Every year when the fall comes I have a few customers that have problems with box elder bugs. These insects will swarm trees, homes and businesses and be quite a nuisance. They can cover large areas and fly large distances in order to maintain their numbers. As scary and unsightly as these insects are the question is do they create a real problem? And above all where do box elder bugs come from? Box elder bugs lay eggs in the bark of the box elder tree. It’s from here that they hatch and create a nuisance that we have to deal with. In this article we will deal with the box elder bug, its life cycle, where it comes from and how to deal with this insect if you’re having a problem with it in your home or business. 


Adult box elder bugs are flat black insects that have a series of orange stripes horizontally across the back. The shape of these orange lines is very distinct. These insects look much like a stink bug or squash bug. Their bellies are red in color much like the lines on their back. The nymphs, or younger versions of them, are more red in color and like the lines on the back. Their eggs are yellow in color at first but then begin to turn red as the nymphs develop inside them. 

These insects are seldom found alone. They group in large mass numbers two times a year. But their largest grouping usually happens in the fall around September. Long dry summers coming before the busy season can add to the numbers. These insects are almost always associated with a box elder tree, maple tree or ash tree. These trees make up their food source and therefor they use them often for laying their eggs on and mating. Female Box Elder trees are much more likely to have the bugs on them because the bugs prefer to feed upon the seed pods that fall from these trees. The male trees can also have them, but often in fewer numbers.


The box elder bug survives with an incomplete life cycle. They start as an egg buried deep in the bark of the box elder tree or are they compatible treated this insect. The egg starts as a straw yellow, and then as the embryo grows within becomes more reddish in color. Once this egg hatches, a nymph will emerge.  A box elder nymph looks much like the adult, but smaller in size. It will be wingless but have dark wing pads up on its back that will grow in as it develops into adulthood. These insects are sucking type insects. They bury their mouth parts into the soft parts of the tree, and feed upon the fluids within it. A good Tulsa exterminator can help.

The nymph will molt five times before it becomes an adult. These five instars, or developmental stages, will happen over a few months. Each time the never loses its exoskeleton for a new one, larger wings will develop.  In the spring, overwintered females will lay eggs. These eggs will hatch in the beginning of the summer and begin development of the first wave of Boxelder bugs. This first wave of bugs will mate and lay eggs over the summer months. Once these eggs hatch they will come to full adulthood right around August or September of the year. It’s this time that we see the largest swarms. These bugs are then looking for a place to overwinter until the next season. 


These insects aren’t what we know of as a nuisance pest. They don’t damage ornamental trees, nor do they pass on any form of disease to people or pets.  They don’t bite or feed on people or pets, nor do they sting in any attempt to protect themselves. The biggest problem is their large numbers. Often they will find a way into peoples homes through cracks and crevices. By the end of August and September, these insects will be looking to overwinter. Often they will find these cracks and holes in the walls of your house and use them to hide until the following spring. You’re Broken Arrow pest control company will have more information. 

In some cases, Boxelder bugs will deform plants and trees as they suck the nectar from them. Often the tree will have deformations where the insects have fed. These alterations don’t hurt the tree at all but can be unsightly.  Their sheer numbers are usually their biggest offense.  When crushed they can give off a bad odor. Also if they get inside, their excrement can leave stains on curtains and furniture. Because of this it’s a good idea to try to keep them out of your home. 


These insects find their main home on the box elder tree. In some cases, it can be beneficial to remove a female box elder tree and replace it with either another kind of tree, or a mail box elder tree. These insects love the seed pods found on the female box elder tree. If you eliminate the seed pods, often you can at least lower their numbers.  But these insects can fly many miles and in some cases a box elder tree will be found in the neighbors yard and cause a nuisance issue in yours. 

Sometimes a good shop vac can be exactly what you need. Sucking up large numbers of these insect removes them from the population and limits their numbers. It’s gonna be a very safe way to deal with Boxelder bugs. Finding any gaps or cracks in your home is another good way to keep them outside and out of your living areas. If you do have box elder bugs in your home, it’s important to watch and see where they’re coming from. If they’re coming from underneath a floor molding, this is a good place to plug and make sure that they don’t have access from. Over-the-counter pesticides are not necessarily very effective against these insects, but your Tulsa pest control Company will have products that work very well against these insects. 


If you’re being overwhelmed with these insects, it’s time to call your Broken Arrow exterminator. A professional exterminator will have the tools needed to eliminate these bugs and keep them from getting into your home. Here at TermMax Pest Control, we are the best in the business when it comes to handling these kinds of insect problems. We service the greater Tulsa area including Broken Arrow, Jenks, Coweta, Glenpool, Owasso, Claremore, Catoosa and much more. Call today for a free estimate. We’re here to help! 

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