Are Boxelder Bugs Harmful?

If you’ve noticed little black and red bugs crawling in or around your home, you may be dealing with a boxelder bug infestation. While no creepy crawly creature is fun to deal with, one of the first points of concern is determining whether or not the little invaders are dangerous to you, your loved ones, or your pets.

Here is everything you need to know about boxelder bugs and the problems they can cause for your household. Think you have boxelder bugs in your home? Call us at first sight – we do it right!

What Are Boxelder Bugs?

Boxelder bugs are also known as maple bugs, box bugs, or even box beetles. They have long, flat black bodies with red details on the edges of their sleek wings, six legs, and two antennae that are long and stick out from the body at an angle.

You’ll most frequently see boxelder bugs on or near boxelder, maple, or ash trees, where they feast on the seeds. With how prevalent these trees are in the Kansas City area, it’s no surprise that this invasive species has inhabited the Midwest region after making their way over from Chile years ago.

Even though they are sometimes called “box beetles,” boxelder bugs are actually a species of “true bug,” being more closely related to cicadas, aphids, shield bugs, and bed bugs than a beetle.

Are Boxelder Bugs Dangerous?

Short answer? No.

Boxelder bugs don’t sting or carry diseases, and while they can bite, they rarely do. The result of a boxedler bug bite is no more than a little red bump, similar to a mosquito bite. These pests typically won’t bother your pets, although if your dog or cat decides to eat one, the unpleasant taste will likely cause them to throw up. Beyond the occasional bite or unpleasant meal, boxelder bugs pose no threat to people or animals.

Can Boxelder Bugs Damage My Home or Property?

Since they prefer a boxelder or maple seed diet, boxelder bugs aren’t likely to cause much harm to yards and gardens. They might feed on some fruit as they search for a warmer place to settle in the fall, but even this is rare and won’t cause any harm to the fruit tree itself.

In terms of the damage boxelder bugs can cause to your house, the biggest issue is staining. Their liquid feces leave yellow, brown, or grey staining and discoloration on surfaces, which can become prominent in areas they choose to congregate en masse. Boxelder bugs may also leave stains when crushed, at which point they also omit a pungent odor similar to another common true bug, the stink bug.

How Do I Prevent a Boxelder Bug Infestation?

As temperatures outside cool, boxelder bugs may migrate indoors in search of a warm spot to hibernate. Once they find a comfortable place to collect, they usually become inactive until it’s warm enough to venture back outside. When you turn on your heat for the fall and winter seasons, these dormant boxelder bugs may falsely see this as a sign that it’s springtime, causing them to venture out in search of food. This is when you’re likely to see them moving around inside of your house, and it could be a sign of a larger boxelder bug presence in your home.

To prevent boxelder bugs from getting into your house in the first place, follow these steps to seal up and protect your home from all manner of pests:

  1. Caulk or seal any cracks and crevices around the exterior of your home, especially near windows, doors, and utility entry points.
  2. Cover openings with screens or weather stripping.
  3. Keep the exterior walls of your home free of wood or debris piles and overgrown plants that can provide shelter for boxelder bugs.
  4. Remove seed-bearing boxelder trees from your property. These can be replaced with male boxelder trees, which don’t bear seeds and thus won’t appeal to boxelder bugs.

What Do I Do If I Have Boxelder Bugs?

To eliminate boxelder bugs, don’t crush them. Instead, vacuum them up and dispose of the bag in an exterior trash can. Many boxelder bugs can be dealt with by washing them away with water as well, especially younger bugs, though this method is probably best done on exterior pests. If you want to ensure the bugs are completely eliminated, freeze the bag overnight. If you prefer a gentler approach, you can also carefully pick up boxelder bugs and return them to the outside of your home.

If you have disposed of multiple boxelder bugs over the course of a week, it could be a sign of a larger issue, in which case you should enlist the aid of pest control professionals. Our team at Advantage Termite and  Pest Control is well-versed with all varieties of pests in the Kansas City area, including boxelder bugs! 

Contact us to schedule an inspection, and be sure to let us know about any and all pests you’ve noticed in your home recently. Call us at first sight – We do it right!

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