What are Boxelder bugs?
Boxelder bugs are a type of agricultural pest that is black and almond-shaped with a reddish-orange accent. These bugs feed on the leaves, flowers, and seeds of boxelder and maple trees during the summer, but they also like a delicate plum or apple. They are unattractive, but their feces may stain curtains, carpets, and furniture as they pile on window sills and crawl up walls.
Boxelder bugs are vexing pests. They do not sting or spread illness, and they are not known to bite, but there have been isolated accounts of defensive biting. Boxelder bugs are not known to cause major harm to dwellings or plants.
Their feces, on the other hand, can discolour light-colored surfaces. Smashing them can also cause an unpleasant stench to be released.
How do boxelder bugs look like?
Boxelder bugs are named for the fact that they are frequently seen on and near boxelder trees. This species is native to the western states; although it may be found from eastern Canada to the eastern United States and west to east Nevada, anywhere boxelder trees may be found. Boxelderbugs are primarily a nuisance pest because they overwinter in homes, sheds, and garages.
How to identify the bugs?
Boxelder bugs as adults
- Black with orange or red markings
- including three stripes on the region just behind the head
- about 1/2-inch long (prothorax)
- Wings spread flat across their bodies
- overlapping to create an 'X.'
- Boxelder bugs are "real bugs," which means they have piercing and sucking mouthparts like stink bugs, cicadas, and other insects. When crushed, they emit a foul stench.
Boxelder bugs in their youth (nymphs)
- 1/16th-inch long
- When they initially hatch, they are bright red; they turn to red and black as they grow larger.
How to get rid of boxelder bugs?
Repair gaps in window and door screens, seal cracks and crevices with a good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk and install door sweeps at any outdoor entrances to keep boxelder bugs out.
No attempt should be made to destroy boxelder bugs that have already entered a home or structure in wall voids because dead insect carcasses might attract dermestid beetles (larder beetles, carpet beetles, etc.).
Experts advise waiting until the summer when all live overwintering adults have exited the wall voids. Consider using a vacuum cleaner to get rid of the boxelder bugs to give temporary comfort at this period. To keep the bugs from escaping, the bag should be removed. Then, to avoid further infestations, block up any entryways into the living space – window pulleys, window and door frames, baseboards, and so on. Remove the cover plate from electrical outlets, switch boxes, heating ducts, return air vents, seal it, and reinstall it. Remove the fixture from its base plate, fill it, then reinstall it for light fixtures and ceiling fans.
Facts about Boxelder Bugs
- Boxelder bugs prefer warm environments and are drawn to structures with a lot of southern or western exposure.
- The optimum time to manage them is in the fall when apertures can be sealed, and pesticides may be used on time.
- They usually do not cause property harm, although they can discolour surfaces.
- Once inside, the only effective control is physical removal.
- They are not a significant issue every year.
Habitat of Boxelder Bug
Boxelder bugs become gregarious in fall, congregating on the south side of rocks, trees, and buildings where the sun shines. After gathering in large numbers, they travel to surrounding structures or residences to overwinter. To protect themselves from the severe winter temperatures, these pests prefer to hide in small cracks and fissures in walls. Adults leave their overwintering locations in late March to early April to return to their host trees during the warmer months.
Boxelder bugs do not bite, but their piercing-sucking mouthparts can occasionally puncture flesh, causing minor discomfort and a red mark similar to a mosquito bite. When crushed or handled harshly, boxelder bugs may leave a reddish-orange stain from their fecal material, which can discolour curtains, drapes, clothes, and other fabrics..
The life cycle of the Boxelder bug
The Eastern Box Elder Bug (Leptocoristrivittatus) is a natural bug found in eastern Canada and the United States, primarily a domestic nuisance. Because this insect does not impair tree health, it is not classified as a Forest Health Concern; hence, the City of Toronto does not treat Eastern box elder bugs.
The life cycle of the Boxelder bug consists of three stages which are egg, nymph and adult.
Adult box elder bugs deposit their eggs within host trees or on their leaves in the spring. The eggs are oval in form and rust-red or red-brown. This colour permits them to blend in with their host trees, keeping predators at bay.
Nymphs are females who live in the water. The nymphs emerge 10 to 14 days after the eggs hatch. They appear to be wingless clones of the adults. During the summer, these nymphs go through a series of moults, mature into adults, and become capable of reproducing.
Boxelder bugs seek shelter from the cold throughout the winter months by overwintering. They may fly up to two kilometres to find a good overwintering location.
Pests travel to homes in search of warmth and hibernation. They get access through foundation gaps, doors, and windows.
Box elder bugs remain dormant during the winter, but they may emerge if heat sources within a building are enough. Although nymphs are present in the fall, only fully developed adults survive the harsh winters.
In early spring, the bugs emerge from hibernation. This is when the buds on the box elder trees start to open. The bugs travel to host trees and are active throughout the growing season.
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