11 Scents That Boxelder Bugs Hate (And How To Use Them)

Eastern Boxelder Bug

Fall can be an exciting time. The weather is cooling down, the holidays are coming, and the scent of pumpkin is everywhere! Something that is not-so-exciting is the presence of boxelder bugs inside your house. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to stop these bugs from ever stepping one of their six feet into your home.

Boxelder bugs move indoors when fall temperatures begin to drop. Scents like lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, peppermint, mint, cinnamon, clove, citronella, lemongrass, cedar oil, and thyme can deter boxelder bugs from coming inside. Place these scents around areas that are open to the outdoors.

Boxelder bugs don’t cause too much chaos, but you certainly don’t want them invading your home. Read on to discover the 11 scents that boxelder bugs hate and how to use them.

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Why Repel Boxelder Bugs?

Seeing one of these six-legged crawlers inside your house is enough reason to want to repel them, right?! But what other damage can boxelder bugs do?

If you have fruit trees or an orchard, you may notice some damage to your fruits if you have a large boxelder bug population. According to the University of California, trees like apple, cherry, pear, plum, and peach are particularly vulnerable.

As their name suggests, boxelder bugs like boxelder trees. However, they are pretty picky about which boxelder trees. Female boxelder trees produce seedpods, which the boxelder bug and nymphs will consume during the spring and summer months. They leave male boxelder trees alone for the most part.

Damage to boxelder trees is usually minimal, even with large populations, but it can cause leaves to turn yellow and minor deformities in the trees.

The biggest concern with boxelder bugs is their tendency to move indoors when the temperatures begin to drop. In the wild, boxelder bugs will look for tree stumps, leaf piles, rock piles, rock crevices, and cracks to hide in during winter.

Unfortunately, the siding of your house and any small openings that lead indoors will also look like an attractive overwintering spot. Once boxelder bugs have moved in, it can be incredibly difficult to remove them.

While inside your home, boxelder bugs will not lay eggs. They do not eat clothing or chew on wood. The only thing they do is, well, hang out and try to survive.

With that being said, they’re not housebroken. While they’re chilling in your home they may stain your walls and curtains with their excrement. They also give off an unpleasant odor when smashed, similar to a stinkbug.

Using Scents To Repel Boxelder Bugs

Boxelder bug--Boisea trivittata--isolated on a blue background Shallow DOF

According to the University of Minnesota, using chemical control like pesticides and insecticides is not recommended inside the home. While these methods can be effective outside the home, using them inside can be costly and have little to no effect on the boxelder bug population.

Boxelder bugs stay tucked away in the cracks and crevices of your home for the duration of the winter. Only on warm, sunny days can you see them moving inside your home. Since it is difficult to reach these cracks and crevices with pesticides or aerosol bug bombs, they aren’t recommended.

Instead, the BEST way to keep boxelder bugs out of your home is to prevent them from coming inside in the first place. This is where our repellent scents come into play!

You’ll want to focus your attention on areas where boxelder bugs might get inside: doorway entrances, window frames, laundry vents, kitchen vents, bathroom vents, and any electrical/plumbing that leads outside.

You’ll also want to make sure to use these repellent scents at the right time. Late summer and fall are the best times to begin using scent repellents. This is when boxelder bugs leave their host trees (boxelder trees) and make their way indoors.

Sometimes you’ll get a fair warning by noticing these creepy crawlers congregating on southern and western exposures of houses. These are the warmest exterior walls of the house. When you begin seeing them, it means they’re ready to leave their host tree and move inside.

PLEASE NOTE: scents are not as reliable as physically sealing your home against boxelder bugs. Frequent reapplication will be required for the scents to work effectively. 

Additionally, you can contact a professional for questions about the application. It’s important with these scents, especially homemade sprays, not to overspray indoors. Please contact a professional before using these methods and use them outside unless otherwise stated.

If you have an infestation of boxelder bugs and aren’t sure how to handle it, leave it to the pros! Our nationwide pest control finder can get you connected with a professional near you. Using our partner network helps support pestpointers.com. Thanks!

Use Lavender To Repel Boxelder Bugs

Lavender is commonly associated with a calming, relaxing environment. It promotes sleep, relieves stress, and can heal wounds. Lavender is also noted as an effective bug repellent.

The chemical responsible is called linalool and is found in lavender plants as well as the essential oil. This chemical has repellent properties and can be used to signal to boxelder bugs to find a different overwintering spot. 

To use lavender to repel boxelder bugs, you can use the plant itself or the essential oil. 

Since lavender is a summer plant, it may be effective in keeping boxelder bugs away from your yard and home just by its presence. It’s also a great passive way to deter boxelder bugs from your yard and garden.

You can also make a homemade spray by using the essential oil like Majestic Pure Lavender Essential Oil

Add 10-15 drops of the oil for every 1 cup of water and place in a spray bottle. Spray on the exterior of your home in areas boxelder bugs might use to sneak inside.

The spray should not affect your house siding or paint, but it’s always a good idea to test a small area before spraying other areas. Always be sure to dilute your essential oils before using them, as they are highly concentrated.

Eucalyptus Repels Boxelder Bugs

Boxelder Bugs (Boisea trivittata)

Although boxelder bugs do not have noses like humans and animals, they can still smell! They use their antennae to sniff out food and pick up on pheromones from other bugs.

Strong smells like eucalyptus can overwhelm a boxelder bug’s sense of smell, making it hard for them to find food, mates, or understand pheromone signals. This makes it a great repellent for these pesky bugs.

Eucalyptus is a tropical plant, so it is difficult to grow in the United States due to our cold winters unless you live in states like Florida or California.

You can still make a homemade spray with the essential oils! 15 drops of Handcraft Eucalyptus Essential Oil can be added to water and sprayed outdoors where there’s access to indoor environments.

Boxelder Bugs Hate Minty Scents

The smell of mint can be refreshing. Toothpaste, gum, and candy all have a fresh peppermint or spearmint flavor that leaves our mouths tingling.

To a boxelder bug, mint is much too strong to be around. And not just mint itself! Peppermint and tea tree also have minty smells that can repel boxelder bugs before they make their way indoors.

Menthol is the main culprit for mint’s repelling properties. If you’ve ever used vapor rubs to clear out your sinuses, you’ve smelled menthol. Camphor is a similar smell and is what tea tree is described as smelling like.

Peppermint and mint can be grown in most states in the US except the extreme northern states and extreme southern states. You can grow the plants to make your yard less attractive to boxelder bugs.

The tea tree is a plant native to Australia, but it can do well in zones 9 through 11 in the US, where the weather is warm and slightly tropical. But you can also use an essential oil like Handcraft Tea Tree Essential Oil. Dilute it with water and use it as a homemade boxelder bug spray outdoors.

Use Cinnamon And Cloves To Repel Boxelder Bugs

Cinnamon and cloves have one thing in common: they smell like Christmas. The warm, sweet flavor of cinnamon and cloves are often used around the holidays, but you can use them anytime to repel boxelder bugs.

Ground cinnamon such as McCormick’s Ground Cinnamon can be sprinkled on windowsills, placed near openings and cracks, and you can also use this on your boxelder trees. 

If you don’t have time to pick up all the fallen boxelder seeds, simply spread cinnamon on the ground below your boxelder tree. Spray it with water so it will stick. The boxelder bugs will be less likely to stay on your boxelder tree if the seeds are not available to eat from the ground.

Both cinnamon and cloves come in an essential oil form and can be made into a homemade spray. Concentrate your efforts before boxelder bugs move inside. Late summer and fall are the best times.

Citronella And Lemongrass Can Repel Boxelder Bugs

You’ve heard of citronella candles repelling mosquitoes, but this scent does so much more! Citronella and lemongrass are closely related and have similar smells that can repel a ton of bugs, including boxelder bugs.

Both plants contain a chemical called geraniol that is known to have bug-repelling properties according to Cornell University. The research doesn’t point to it repelling boxelder bugs specifically, but geraniol is know to repel a wide variety of insects.

You can grow this plant only if you live in warm climates such as the southwest and the southeast United States. Zones 8 and warmer are recommended for lemongrass, and zones 9-11 for citronella.

As with our other scents, citronella and lemongrass also come in essential oil form that you can use to make a homemade spray. Citronella candles like Cutter’s Citronella Candle are great for your porch, keeping boxelder bugs away from your front door and any nearby windows. 

This repellent only works when the candle is lit, but it’s a nice addition to other repellent efforts.

The way these scents work is by overpowering a boxelder bug’s sense of smell, rendering them unable to locate food. This is also true for mosquitoes and other flying pests. When they can’t find food, they’ll buzz off to a different place.

Keep Boxelder Bugs Away With Cedar

Ahh, the sweet scent of cedar. It takes us back to thoughts of the outdoors and hikes we took in the fall when pine needles littered the floor and gave off their sweet scent with every step.

You can use this amazing smell to repel boxelder bugs. Brite Lightingtech Cedar Blocks are a product that includes a 60 piece set full of cedar blocks, sachets, balls, and includes cedar sachets as well. This is the one product that you can easily use inside your home if boxelder bugs have already made their way inside.

Place the cedar sachets, blocks, or balls in areas where you see boxelder bugs. Think of any openings that lead outside.

You can also use this product on the outside of your home and on your boxelder trees. Use some twine or string to hang the cedar blocks or sachets on the branches of boxelder trees. This can help minimize the number of bugs on your trees, and therefore lessen the number trying to make their way inside in the fall.

It’s Thyme To Repel Boxelder Bugs

Get it? Thyme? Anyway…you can use thyme to keep boxelder bugs away from your home. This strong-scented herb will overwhelm a boxelder bug’s sense of smell, similar to citronella and lemongrass.

You can use thyme like cinnamon, sprinkling the dried herb around windowsills and the areas below your boxelder trees. You can also use the essential oil diluted in water to make a homemade spray that you use outdoors to repel boxelder bugs.

Thyme is a pretty hardy plant, growing almost anywhere in the US except the most extreme weather states. With winter protection, it can even grow in zone 4. 

What If Boxelder Bugs Are Already In My Home?

Close-up of a single Boxelder Bug sitting on a plant

Most of our scents discussed above are intended to be used as a means of protecting your home before boxelder bugs move inside. But what should you do if they’ve already moved in?

There are a few ways to get rid of boxelder bugs that have already moved inside:

  • Fire up the vacuum: You can use your vacuum cleaner to suck up any observed bugs. This works well for lady beetles as well. Just be aware that boxelder bugs can release a smelly odor if they’re frightened or if they accidentally get smashed. This method works great for a large number of boxelder bugs.
  • Handpick them: Boxelder bugs are not known to bite humans and are considered pretty docile bugs. Nonetheless, if you decide to flick them into a cup or get them on a paper towel to put outside, you should wear gloves to protect your skin from any released liquids from the bug. This method is preferred if there are only one or two boxelder bugs inside.
  • Call a professional: If you don’t want to deal with your bug problem yourself (and we wouldn’t blame you!), you can call a professional. Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a professional near you for free. 

Other Natural Ways To Keep Boxelder Bugs Out Of Your House

Close up of red and black boxelder bug in rural Minnesota, USA

Boxelder bugs can be tricky to get out once they’ve snuck inside and unpacked their bags. For this reason, your best bet at keeping them out is preventing them from coming inside in the first place.

These bugs are about a ½-inch long as adults, which is pretty big for a bug. Still, they can fit through any cracks or holes that are 1/8th inch or larger.

To keep these pesky bugs out indefinitely, there are a few things you can do.

Seal Up Your House

This may seem like a daunting task, especially if you live in an older house where wrapping was not used beneath the siding. This leaves your home extremely susceptible to boxelder bugs, as well as stinkbugs and lady beetles too.

However, if you do a little bit each day starting in the spring, you can tackle all the problem areas of your home just in time for boxelder bugs.

Check your window screens for tears or holes, check or add weather stripping to your doorways. Use caulking or sealing foam on any cracks or holes. Check for the areas where plumbing or electrical wiring leads outside and seal the areas around the pipes and wires.

Yard Modifications

In the wild, boxelder bugs will look for rock piles, debris piles, and wood stacks for winter shelter. If you have these in your yard, you’re more likely to attract boxelder bugs.

So, remove unnecessary debris from your yard. Rake your leaves. And make sure your wood is piled neatly, preferably off the ground, and cover it with a tarp if you don’t already do so. Keep your bushes trimmed and don’t let overgrown vegetation near your home.

Some websites will claim that removing your female boxelder trees will eliminate your boxelder bug problem. This isn’t really true. Boxelder bugs can fly up to 2 miles, so even if you remove all your boxelder trees, they can still lay their eggs on your neighbor’s trees and buzz over to your property for overwintering.

With that being said, if you plan on planting a boxelder tree, consider planting a male tree instead of a female. This won’t completely eliminate your problem, but it may reduce numbers.

Spray Your Siding

If you have an outside garden hose, you can put it to use in your war against the boxelder bugs. Now it sounds like an epic battle, right?

Check out the southern and western exposures of your house during late summer and fall. If you see large numbers of boxelder bugs, use your hose to spray them off your siding. This will discourage them from sneaking under your siding or in nearby openings to your house.

That’s All For Now

That’s all we have for now on repelling boxelder bugs. As frustrating as these insects can be, they are harmless, will not bite or sting, and do not lay eggs in your house while inside.

But we understand you still don’t want them in your home. You can use a combination of scent repellents as well as physical deterrents to keep these pesky bugs off your house and property.

To recap, the 11 scents that boxelder bugs hate are:

  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea tree oil
  • Peppermint
  • Mint
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Citronella
  • Lemongrass
  • Cedar oil
  • Thyme

Along with your scent deterrents, you’ll want to do some yard modification and seal up any cracks, holes, or openings that lead inside.

And remember, if you’d rather not deal with your boxelder bug problem yourself, you can always reach out to a professional for help!

References

Ciesla, W. M., & Hanavan, R. P. (2011). Forest Insect & Disease Leaflet 95. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Grimnes, K. A., Miller, D., & Wyman, A. J. (2003). Egg Production in the Boxelder Bug Boisea Trivittata (Hemiptera: Rhopalidae). The Great Lakes Entomologist, 36(2). https://scholar.valpo.edu/tgle/vol36/iss2/8/

Schwarz, J. J. (2008). The chemical ecology of host foraging, aggregation, and prophylactic microbial defense in the western boxelder bug, Boisea rubrolineata (Barber) (Heteroptera: Rhopalidae) [Theses]. Simon Fraser University. https://summit.sfu.ca/item/9079

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. https://ia600202.us.archive.org/8/items/biostor-75067/biostor-75067.pdf

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