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It’s that time of year yet again. As soon as the snow melts and going outside stops feeling like a daunting prospect… your favorite red-and-black friends re-appear. When box elders reappear in spring, they come in force. Depending on where you live, your box elder problem may seem overwhelming. Luckily, with a little work, it doesn’t have to be.

Box elder bugs aren’t dangerous, destructive, or particularly disruptive. They become annoying when they congregate around your home in large numbers. If you can keep them from congregating, you won’t have to worry about box elder-based inconveniences. Here are six easy ways to keep box elders away from your home this spring.

1. Spray bugs with dish soap

Mix about a tablespoon of dish soap into a spray bottle of water. When you find large groups of the bugs clustered together, spray them with the soapy water. If you saturate them enough, soapy water will kill several of the bugs in the group. More importantly, however, it’s also repulsive to the other bugs. Spray the congregation of bugs with the soapy water until they disperse. Scoop up and dispose of any of the bugs you killed with the spray. Repeat this whenever you find a group of the bugs.

Clean bug surfaces with dish soap

2. Clean bug surfaces with dish soap

You’ll notice box elder bugs tend to congregate around several kinds of area. They like to gather on warm, heat-reflective surfaces where they can soak up heat. They often find their way inside buildings after gathering around these surfaces. After spraying congregations away, scrub down their perches with soapy water or scented cleaning solution. Using a cleaning solution will help repel box elders and prevent them from returning. It’ll also help wash away the pheromones box elders secrete to attract each other to good gathering places.

3. Vacuum the bugs up

It seems like symptomatic treatment (and it is) but removing box elders when you see them will help keep them away. We recommend against crushing box elder bugs, however. When you crush box elders, they release a foul-smelling liquid that attracts other bugs. Instead of killing them, use a vacuum cleaner to suck them up. After you’re finished, throw out the vacuum cleaner bag right away, so the bugs don’t simply crawl out. For best results, clean up the areas where you vacuumed with soapy water immediately after removing the bugs.

Seal up doors and windows

4. Seal up doors and windows

As box elder bugs bunch up together, they push each other out to cover more of their perches. Eventually, the bugs will push each other into gaps and cracks around their perches. Once inside these gaps, they’ll follow the heat until they’re inside the building itself. If you can find and seal the gaps box elder bugs push through, you’ll cut off their primary access points. Start around your window and door frames. Fill in any cracks and gaps you see with caulk. Make sure you’re thorough; any crack that’s big enough to see is big enough to fill in.

5. Seal or replace cover plates

Box elders are attracted to heat. They frequently end up in electrical outlets, switch boxes, heating ducts, or return air vents. Box elder bugs have incredibly flat bodies that let them squeeze under plates that are even a little out-of-place. Look for box elders around your vents and outlets. If you see any, take off the fixture immediately. Vacuum away any bugs you find, and clean and seal the vents before replacing them. If it seems like your vent or plate isn’t sitting properly, it’s probably because it’s not. Consider replacing any vent covers and cover plates that don’t sit in their housing properly.

Remove or trim box elder trees

6. Remove or trim box elder trees

This probably seems like an extreme solution, to say the least, but you can’t argue with the results. Box elder bugs live around female (seed producing) box elder trees. If your tree produces “helicopter” seed pods, then it’s attracting box elders. Removing the tree will substantially reduce the number of box elders around your home. If you can’t do that, consider trimming the tree regularly instead. Mow or rake up seed pods as they fall as frequently as possible. Reduce cover sites between the tree and your home. The less comfortable box elders feel in your yard, the less they’ll want to stick around.


Box elder bugs may not be dangerous, but they sure are annoying… especially when there are thousands of them. It can feel like no matter what you do, you can’t keep box elder bugs away from you. If you’re patient, however, these six steps will help you significantly reduce the presence of box elders around your home this spring.

Of course, that may not feel like enough. Especially if you’re beating back box elders every day to no apparent avail. If that’s the case, give Plunkett’s Pest Control a call any time. We’ll help you drive out the box elders for good--really--so you can get back to enjoying spring.

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