The Problem: Boxelder bugs, thankfully, are not a danger to most crops and garden plants. They are, however, still a nuisance pest because of their habit of sneaking into houses to overwinter. They stain fabrics and surfaces with their feces and cause displeasure to residents. Not to mention the unpleasant odor they produce when disturbed. Despite not biting humans, they do inflict damage to apples, maple and some other trees, but the harm is mostly cosmetic. Keep reading for our short list of effective measures to get you on the right track to win the battle against boxelder bugs. You will be pleasantly surprised to find out that our recommended methods work for a variety of pests and will have ward off pests year after year!
Their favorite habitat is the female Boxelder tree which explains why these insects have received their name. So if there is a Boxelder tree in your neighborhood, you are likely to face these black-and-orange insects at home. In this article, we will review all scientifically proven ways to get rid of Boxelder bugs. We will look at commercially available products, such as boxelder bug sprays, dusts, concentrates, with active ingredients lambda cyhalothrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin and pyrethrins, so that you will be able to easily decide on how to kill Boxelder bugs. Apart from this, we have prepared a comparison chart of Boxelder bug control efficiency to help you.
You may observe boxelder bugs inside the building in the cold months of the year. Being bright-colored insects, they can hardly remain unnoticed: these creatures with a length of half an inch have three orange or red stripes on a black background. Their eggs are yellow, getting reddish as they mature, normally can be found in groups of approximately ten eggs on boxelder and maple trees. Check leaves and bark as well as the grass in that area for yellow-red clusters to evaluate if you do, in fact, have a boxelder bug infestation.
These insects feed, lay eggs and develop on boxelder trees, most commonly occurring on female trees as they produce seeds. Boxelder bugs are crazy about these seeds, however, they also suck juices from leaves. They can be frequently observed on maple as these trees provide them with seeds as well. Boxelder bugs overwinter in plant debris or protected human-inhabited places and other suitable structures. In May, they lay eggs which hatch in two weeks. First, these insects live and suck on fallen seeds in low-growing plants but then, in the heat of summer, move to their main host trees. With leaves falling, the bugs emerge on tree trunks, bare soil and sidewalks. Beginning in October they can be observed inside the residences where they wander in through crevices which can occur along doors and windows as well as other unprotected areas of the structure.
Once in the residence, boxelder bugs become an annoyance to the occupants of the house staining curtains and light-colored items inside. In addition, they emit a repulsive smell when disturbed and spread their filth. And yet still these orange-striped guys do not harm or bite humans, nor can they damage a houseplant. Seeking warmth, boxelder bugs enter human-inhabited spaces attempting to get out of the cold. Thus, there are two time periods of their activity: in autumn, when they search for a site to overwinter, and in spring, when they search a way out of the building.
Exclusion: The best method to be done with boxelder bugs that has a proven efficiency is a prevention as Jeff Hahn and Mark Ascerno from the University of Minnesota Extension claim. To this end, seal with a caulk and screen all entrances which could be used by the insects to get into the house. These are cracks and crevices around doors, windows, basements, vents as well as openings for cable TV wires and utility pipes. Take care to repair damaged screens if there are any, especially in vents and fans. Apart from caulk or spray foam, copper wire mesh can be used in case you need to cover a much larger area. In garages, try to seal the openings with the rubber. The StopPestInfo Editorial staff loves physical measures with multiple benefits to the homeowner. Sealing cracks is simple and blocks many types of pests, blocks harmful water intrusion and can save you energy costs at the same time!
Also, if your house is built of stone or brick, inspect the walls to find out if there cracks where bricks and wood meet. Buildings made of vinyl siding are much more vulnerable to boxelder bugs as there are numerous openings and you are unable to reveal all of them and seal. In this case, the better option is applying insecticides in the places where boxelder bugs were noticed in previous seasons. Generally, these sites include areas around any point of an entrance into the house.
Habitat Removal: However, to obtain satisfactory results do not confine your pest control strategy to exclusion. Take the following steps aimed at the reduction of the number of sites where boxelder bugs will be able to overwinter. In particular, remove all debris, including wood and leaves from the yard. Also, get rid of grass and weeds on the southwestern part of the yard where the last sunshine of autumn will warm the area. These measures will help to lower the number of boxelder bugs clustered in the areas near the building. Indoors, vacuum and clean the infested areas.
Another solution recommended by scientists of the University of California is to hose host plants with water. Under the strong stream of water these insects will simply drown, so do not neglect such a conventional but extremely effective way to get rid of boxelder bugs. Also, try water mixes and washing agents (see recipe below) to treat the sites of the pests’ congregation. This solution will cost you nothing, it is safe for humans and pets and is effective.
According to scientists of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, soap is more preferable in cool weather and is not as toxic to people as other insecticides. They offer the following recipe: mix half a cup of dry soap with one gallon of water and spray the liquid directly on the bugs. Remember that soap may harm foliage of the houseplants, therefore take care to cover them. The SPI Research Team would like to point out that while not a perfect solution, spraying with soapy water can be part of an effective multi-pronged approach to an infestation.
You may notice some conflicting information in this area. Surprise! Scientists are people too! Many Scientists disagree about using insecticides for boxelder bugs despite there being a variety of commercially available sprays for the job – many of which we recommend based on user experience. What we have observed is that using insecticides indoors will kill the bugs present at the time of spraying but will not prevent more from sneaking into your house if you have an infestation and an easy path for them to enter. The following Scientists’ opinions are worth considering but they assume a homeowner is only choosing one method to combat the problem. If you heed the advice of the SPI Editorial Staff, you will remember that a multi-pronged approach is always the best.
Treatment of the surfaces inside and outside the building with insecticides should be considered as a last resort or at least as part of a “layered” approach. According to the scientists of the University of California, insecticide sprays are not an option to get rid of boxelder bugs. Using them you will not obtain superior results as compared to cleaning the infected areas with a vacuum or a strong stream of water.
At the same time, chemicals have some drawbacks in comparison with other solutions: insecticides need to be reapplied several times, may not be environment-friendly and, under certain conditions, they can harm the health of humans and animals. In addition, the product’s effect lasts for quite a short period of time because sunlight breaks down the material. For this reason, some insecticides kill pests for no longer than a week after the application – an issue the smart homeowner can overcome by being selective on spraying locations. (Luckily, this is an easy and safe process if you follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions).
If you have a heavy boxelder bugs infestation and have observed these pests in your house before, applying insecticides to the exterior of the building will provide some temporary relief. Gregory A. Hoover and Steve Jacobs, Sr. extension associates from the Pennsylvania State University, admit of this as a single solution for exclusion is not viable. These two scientists particularly single out dust insecticides which “may kill thousands of bugs.”
Insecticides should be applied at the end of the summer and in autumn as this is the time when boxelder bugs start to gather around the building. The chemicals in question include synthetic pyrethroids, such as lambda cyhalothrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, bifenthrin, tralomethrin and permethrin — that is the list of substances intended for the use outside the buildings. In spring, use horticultural oils which are more ecologically friendly and less toxic.
Broad or indiscriminate application of insecticides inside the house is not a good idea due to several factors. First, spraying chemicals inside the house is useless in terms of preventing boxelder bugs from wandering into the building through existing openings. It will work directly sprayed on to the pests themselves.
A related but rare problem arising when insecticides are used indoors for infestations is attracting carpet beetles which devour dead boxelder bugs. They can be attracted in attics and other places by the presence of their dead prey, and, after that, wander around the house attacking natural fiber products like wool and cotton. Even though the referenced scientists love to point out this possible complication, this should not deter you from dealing with your Boxelder Bug problem. Carpet Beetles can be dealt with accordingly.
All insecticides are poisonous and should be applied strictly according to the instruction provided by the manufacturer. In particular, keep these products in a safe place and dispose of them according to the producer’s instruction, otherwise, you may cause a risk of a contamination of the environment.
If these insects have become a really intolerable pest in the place where you live, it would be a smart move to take such drastic measures as pulling out host trees without which these pests will starve and die out. F.B. Peairs from the Colorado State University believes it to be the most permanent solution to the problem. Are you unwilling to remove all of the boxelder trees? Well, then focus on the female trees based on the evidence we have mentioned above.
The scientists have described this solution as the most effective in dealing with a sustained boxelder bug infestation. The SPI Research Partners recommend removing trees in winter to counteract a possible drawback connected with the insects’ ability to fly over a long distance migrating from other trees located in the vicinity. A seasonal alternative is to clear seeds under the trees by means of a broom or vacuum, the latter will be particularly helpful if there is a lot of grass.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth, which is a natural pest control, into the wall crevices and other sites where a large number of the pests are noticed. It is a powder from fossilized diatoms and is usually available in the dust. It works by causing dehydration of the insects’ bodies, does not contain any poison and is safe around pets.
|Exclusion (sealing cracks and screening openings) |
|scientifically proven best preventive method, improves quality of the home||time-consuming; buildings made of vinyl siding have too many gaps; will not help to get rid of the insects already inside the house|
|Removing host trees |
|bugs will die out; recommended by scientists as a permanent solution;||does not comply with the environmental philosophy; bugs can migrate from neighboring areas|
|Cleaning \ vacuuming the infected areas |
|cheap, kills on contact||time-consuming; do not prevent bugs from getting into the house;|
|Hosing host plants with a stream of water |
|produces an immediate result; kills lots of bugs at once; environmentally friendly solution||time-consuming; may harm leaves of the plants;|
|Removing overwintering sites |
|lower the number of bugs gathered near the building’s foundation||time-consuming; will not help to get rid of the insects already inside the house|
|Spraying a soap liquid |
|cheap, safe and effective; can be homemade; kills pests on contact||have to be applied directly to insects; also can harm some plants|
|Using insecticides |
|kill on contact; is not time-consuming; helpful in case of heavy infestations; dust insecticides are considered most effective indoors, common choice for homeowners||not recommended by scientists as effective; need to be reapplied; may not be safe for humans; short-term solution; do not prevent bugs from getting into the house; carpet beetles eat dead boxelder bugs; should be considered as a last resort.|
|Horticultural oils |
|more ecologically-friendly; less toxic; have minimal impact on beneficial insects; can be used on a year-round basis||the effect lasts for a short period of time; requires repeated applications.|
|Diatomaceous earth |
|environmentally friendly solution; does not contain poisons||it is effective only as long as the product remains dry; can cause skin irritation, indoors only|
Below we will look at boxelder bug control products at prices ranging from $6 to over $50. They will help you to implement different pest control strategies which we have discussed before, including exclusion, indoor and outdoor treatment.
The mesh is a good option for boxelder bug exclusion helping to effectively keep them away from attics and vents. It is available as a roll with the size of the material amounting to 8 inch x 100 foot. The product is made of fiberglass which is solid enough to resist attacks of birds. Try cutting it with heavy duty shears and affixing it with stainless steel staples.
The product is popular and well liked. It is versatile and durable. The SPI Team recommends that if you are also dealing with large birds or rats then upgrade to a metal mesh or triple-layer this product. The price remains affordable and installation is easy. You could have this installed in just a few hours.
Price: Check current price
The screen is available at almost the same price as the mesh that we reviewed above, and with a similar satisfaction rating. This is a tape of a silver-gray color designed to repair a torn screen. As we said before, scientists recommend repairing damaged screens to prevent boxelder bugs from entering the house and will protect your investment as a homeowner.
As the manufacturer states, this screen repair tape made of a fiberglass is very adhesive and resist temperatures ranging from -4℉ ~ 140℉, however, it is recommended to be applied at temperatures exceeding 50ºF. The tape is easily applied as no tool is needed, the sticky side will do the job. All you need is to cut a patch of the appropriate size and place upon the damaged area. Using the product, you will be able to repair torn window screens, tent meshes and many other items. The tape has three layers and measures at 2 to 80 inches.
The material allows air inside, but at the same time is sticky enough to withstand windy conditions experienced by exterior window screens.
Price: Check current price
This insecticide with an active ingredient deltamethrin is designed to kill boxelder bugs and ladybugs. While being highly popular with the US pest control professionals, it still can be toxic in case the instructions are not followed. The Harris spray with a volume of 3.8 liters is odorless and does not stain surfaces. It is approved by EPA and can be used both inside and outside the house.
According to the instruction, the product’s residual effect lasts up to several weeks after the first application. It is wildly popular because of positive consumers experience, two applications are often enough to get rid of the pests.
Any negativity experienced is mostly related to the fact that although the product kills the insects, it does not repel them. But this is what we have explained above with the reference to scientific findings: no insecticide will prevent boxelder bugs from entering your house; to that end, rather try a physical exclusion approach.
Price: Check the current price
This product is a cheaper as the previous one, however, its liquid volume is four times less and amounts to 946 ml. PF Harris with an active ingredient deltamethrin is odorless, stainless and designed specifically for destroying boxelder bug colonies and it is easier applied due to its trigger spray.
Price: Check current price
As we have stated before, dust products are considered by scientists to be the most effective indoor solution among other insecticides as the powder can penetrate into narrow cracks killing insects on contact. Drione with active ingredients pyrethrins (1.0%); piper only butoxide (10.0%) and amorphous silica gel (40.0%) annihilates a number of insects, including boxelder bugs. An active ingredient is a pyrethrin which is a botanical insecticide working by attacking the insect’s nerve system and paralyzing them what eventually results in death.
Drione is quite popular. For an improved experience, we personally avoid using the puffer unless the “crack” you are treating is very small.
Price: Check current price
The concentrate is primarily intended for the outdoor use, in lawns and gardens, and targets almost 180 insects. This is one of the products recommended by the University of Idaho Extension for effective boxelder bug management. While ensuring a long-lasting protection, the product will damage neither plants nor vegetables.
Its active ingredient is a lambda cyhalothrin which is less toxic as it is insoluble in water and is not expected to contaminate water. And yet upon contact with the eyes and skin, the substance is likely to cause an irritation. One bottle makes up to 16 gallons of the diluted liquid which should be sprayed on trees and plants. This is a good solution to prevent boxelder bugs from penetrating into the house by eliminating them on their host trees.
Price: Check the current price
This is another insecticide recommended by the University of Idaho Extension but this time we are dealing with a ready-to-use spray. The effect of the product with an active ingredient bifenthrin lasts for a year when applied indoors on flat surfaces, and three months in case it used outdoors, according to the manufacturer. However, you should not apply it to plants, the product is designed rather for the treatment of such elements as porches and eaves.
It is said to kill over 130 species of insects, including boxelder bugs, and, apart from that, creates a bug barrier. Home Defense Max does not stain, nor has it any offensive odor. Keep pets and children away from the treated area until the liquid dries. The manufacturer advises creating a 4-inch barrier in kitchens, bathrooms, basements, as well as around windows and doors. Outside the house, the barrier should amount to 12 inches and be created around perimeters and foundations, garage entrances and walls, around doors and window trim, as well as around a patio perimeters.
This product is highly rated by the SPI Research Team who recommends this spray for a variety of pests. Nearly all common insect pests in North America will be taken care of by this ORTHO product.
Price: Check the current price
The product contains 100% diatomaceous earth which is made from the fossilized remains of diatoms and is a natural pesticide. It can be used against a large variety of pests killing them on contact, with the insect dying within two days. At the same time, DE does not inflict a damage to humans and the environment. The stuff can be applied both inside and outside the house (in dry weather) and is particularly effective for boxelder bug control as it can be sprinkled into small and narrow cracks and crevices.
Diatomaceous earth works by means of a dehydration on contact when its particles penetrate into the insect’s exoskeleton. Also, it kills an insect when ingested by absorbing its moisture. The product is strongly recommended to be stored in a dry place so that it cannot get wet. When sprinkled in the kitchen and dwelling spaces, focus on areas around furniture, windows, and doorways, as well as cracks in the floor and walls. When applied outdoors, treat areas along the entrances and windows.
The manufacturer has specified that the product has not been tested for boxelder bugs but some of the users claim that it really works on these insects. To avoid seeing white powder in the home, use in dark corners and behind furniture.
Price: Check current price
|ADFORS Vent Mesh, 8 ” x 100′||fiberglass, mesh|
|By.RHO Screen Repair Kit||fiberglass, tape|
|Harris Asian Lady Beetle & Box Elder Killer, Gallon||deltamethrin, spray|
|P F Harris Mfg Co Hbxa-32 32 Oz, Ready To Use||deltamethrin, spray|
|1 LB Drione Pest Insecticide Dust||pyrethrins, dust|
|Spectracide 95829 Triazicide Once and Done! Insect Killer||lambda cyhalothrin, concentrate|
|Ortho 0196410 Home Defense MAX Insect Killer Spray for Indoor and Home Perimeter||bifenthrin, spray|
|Safer Brand 51703||Diatomaceous earth-based powder|
Thank you for taking the time to read all the way through! Great effort went into making this comprehensive and scientific article. As you saw, there is sometimes an interesting disconnect between scientists in a lab and homeowner’s experience. We like to think that it is our job to bridge the gap and find the best solutions for you in every situation. Consider bookmarking us or adding us to your favorites list as we cover many topics and strive to make your life pest free for years to come.
And these boxelder bugs are not dangerous? We have plenty of them in the yard, and children play there, I would not want them to be bitten by these strange insects. I did not touch them, because my husband said that they are harmless, but can still somehow process the territory just in case?