Boxelder Bug Identification & Prevention

During the spring and summer months, boxelder bugs live on, lay their eggs on, and feed on the sap of boxelder trees hence their name. They also infest ash, maple, and fruit trees (apple, plum).

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Adult boxelder bugs have a unique appearance in that they are black and have red or orangish outlined wings. Their bodies have an elongated oval shape, and they are capable of flying. Young boxelder bugs look a bit different than the adults. Not only are they smaller in size, but they are almost entirely red and are wingless.

Biology and Behavior

a boxelder bug on gravel
  • Boxelder bugs feed on soft plant tissues (leaves, flowers, and young branches) of the tree in which they live. Using their specialized mouthparts, they draw the liquid out of the tree.
  • Except in large infestations, boxelder bugs do not inflict much damage to the trees they feed on.
  • Boxelder bugs live outside until late summer or early fall when the weather begins to cool, and then they move inside of buildings to find a safe, warm spot to spend the winter.
  • Boxelder bugs are attracted to the warm sunny sides of buildings and congregate in large numbers on them where they often take advantage of cracks or gaps in exterior walls or around windows and doors and make their way inside.
  • During the winter, boxelder bugs hide behind walls, in attics, and in crawl spaces. In the spring, they move back outside when the weather warms up to begin feeding and breeding once again.
  • Boxelder bugs are considered a nuisance pest and aren't dangerous but can stain personal items, furniture, and curtains with their excrement.

Boxelder Bug Prevention Tips

  • Inspect the exterior of your home and seal any cracks or openings in the exterior walls or foundation.
  • Caulk spaces around windows and doors.
  • Fill in spaces around utility entrances.
  • Repair holes or tears in screens.
  • Install door sweeps on the bottom of all exterior doors.

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