Boxelder bugs are small black and red bugs that are more of a nuisance than a danger. They’re named after their favorite food, the Boxelder Maple, and can be found in large clumps in direct sunlight in autumn. If Boxelder Maples aren’t available, the bug will search out other soft-leaved foliage to snack on. This article will answer the question, ‘what do boxelder bugs eat?’
A Boxelder Bug’s Favorite Food
A boxelder bug’s main diet is the seeds and newly developed leaves of the Boxelder Maple. However, you can find them on any soft-skinned plant. Unlike other bugs, boxelders don’t eat the leaf material. Instead, they suck the juices from the leaves, stems, and seeds.
You can find the bright red bug on any tree or plant that produces seeds. For example, I have problems keeping them away from my lilies every summer. They love the lilies’ high-water content and large seed pods. They also consume the juices inside fruits that grow on trees, including apples, cherries, peaches, plums, and more.
Where Do Boxelder Bugs Live?
Boxelder bugs are native to western states but can also be found in eastern Canada and down through the eastern states. They survive cold conditions by overwintering in attics, basements, and dead trees. They don’t feed or reproduce during this time because they’re hibernating.
After winter, they’ll leave the house or structure and build a nest in Boxelder or Ash trees. You may come home from work on warm autumn days to find them covering your concrete walkway or pavers. They love the heat of the bricks.
Are Boxelder Bugs Dangerous?
Boxelder bugs aren’t dangerous to humans or pets. They will bite on rare occasions but only when threatened. They don’t sting and aren’t venomous, but they release a noxious odor when crushed.
Don’t worry if your pet eats one or two. Boxelder bugs have a defensive chemical that causes their pungent smell when crushed, and while it can make your dog or cat throw up, they’re not toxic.
How Can I Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs?
In the winter, you have to worry about the bugs invading your home, but in summer and fall, you should be worried about your garden and trees.
Expelling Them From Your Home
You can prevent boxelder bugs from infiltrating your home in the wintertime by repairing small holes in window and screen doors, sealing cracks and crevices with caulk, and adding door sweeps to exterior entrances.
If they’ve already invaded, do not try and kill the bugs while they’re still within your walls. The dead bugs can attract dermestid beetles, and then you’ll have another problem! An excellent temporary removal method is using a vacuum cleaner to suck up as many bugs as possible. Then, call a pest removal specialist.
Kicking Them Out of Your Yard
Diatomaceous earth is an organic powder that’s an excellent, non-toxic method for removing boxelder bugs and is my top suggestion. While you can spray the bugs with scalding water or invest in insecticides, I prefer the powder as a more environmentally friendly option.
You’ll need personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, a dust mask, and safety glasses. Then, scatter the powder around the bases of the Boxelder or Ash trees (or any other infested area). The bugs will die within a few hours, but you may need to repeat the treatment if it rains or a new swarm emerges.
Boxelder bugs are more of an annoyance than a danger but can quickly be taken care of by professionals or diatomaceous earth. The bugs prefer to eat Boxelder Maples but will settle for any plant with a high-water content and seeds.
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