Those pesky black and red bugs are all over the place, sometimes even all year round. In large numbers, they can look pretty intimidating. Have you ever wondered if the boxelder bugs in your yard can bite?
Generally, boxelder bugs don’t bite. However, there are instances when they will bite defensively, but it is very rare. They have mouths that can pierce the skin, resulting in a mark similar to a mosquito bite. They also aren’t known to carry or transmit any diseases.
Let’s take a look at some other juicy facts about the boxelder bug.
What Is a Boxelder Bug?
An adult boxelder bug is a nuisance insect that is primarily black with red stripes down its back. You’ll generally get them in the fall when the weather starts to drop a bit. They make their way through the foundation of your home (even more likely if you have an older home) and begin to seek out shelter inside.
When picking out adult boxelder bugs, besides them being black with red striped, their wings lie flat on their backs to form an X. Additionally, they also have six legs and two antennae.
The nymph boxelder bugs are bright red until they reach adulthood when they turn black. The eggs of a boxelder bug start out yellow, but they will turn red as the nymphs grow inside.
So, Can Boxelder Bugs Even Bite You?
It’s very rare that a boxelder bug will bite. The boxelder bug is considered a “true bug,” which means they have a specialized mouth called a proboscis. This is designed for sucking the juice from the boxelder trees by piercing the outside and using a feeding tube to get the juice out.
Because of this, their mouths are capable of piercing your skin; however, they rarely will. Unlike mosquitoes and bed bugs, boxelder bugs aren’t looking to feed off of a human host, thankfully,
However, they are a nuisance. Boxelder bugs can unfortunately leave stains on drapes and carpets from their excrement. All in all, they’re more likely to annoy you than just plainly bite you!
Now, this isn’t to say that boxelder bugs CAN’T bite you, it’s just that they aren’t likely too because they don’t want to eat you.
Okay, onto the good stuff… Here are some facts headed your way that you should know about the boxelder bug.
10 Interesting Things to Know About The Boxelder Bug
They Like to Eat the Leaves, Flowers, and Seeds of the Female Boxelder Trees
Their names give their menu away. These bugs prefer to feed on the leaves, flowers, and seed pods of the female (seed-bearing) boxelder trees.
They will also be found on maple and sometimes ash trees. Occasionally, they’ll feed on almonds, apple, cherry, peach, pear, and plum trees. They will also feed on grapes.
If they do venture onto fruit, the piercing nature of their mouths will sometimes cause the fruit to become deformed or bruised.
They Have Quite a Smell to Them
Boxelder bugs secrete a substance from their body. Unfortunately, that substance that will stain walls, carpets, curtains, and furniture. If their bodies are crushed, this secretion leaves behind a foul odor, similar to that of a stink bug.
This foul odor is a defense mechanism because it also tastes bad to potential predators. There are few animals out there that will risk eating these insects due to the unpleasant taste.
Rodents, spiders, praying mantis, wheel bugs, chickens, ducks, and guinea hens are among the list of animals that would consider eating the boxelder bugs if another more appealing food source isn’t available.
Boxelder Bugs Can Swarm
These insects can swarm in absolutely massive clusters of hundreds or THOUSANDS of boxelder bugs. Particularly, you may see this type of “swarm cluster” in the cooler months when they are searching for warm places to live.
They Love to Soak up the Sun
These insects love the sun! No, they’re not tanning (well maybe they are?) Often, you’ll find them in brighter spots in your home, or on the outside of your building in areas with heavy sunlight.
They Will “Overwinter” in the Fall
The Boxelder bug will overwinter, meaning they take shelter in the cracks and crevices of your home, inside homes and buildings to protect themselves from the winter elements. They’ll search for cracks and crevices indoors, under windows, and around foundations. They’ll also find their way behind the paneling of homes.
Once they have found a protected place to stay, they will remain there until the warmer months when the warm temperatures will revive them.
However, during the winter, even a small increase in temperature is enough to get them up from their “slumber” early. Generally, they’ll be awoken by a house’s heating system or a season change.
From there, they will enter the home or building in search of food.
They Only Reproduce on Female Boxelder Trees
Female boxelder bugs will lay their eggs on the female (seed-bearing) boxelder trees. They’re rarely found on the male trees.
The female boxelder trees provide food for nymphs since this is the primary food source of these insects.
There Are Two Species of Boxelder Bugs
There are two species of the boxelder bugs, both found in North America!
The most common and recognizable boxelder bug, Boisea trivittata has black and red markings on its wings.
The western boxelder bug, Boisea rubrolineata, is different because it doesn’t actually feature the red or orange wing veins.
Both of these boxelder bugs belong to the same family.
They Are Considered a “True Bug”
While a true bug is an insect, it’s a different kind of insect. Not all insects are considered bugs. The boxelder bug is one of those “true bugs.”
The key difference between true bugs and other insects are the mouthparts. True bugs use their proboscis’ mouths to get their nutrients. Which means bugs like moths, butterflies, boxelder bugs, and mosquitoes are all considered true bugs, rather than simply insects.
Boxelder Bugs Hibernate Inside and Near Buildings
Like we touched on earlier, boxelder bugs hibernate into warmer places when the weather gets colder. Generally, one of the warmest places any animal or insect will find is your home!
They Are Pesticide Resistant
Boxelder bugs are strong insects and resistant to a lot of the over the counter pesticides. There are a few residual insecticides, such as this LambdaStar UltraCap 9.7 that may be able to do the trick!
IMPORTANT: PLEASE CONSULT A LOCAL PEST CONTROL PROFESSIONAL BEFORE USING ANY PESTICIDES.
This product is meant to repel them from your home if you spray them around possible points of entry into your home.
Locations of the Boxelder Bug
Generally, these insects are primarily found in western parts of the United States and some parts of Eastern Canada.
They can also be found in some parts to the east of the United States as well as west to eastern Nevada.
Anywhere that a boxelder tree grows is where the boxelder bug can be found. However, they can be found on maple and ash trees as well as some fruit trees.
How You Can Prevent Them
Prevention is the best option when dealing with the boxelder bug.
- Have a professional spray twice a year with insecticide – in the spring and in the fall.
- Find and seal all exterior cracks – these will mostly be in your foundation and siding
- Clean surfaces with soap and water – the soap repels the boxelder bugs and will prevent them from using your home for overwintering.
- Get rid of their food source – They feed on boxelder trees mostly, so removing their food source is another (more drastic) preventative measure. Check to see if you have any boxelder trees on your property.
As mentioned above, prevention is your best option. It isn’t recommended to crush the boxelder bugs when you see them because they emit a foul odor and can stain your walls, or carpets.
Vacuuming is the simplest way to remove them from your home, though it doesn’t necessarily prevent them from coming back. Clean the areas you find them in with soap and water as a preventative measure.
Brown, M. W., & Norris, M. E. (2004). Survivorship advantage of conspecific necrophagy in overwintering boxelder bugs (Heteroptera: Rhopalidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 97(3), 500-503.
Woolley, T. A. (1949). Studies on the internal anatomy of the Box elder bug, Leptocoris trivittatus (Say)(Hemiptera, Coreidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 42(2), 203-226.
Tinker, M. E. (1952). The seasonal behavior and ecology of the boxelder bug Leptocoris trivittatus in Minnesota. Ecology, 33(3), 407-414.
Yoder, K. M., & Robinson, W. H. (1990). Seasonal abundance and habits of the boxelder bug, Boisea trivittata (Say), in an urban environment. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 92(4), 802-807.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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