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Extension > Local Extension Offices > Douglas > County Horticulture Educator > Articles > Managing Box Elder Bugs

Managing Box Elder Bugs

Black and orange insects abound this time of year.  This week I have had several calls about the black, orange striped Box Elder Bug (BEB).  As the weather gets cooler, these bugs start to leave trees in which they have spent the summer feeding, in search of a protected winter home.  Unlike lady bugs, surface color doesn’t seem to make a difference to BEBs. Instead, they like warm areas, and seem to be attracted to southern or western sides of buildings.  Once cold weather has set in, these pests work their way into our homes; inside walls or attics.  Although these insects are usually inactive during winter months; mild sunny days might lead them to sunny windows and warm spots.

BEBs do not lay eggs or feed indoors, and are harmless, as they do not damage your house, furnishings or family members. However, they can be a nuisance due to the sheer numbers in which they appear. The most effective deterrence against BEBs is to prevent their entry by sealing cracks and gaps that allow them access to your home. Using a lawn and garden insecticide or soapy water on outside masses of bugs will also help to reduce the number that get in.  Remove wood piles, garden debris and leaf piles from around the foundation of your home to eliminate any potential BEB habitat. Once these bugs have made their way inside, household insecticides are ineffective.  Remove these bugs with your vacuum cleaner as you would for the Asian Lady Beetle.

Box Elder Bugs live, feed and breed on female box elder trees; those that produce seed pods.  It has been suggested that removal of these trees will reduce BEB populations, but I would recommend against it. Spraying or removing female trees is not a practical solution. BEBs can fly up to a couple of miles from their food source, and box elder trees are common in our area. 

Box Elder Bugs are not a serious problem every year.  They are most prolific during dry, warm years.  Our cooler than normal summer might mean we won’t see too many this fall. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!


Robin Trott
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 762-3890
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