Boxelder Bug Control: How To Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs?

Have you ever seen tiny red and black beetles in your home or around your garden? These flying bugs might be boxelder bugs, which often find their way into homes when the weather gets colder in the fall. So, how do you get rid of them?

How to get rid of boxelder bugs? To get rid of boxelder bugs, you can use an outdoor insecticide on boxelder, maple, or ash trees, clean your yard, seal cracks and crevices in your home, vacuum them up, spray them with water, or use home remedies like essential oils, vinegar, and dish soap to repel them.

Exterminators

If you have a boxelder bug problem, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll talk about what these bugs are and how you can eliminate them from your home and garden. We’ll also go through all the details and walk you through several different methods to get rid of these boxelder bugs for good. 

What Is a Boxelder Bug?

What Is a Boxelder Bug

The boxelder bug, or boxelder beetle, is called “boxelder” because it primarily lives on boxelder trees, but it can also infest maple trees and ash trees. They’re called “true bugs,” and they release a foul odor when you squash them. 


What Does a Boxelder Bug Look Like?

Adult boxelder bugs are small red and black flying beetles. Their legs and antennae are black, and they have a very dark black patch on their abdomen when they’re fully mature. Boxelder bug eggs are bright red and ovular. Young boxelder bugs are born bright red, but they slowly turn black with red stripes around their wings as they age. 


How Long Do Boxelder Bugs Live?

The average lifespan of a boxelder bug is one year. However, they’ll only live that long if they have everything they need to survive. So, if you leave a boxelder bug indoors, it should starve and die within a few days since they primarily feed off tree leaves and seeds. 


Where Do Boxelder Bugs Live?

Where Do Boxelder Bugs Live

Boxelder bugs live in the Eastern US and Canada, but they can be found as far west as Nebraska. They often only live in areas where boxelder trees grow. 

Additionally, you’ll only see them when the weather is warm, usually in early spring, because they hibernate over winter. 


What Do Boxelder Bugs Eat?

Boxelder bugs eat sap from the leaves and seeds of boxelder, maple, and ash trees. Sometimes, they may eat apples or plums, too. They can be harmful to plants because they may damage the leaves of these trees, often resulting in discoloration.  


Are Boxelder Bugs Harmful?

Are Boxelder Bugs Harmful

Boxelder bugs are a nuisance, and getting rid of them for good can be challenging. Still, you may wonder, are boxelder bugs harmful? 


Do Boxelder Bugs Bite?

Boxelder bugs don’t sting or bite, but there are some rare cases in which their mouths are large enough to bite humans. If they bite you when you handle them, it’ll leave a small red sore like a mosquito bite, but it won’t be itchy. 

Moreover, boxelder bugs only bite when they feel threatened. So, if you find one in your home and scare the bug, it may bite you. Still, these bites are nothing to worry about. 


Are Boxelder Bugs Poisonous?

Boxelder bugs aren’t poisonous or venomous, and they cannot sting. Since they also rarely bite, you can pick them up without worrying about being harmed. 

For the most part, boxelder bugs are only a nuisance because they may stain things in your home with their excrement. They also smell very bad, which makes them more annoying than dangerous. 


Are Boxelder Bugs Harmful to Dogs?

Boxelder bugs aren’t very harmful to dogs, but your pup could get a stomach ache if they eat many bugs. That’s because boxelder bugs taste very bad. When a dog eats one, the insect releases a foul odor as it dies, making the insect unpalatable and unpleasant to eat. In the wild, this defense protects boxelder bugs from predators. 


Are Boxelder Bugs Poisonous to Cats?

Cats are much more likely to eat boxelder bugs than dogs, but they may also get stomach aches. However, unless your cat eats many of these bugs at one time, they should be fine around them. 

Boxelder bugs aren’t poisonous to cats, but if your cat does eat these bugs, they may vomit or get diarrhea, which is a normal symptom of eating them. But you shouldn’t have to worry unless you see blood in your cat’s excrement.


What Attracts Boxelder Bugs?

What Attracts Boxelder Bugs

Boxelder bugs are attracted to certain species of trees, mainly the boxelder tree. They also like to live in shady spaces beneath rocks, logs, and leaves. They’re also attracted to warmth and can only be active in warm weather. In wintertime and during cold spikes, boxelder bugs look for a warm place to wait out the cold, which is the primary time when they may come into your home. 


How Do You Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs? Step by Step Instructions

Boxelder bugs don’t reproduce indoors. They only get into your home through windows, vents, open doors, and any crevice they can fit in. So, once you get rid of them, there’s no risk of them continually repopulating inside your home.

1. Eliminate the boxelder bugs from outside of your home. Since boxelder bugs don’t reproduce indoors, eliminating them from the trees, shrubs, and debris piles where they lay eggs is the best way to prevent them from coming inside your home. 

2. Seal all points of entry. Boxelder bugs can squeeze through tiny cracks or holes in your home’s structure, window screens, door frames, vents, electrical line holes, and more. To keep them from coming inside, seal these holes and check for necessary repairs. 

3. Vacuum up indoor boxelder bugs. It’s best not to kill the boxelder bugs with pesticides once they get in your home. Vacuum up any bugs you see and freeze your vacuum bag immediately after catching them to kill them. 


How To Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs in Some Specific Places

Depending on where your boxelder bugs are colonizing, you’ll need to treat them differently to eradicate them successfully. 


How To Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs Outside?

How To Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs Outside

Boxelder bugs primarily live outside, so preventing them from making your yard home is a key to keeping them from invading your indoor spaces. To boxelder-bug-proof your outdoor spaces:

1. Identify the areas in your space where the boxelder bugs are most prominent.

2. Spray boxelder trees, shrubs, woodpiles, and other nonedible plants with a registered insecticide. 

3. Remove boxelder trees from your outdoor area. If that’s not an option, remove the seed pods from the ground around your tree regularly. 


How To Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs in Your Home?

Once boxelder bugs get in your house, insecticides aren’t the best way to get rid of them. If you use pesticides or bug killers in your home, you may attract more bugs, like carpet beetles, which feed on dead insects. To eradicate boxelder bugs from your home:

1. Identify the spaces where the boxelder bugs are entering your home. Usually, this is a window, a crack in a door frame, or a vent space. 

2. Reseal your windows and vents. 

3. Install rubber door seals at the bottom of your doors where bugs may get in. 

4. Vacuum up boxelder bugs when you see them and freeze the vacuum bag for several hours to kill them. 


How To Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs on Your House?

How To Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs on Your House

Since boxelder bugs like sheltered places, especially when it is cold outside, they often find a place to live underneath vinyl siding or in cracks in stone or brick buildings. It can be challenging to eradicate them in this case, but it’s not impossible. To get rid of boxelder bugs from the sides of your house:

1. Identify the spots on your home where there are the most boxelder bugs. 

2. Use a registered insecticide in these areas. 

3. Seal up cracks in these areas with silicone caulk, latex, or acrylic sealer. 

4. On stone buildings, use ventilation plugs on the weep holes at the bottom of the structure. 


How To Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs on Trees?

Boxelder bugs live and reproduce on trees, where they have plenty of food to eat. Usually, a boxelder bug infestation starts from a sugary tree like a boxelder, ash, or maple tree. Eradicating them from trees is an excellent way to keep them out of your home and prevent further infestation. To get them off of your trees:

1. Use a registered pesticide to spray trees where boxelder bugs gather. 

2. Scatter borax around your trees, which will damage their exoskeletons. 

3. Consider removing boxelder trees from your property. 

4. Remove leaves and seed pods from the ground around your trees regularly to keep them from reproducing there. 


What Kills and Repels Boxelder Bugs?

No matter where your boxelder bugs are, you can use several methods to kill and repel them if you want to eliminate them from the source. 


Bug Spray for Boxelder Bugs

Using a spray to repel and kill boxelder bugs is an excellent way to remove them from trees and the sides of your home. Here are two options from Amazon.com:

Harris Asian Lady Beetle and Box Elder Killer, Liquid Spray with Odorless and Non-Staining Extended Residual Kill Formula (32oz)
  • Kills Lady Beetles When Spray Dries - The spray will kill once...
  • Odorless Formula - Odorless and non-staining formula will not...
  • EPA Registered - Registered with the Environmental Protection...
  • Ready to Use - Ready to use formula requires no mixing or shaking
  • Water Based - Water based formula leaves behind absolutely no...

This EPA-tested spray works for weeks after spraying your outdoor areas with it. So, this odorless spray will help you reach places where boxelder bugs accumulate and get rid of them.

Sale
Wondercide - Flea and Tick Spray Concentrate for Yard and Garden with Natural Essential Oils – Kill, Control, Prevent, Fleas, Ticks, Mosquitoes and Insects - Safe for Pets, Plants, Kids - 16 oz
  • KILLS & REPELS. A preventative and a treatment, this pest...
  • SPRAY & PLAY! Safe for cats, dogs and people of all ages, with no...
  • TREATS UP TO 10,000 SQUARE FEET. Can be safely used on lawns,...
  • TREAT NATURE WITH NATURE. No artificial colors, fragrances or...
  • PLANT-DERIVED AND POWERFULLY EFFECTIVE. Powered by cedar oil,...

This flea and tick spray contains pyrethrin, which is very effective at killing and repelling boxelder bugs.


Best Insecticide To Kill Boxelder Bugs

If you want to kill boxelder bugs around your trees or on the sides of your house, then you may want to use a garden insecticide that contains bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, pyrethrin, permethrin, or tralomethrin like these products from Amazon.com:

Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices - Spray Foam Kills Ants, Cockroaches, Fleas, Centipedes, Crickets, Boxelder Bugs & Other Listed Common Insects, Long-Lasting, 16 oz.
  • Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices is a spray...
  • KILLS HOME-INVADING PESTS: Kills those pesky ants, cockroaches,...
  • LONG-LASTING: It keeps on killing German and American cockroaches...
  • INDOOR & OUTDOOR USE: The foam can be used inside your home or...
  • EASY-TO-USE FOAM SPRAY: The foam spreads around objects and...

This foam sealer contains a powerful insecticide that makes it perfect for killing and repelling boxelder bugs on your home or in small cracks in your house.

Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer Granules 3, 2.5 lb.
  • One application controls insects for up to 3 months (Refer to...
  • Treats an average 2,000 sq. ft. home more than twice
  • Apply around home's foundation
  • People and pets may re-enter area after product is watered in and...
  • Kills all listed home-invading insects (Refer to booklet for...

You can spread these small pellets around your home, beneath boxelder trees, or in your garden to kill boxelder bugs for up to three months.


Boxelder Bug Repellent

If you don’t want to kill the boxelder bugs but still want them to leave your home alone, you can use a non-toxic repellent like these two from Amazon.com:

Mighty Mint - 16oz Insect and Pest Control Peppermint Oil - Natural Spray for Spiders, Ants, and More - Non Toxic
  • Safe
  • Extra Concentrated for Long-Lasting Protection
  • Natural Ingredients Proven Effective in the Real World
  • Large 16oz Bottle
  • Powerful Essential Oil

If you want a more eco-friendly, pet-friendly spray, use this mint-based bug spray. It’ll repel boxelder bugs wherever you spray it, and you can use it indoors near windows and vents. Also, it comes with a minty fresh smell that makes it pleasant and effective.

Cedarcide Original (Quart) Natural Cedar Oil Insect Repellent Formerly Known as Best Yet Insect Spray Kills and Repels Mosquitoes Ticks Fleas Mites Ants and Chiggers
  • PLANT BASED AND FAMILY SAFE: Cedarcide Original is made of...
  • TOUGH ON PESTS: This formula will kill and repel fleas, ticks,...
  • FRESH CEDAR AROMA: Cedarcide Original is handcrafted with...
  • READY-TO-USE: This ready-to-use formula is perfect for fighting...
  • Small Batch Made Since 1998

Cedarcide is non-toxic, and it uses fragrant cedar oil to repel boxelder bugs naturally.


Plants That Keep Boxelder Bugs Away

If you want to repel boxelder bugs naturally, there are several plants that they don’t like to be around. Many bugs, including boxelder beetles, are repelled by fragrant herbs like:

  • Lavender
  • Cloves
  • Mint
  • Sage
  • Eucalyptus
  • Catnip
  • Citronella

Getting Rid of Boxelder Bugs Naturally

Boxelder bugs prefer female boxelder trees, which produce more seeds than male boxelder trees. If you have a female tree, you may want to replace it with a male tree or take extra care to clean up the fallen seeds from around the tree. Raking up fallen leaves, seeds, and grass can also eliminate all of the shady spots where boxelder bugs lay their eggs. 

You can use products like essential oils to get rid of your boxelder bugs. They dislike fragrant smells, so use these oils to repel them in an eco-friendly and straightforward way:

Artizen 30ml Oils - Cedarwood Essential Oil - 1 Fluid Ounce
  • 100% Pure & Natural Virginia Cedarwood Oil - What sets Artizen...
  • Don't Fall Victim To Cheap Diluted Virginia Cedarwood Oil - Most...
  • Most 4 Ounce Virginia Cedarwood Oils Contain Less Than 1/3 Of...
  • High Quality Glass Bottles With Eyedropper - We use high quality...
  • Lifetime Warranty - The manufacturer, Artizen Essential Oils,...
Sale
Artizen 30ml Oils - Peppermint Essential Oil - 1 Fluid Ounce
  • 100% Pure & Natural Peppermint Essential Oil - What sets Artizen...
  • Don't Fall Victim To Cheap Diluted Peppermint Oil - Most of the...
  • Most 4 Ounce Peppermint Oils Contain Less Than 1/3 Of Natural Oil...
  • High Quality Glass Bottles With Eyedropper - We use high quality...
  • Lifetime Warranty - The manufacturer, Artizen Essential Oils,...
Artizen 30ml Oils - Lavender Essential Oil - 1 Fluid Ounce
  • 100% Pure & Natural Lavender Essential Oil - What sets Artizen...
  • Don't Fall Victim To Cheap Diluted Lavender Oil - Most of the...
  • Most 4 Ounce Lavender Oils Contain Less Than 1/3 Of Natural Oil -...
  • High Quality Glass Bottles With Eyedropper - We use high quality...
Sale
Artizen 30ml Oils - Cinnamon Essential Oil - 1 Fluid Ounce
  • 100% Pure & Natural Cinnamon Essential Oil - What sets Artizen...
  • Don't Fall Victim To Cheap Diluted Cinnamon Oil - Most of the...
  • Most 4 Ounce Cinnamon Oils Contain Less Than 1/3 Of Natural Oil -...
  • High Quality Glass Bottles With Eyedropper - We use high quality...
  • Lifetime Warranty - The manufacturer, Artizen Essential Oils,...
Artizen 30ml Oils - Clove Essential Oil - 1 Fluid Ounce
  • 100% Pure & Natural Clove Essential Oil - What sets Artizen...
  • Don't Fall Victim To Cheap Diluted Clove Oil - Most of the...
  • Most 4 Ounce Clove Oils Contain Less Than 1/3 Of Natural Oil -...
  • High Quality Glass Bottles With Eyedropper - We use high quality...
  • American Based Company - All of Artizen's essential oils are...

Best Home Remedies for Boxelder Bugs

You can kill and repel boxelder bugs with dish soap. Just mix a few drops of dish soap with water in a spray bottle and spray the boxelder bugs or the areas they congregate. Spraying them will kill several of the bugs and repel the others. Boxelder bugs also dislike vinegar, and misting it on your trees, around your home, and in the areas where they may be coming into your house will repel them. 

If you see large swarms of boxelder bugs, spray them with a high-pressure hose or a pressure washer to kill them and scatter them. Shooting them with water will repel them, too, since they will be less likely to return after being sprayed away. 


Summary

Boxelder bugs are harmless, but they can be pretty annoying. Boxelder bugs never reproduce indoors, and they don’t bite, so if they’ve made their way into your home, it’s easy to get rid of them. Still, if you have boxelder bugs, they’re likely reproducing on a tree outside, so managing the outside of your home and your trees is the most crucial step to getting rid of them. 


List of Sources

National Pesticide Information Center. (2020). Boxelder Bugs.

Perry, E. J., Windbiel-Rojas, K. (2014). Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Boxelder Bug. Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.

Hahn, J., Ascerno, M. (2021). Boxelder Bugs. University of Minnesota Extension.

Hoover, G. A., Jacobs, S. (2017). Boxelder Bug. Penn State Extension.