The Box Elder bug is an interesting pest from a familiarity standpoint. It seems there is a rift between those who know what a Box Elder bug is and those who do not. Those that know tend to be overly familiar with them and carry a strong disdain for the bug while those unfamiliar, don’t have a clue what they are or how to deal with them. Whether you have battled them for years or are encountering them for the first time, everyone wants to know how to get rid of them. Answering that question depends on which of the three locations you are finding them.
Box Elder bugs are true bugs which means they have piercing-sucking mouthparts which enable them to feed on plants. They specifically feed on box elder tree seeds, newly developing leaves and fruits from plum and apple trees though the fruit feeding is more on occasion. Fortunately and unfortunately, Box Elder bugs have fairly specific tastes, so the simple solution is to remove the plants that are attracting them.
In cases where plant substitution or removal is unrealistic, there is often little extra that can be done to target them while on the plants themselves. While some insecticides are labeled for use on trees, new Box Elder bugs tend to come in as quickly as old ones are killed off.
While there are plenty of natural predators such as rodents, predacious insects and arachnids, and those of the avian sort, the Box Elder bugs typically reproduce more rapidly than they are consumed especially since they possess the ability to emit an odorous deterrent to their predators. When considering control measures, it is important to consider the impact the efforts may have on the non-target predators.
Most become aware of the Box Elder bugs when the temperatures start to drop in the fall and a warm sunny day brings them swarming to homes and businesses. In the northern hemisphere, these bugs tend to gravitate toward south and west facing
walls. Getting them to leave the exterior of the home is often a matter of time as they will disappear as the temperatures drop even more.
If you know that Box Elder bugs are an issue in your area, exclusionary efforts to block off potential entry points to the interior of the home are key to minimizing their impact.
Sprays labeled for Box Elder bugs can be used to supplement exclusionary efforts and kill the bugs as they land on the home. Even though they may spread out all over the home during the day, they tend to congregate to conserve warmth in the evening making targeting the population much simpler.
Those Box Elder bugs that are lucky enough to get past exclusionary tactics will find their way into the voids or interior of the home or business. Since their goal is to find a place to overwinter, they are typically out of sight and out of mind until something like an unusually warm winter day, springtime, or even warmth from a central heating system wakes them up and tells them it is time to leave their overwintering state.
As they wake up, they will typically more toward the warmth which may be the inside instead of the outside where they would find food. They need plants to feed on, so they cannot live long-term or expand populations from within the home, but they can sure be an annoyance while they last. Their impact can be reduced by natural means as simple as vacuuming them up as they come out In some cases, a crack and crevice or void treatment for these insects can be used to reduce their presence and impact.