Boxelder Bugs: Everything You Should Know

Boxelder Bugs: Everything You Should Know

Boxelder bugs, a common sight in many regions, have piqued the interest and concern of homeowners and entomologists alike. These distinctive black and orange insects, often found in close proximity to boxelder trees, have a unique life cycle and behavior pattern that sets them apart from other household pests. 

In this guide, we’ll explore everything about boxelder bugs – exploring their identification, life cycle, and the challenges they pose, particularly when they invade our homes seeking refuge from the cold.

What are Boxelder Bugs?

Boxelder bugs, scientifically known as Boisea trivittata, are native to the western United States but can be found across the eastern states and Canada, wherever boxelder trees grow.

These bugs are easily recognizable by their black bodies with reddish or orange markings, especially on their dorsum. 

Boxelder bugs are true bugs, belonging to the same family as stink bugs and cicadas, and are known to release a bad odor when crushed. They are most abundant during hot, dry summers followed by warm springs and are not considered a serious problem every year.

Types of Boxelder Bugs

1. Young Boxelder Bugs

Nymphs, or young boxelder bugs, are similar in appearance but lack wings and are bright red instead of the black and orange pattern seen in adults.

These insects are primarily a nuisance pest, as they do not bite, but their presence in large numbers can be bothersome, especially when they invade homes to overwinter. 

2. Adult Boxelder Bugs

Adult boxelder bugs are about half an inch long, with a somewhat flattened, elongate-oval shape. They possess six legs and two antennae, which are typically half of their body length.

You may overlook them in the summer, but they can turn into a problem in the fall when they attempt to enter homes seeking a warm spot to shelter for the winter. 

Boxelder Bugs Identification

  • Color: Black with reddish or orange markings on the dorsum
  • Legs: 6
  • Shape: Elongate-oval, somewhat flattened with a head narrower than pronotum
  • Size: 1/2” (11-14 mm)
  • Antennae: Yes
  • Region: All
  • Season: Winters (Indoor), Summers (Outdoor)

What Do Boxelder Bugs Look Like?

Boxelder bugs are quite the eye-catchers with their unique and vibrant appearance! Boxelder bugs are about half an inch long, flaunting a sleek, flattened oval shape. They’re easily recognizable by their striking black and orange or red markings, including distinctive stripes behind their head.

Their wings lay flat, overlapping to form an ‘X’ pattern. The younger ones, or nymphs, start off bright red and gradually develop their black and orange adult markings.

Life Cycle of Boxelder Bugs

Mating and Egg-laying:

The life cycle of boxelder bugs begins with the mating process, which typically occurs in the spring. After emerging from hibernation, adult boxelder bugs mate, and the females lay their eggs on the bark of boxelder trees, their preferred habitat.

These eggs are strategically placed in crevices or under bark to provide protection and a food source for the emerging larvae.

Larval Stage:

Once the eggs hatch, the larval stage begins. These larvae, also known as nymphs, are bright red and undergo several molts as they grow. During this stage, they feed voraciously on the leaves, flowers, and seedpods of the boxelder tree, which is crucial for their development.

This stage is characterized by significant growth, with the nymphs gradually changing in appearance and gaining the distinctive black and orange markings of the adults.


The next phase in their life cycle is pupation. This is a transitional stage where the nymphs develop into adults. During this time, the nymphs will find a safe place to undergo this transformation.

The pupation stage is a critical period of development where the nymphs’ bodies undergo significant changes, preparing them for adult life.


Once the boxelder bugs have completed pupation, they emerge as fully grown adults. These adults are recognizable by their black and orange markings and are capable of flight. In adulthood, their primary focus shifts to feeding and reproduction, thus continuing the cycle.

Adult boxelder bugs typically seek shelter in the colder months, often invading homes and buildings to overwinter, before re-emerging in the spring to start the cycle anew.

What Do Boxelder Bugs Eat?

Boxelder bugs have a pretty simple diet. Their main food source is seeds from boxelder and maple trees, which is actually how they got their name. In spring, they also enjoy munching on the fresh, new leaves of these trees.

Occasionally, they’ll snack on fruits from plum and apple trees. So, their diet is mostly seeds and leaves with a fruity treat now and then!

Signs of Boxelder Bugs Infestation

  • Large Gatherings: Spotting clusters of boxelder bugs, especially around sunny areas of your home, like windowsills or walls facing the sun.
  • Egg Clusters: Finding small, reddish-brown eggs in crevices or on tree bark, particularly on or around boxelder trees.
  • Nymphs Presence: Observing numerous red and black nymphs, particularly in spring and early summer, near food sources like boxelder or maple trees.
  • Indoor Sightings: Encountering boxelder bugs inside your home, often in rooms with ample sunlight or warmth.
  • Stains and Odors: Noticing unusual stains or a distinctive odor, especially when bugs are crushed or in large numbers.

Boxelder Bugs Control – How To Keep Boxelder Bugs Away

Controlling boxelder bugs and keeping them at bay requires a strategic approach, especially since these insects are known for invading homes in large numbers. Here’s a guide on how to effectively manage and get rid of boxelder bugs:

Prevent Entry

The first step in controlling boxelder bugs is to prevent them from entering your home. Inspect the exterior of your house for any cracks or openings, particularly around windows, doors, and the foundation. Seal these gaps using caulk or weather stripping. Repairing damaged window screens and installing door sweeps can also help block their entry.

Remove Attractants

Since boxelder bugs feed on the seeds of boxelder trees, removing these trees from your property can reduce their presence. However, this is a significant step and may not be practical or desirable for everyone. Alternatively, regularly cleaning up fallen seeds and debris from these trees can help.

Physical Removal

If boxelder bugs have already entered your home, physical removal is often the most effective method. Using a vacuum cleaner to suck them up can be an efficient way to get rid of them. Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag immediately to prevent them from escaping.

Chemical Treatments

Insecticides can be used, but they should be a last resort due to their potential impact on the environment and non-target species. If you choose to use insecticides, it’s best to apply them around the perimeter of your home in the fall, when boxelder bugs are looking for a place to overwinter. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consider consulting a pest control professional.

Ongoing Monitoring

Regularly inspect your home for signs of boxelder bugs, especially during their peak seasons in the fall and spring. Early detection can make control efforts more effective and prevent large infestations.

Professional Help

Keep in mind, although boxelder bugs are bothersome, they don’t inflict structural damage or present a serious health risk. If the infestation is severe or persistent, it may be necessary to seek help from a professional pest control service.

To effectively reduce their numbers and prevent them from becoming a significant irritation in your home, choose a Professional pest control services for reliable and efficient management. 

Help is One Phone Call Away!

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