Boxelder bugs invading Michigan homes: How to get rid of them

Michigan has seen rise in boxelder bugs in last several years

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Boxelder bug/NPIC

DETROIT - Boxelder bugs are looking for somewhere to stay this winter - and it's likely inside your house.

Although very common in Michigan, boxelder bugs use the fall to seek shelter from the cold.

They are considered a "nuisance pest," because they are generally harmless - but they are annoying. They do not sting or transmit disease, and are generally not known to bite, though there are rare reports of defensive biting. 

However, their feces can stain light colored surfaces. Smashing them can also release an unpleasant odor. They are often found in homes and on the sunny exterior sides of buildings.

Here's some tips on how to get rid of boxelders from Orkin:

Get rid of host trees
To stop box elder bugs from multiplying, it is often helpful to remove their host trees from the area surrounding your home, but the adults can still fly from locations off the property. If you choose to plant box elder trees in your yard, choose male trees: (non-seed-bearing) since female box elder trees are more susceptible to infestation. However, box elder trees are not recommended for ornamental planting.

Seal cracks
These insects can also enter through windows and doors; ensure that these close properly and utilize screen doors to keep box elder bugs from entering.

Chemicals
In some homes, chemical product treatments (extermination) in strict accordance with the product’s label directions might be necessary. Typically chemical products are applied in late-summer and early-fall.

Signs you have a boxelder problem:

Large numbers
Like many overwintering pests, the most startling sign is the bugs when they invade in staggering numbers.

Sunny side of buildings
They usually appear on sunny sides of buildings in the fall.

Move inside during winter
They invade the voids of the building to overwinter. While overwintering, they do not feed or reproduce.

Michigan State University researchers say people in Michigan have seen a record number of boxelder bugs in recent years.

Some folks have reported piles of them in their yards and driveways. During the summer boxelder bugs feed on the flowers and seedpods of female boxelder trees. Boxelder bugs invade our homes and other structures in the fall of the year looking for dry, protected sites (attics, wall cavities) in which to spend the winter. They can become quite numerous on the south and west sides of homes where they congregate in the warm autumn sun. In homes invaded by boxelder bugs, it is very common and likely that one will continue to see them throughout the winter and spring months. They are a nuisance but also harmless. They do not bite, lay eggs in our homes, get into our store foods, or eat our fabrics. Compared to the Asian Ladybeetle, boxelder bugs are polite houseguests.

People throughout the state of Michigan have experienced record numbers of this black and red bug for the past several years. Some folks have reported piles of them in their yards and driveways. During the summer boxelder bugs feed on the flowers and seedpods of female boxelder trees. Boxelder bugs invade our homes and other structures in the fall of the year looking for dry, protected sites (attics, wall cavities) in which to spend the winter.

They can become quite numerous on the south and west sides of homes where they congregate in the warm autumn sun. In homes invaded by boxelder bugs, it is very common and likely that one will continue to see them throughout the winter and spring months. They are a nuisance but also harmless. They do not bite, lay eggs in our homes, get into our store foods, or eat our fabrics. Compared to the Asian Ladybeetle, boxelder bugs are polite houseguests.

The best long-term method of controlling boxelder bugs is to prevent their entry, and if possible, the removal of any nearby female boxelder trees. Sealing exterior cracks and holes with caulk can greatly reduce the number of bugs that find their way inside walls and attics. There is very little that can be done once the bugs are inside the walls.

Even aggressive and costly insecticide applications may not be effective because it is nearly impossible to treat every hidden area that may be harboring insects. Sealing cracks around electrical outlet boxes, switches and light fixtures, and around window and baseboard molding on the inside walls will help keep the bugs trapped within the walls. In older homes with double-hung windows equipped with pulleys, insects commonly enter living areas through the pulley opening. Masking tape applied over the opening will keep insects from entering through this route.

A vacuum cleaner is a pretty effective method of removing the sluggish, slow moving bugs from the house. Spraying the outside walls of homes, especially the south and west facing walls, with permethrin or other insecticides registered for this use in September can also help reduce the number of insects entering homes. The spray should be applied when the first boxelder bugs are noticed congregating on outside walls.

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