Box Elder Bugs: Identification, Behavior, and Control

Box Elder Bugs: Identification, Behavior, and Control

Box elder bugs (Boisea trivittata) are common pests found throughout North America. They are known for their distinct red and black markings on their bodies, making them easily recognizable. While they are generally harmless to humans and pets, their presence can become a nuisance, especially during the fall when they seek shelter indoors. In this article, we will explore the identification, behavior, and control of box elder bugs.

Box elder bugs are approximately half an inch in length and have an elongated oval-shaped body. Their coloration consists of a black head, abdomen, and wings, with red markings on the edges of their wings and along the sides of their bodies. They also have three horizontal red lines on their pronotum, which is the plate-like structure that covers their thorax.

Box elder bugs primarily feed on the seeds of box elder trees, maple trees, and ash trees, hence their name. They are also attracted to the sap produced by these trees. As the weather cools down in the fall, box elder bugs start to seek shelter for the winter. They often congregate in large numbers on the sunny side of buildings, especially on walls, windows, and door frames. Although they do not cause structural damage, their droppings can stain surfaces and their presence can be bothersome.

If you find box elder bugs in or around your home, there are several control methods you can employ:

1. Seal entry points: Inspect your home for any cracks or gaps and seal them with caulk or weatherstripping. Pay special attention to areas around windows, doors, and utility pipes.

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2. Remove potential food sources: If you have box elder, maple, or ash trees near your home, consider removing them or treating them with insecticides to reduce the attraction for box elder bugs.

3. Vacuum or sweep: Use a vacuum or broom to remove box elder bugs from indoor surfaces. Remember to empty the vacuum bag or dispose of the swept bugs away from your home.

4. Insecticides: In severe infestations, consider using insecticides labeled for box elder bug control. Follow the instructions carefully and apply the insecticide to areas where the bugs congregate.

5. Professional pest control: If you are unable to control the infestation on your own, consult a professional pest control service for effective and safe eradication.


1. Are box elder bugs harmful?
Box elder bugs are generally harmless to humans and pets. They do not bite or sting. However, their presence can be a nuisance, especially in large numbers.

2. Can box elder bugs cause damage to structures?
Box elder bugs do not cause structural damage to buildings. However, their droppings can stain surfaces, and their congregations may cause concern for homeowners.

3. Do box elder bugs transmit diseases?
Box elder bugs are not known to transmit diseases to humans or pets.

4. How can I prevent box elder bugs from entering my home?
Sealing cracks and gaps, removing potential food sources, and applying insecticides can help prevent box elder bugs from entering your home.

5. Are box elder bugs only active in the fall?
While box elder bugs are more active in the fall as they seek shelter for the winter, they may also be seen during spring and summer.

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6. Can I use natural remedies to control box elder bugs?
Natural remedies such as diatomaceous earth, soap and water solutions, or essential oils may provide temporary control. However, they may not be as effective as professional insecticides.

7. Do box elder bugs infest furniture or clothing?
Box elder bugs do not infest furniture or clothing. They prefer to gather in large numbers on the exterior of buildings.

8. How long do box elder bugs live?
Box elder bugs have a lifespan of approximately one year. They overwinter as adults and emerge in the spring to mate and lay eggs.

9. Are box elder bugs attracted to light?
Box elder bugs are not particularly attracted to light sources. They are more attracted to warmth and seek sheltered areas during cooler weather.

10. Can box elder bugs be toxic to pets?
Box elder bugs are not toxic to pets. However, ingestion of a large number of bugs may cause gastrointestinal upset. It is best to prevent pets from consuming them.

In conclusion, box elder bugs are common pests that can become a nuisance, especially during the fall when they seek shelter indoors. By identifying their distinct markings, understanding their behavior, and employing effective control methods, you can successfully manage and prevent box elder bug infestations in and around your home.

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