technique is to avoid maple trees, which is what they are attracted to in the first place. Because they feed off of the seed pods of trees in the maple family, these trees attract the colonies of bugs. Although you might not want to cut down a tree, at least trim branches that are near your house and make sure all cracks and crevices and gaps are filled in around your windows and doors to prevent the bugs’ entrance. 

How problematic are these pests?

As for box elder bugs, their bark is worse than their bite. Although large and annoying, these bugs will not bite and will not cause any real damage. However, once they enter your home in the fall to hibernate, it will be very difficult to get rid of them by yourself, especially if they get into the walls. One problem they do cause is the possibility of staining your home if they are crushed, since they emit an orange, gooey substance.

How can I treat a box elder bug infestation?

Even the best preventative methods do not always work. If you are still faced with a swarm of these giant red and black bugs, do not kill them. Although you definitely want to get rid of them, if you squash them you will end up with disgusting orange liquid that could stain your house.

Instead, choose to vacuum up the bugs you can find, and of course put a new bag in your vacuum when you are done. Once you have eradicated all the bugs you can see, clean the area with soapy water. This is also a good time to seal any cracks around windows or doors, because that is how they are getting in. 

Depending on how bad the outbreak is, you may consider cutting down any maple trees you have in your yard, including their name sake box elder tree. Without the draw of these trees, they will be less likely to congregate in your house. 

Treating a box elder infestation is not for the faint of heart. This project will be time-consuming, often thankless, and generally a hassle. Leave the problem to the professionals! Contact us today for a free estimate, and rest assured that we will get the box elder bugs in your home or business out for good.

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