Want to get rid of boxelder bugs fast? You’ve come to the right place.
I’ve had firsthand experience in dealing with these nasty pests, so I can offer you a complete and comprehensive guide to getting rid of them- for good.
This guide covers everything from identifying boxelder bugs, why they’re in your house, and how to get rid of them naturally using DIY home remedies.
If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments section and I’ll reply to them with my thoughts.
Ready to kill these annoying and smelly pests? Let’s roll.
Last updated: 1/21/21. Updated for accuracy.
What are boxelder bugs?
The first thing we need to do is make sure you’re actually dealing with a boxelder bug problem in your house in the first place- what good is trying to get rid of the wrong pest? Knowledge is power.
Boxelder bugs are large, 0.5’’ bugs with three red stripes and vertical lines on their sides and also on their wing edges.
They’re found during the warmer seasons as they hibernate during the winter in a warm, dry area during the cold.
They’re mostly black in color with flat backs with orange lines that outline features. They have wings and can definitely fly.
They go through a metamorphosis from egg to nymph to adult, so they do lay eggs.
They also don’t reproduce within your house because the female boxelders require plants such as trees, shrubs, leaves, and other shrubby areas. This doesn’t include inside your house unless you happen to have a lot of indoor plants.
They’re not typically known to eat indoor plants, but rather eat plants with sap. They have strong teeth and beaks which they use to drain nourishing nutrients from plants, twigs, and seeds. So they’ll eat up any live plants that are healthy.
You can find more info about them on Wikipedia.
Types of boxelder bugs in North America
There are two main types of box elders you’ll find domesticated in Northern America:
- Western boxelder bug (Boisea rubrolineata)
- Common boxelder bug (Boisea trivittata)
The main difference is that the western boxelder doesn’t have the orange wing veins that the common boxelder does. There are other ones to a lesser extent.
Regardless, they can both be eliminated the same way and all these methods apply to both.
Why are boxelders always found in groups?
Boxelders use a survival mechanism where they clump together in order to survive.
They provide each other with security and ease of reproduction, so they often are found in large colonies. If you find one, you’ll find a lot more.
Grouping is a survival technique that increases reproductive success, which is probably the most important hardwired goal of any organism on the planet.
Large numbers also offer better protection against predators, because they’ll be scared away or only be able to eat a small portion of the colony while the rest escapes and hides.
It’s the same reason as to why fish travel in schools or birds travel in flocks. This helps ensure progeny and survival of their species.
Yes, crazy stuff. It’s survival of the fittest in action.
Can boxelder bugs damage plants?
They do eat trees, leaves, twigs, and other plant-based matter, but they rarely will damage it enough to kill it.
They cause minimal damage when eating plants and unnoticeable damage when eating trees.
Most of the time, they’ll exclusively feed on female maple trees. If there’s any tree that’s guaranteed to have boxelder bugs, it’s a maple tree.
These are the favorite nesting grounds of boxelders, and if you have them nearby in your backyard, you’ll likely see a colony of migrating bugs during the cold season as they migrate into your home for overwintering.
Boxelders eat plant tissue with their proboscis, which is a needle they use to feed with.
Once they breach the outer surface of the plant, they use this straw-needle to suck out the plant nutrients and enzymes for themselves to grow. They like seed pods which are found by the Acer family of trees, which include boxelder trees and maple trees.
Even though there are a ton of them on each tree that contains an established colony, they rarely will do enough harm to kill the tree.
They target seeds rather than adult trees, which the tree can easily replant each season.
Will boxelders eat farm crops?
They’re not usually known to eat crops on a farm environment.
They do eat fruit trees, berry plants, and other various veggie plants. But the damage they do is rarely enough to kill the plant and is often just cosmetic damage.
However, in large numbers, they can render some crops to be way too “ugly” to be edible or sold.
So it’s still important to control boxelder bugs. If you live on a farm and you sell crops, you can keep them pesticide-free by using some of the natural ways to get rid of boxelders below in this comprehensive pest guide.
They’ll wreck havoc in rural areas that have a ton of them.
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What do they eat?
Boxelder bugs typically eat twigs, leaves, and seeds.
They also like to feed on aromatic plants or plants that are healthy. They’re considered a pest for plants because they’ll gladly eat up any plant, and the young hatch from their eggs during the springtime in maple, fruit, and boxelder trees.
Younger leaflets are their favorite- they’re tender and easy to digest.
They won’t really damage your trees because they’re so large, but smaller plants may suffer from them. They’re also rarely found on male trees and only feed on female ones. This is why it’s so difficult to notice them until they seek shelter during the wintertime.
Where do boxelder bugs come from?
Boxelders don’t come into your home for no reason. They rarely breed within a household but may come inside for shelter due to temperature changes.
Just like cluster flies, boxelder bugs will come into the warmer shelter which is typically found indoors, so that’s why you may find them crawling around on your walls or carpet.
Like any other pest, boxelder bugs come from the outdoors and get inside your home through cracks, ceilings, doors, dryer vents, sliding doors, and even faucets.
Crevices, cracks, and breaks within the foundation of your house are easy targets for a boxelder to get into your property. This is the case for many other pests and that’s why it’s critical to make sure your home is protected from pests.
Some homes may be more susceptible to boxelders, especially if the home faces a southern or western direction with lots of sunlight. Taller buildings are also more prone to boxelder bugs.
What attracts boxelder bugs?
Boxelder bugs will come into your home seeking warmth from colder temperatures.
This is especially true during the winter as they look for shelter in homes and other buildings in wall voids, doors, and windows. They’ll find a window eave that has a south or west-facing structure, as they’re hard-wired by nature to seek light in this position.
Even during the winter, you’ll likely see them when the sun is out and temperatures rise because they think winter is over. If you happen to have a sunny and warm day during the middle of winter, or if you turn on the heater, they’ll come out and look for food and light.
Naturally, they’ll resurface after winter is over in the springtime, which is when they’ll seek out trees and leaves to munch on and breed a new generation of boxelders.
Do boxelder bugs bite?
No. They feed on plant matter exclusively.
North American boxelders feed on juices found in seedpods of maple trees and boxelder trees (aptly named). Boxelder maples are their favorite type of tree to eat and they have a special mouthpart called a proboscis that they use to drink the juice of plants.
Are boxelder bugs harmful or poisonous to humans?
No. They won’t harm humans.
But they can carry diseases by touching one thing and bringing it to another. If you have a ton of them if your home, you should get rid of them because they’ll be a real annoyance with their numbers.
Diseases and boxelders
This is the only thing you should out for.
Although rare, they can spread disease by coming into contact with your food other surfaces that you touch after having a bunch of them in your home.
Stink bugs vs. box elder bugs
Stink bugs and boxelder bugs are often confused because they look almost the same. But there are a few differences that we can rule out just based on their appearances.
They both migrate to warmer conditions during the wintertime and are attracted to the warm air coming from crevices and entryways of your home. Both seek warm shelter during overwintering.
Here are some key differences boxelder bugs and stink bugs:
- Boxelder bugs will emit a foul smell and dye that stains when crushed, whereas stink bugs also emit a smell when crushed, but doesn’t emit the same staining dye
- Boxelder bugs are dark brown or black in coloration, whereas stink bugs are green or brown color
- Stink bugs have accented veins and markings on abdomen and wings, whereas stink bugs only have black/white markings on the wing edges
- Boxelder bugs are thinner whereas stink bugs are broader and flatter
How to get rid of boxelder bugs in the house?
Boxelder bugs are found all year long but are especially apparent during the spring and summer.
When the weather is hot and dry, boxelders can often be found in trees or bushes feasting on the plant.
During the fall, they’ll gather on trees, twigs, and shrubs as they eat away at the plant and you can even find them on the outside of buildings.
This is when they’ll feed to stuff themselves and then start to look for warmer shelter. They’re trying to find cracks in buildings to hide during the winter.
This is when you’ll start to smell a very unpleasant odor as they use it to attract other boxelders to their location to huddle up for the cold season.
This is the same smell you’ll smell when you crush them. If you’ve ever killed a boxelder, you’ll notice they have a very foul odor from the crushed bug.
Boxelder bug life cycle
Boxelder bugs can reproduce rapidly and that’s why they can become a nuisance quickly.
After the wintertime rolls over and spring approaches, they emerge from their hiding places. This is when you’ll notice them by the dozens in your home- as soon as temperatures pick up. The adults will find host trees and plants to lay small eggs.
This is typically a female maple tree, but they’ve been known to do the same with any plant as long as it meets their breeding requirements.
After the eggs are laid from the female boxelders, they hatch two weeks later as nymphs and begin eating the host plant.
Then they go through several molts. Each time they molt, they get darker in color. They then produce a second generation that looks for shelter for the next coming winter, which starts the life cycle all over again.
They typically want to find dry, warm, and sheltered areas that are commonly found in households. This is why you have a boxelder problem. But they’re known to also use foundations of buildings, leaf litter, and even woodpiles.
Boxelder bugs in the US will often go unnoticed during the spring and summer, but when cooler winter and fall weather arrives, they’ll gather together on the southern side of buildings, sidewalks, fences, trees, and rocks to warm themselves.
They’ll also look for entry into structures, such as your home. They’re known to not reproduced within a structure, but they’ll likely be a real annoyance as they come in huge numbers.
Do boxelder bugs go away on their own?
Boxelder bugs will eventually leave your home when the temperatures pick up, which is usually during the spring/summer months.
When this happens, they’ll migrate as they look for a way out of your house, which you’ll then see a ton of them because they were hiding before in the crevices during the winter/fall.
The only times they really become a pest is doing the time when they’re coming into your home and when they’re leaving. Other times you may see a few here and there.
But if you want a pest-free household, you should definitely follow the techniques below to get rid of boxelder bugs. They’ll just enter your home again season after season since you’re not taking the right action to get rid of them for good.
Unless they don’t bother you, you should start taking measures to safeguard and protect your home from boxelder bugs. But hey, that’s probably why you’re here, right?
How to get rid of boxelder bugs naturally
There are many natural, DIY techniques to get rid of box elders, and you can do that quite effectively with the ones on this list.
By following through with determination and persistence, you can avoid paying the local exterminator for supplies and labor and do it yourself for a fraction of the cost- and get some knowledge about boxelders in the process.
You’ll also be armed for the next wave of pests should they come back.
There are several things you can do that can effectively eliminate them from your home. The first step is to safeguard your house, which will already prevent future boxelders from getting into your house, garden, garage, outhouse, attic, basement, or even farm.
Let’s go over some pest solutions you can try at home.
But first, here’s an incredibly important thing you should know before you want them dead and eliminated from your establishment.
Whatever you do, don’t squash them. They’ll leave a foul smell that leaves a stain that can be difficult to clean up. Use a vacuum every time.
Don’t squash them with a paper towel, napkin, or your bare hands. This will just make you disgusted as soon as their foul-smelling odor hits your nose.
So instead, use these natural solutions that can get rid of box elders in your home- without squishing them.
Stopping them from entering your home
This is probably the most effective way of stopping and preventing boxelder bug infestations entirely.
When you seal up your house properly, they won’t be able to get inside your home which will mean you won’t have any boxelders to deal with in the first place!
This means you can prevent boxelder bugs permanently.
The concept sounds easy, but it does take some work to bug-proof your home. Depending on how many entry points your home has, it may also take some labor, cash, and time to fix it up.
Places where boxelders can get into your home
Here are some common entry points for boxelder bugs that you should inspect and patch up if applicable:
- Repair all broken, torn, or ripped screen doors and windows- Install screening if none exist
- Repair broken soffit vent screens, roof screens, and drain screens
- Replace attic and roof vents
- Seal gaps between utility lines, conduits, and plumbing
- Look for crevices, gaps, and small entry points around windows and door frames and seal them
- Do a serious check-up around your home and seal up any cracks present with a caulk gun- Check window sills, roof joints, doors, foundation cracks, and fascia boards for cracks and seal them with caulk
- Pick up any leaves, twigs, or other plant matter as they drop and dispose of them
- If you have maple trees, rake up maple leaves in the spring and dispose of them
- Store woodpiles, paper, cardboard, or other cellulose-based materials away from boxelder reach
- Keep waste bins sealed at all times
- Prune and trim trees and plants to prevent overgrowth and shedding
Doing these practices will prevent boxelder bugs permanently as they can’t get into your home.
This is the best way to prevent any future infestations of bugs and the most effective way to do so. It’ll take time, but it’s definitely the most worthwhile, efficient, and cost-effective way to get rid of boxelders and stop them from getting into your property.
Borax is an awesome way to get rid of boxelder bugs naturally at home.
Borax is a DIY method that actually works and get rids of many pets.
You can use it to break their protective coating on the boxelder and destroy their internals. Just spread this stuff around your property where you think they’ll come into contact with it.
Spread borax around the following common infestation areas around your home:
- Foundation crevices and cracks
- Door Frames
- Wall voids
- Patio doors
- Sliding doors
- Trees, plants, and shrubs
Create a perimeter of borax around your home to form a “fence” to block boxelders. Any which do cross will contaminate themselves and eventually get killed.
Food grade diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is a sedimentary deposit that occurs naturally on the planet.
Fossilized materials known as diatoms are what make up this substance, and it’s usually made for pools and gardens. However, some pests that come into contact with it will get their outer coating destroyed over time and eventually get killed by it.
Boxelder bugs are one such pest. Their coats will eventually disintegrate and the diatomaceous earth will get into their internals and kill them after exposure to DE.
You can use this to your advantage by spreading it around your household. Form a safe perimeter so that the boxelder bugs must touch it in order to cross into your home.
This way, any boxelders that do make it into your house will already have come into contact with the diatomaceous earth and will be killed with time.
You can also spread this stuff on trees, patios, door frames, cracks, crevices, foundations, garages, wall voids, and windows around your property to safeguard against boxelder bugs.
Be sure to purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth so that it’s safe for pets and kids. This is also important for yourself and your family because boxelders will touch the stuff and spread it as they walk around the house.
So that’s why it’s important that it’s food grade only in case it gets into your kitchenware or other household objects you come into contact with.
Soap and water
A common approach that’s cheap to make and effective for killing boxelder bugs is soapy water. Just mix soap and water in even parts and spray directly on the bugs.
Here’s how to make this spray:
- Fill one spray bottle with two tablespoons of dish soap
- Fill the rest with tap water
- Shake and spray the bugs directly until they’re coated
This won’t kill them right away, but will deteriorate their outer shells and they’ll become dehydrated over time. They’ll likely be killed within a few hours.
This is an effective way to reduce the boxelder population drastically and is completely natural and safe for household use. Just be sure not to spray it into your consumables.
This may seem primitive, but a vacuum works wonders for killing boxelders.
They get sucked up into the vacuum and killed in the process. The ones that don’t die will end up in your vacuum canister or bag ready for disposal. Just use the vacuum hose, or better yet a shop vac, to suck them up and clean house.
Be sure to use the hose in hard-to-reach crevices. The suction power will likely suck them out of the crack and right into the vacuum so you can easily get rid of any box elders that are hiding.
A vacuum approach is also awesome if you don’t want to touch them or constantly have to squash them with your fingers or a paper towel.
Some people burn the vacuum bag after, but that’s a little extreme (and dangerous). Just dispose of the bag in a bin where they can’t escape and you’ll be fine.
There are few recipes that you can use to make a spray that’ll kill boxelder bugs using essential oils like citrus, tree oil, peppermint, and cayenne pepper.
Here are two of the best recipes using oils against boxelders.
DIY essential oil boxelder repellent:
- Fill a spray bottle with 2 cups of water
- Add 20 drops of tea tree oil Melaleuca
- Add 20 drops of pepper oil
- Add 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
- Shake and spray directly on boxelder bugs or where you see them congregate
This essential mix will repel them and make them leave the site where you sprayed. The cayenne pepper is very effective in driving them out and will keep them out of cracks and hiding places where you spray.
DIY essential oil boxelder killer:
- Fill a spray bottle with 2 cups of water
- Add 10 drops of citrus (lime or lemon)
- Add 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
- Add 2 tablespoons of dish soap
- Shake and spray on any boxelder bug
This spray will kill them. The soap will break down their shell over time and the citric will blind them and make them unable to migrate. This solution is good for hiding places that you can’t reach and directly sprayed onto any boxelder group.
For extra bug-killing power, any pyrethrin-based spray will kill boxelders at any part of their life cycle. This means it works on eggs, nymphs, or adults.
You can purchase pyrethrin and add it to your essential oil sprays, but be careful because it could be harmful if used incorrectly and can cause some minor symptoms.
Vinegar is another method to easily repel boxelder bugs. This is a completely natural and safe way to get rid of them without using any dangerous poisons.
Here’s how to make your own DIY boxelder spray with vinegar:
Step 1: Get a spray bottle and fill it with pure white vinegar. This is important because other kinds of vinegar will stain after they evaporate.
Step 2: Spray your home wherever you see boxelder bug congregation. You can look for window sills, doorframes, entryways, wall edges, and other areas common to boxelder bug infestation around your home.
Step 3: Double-coat the areas where you think boxelders are likely using to enter your home. This will likely be where maple trees exist. You should spray any entryway nearby that tree. Feel free to also spray the tree itself if possible.
Step 4: Spray where you think boxelders are migrating from. That is, spray the path you think they’re taking from the nearest maple tree to your home.
The vinegar won’t kill them, but will drive them away and repel them.
This is useful if you just want to drive them away without leaving a bunch of dead box elders hanging around your place. It’s also completely safe for pets and children, so this is a very handy (and cheap) approach to getting rid of boxelder bugs.
Hot or boiling water can also be used to instantly kill box elder bugs on contact.
This is another approach and alternative to using dangerous insecticides which may pose a threat to your pets and kids. Hot water will kill boxelders and is also a completely natural and safe approach (provided that you take proper precautions).
All you need to do is heat up a pot of water or use a hot water boiler. Get a container made out of steel and simply fill it up with the boiling water.
Then just pour it on sidewalks, walls, or even the cracks in the soil where you see boxelder activity. This is where they’re likely breeding, so pour the hot water down the cracks to kill the young bugs and the eggs to stop them from breeding.
As with any other approach, be sure to only dump the hot water where it’s safe.
Be wary of:
- Wood, carpet, furniture, or other materials that may be prone to water damage
- Be careful where you’re pouring
- Watch out for splashing water
Water is an excellent alternative to pesticides for boxers. Water will eventually evaporate and leave no residue behind that may be dangerous, unlike bug spray. This is 100% natural, DIY home remedy to getting rid of box elders and is very effective- not to mention pretty much free.
Using nature to kill boxelders
There are a few rodents and pests that’ll naturally eat boxelder bugs. If you happen to have these roaming around, they’re a natural boxelder killer.
The following animals and species will eat boxelder bugs:
- Various spiders
- Guinea hens
- Praying mantis
For those who own livestock, these animals may be a solution to box elder population control.
Boxelders will emit a nasty smell, so these natural predators may just end up leaving the rest of the colony after eating a few.
DIY homemade boxelder trap
You can make a boxelder trap that you can place around your home. This won’t get rid of them completely, but serves as a tool to gauge your progress.
The more boxelders you trap, the many you have that are taking over your home. As you make progress, you should see less and fewer boxelders get trapped over time.
Here’s how you can make a homemade trap for boxelder bugs:
You can also use bug tape which lures them into it and the sticky residue will trap them. You can buy this tape at any hardware store.
Stick it where you see lots of pest activity and see if you can trap any. Replace as needed. Over time, you should see fewer and fewer bugs get trapped.
Boxelder bugs in trees
Suppose you have a maple tree in your garden and you have a ton of boxelders migrating into your home from this tree. If you want to keep the tree, you can use various sprays to minimize the population in the tree.
If you don’t want to cut down the tree, you can use a basic essential oil recipe to spray all over the tree. This will cut down the boxelder population by a ton. Choose any of the oil recipes above for more details.
You can also routinely spray the tree with a soap and water mixture. This will kill some of the boxelders and reduce the population.
Other than that, you can always go artificial and pick up some pest killer. Choose natural, organic compounds if possible. This will make it safer for pets and kids. Minimize the artificial ingredients in your insecticide to keep things safe and eco-friendly.
Lastly, you can cut down the tree or seriously prune it. This will eliminate the boxelder problem for good because they won’t have a huge colony near your home. After all, maple trees are their favorite. But if you get rid of it, you also get rid of the boxelders.
Using non-organic methods
Here are some commercial approaches you can use to eliminate them. Use all-natural approaches when possible! They’re safer for the environment, you, and your pets!
Sevin bug spray and boxelders
You can use Sevin bug spray to kill boxelders. Use as the directions state. There are many other alternative bug sprays you can use, but for some reason, many people want to use Sevin and wonder if it works with boxedlers.
In my experience, it works but not to a good extent. I applied the Sevin “dust” formula on a tree trunk with a ton of boxelders. This was a maple tree that was recently cut down but still swarming with boxelder activity. The problem was that they weren’t going away and still feeding off the debris surrounding the tree.
Applying Sevin killed some, but most didn’t even care for the pesticide. I can see Sevin working with boxelder bugs for smaller colonies, but if you have a large infestation, I suggest using an alternative bug spray. Sevin has controversial reviews and has been shown to be very harmful to plants and has gone through various recalls.
Just because it kills a bunch of bugs doesn’t mean it’ll work on boxelders. Use something made for a specific category or niche of bugs rather than a “one size fits all” bug killer like Sevin.
Boxelder bug sprays that work
There are two popular bug sprays on the market that work reliably for killing boxelders:
- Harris Lady Beetle and Box Elder Killer
- BUGGSLAYER Multipurpose Insect Killer
These two sprays will work when you use them accordingly.
Be careful when applying them to sensitive plants because they can definitely kill off plants and trees. But if you want an inorganic spray to kill box elders guaranteed, these two will do the trick.
Boxelder bugs and laundry detergent
Laundry detergent can also be used to kill boxelders. Just mix a spray bottle with 3 parts water and 1 part detergent. Spray directly on boxelders and they’ll get killed. The detergent dissolves their shell.
Be careful when spraying this stuff. Detergent can stain your home and furnishings, and be harmful if consumed. Watch out for pets and children. Consider using an organic detergent for this purpose.
Getting rid of boxelder bugs permanently
The only way to get rid of boxelder permanently is to take simple measures and secure your house from them getting in. Given they can’t get in, they can’t infest your home. It’s that simple.
The easiest way that’ll guarantee a boxelder-free home is to patch up all entryways where they could possibly infest your home. This means covering the foundation cracks with caulk, sealing up window/door frame gaps, repairing screen netting, and removing maple trees from your yard (or keep them pruned).
See the other section titled “Stopping them from entering your home” for more details and practice all the steps there.
Afterward, you’ll have a 99% pest-free home from boxelders and many other species. If you have a lot of them, they may enter when you use your doors.
You need to be sure to kill the bugs right away or else they may escape into your home and start breeding. And they breed fast. So be careful if you have a lot of them roaming outside. You can also try seeding your trees with many DIY recipes that repel pests. You can find them above in this guide.
Do boxelder bugs go away by themselves?
Yes. boxelder bugs will leave your home when the springtime rolls around.
They’re just taking shelter temporarily in your house because of the temperature drops outside. If you don’t mind seeing them in your doors, windows, drapes, curtains, floors, carpets, and possibly even your bed, then you can just safely ignore them until spring comes.
You can remove them manually with a vacuum (check the method above) or by hand until the temperatures pick up again.
Boxelders rarely carry diseases and rarely spread them, but it does happen. If this bothers you, take measures to eliminate them and prevent future generations from coming back next fall and winter.
Other than being a major annoyance, they won’t harm humans, won’t bite, and won’t damage your home. The only thing they’ll do is eat up some plants here and there, and of course, be annoying by being found in the various places around your home they’ve taken shelter.
Did you get rid of your boxelder bug problem?
Well, that’s it.
I hope this guide has helped you get rid of boxelder bugs for good from your home. If you have any questions regarding boxelder bugs in general, feel free to ask as well using the comments form and I’ll do my best to answer them ASAP.
And if you’ve dealt with these pests before and have any words of wisdom, please post them in the comment section below to share with others who may benefit from them.
If you’ve successfully eliminated the bugs from your home, let me know as well =]! Success stories are always welcome.
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.