Those who have box elder trees in their yard or nearby are probably more familiar than they want to be with boxelder bugs. While they’re not particularly dangerous to have around, they can definitely be a less than pleasant surprise to find, especially inside. Luckily, there are a few techniques you can employ without bringing in the professionals to prevent and get rid of a boxelder bug invasion. In this article, we’ll go over how to get rid of boxelder bugs with tips that are easy to put in place and don’t need an arsenal of equipment to stand a chance.

What Are Boxelder Bugs?

While some of you are probably familiar with these bugs, some of you may be wondering what the little black bugs are and what exactly they can do. It’s important to go in knowing what you’re up against right?

What Do Boxelder Bugs Look Like?

Boxelder bugs are small – only about a half inch long – and black, with wings outlined in red. While the black and red combination is typically seen as harmful, poisonous, or venomous in the animal (and insect) kingdom, in this case, there’s nothing to worry about. The only issue you face from these little guys is annoyance at their high populations. Still, that is not an issue to be taken lightly. Boxelder bugs – much like ants – tend to come in colonies, so when you see one you can almost guarantee there are about 100 more.

What Do Boxelder Bugs Do?

Boxelder bugs go for the juice from a box elder tree (and sometimes a few others) and are typically out of the way if they’re outside. They’re not harmful to the plants they feed on and are typically an accepted outdoor presence like ants or spiders.

While some of you may be breathing a sigh of relief (no venomous bite, no stinger, and they won’t kill your plants – it is a relief), others have probably already experienced a boxelder bug invasion and are not too keen on revisiting. The problem with boxelder bugs lies more in their numbers and their smell than the bug itself – especially when it starts cooling off and the bugs want a way into your nice, warm, cozy home (and we don’t know about you, but we are definitely not ready for 100+ little winged house guests).

Once inside, boxelder bugs can become immediately invasive and annoying. While they can bite, it will only result in minimal irritation (think of it like a sugar ant bite) and bites are rare. They can, however, leave fecal stains on fabric, which – along with having hundreds of unwanted six-legged house guests – is an added annoyance and issue. Then there’s the smell that tends to hover, especially when you squish them (many of you can already smell it now).

How to Get Rid off Boxelder Bugs

There are a few methods you can use to keep boxelder bugs outside of your house when it starts cooling off in the fall. We’ll go over all the tried and true techniques for how to get rid of boxelder bugs, but there is an important thing to note at the forefront: it is crucial that if you’re trying to prevent an invasion (and prevention is the best method against them or any kind of bug), you’ll need to get started before it starts to cool down.
There’s not a large window of time before they’ll start hustling towards warmth, but the earlier you start, the more fortified you’ll be. Plan on starting in the early summer months for the best chance if you’re really prone to boxelder bug invasions.

Exterior Treatments

There are few techniques for outside the home that will help to both get rid of boxelder bugs on sight as well as prevent them from nesting and invading. The problem starts outside – it’s best to start treating it there, too.

On-Sight Treatment

One of the simplest things to know about how to get rid of boxelder bugs is that they don’t like water. If you see a cluster, blasting them with a hose is a great way to discourage them from nesting in that spot. It won’t solve the problem, but it can buy you a little time.

Perimeter Treatments

Buying diatomaceous earth from your local home and garden store is a more permanent option. It’s a food-grade option that is harmless to us and our pets but deadly to boxelder bugs, so sprinkling it over their clusters or wherever they tend to hover (the base of trees especially) will dehydrate them and kill them off. It would not be a bad idea to sprinkle this around the perimeter of your house as well, as it will add a protective layer.

If you want more options for how to get rid of boxelder bugs, try a residual insecticide. This will go around the perimeter as well as around doors, windows, and the eaves of your home (all access points). Stay away from plants and the lawn as it can do damage there, and you’ll want to keep your kids and pets away after it’s been sprayed.

Finally, the last-resort option would be to replace the seed-bearing box elder trees that are attracting the bugs in the first place. It’s important to know that this is probably the most expensive of the options, but also a more permanent one.

As a last note on how to get rid of boxelder bugs with exterior treatments, sealing up any access points will help a lot in controlling what comes in and out, but can be a time-consuming process. You’ll need to caulk up any cracks or holes after you’ve treated to prevent anything else coming in, and while this may not be the most expensive option, it can definitely take time and patience while you hunt down each tiny crack.

Interior Treatments

Most of the preventative treatments start outside, so keep these next treatments in mind if you already have a boxelder bug issue, or you know you are very likely to need some extra power to get rid of them. Note that interior treatments shouldn’t be your first line of defense as they won’t prevent the bugs from coming in – they will only take care of the ones already there.

On-Sight Treatment:

Like water for the exterior, there is a fast way to get rid of the boxelder bugs you can see – and it’s not as complex as you might think. Vacuuming the bugs up is the fastest way to deal with them since killing them will leave a strong smell behind. Focus on the cluster you see as well as window sills and doorways as that is where they will hover.

Perimeter Treatments:

Glue traps are a great way to manage any kind of bug you’ve got inside, and boxelder bugs are no different. Not only will this help you to see what kind of traffic you have and where, but it’ll also catch the bugs you’re seeing. Think of this as a way to monitor activity as well as capture boxelder bugs (and others).

You may already have a few places in mind to put these traps, but if you don’t, spots like under the sink, in the laundry room, the garage, and in closets are good places to start. If you don’t catch anything after a week or so, move the traps somewhere else. Keep in mind that boxelder bugs want to stay warm and keep dry, so areas in your home that match those criteria should be first on the list.

You can also opt for a homemade insecticide instead of store-bought, as those are often more dangerous and expensive. Instead, try mixing two tablespoons of liquid dish soap into water and spraying your baseboard down with it (along with other points of entry). If your boxelder bug issue is too heavy for this treatment, you may need to try a store-bought solution.

As a final tip, make sure all holes, attic and foundation vents, and any cracks are sealed with tight mesh or with caulking. While this may not solve all the boxelder bug problems you have, it will certainly dilute the traffic and population of them and other bugs too.

Treatments To Try

If you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of boxelder bugs and are finding endless lists of products for indoor and outdoor use, take a look at these products:

LambdaStar UltraCap 9.7 is great indoors and outdoors for pest control (and it’s safe either way you use it).

D-Fense SC is for outdoor use and limited indoor use for pest control.

Cyper WSP can be used inside or outside, though you should steer clear of food prep areas.

Conclusion: How To Get Rid Of Boxelder Bugs

The fight against bugs is not hopeless, but it’s not an exact science either. Patience is an important factor in finding out what works best for your home and your issues. This list includes variety for that very reason. We wish you the best of luck as you prepare against boxelder bugs this season!

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