Even if you don’t know them by name, you know them by sight. Box elder bugs are everywhere come spring and fall. These small, smelly pests are particularly troublesome to a lot of homeowners because large groups of them tend to congregate around houses.
In general, the public-at-large doesn’t know very much about box elder bugs. You probably know what they are, but don’t know why they’re here, what they eat, or even whether or not they’re dangerous. Well, Plunkett’s pest experts have the answers about the all-too-common pests. Here’s everything you want to know about box elder bugs.
What is a Boxelder Bug?
Box elder bugs (Boisea trivttata) are a species of “true bug” (or Hemiptera) native to North America. They’re half an inch long with flat wings. Adult boxelders are capable of flying short distances, though it’s more common to see them crawling or climbing.
Box elder bugs are easily identified by the distinctive red markings on their black bodies. Unlike some brightly colored insects, box elders are not poisonous, though they release a foul-smelling odor when threatened. The name comes from the fact that they’re commonly found on or near boxelder trees. Box elder bugs subsist almost exclusively on acer species tree seeds, including those of the maple, ash, and (of course) box elder trees.
Why Do They Show Up in Spring?
During the winter, box elder bugs seek out shelter and hibernate until the weather warms up. Like any other hibernator, box elder bugs are hungry when they wake up. Adult boxelders come out of their winter shelters seeking fallen seeds and low vegetation to feed on during spring and early summer. Post-hibernation hunger tends to make the bugs desperate, which is why they seem especially prevalent in spring.
After several weeks of feeding, box elders seek mates. By mid-July, box elders complete the mating season and seek out box elder trees. Box elders lay their eggs on the trunks, branches, and leaves of female box elder trees in a specific time frame so that their young will hatch during peak blooming season. As box elder trees bloom, they deposit their seeds, supplying boxelder nymphs with a steady supply of food.
Why Do They Swarm Around My House in the Fall?
Box elders show up around houses in Fall in order to look for nooks and crannies to hibernate in. They’re particularly attracted to homes with a southern or western exposure, where they can stay in the sun as long as possible. Tall and/or solitary buildings are also particularly attractive to box elders.
How Do They Get Inside?
In early and mid-fall, you may notice box elders out in the open. Before the weather gets too cold, box elders can get warmth from staying in the sun, so they rest on windows, railings, or porches. When they sense winter, however, box elders will attempt to squeeze into cracks and crevices around houses. They’ll try to find ways in through siding and windows, so check for gaps there if you have suspicions.
Are They Dangerous?
No. Box elder bugs do not harm people, plants, or structures. If you have a particularly severe infestation, box elders may stain surfaces with their droppings. Threatened or dead box elders will produce a foul smell, which is unpleasant but not harmful.
How Can I Keep Them Away?
The best way to keep box elder bugs completely away is to have a reputable pest control company (we can think of one!) treat the exterior of your house before they swarm on your place in earnest. The residual on your home will cause them not to want to land at all. The time to have it done is late August, early September.
To prevent them from entering your house, it’s important to seal any possible entry points. After the bugs discover they have no easy way in, they’ll take their business elsewhere. Winterize and seal up windows and doorframes, as well as gaps near utility lines and cracks in siding and flooring.
If you really hate box elder bugs, you could remove acer trees from your property. It seems a little extreme, but depriving them of their primary food source would likely keep box elder bugs away.
Box elders might seem more annoying and prevalent than other pests, but the same basic pest-proofing techniques are just as effective against them as any other kind of home-invading pest. Seal up those cracks and gaps, make sure your windows are secure, and watch for holes in your insulation, and boxelders shouldn’t make too much trouble for you this spring.
If you do end up with a box elder infestation, however, don’t panic. Just call Plunkett’s! We can take care of box elders with our unique approach to integrated pest management and make sure they don’t want to land on your house.