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Hi! I’m Diane Alston, an Entomologist with Utah State University. Today we are going to talk about Boxelder Bugs. They are a native insect to the western U.
S. as well as their primary host, the Boxelder Tree, and that’s the reason that they are here, and can be very numerous. Although they are a native insect they can become very abundant. They are not an economically damaging pest in most cases, but more of a nuisance pest. Boxelder Bugs are generally not a garden pest for either your vegetable garden, or your flowering plants, however there are a few types of situations where they can become a problem such as feeding on ripening peach fruits where large numbers mass on the fruits and they can cause damage at that time. One of the reasons why they are so abundant is that nothing likes to eat them They have a repulsive odor and flavor to them and so they are not very attractive for predators such as birds or other insects to feed on. Okay, so what do Boxelder Bugs eat? They primarily feed on the developing seeds of female Boxelder trees and other related species such as other maples, ash are two other common trees in this area that they feed on. These are the trees that have the seed pods that hang down, and the young nymphs, that’s the immature stage, and the females will feed on these in the Spring and early Summer and this is where you can see large numbers of small, red, brightly red colored bugs feeding on these trees and massing around the trunks and base of the trees. In their youngest stage they look like little tiny red dots and they can often be mistaken for mites and ticks and other types of arthropods. Just like people, the Boxelder Bugs like to spend the winter in a warm place. That’s the reason they are trying to get inside your house. The problem with Boxelder Bugs is that they like to congregate on the sunny or south-facing walls of buildings, especially in the Fall as the adults are preparing to overwinter and also again in the Spring when they come out and are active and beginning to mate and then the females starting to lay eggs on Boxelder trees but this time of year in the late Summer and Fall you can see them accumulating on the sides of buildings and a common issue of them becoming nuisance pests indoors is that they can gain access through cracks and crevices. So, a primary way to keep them from entering is to make sure that things like door thresholds are in good condition to block their entry to the house, also around foundations where cracks and crevices are common That’s another major way that they can get inside. Vacuuming is a very efficient way to remove Boxelder Bugs from inside the home. It’s best not to smash them because they do leave a stain, and they can stain your upholstery and carpet if smashed, but vacuuming them up is a really simple and effective way. [vacuum in use] Okay, after you vacuumed up the Boxelder Bugs and they’re in your vacuum bag, to make sure that you kill them and not just allow them come back out through your vacuum hose it is important to place the bag inside of a plastic bag. And then you can seal this off and put it in your freezer for overnight and that will make sure that all the Boxelder Bugs are killed and then you can put it back in your vacuum and use it again. An environmentally friendly way to kill Boxelder bugs is to use just common liquid dishwashing soap and mix 1 to 2 teaspoons per gallon of water. and then we’ll put this in a hose and sprayer and spray it on the wall where they congregating. The reason the soapy water works is that the Boxelder bugs have a waxy layer on their cuticle or exoskeleton and the soapy water disrupts that and causes breakages where they will desiccate and dry out and die. The soapy water is only going to kill the Boxelder bugs that it contacts at that time, and so there is no residual effect to it. Depending on how heavy your populations are you may need to spray again every few days during the time period when they are most abundant and active. Okay, to sum it up, the Boxelder Bugs are a native insect to the western U. S. They are very abundant here, at least in part because there aren’t many predators or other animals that like to feed on them. They generally do not cause harm except in a few situations where they may feed on ripening peach fruits, but their primary concern is that they are a big nuisance pest when they get inside your home. So we have talked about some few, a few key ways to prevent their entry into buildings and to wash them off the outside with a very non-toxic soapy water solution. There are other more toxic pesticides that are very effective against them but we don’t recommend their use because you’d have to reapply them very frequently and they can build up residues of toxic chemicals on the exterior of your home where your family and your pets spend time. So its best to go with something environmentally safe such as the soapy water, or washing them off with just straight water or using some kind of physical activity such as vacuuming or sweeping them off. .