Box elder bugs grow very active this time of year every fall--we probably don’t have to tell you that. The gross red-and-black bugs seem to crawl over just about everything, and in huge numbers. In fact, it can feel like they’re targeting your home specifically. It’s enough to make you feel a little paranoid!
But unfortunately, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. There’s a chance box elder bugs really are swarming your home specifically. Happy Halloween… we guess? Don’t worry: it’s not personal. Instead, it has to do with where your home is and how warm it looks… seriously! Here’s what the box elders hanging around your place want, and how to get them to leave you alone.
What do box elder bugs want?
This time of year, box elder bugs
are looking for warmth and shelter. You may notice box elders beginning to congregate in… large numbers on warm or sunny surfaces. They’re particularly common on surfaces with southern or western exposure to maximize how long they’re able to lounge in the sun. When enough bugs gather in one place, they may begin to spread out. Eventually, box elders may find their way into cracks and crevices nearby their lounging sites.
Ultimately, box elders need to find warm cracks and crevices so they can insulate themselves from winter weather. When box elders congregate on warm places, they’re partially searching for these overwintering shelters. When they find a spot that’s warm and safe, Box elders enter a state of hibernation-like dormancy
until early April. Box elders often end up crawling into homes while searching for these spots. They’ll hibernate in home insulation, under baseboards or foundation cracks, or even in basements and attics.
Why are box elder bugs near my home?
Box elders are attracted to homes where they can stay as warm as possible
for as long as possible. Consequently, they’re naturally drawn toward homes with western and southern exposure. They also tend to congregate on windows, particularly windows close to the ground floor. Light paint reflects more sun than darker paint, so box elders are often more attracted to light homes as well. Like other pests, they’re also surprisingly good at finding leaking heat sources like drafts or hot air vents.
Box elders also tend to congregate around near the areas where they feed during warmer seasons. If you tend to see a lot of box elders during the summer, chances are they’ll hang around in fall. Box elders feed on the seeds of trees in the Acer
(or Maple) family, including their namesake box elder trees. If you have a maple tree in or near your yard, you’ll probably notice more box elder bugs than most.
How can I keep box elder bugs away from my home?
It’s difficult to control the elements of your home that attract box elder bugs. You don’t exactly want to block off your sun exposure, after all--especially not this time of year. You can keep box elders from creeping inside your home, however. First, look for the areas where box elders tend to congregate. They’ll be around windows, door frames, siding, utility lines, or ventilation systems. Check that area for any gaps, cracks, or crevices--no matter how small.
Make sure you look for these openings both inside and outside your home. If you find any gaps, seal them up with caulk as thoroughly as possible. Consider replacing worn weatherstripping or old windows. Remember: if a crack is large enough to notice, it’s large enough for a box elder to use
. Be thorough and air on the side of caution. Inside, you should also check for drafts. Box elders can easily find and use draft-causing cracks as express passages into your home.
How can I get rid of boxelder bugs that are already here?
This advice may sound counterintuitive, but: don’t kill them. Crushing the bugs won’t help, but it will produce a gross, orangish liquid. This liquid smells bad, it can stain things, and it’ll attract other bugs. Plus, it won’t keep more box elder from sneaking in to replace the ones you just smushed. Instead, consider vacuuming up the box elders you see into a dedicated vacuum bag. Throw out the bag into your outdoor dumpster when you’re finished.
After you’ve vacuumed up the bugs, thoroughly wash down the area where they were congregating. Use soapy water or even a little ammonia. The smell of the cleaning supplies grosses out box elders and stink bugs, and may help keep them away. It also helps remove the pheromone that the bugs secrete to tell others to congregate. Overall, however, finding and sealing off bug access points is your best bet
. Keeping box elders out now will pay off next spring!
Box elder bugs aren’t dangerous, but they’re certainly not pleasant either. It’s normal not to want them in your home, or even to be a little freaked out by them. They’re… kinda gross. If you follow these steps, you won’t have to worry about box elders--this fall or next spring.
If you’re already forced to worry about box elders, don’t worry! Just give Plunkett’s a call
any time. We’ll force out your bugs and make sure they can’t bother you again. We never “go dormant,” so call us the moment you need us and we’ll be there.