An In-Depth Guide to the Box Elder Bug

While some pests pose a threat to your home year-round, others are more seasonal in nature. As fall descends on the Greater Chicago area and the weather turns cooler, insects that normally thrive outdoors seek shelter from the cold. These pests include Boisea trivittata, better known as the Box Elder bug. Read on to learn what makes the Box Elder bug such a nuisance and what you can do to keep this pest outdoors.

What Box Elder Bugs Look Like

Box Elder bugs are relatively small in size, with adults measuring 12.5 millimeters in length. Nevertheless, these bugs stand out due to their unique coloring. Box Elder nymphs start out with bright red or dark brown bodies featuring a yellow or orange spot in the center. As they age, Box Elder nymphs develop small black wings that eventually gain their unique coloring as they develop into adulthood.

Fully grown Box Elders are dark brown or black in body color. Their wings finally gain the red markings that make the six-legged insect stand out from others. The red markings also make the Box Elder’s wings appear inverted when at rest. Adult Box Elder bugs share the same elongated oval body shape as others in the Hemiptera or true bug order, including brown marmorated stink bugs.

Box Elders can also be identified by their reddish-colored proboscis, used to pierce and consume soft tissues on plants and other foliage.

After mating, adult female Box Elders leave behind reddish-brown egg capsules that hatch nymphs within 11 to 19 days.

Why Box Elder Bugs Invade Your Home                   

Throughout the summer months, both adult and nymph Box Elder bugs form large communal clusters in areas exposed to direct sunlight, including trees, warm rocks, and the sides of buildings. When they’re not congregating, Box Elder bugs seek nourishment from a number of plant and fruit sources, including the leaves and seeds of maple trees and the titular Box Elder tree.

Box Elder bugs are quite content to hang around their principal food sources, but they’re also incredibly sensitive to temperature changes. Box Elder bugs will seek shelter from the cold as outdoor temperatures drop throughout the fall.

While Box Elder bugs normally seek shelter underneath plant debris and any other crevice they can find, they can also find their way inside homes and other man-made structures. Common areas where Box Elder bugs overwinter include voids behind siding and inside exterior walls. Your home’s warmth can coax overwintering Box Elder bugs out of hiding, prompting them to go after food and water sources.

What Makes Box Elder Bugs Pests

When compared to Carpenter ants, termites, and bed bugs, Box Elder bugs make for benign houseguests. Nevertheless, these bugs have plenty of their own annoying habits. Like most other bugs, Box Elders are attracted to light and have a habit of flying into windows. Box Elders may also feed on any houseplants you have indoors.

Box Elders’ fecal matter can leave behind reddish-orange stains on frequent resting spots, including carpets, drapes, and walls. In addition, the bugs themselves produce a chemical secretion as a ward against birds and other potential predators. This secretion can activate if the Box Elder is startled or crushed, resulting in a noxious odor.

Box Elder bugs rarely bite humans. When they do, their proboscis can puncture the skin and leave behind minor skin irritation. Box Elder bugs aren’t known as carriers of parasites or disease.

How to Get Rid of Box Elder Bugs

Box Elder bugs can be difficult to get rid of, especially when they congregate in exterior walls and other hard-to-reach places in your home. Nevertheless, a combination of pesticides and physical removal via broom or shop vacuum are the best approaches. If you’re using your vacuum, throw the bag away to ensure that no Box Elder bugs hitch a ride on you or your belongings.

Exercise care when killing and removing Box Elder bugs from between walls, as their carcasses can attract other insects, including Dermestidae, or skin beetles.

How to Prevent Future Infestations

Prevention is always the best option when dealing with Box Elder infestations. Close off all avenues of entry by sealing cracks and gaps throughout your home to prevent future infestations. Establishing a debris-free perimeter by removing dense foliage and dead leaves from outside your home can also prevent re-infestation.

If you’re dealing with a heavy infestation of Box Elder bugs, consider removing or relocating any nearby Box Elder or silver maple trees. Moving their traditional food sources as far away from your home may help curb or even eliminate infestations. Trimming back overhanging leaves can also prevent contact between your home and your would-be guests.

The experts at A-Alert Exterminating Service Inc. specialize in solving difficult pest control problems for homeowners throughout the Greater Chicago area. Contact us today if you’re dealing with an outbreak of Box Elder bugs.

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