Boxelder bug


There is no major danger or health threat. These insects are more a nuisance and reflective of boxelder tree presence on the outside of the home/structure. Inside however, their fecal material may cause a red stain and cause discolouration on curtains, furniture, clothes and other places they rest. When crushed, they omit an unpleasant odour.

Did you know?

The name of this insect reflects that it is a major pest of boxelder trees. They become a nuisance when they seek shelter in the winter months in homes and other structures. These insects are found wherever boxelder trees grow.

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Boxelder bugs are black with reddish or orange lines on their back. Their body shape is flattened and elongated about 11 to 14 mm (1/2 an inch) long. They have six legs and two antennae. Nymphs are similar in appearance to the adults but lack wings, are a brighter red, and are smaller in size.

Overwintering adults emerge from structures in the spring when the buds from boxelder trees open. This usually occurs in April or May depending on the location. These insects feed on fallen boxelder seeds in the summer and later move to the trees to feed on newly formed leaves. Feeding only occurs on the seed-bearing female trees. They can feed on other species such as maples and fruit trees. When cooler weather sets in, boxelder bugs collect on the southside of structures for warmth. Then the migration into the void spaces of structures occurs for the overwintering until spring.

After winter, adults emerge from structures and their hibernation. Females lay clusters of light brown to yellow eggs on vegetation, rocks, and mainly tree bark cracks and crevices. Eggs hatch in approximately two weeks. Nymphs begin to feed on boxelder seeds and new leaves of the trees. They will also occasionally feed on the fruits of plum and apple trees.

Nymphs molt five times before becoming adults mid-summer. In warmer areas, there may be two generations per year.

  1. When crushed or handled roughly, boxelder bugs produce a strong, unpleasant odor, and their fecal material can leave reddish-orange stains that result in fabric discoloration.
  2. Boxelder bugs communicate through scent glands and their antennae. Males release pheromones to attract females.

Are boxelder bugs hazardous to humans?

No. Boxelder bugs are a nuisance more than a hazard to people and their structures/homes.

What causes a boxelder bug infestation?

The presence of female boxelder trees (seed-bearing) and other seed-bearing trees such as fruit and some maples may cause an infestation.

How can I prevent an infestation?

Exclusion is the best prevention for overwintering boxelder bugs seeking shelter inside structures. To prevent boxelder bugs from invading homes in the fall, repair holes in window and door screens, seal cracks and crevices and install door sweeps to all exterior entrances. Seal up entry points around structures such as windows, doors, and roof lines.

How do I remove a boxelder infestation?

Physical control such as vacuuming adults found inside is best. If pesticides are required, contact a licensed pest management professional for the best approach/application.

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