Boxelder bugs or Boisea trivittata are a slightly destructive insect named after the boxelder tree from which they tend to reside. The pests cause very little damage, but when they do it is towards fruit trees such as apple, plum, and peach and to non-fruit bearing trees like the ash and maple tree.
Boxelder bugs are generally more of a nuisance inside homes than outside. The pests invade homes in vast numbers of thousands once the weather turns colder to seek shelter in walls and basements, appearing in other parts of the home on occasions.
Once inside of your home they give off an offensive odor when they sense danger or are crushed. The same odor is also noticed when the bugs die within the walls of your home. The aroma can be offensive when there are a large number of dead bugs that cannot be accessed for removal making it very difficult to enjoy being in your home.
Adults are often mistaken for stink bugs, which they resemble. They have three distinct orange or red stripes on their bodies with the first stripe behind its head and the remaining two running along the sides of its body. The pests are about ½ inch long with dark wings that along across its back.
Their eggs can be found deposited on leaves of boxelder trees in yellow-colored clusters that turn red as the nymphs grow inside.
In the early spring months, adults feed near the ground for a few weeks on boxelder leaves, seeds, and other vegetation before they begin to mate.
Once the reproduction process begins, female bugs lay their eggs on seed pods and the undersides of leaves.
Eggs hatch within 14 days and nymphs emerge and continue to develop well into the fall season.
Boxelder bugs suck the sap from plant tissue by penetrating it with their mouth and secreting a fluid during feeding.
The bugs mostly feed on maple trees and vines, which includes the boxelder but are also known for feeding on fruit trees during the hot summer months.
The damage is usually minimal on fruit trees with just bruising to the fruit. Trees like the boxelder will have yellow leaves that yellow and curl and spots on stems and immature growth.
When indoors, the bugs are a nuisance and can be troublesome because of the odor they carry and their vast numbers. Once the weather turns warmer or if the winter months have made heating your home a necessity, boxelder bugs may decide that it's time to go outside and make their presence known to look for a way out.
Controlling pests like the boxelder bug doesn't mean you have to resort to chemical sprays. Natural methods are as easy as destroying their colonies outdoors so that there are fewer bugs finding their way in your home.
Caulking around window frames, filling in cracks in the foundation, and sealing doors with weather stripping along the bottom may help keep boxelder bugs out.
If your home has loose siding, you should consider repairing it since the bugs can get behind the siding and against the house.
Remove yard debris such as woodpiles to prevent boxelder bugs from seeking shelter in your yard during the winter months.
If the bugs are noticeable on the side of your house or on trees, use a garden hose to blast them away.
If you find the bugs inside of your home use a vacuum with an extension to suck them up. This can also be done to eliminate their colonies outdoors if you have a shop-vac. Empty your vacuums into a container of warm soapy water to dispose of the boxelder pests.