Posted on: August 28, 2007 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 11

No Box Elder Tree, No Boxelder Bug… Problem Solved?

Box Elder bugs (a.k.a. Box Elder Beetles) are something of a nuisance in and around homes throughout the US from fall through early spring.

The adult box elder is about a half inch long and a quarter inch wide. You can find them just about anywhere in the United States, but they only congregate in large numbers when there’s a female box elder tree in the neighborhood. Whereas they eat a variety of plants, this bug’s version of pizza, steak, and shrimp dinner is the seed pod from a female box elder. Yum! The most effective and permanent way to eliminate the bug, therefore, is to remove any female box elder trees you find nearby, but this solution may be unacceptable for a number of reasons. Full-grown, winged adults can fly for distances of several blocks, so boxelder bugs may also migrate into your home from a neighbor’s tree.

Are Boxelder Bugs Bugging You?

Luckily, box elder bugs are not potentially dangerous like mosquitoes, house flies, or wasps. They represent little more than an eye-sore. The worst that can be said for the bugs is that they infrequently stain light-colored surfaces, including draperies, with their feces, and if you should step on one, it stinks to high heaven. That’s typically the extent of their offensiveness. But, if you take pride in your yard, having half of your property covered with these insects certainly is annoying.

If you’re trying to run an orchard, you might prefer that they move a couple of states away: they sometimes feed on the fruits of grape arbors and almond, apple, cherry, peach, pear, and plum trees. Their feeding punctures the fruit and causes it to become deformed. And shoppers tend to reject a deformed fruit. However, the damage is really minor, and only the most finicky peach and pear eaters will ever notice it.

That stench mentioned above is a foul odor they also emit when attacked, and the only known natural predators of these insects are less pleasant to have around than the bugs: rodents and geese, for example.

So How Do You Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs?

If boxelder bugs frequently invade your home, identify and seal up their entry points. Repair torn screens and close up cracks around doors and windows as well as attic or basement vents. Use caulk, weather-stripping, fine-mesh screen, or expandable foam. Vacuuming them up and dumping them can eliminate most, and spraying them with a mixture of water and laundry detergent will kill them. Wash them off exterior walls and tree trunks with a pressure hose.

If your infestation is caused by a nearby female box elder tree, the only way to eliminate the bugs is to eliminate the tree. All other approaches are temporary. Insecticide use is rarely justified or effective. If you can’t discourage them through the destruction of the tree, try clearing the fallen seeds from the area. Use a shop vacuum to remove seeds from hard surfaces such as patios and driveways and also seeds from grassy areas. Rake leaves and remove weeds and grass from a 6 to 10-foot-wide perimeter around the foundation, particularly on the south and west sides of the house. Should the box elder tree be on your property and you don’t want to get rid of it, have a professional tree sprayer spray it each year in preparation for the spring season when the female bugs lay their eggs on the leaves.

Click here for more information about how to get rid of box elder bugs

11 People reacted on this

  1. I am infested with them. We use to acres of Boxelder Trees. We cut them down last winter, Spring came wow no bugs….Then all of a sudden this fall. I am infested. So, I just take dish soap and put into a sprayer to my hose and spray my house down. After a few treatments they will go away. But, make sure you spray the rocks, grass, mulch whatever you may have up to your house I have rocks and they love them. Spray them good. Good Luck

  2. Your problem might be that you have a Box elder bug tree in your backyard.Or the bugs might be getting in your windows and doors.

  3. I also take dish soap and put it into a sprayer and it does help BUT you have to make sure and kill the baby ones. The baby ones look like spiders only they are bright red, before they get their wings. This bug is a real pest and manages to get into the house under the doors. It is only in the last few years that they have been a problem in our area, especially around my neighbours house.

  4. I lived in a basement apartment of a house, and as fall approached we noticed a few box elder bugs sneaking into the basement – we then learned they were Covering the foundation of the house in one corner. We wanted to get rid of them – they were so disgusting! But – we made a HUGE mistake – and sprayed the foundation of the house with ant/roach killer… well, it killed the bugs alright… but all the rest retreated through the foundation into our basement! My roommate was waking up to them under her covers, my boyfriend almost drank one… they were everywhere!

    Before spraying outside, ensure that all cracks are SEALED into your home. And – I agreed with the above tip – get them when they little.

  5. What I do is take a bottle of charcoal lighter, find the infested area, spray it down and light it on fire. If they don’t die in the winter, that’s the best way to get rid of them. Unless if you don’t like fire, use RAID Wasp & Hornet Killer. They really do work but be prepard to get through a few cans of it.

  6. boxelder bug hates lemon tree. I went to Home Depot and got some outdoor lemon candles and lit around my patio, and it flew to the very top of the tree and away from my patio.

    My dad told me that these bugs hate smoke. I think I will try trimming my lemon tree down and burn the leaves in my BBQ pit.

  7. We have a small car lot, and it is right on the south west corner of a property so as you can see is the worst place when have ” Boxelder ” problem.
    My neighbor has a large female boxelder tree and I’m parking my cars under that,so my problem is very big.
    I tried soap “bug b gone” and many other sprays nothing works!
    I can’t cut the tree because it is not in my property.
    Now to make things worse the city has passed a bylaw baning pesticides.
    Any one!!
    Thank you

  8. “HELP” “HELP” I have them everywhere!!!!!!!! By using soap what kind of soap are you all talking about? I need help-PLEASE!!

  9. We have box elder bugs all over the place and all of you that left tips I am so thankful!!! I love you all!! I have a thing with bugs I HATE them!!! They are showing up everywhere so now I am going to kill them all!! lol ThANK YOU EVErYONE!!

  10. I have an indoor infestation of Box Elder Beetles. After reading the information published here, I decided to try the cures offered.

    Regarding laundry detergent: Any brand will probably do the job. I used the cheapest thing I had in the house, a no name brand, totally generic. Results: The beetles, when dropped into a solution of water and detergent died within approximately 30-40 seconds.

    I also tried Simple Green. The results were the same, but more expensive.

    After testing detergent, I tried dish washing liquid. I used Sun and Earth, an organic, non harmful to the environment product. It worked as well as the detergents. This product is safe to dispose of into the garden, or on the lawn. It is environmentally friendly.

    My tests were conducted by the immersion technique. I don’t know what the ratio of water to product used would be for spraying.

    As to having these pests in the home: This isn’t for everyone, but I have been hand picking them from the window area where they congregate, and from the floor, plus any other surface I can reach. I had been squashing in a tissue, but not being squeamish about these things, I just started pinching them between my fingers. It’s a very fast thing; they are gone before they know what’s hit them. After trying the liquid solution, I am keeping a container handy in areas where they congregate, and just dropping them into it.

    Obviously you don’t store the corpses. I just fish them out after a catch of 10 or so. As I mentioned, I’m not squeamish.

    By the way, I haven’t noticed any foul odor from hand killing them. The more of these things you kill in your home, the greater your advantage you will be in controlling future indoor generations. I am dealing with two sets of young now.

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