The box elder bug, named for the tree it prefers to live and feed on, is a nuisance pest that may not be poisonous, threatening, or even damaging, but can still cause serious issues when it chooses to overwinter in your home.
Because they congregate in such large masses, box elder bugs are generally seen as problematic and even unnerving. That said, controlling a box elder bug is not difficult so long as you know which methods to use and are able to implement some preventative strategies in the months before winter, when box elder bugs tend to search for shelter and warmth in our homes.
Are you wondering how to get rid of box elder bugs and prevent them from becoming a problem in the future? We’re here to help. Today, we are going to talk a bit more about the box elder bug, what it is, what it’s attracted to, and how you can keep it from becoming a problem in your home this winter.
What Is A Box Elder Bug?
Box elder bugs are common insects that are typically regarded as nuisance pests.
Boxelder bugs are flying insects most common in the Western part of the United States and Canada, though they can be found wherever boxelder trees grow. Named for their love of boxelder trees, box elder bugs live and feed primarily on female boxelder trees during the spring and summer.
As the weather begins to cool, these insects congregate in large masses and swarm homes, sheds, buildings, and other sheltered spaces in search of warmth where they can overwinter.
Though box elder bugs are generally harmless to people, yards, and gardens, they can be a true nuisance as they are highly social and swarm in massive numbers. Box elder bugs also emit a foul odor when they feel threatened and, if eaten by a curious pet, can cause stomach upset and vomiting.
In spite of this, box elder bugs don’t generally cause structural damage to homes, they don’t destroy gardens, and they rarely bite unless provoked. However, if you are bitten by a box elder bug, prepare to have a small and itchy red bump that may be similar to that of a mosquito bite.
Still, just because boxelder bugs are not as harmful as many other destructive pests doesn’t mean you want them swarming your home and yard.
But what has attracted so many box elder bugs to your property and how do you get rid of them before they become an overwhelming nuisance inside your home?
What Has Attracted The Box Elder Bug To Your Home Or Yard?
Box elder bugs are attracted to box elder trees and invade our homes in the fall to overwinter.
As we mentioned above, box elder bugs are primarily attracted to box elder trees. If you have this species of tree in your yard, prepare to also have to deal with the box elder bug. However, box elder bugs are also attracted to other tree species like silver trees, maple trees, and ash trees.
They prefer female trees as they generally feed on seeds or freshly sprouted leaves, although sometimes box elder bugs will be found congregating on male trees as well.
If you have box elder bugs on your property as a result of the trees, you can expect to have to battle them inside your home come winter. Box elder bugs seek warmth and shelter and will often find their way inside of homes, where they will lay dormant during the colder months.
Most people don’t even notice they have box elder bugs in their home until the weather begins to warm up again, as this is when the box elder bug comes out of hiding and begins trying to make his way back outdoors to feed.
How To Identify A Box Elder Bug Infestation
Because box elder bugs are not destructive pests, you likely won’t know they are there unless you see them. You also may not find any signs of their rust-colored eggs, as these eggs are often laid in the bark of boxelder trees.
The easiest way to tell if you have a box elder bug infestation is to pay attention. You will likely notice these bugs in the spring and summer, where they will be congregated together in large numbers on trees, houses, and other surfaces.
Box elder bugs are easy to identify due to their unique markings and body shape. Fully grown, boxelder bugs are around ½ an inch long with black bodies, six legs, and are dark brown or black in color with red or orange stripes along their back.
During the winter, you may notice box elder bugs in your home due to their bright red excrement or the foul smell they emit if they feel threatened. However, and as we mentioned briefly above, many people may not realize they have a box elder infestation in their home until the weather warms up and box elder bugs begin to make their way outdoors again.
If spring is around the corner and you notice box elder bugs coming out of hiding around your house, it may be wise to simply allow them to leave on their own. Killing box elder bugs can release a strong, nasty odor and may even attract other pests to your home like carpet beetles.
Once you no longer see box elder bugs, you can go about using some common methods to control and eliminate them from returning to your home in the future.
How To Get Rid Of The Box Elder Bug – Most Popular Methods
There are three common methods you can use to get rid of the boxelder bugs.
Box elder bugs spend the majority of their time outdoors during the spring and summer, where they are typically harmless. However, box elder bugs are common home invaders during winter, which is when they can become problematic to people.
Just because box elder bugs are generally harmless doesn’t mean you want them infesting your home during the winter. And while some experts do recommend allowing them to leave on their own come spring, there are some methods you can use to help get rid of them if you notice you have an infestation inside.
The below video gives four steps you can take to control a box elder bug infestation in your home during the winter.
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Some other common methods you can use to control the box elder bug include:
- Natural Repellents:
Natural repellents include commercial repellents and products that are safe to use in homes with people and pets. Because box elder bugs often congregate inside our homes to overwinter, it is important to many people to use chemical-free repellents and methods to help control these pests.
If you have a very large box elder bug infestation in your home, you may feel the need to use insecticides. There are many types of insecticides that use natural chemicals and ingredients that help to control and kill pests inside the home. That said, other insecticides use toxic chemicals that are effective but can be harmful to people, pets, and the environment if not used as directed.
- Home Remedies:
Like many pests, box elder bugs are sensitive to some ingredients you may already have in your kitchen or pantry. Some of our favorite home remedies for how to get rid of the box elder bug include using essential oils and making your own natural pest control sprays.
Since box elder bugs have been known to infest homes in such large numbers, many people opt to control them with the help of professionals. However, before you decide that the use of professionals is right for you, we recommend taking a look at some of the best repellents and home remedies you can use to get rid of box elder bugs on your own.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the best methods to control a box elder bug infestation using natural repellents below.
How To Get Rid Of The Box Elder Bug Using Natural Repellents
Boxelder bugs can be managed using natural repellents and methods.
As we mentioned above, natural repellents come in different forms like sprays, ultrasonic pest repeller plug ins, and even dusts.
One of the things we like best about using natural repellents to control and manage a pest problem is that these types of pest control solutions are often free of chemicals and harsh ingredients that can be harmful to people, pets, and the environment.
Let’s take a look at some of our favorite natural repellents you can use to control a box elder bug infestation in your home below.
Neatmaster Ultrasonic Pest Repeller
When looking for natural and safe pest repellent products to use inside the home, many experts recommend ultrasonic pest repellers like this one by Neatmaster. Ultrasonic pest repellers work by using ultrasonic sound waves and vibrations that irritate pests and cause them to leave on their own.
MDXConcepts Organic Pest Control Spray
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Another natural spray you can use inside your home to protect it against current box elder bug infestations and prevent future infestations from occurring is an essential oil spray by MDSConcepts.
This spray uses peppermint oil and other natural ingredients to help repel and kill pests like box elder bugs, roaches, ants, spiders, and more. You can use it both indoor and out and rest assured it is safe for people, pets and the environment.
Diatomaceous Earth is a natural dust insecticide that many people and professionals use to help manage pest problems both inside and outside of their homes. This dust uses natural ingredients derived from fossilized algae that penetrates the exoskeleton of pests like box elder bugs and dehydrates them, which ultimately kills them.
To use this dust, simply sprinkle it anywhere you have noticed box elder bug activity. Not only is this product effective, but it is completely safe for people, pets, and the environment.
Pure Borax Powder
Pure Borax powder is another natural dust repellent you can use to control box elder bugs and other pests in and outside of your home. This product works to kill a number of different pests like roaches, ants, and beetles.
However, it must be ingested in order to work and kills box elder bugs by expanding in their stomachs. While this is an effective and generally safe box elder bug solution, borax powder can cause irritation to people and pets, especially if ingested.
How To Get Rid Of The Box Elder Bug With Insecticides
Insecticides often contain harsh ingredients and toxic chemicals, but they can be effective in controlling pests.
While many common insecticides use harsh ingredients and chemical toxins to control and eliminate pest problems, there are some that use natural chemicals derived from flowers and bacteria that work just as effectively to control pests.
That said, insecticides can use chemicals that may be toxic to people, pets and the environment so we suggest doing plenty of research and making sure you use insecticides with caution.
With that noted, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly recommended insecticides for controlling box elder bugs.
Don’t Bug Me Spray
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We recommend the above pyrethrin spray for indoor use to help control box elder bugs who have already infiltrated your home. It is ideal for using inside cracks and crevices and for killing box elder bugs you see on contact.
One of the biggest benefits of using this spray is that it uses pyrethrin, which is a natural chemical derived from chrysanthemum flowers, making it safe for people and the environment. That said, it can cause irritation to pets so use it only as directed.
HARRIS Box Elder Bug Spray
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Because most boxelder bug infestations begin outside, we recommend using Harris Box Elder spray for both indoor and outdoor use.
This formula also helps kill Asian lady beetles and other pests on contact and continues to work for weeks after application. It has an odorless, stainless formula that you can use both inside and outside of your home and that will not damage surfaces or fabrics.
However, it uses the active ingredient deltamethrin, which is a powerful insecticide that can be harmful to people, pets, and the environment and should be used only as directed.
Ortho Home Defense Indoor Pest Barrier
When it comes to protecting your home from the box elder bug using insecticides, you may want to try Ortho Home Defense. This product includes a wand to help you reach difficult places like cracks and crevices, where box elder bugs like to hide and overwinter.
This insecticide can also kill and repel other home invading pests like spiders, fleas, ticks, roaches, ants, and more.
However, it does use a toxic insecticide called bifenthrin as the active ingredient which can be harmful to people, pets and the environment and should be used only as directed.
Bonide All Seasons Horticultural Oil
Another product you can use to control box elder bugs outside and keep them from entering your home is horticultural oil. This natural oil should be sprayed on trees early on in the season to help kill and repel box elder bugs and their eggs.
Experts recommend saturating trees in this natural insecticide and making sure you get under the bark to ensure you kill eggs.
While this oil is natural and safe for the environment, it can be harmful to pets and children if not used as directed.
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Taurus SC is a powerful insecticide that uses the active ingredient Fipronil to kill and control pests like the box elder bug. It is also effective against other pests like spiders, silverfish, centipedes, flies, roaches, crickets, and termites.
Experts recommend using this insecticide as a barrier repellent to help keep insects from entering your home, although it can work for a targeted insecticide as well. Because this uses toxic chemicals to kill and control pests, this insecticide should be kept out of reach of children and used only as directed.
Bonide Pyrethrin Garden Spray
This concentrated insecticide uses the active ingredient Pyrethrin to control box elder bugs and other pests outside. Although Pyrethrin is a natural ingredient made by chrysanthemum flowers, it can be harmful to people and pets and should be used carefully.
That said, it is a powerful agent in helping to protect your home against a number of pests from the outside and can kill box elder bugs, beetles, aphids, ants, and more.
Best Home Remedies To Get Rid Of The Box Elder Bug
Tea tree oil is commonly used to control boxelder bugs.
Box elder bugs are certainly annoying but at least they aren’t dangerous and at least they don’t cause serious structural or garden damage. Still, no one wants a large number of bugs infesting their homes or yards.
If you want to know how to get rid of box elder bugs without the use of commercial repellents or insecticides, you’re in luck. There are plenty of home remedies you can use and recipes you can make yourself using ingredients you may already have just laying around.
Some of the top home ingredients that repel the box elder bug naturally include:
- Dish soap
- Cayenne pepper
- Boiling water
- Lavender oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Citrus oil
- Tea tree oil
- Cinnamon oi
- Lemongrass oil
- Citrus peel extract
- Garlic cloves
Essential Oil Bug Spray Recipe
What You’ll Need:
- One spray bottle
- Two cups of water
- 20 drops of peppermint oil
- 20 drops of tea tree oil
- 2 Teaspoons of cayenne pepper
Mix the above solution together in a spray bottle and shake it. Then spray this concoction directly on box elder bugs or wherever you expect them or have seen them. This product should kill them on contact and also repel any future box elder bugs from returning. However, be careful as this solution can stain certain surfaces and fabrics and cause irritation to people and pets.
Dish Soap and Water Spray Recipe
What You’ll Need:
- One spray bottle
- One cup of water
- Liquid dish soap
Mix water and a few drops of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle and shake it well. You can either pour this solution over cracks and crevices where you have noticed box elder bugs or you can spray it anywhere you have seen box elder bug activity. The soap works to kill the bugs by suffocating them on contact.
White Vinegar Spray Recipe
What You’ll Need:
- One spray bottle
- Pure white Vinegar
Vinegar does not kill box elder bugs but it does repel them. This one is super simple. Just fill a spray bottle with pure white vinegar and get to spraying. Vinegar will repel box elder bugs and other pests around your home and keep them from coming back as long as it is reapplied often. While other types of vinegar can work to repel pests like the box elder bug, it is important to use white vinegar as white vinegar will not stain fabrics and surfaces.
Other methods you can use to get rid of the box elder bug at home include vacuuming or using boiling water.
If you see box elder bugs, you can simply vacuum them up and then remove the bag and dispose of them as you wish. You can also pour boiling water over box elder bugs to kill them instantly on contact.
When using the boiling water method, be careful around children and pets and do not use it on surfaces that could become damaged.
But what happens if you have tried all the above methods, repellents, and even insecticides and have found that you cannot get rid of the box elder bug? Well, it may be time to contact a professional.
How To Get Rid Of The Box Elder Bug – When To Call A Professional
Because boxelder bugs can swarm in such large numbers, professional help may be needed to get rid of them.
Although box elder bugs are not dangerous and rarely cause damage to homes or yards, they can still be difficult to get rid of and control because they congregate in such large numbers. If you find you are repeatedly dealing with box elder bug infestations in your home, it may be time to contact a professional.
Most local pest control experts should be able to help you determine where box elder bugs are coming from and how they are entering your home.
Once you have successfully gotten rid of box elder bugs in and around your home, it will be time to implement some preventative strategies in order to keep them from returning next winter.
How To Prevent Future Box Elder Bug Problems
Prevent future pests by caulking and sealing entry and exit points.
Since they infest in such large numbers, it’s important to try and get rid of box elder bugs early on. Some of the best ways to tackle a box elder bug infestation is to control them at the source, which is usually the trees they are attracted to.
Spraying down the trees in your yard with repellents like Horticultural Oil will help not only control box elder bugs outside, but also prevent them from entering your home when the weather gets cooler.
Let’s take a look at some other methods you can use to prevent a future box elder bug infestation inside your home.
Caulk and Seal Entry and Exit Points
Like most pests, box elder bugs enter our homes through small cracks and crevices. To prevent them from finding a way in, experts recommend caulking and sealing any entry and exit points.
Make sure doors and windows are properly sealed and that you repair any ripped or ill-fitted screens.
Plant Bug Repellent Plants
Box elder bugs are attracted to certain trees, but they are also repelled by common plants. One way to help prevent and control them at the source is to plant repellent plants like chrysanthemum flowers, sage, lavender, and garlic around the trees they are most attracted to.
Continue Using Pest Repellent Methods All Year Round
Use repellents and essential oil sprays all year round to help keep pests like box elder bugs outside. Experts also recommend reinforcing the perimeter of your home using repellents and sprays like Diatomaceous Earth or Borax. Doing this will also help keep out other pests like spiders, roaches, and ants.
Treat Your Home As Early As Possible
The earlier you treat your home, the less likely you are to deal with a box elder bug infestation. Remember, these insects are most active outdoors during spring and summer and don’t make their way inside until fall, where they seek shelter and warmth for the winter.
In order to avoid having a box elder infestation at all, experts recommend doing the above treatments and taking preventive steps beginning in spring and summer and continuing with them year round to keep your home protected from pests.
We hope this article has been helpful and that you now have a good idea about how you can keep your home protected against common pests like box elder bugs.
Best of luck!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.