Box elder bugs or sting bugs go by the scientific name—Boisea Trivittata (wiki). They are a common nuisance throughout North America. These small, flying insects feed on maple (Acer Saccharinum), ash (Fraxinus Americana) and Boxelder (Acer Negundo) trees.
Although they are recognized as garden pests yet, a few gardeners refer to them as “little helper’’ since they rid our yards free of unwanted saplings and feed on invasive weeds.
- Why Box Elder Bugs Are Regarded As Pests?
- Are They Dangerous To Humans?
- How Can Their Feeding Habits Damage Plants and Crops?
- 11 Quick Tips On How To Get Rid Of Box Elder Bug
- Safety Precautions
Why Box Elder Bugs Are Regarded As Pests?
While the sight of a swarm of creepy insects can be unsettling for humans, in reality, these bugs are harmless. They are shy creatures that hide under objects and do not cause any serious damage to plants, landscaping mulch or soil.
We consider them pests because of their ability to congregate on the walls (particularly towards the western and southern regions of your home), during winter and fall seasons. They excrete chemicals that discolor walls and their excreta leave bright red stains on light-colored surfaces. Moreover, when you crush them under your feet, they emit a peculiar strong, foul odor.
In short, they make it difficult to work in garden. Therefore, people tend to get rid of box elder bug, as soon as they notice them.
Are They Dangerous To Humans?
No. They are silent, harmless occupants. As far as the records suggest, they do not bite animals or humans. They do not sting, cause allergies or transmit hazardous diseases. However, there are occasional reports of defensive biting in Florida and a few other states.
How Can Their Feeding Habits Damage Plants and Crops?
A box elder bug is active during spring and summer season. It feeds and reproduces on female, seed-bearing plants. In case of shortage of food, they may turn to young leaves of male plants.
These insects have tube like extensions on the mouth for sucking and feeding. They attach themselves to tender young leaf and suck on its juices. Their feeding habit damages young tissues, distorts leaf structure/shape and discolors leaves. Several days of continuous bug feeding can blemish fruits and cause other structural deformities.
Mulched gardens facing southern walls, fallen logs, moist stones and landscaping mulch piled underneath a host tree are ideal habitats for this species. The insects hibernate in protected sites throughout the winter season. They may seek temporary shelter in open crevices and cracks, on the sunny side of your homes.
They emerge from their homes when temperature rises. Long period of hibernation stimulates hunger. The creepy-crawly creatures start feeding on grasses and seeds to prepare for the upcoming mating season.
How To Locate Them In Your Vicinity
Adults are big in size and resemble a cockroach. They measure between 11 to 15 mm in length. They have dark brown to black color body with bright red lines along the thorax and flat, transparent vestigeal wings. The wings have bright orange markings on the sides.
Young hatchlings are called nymph. They are red to grey in color and small sized individuals. They take 2 to 3 months to mature into a fertile adult.
Nymphs arise from small reddish brown eggs. The color of these eggs conceals them from naked human eye, as they stay well hidden behind the barks.
Life Cycle Of A Bug
Adult females appear during the fall season and seek a protective place to hibernate for winters. They lay hundreds of eggs during summer and spring seasons. Fertile females produce one to two generations of young ones per year.
Once the eggs are laid, they undergo metamorphosis to produce nymphs that eventually mature into adults. After the mating is complete, they flock in mass to celebrate and feast on the trees. As the temperature falls, their hunt for a warm place begins, once again.
Target Areas—Places Where You Can Find Them
A box elder bug loves cold, moist, shady places like outdoor faucets, mulched wood chips, boards, leaf or rock piles, cracks on windows, door frames, dry vents along the sides and ceiling lights.
11 Quick Tips On How To Get Rid Of Box Elder Bug
Like humans, insects are living beings, as well. Rather than adopting a gruesome approach, we should focus on insecticide-free options or alternate remedies like habitat removal. Let us take a look at some of these methods.
1) Habitat Removal
A generous, annual shower of pods, scattered around moist soil, encourages young hosts to establish their roots. If you don’t want bugs to play home in your gardens, you should get rid of the host trees.
Box elder trees are rapid growers, but they have weak woods. They shed their branches occasionally. In order to prevent these pests from multiplying, it is important that you remove all the host trees from the yard and remove detached branches from the surrounding regions.
Secondly, you should get rid of rock piles, wood chips, dry leaves, dead and overgrown plants in the backyard. If you still want to grow box elder trees in your yard, choose male trees over female trees. The female hosts are more vulnerable to insect invasions. Contact a local tree removal company for this task.
Even if you get rid of host trees, there are chances these pests can fly from locations off the property. In such cases, it is important that you remove host trees from the neighborhood. Seal all the target areas. Use screen doors to prevent their entry through doors and windows.
2) Introduction Of Higher Pests
Birds occupy a higher rank in the wood chain. Robins, sparrows and swallows love to feast on these creepy crawlers. You can install birdhouses and feeding bowls to encourage these feathery friends into your gardens. This is an eco-friendly way to get rid of box elder bug.
3) Exclusion By Sealing The Entryway
Exclusion is a long-term, effective and successful method of eliminating insects. It is time consuming and labor intensive but aims to prevent the entry of bugs in the most natural way. You should adopt this method to avoid mass killings. Here are some popular ways of controlling bugs through exclusion method—
– Install door sweeps and screens,
– Install soffit vents,
– Repair cracks and crevices on door and window frames,
– Seal the entry points on walls, where wires and plumbing enter the building,
– Plug gaps in fascia boards, roof joints and railings.
4) Manual Methods Of Extermination
Somehow, if the bugs find entry inside your homes, you can sweep them outside with the help of a broom. For long-term removal, consider vacuuming.
Vacuum companies provide a special hose attachment to pick up insects on floor. Add this attachment to a canister vacuum. Switch on the machine. It will suck and trap insects inside. You can detach the vacuum bag and dump them somewhere far away so they do not come back inside.
In The Backyard
Open the tap and aim a forceful stream of water from the hose. Point the powerful jet at insect colonies to wash them away.
When the swarm migrate back in your gardens, you can pour a well-aimed steam of hot water to kill them on contact. Nevertheless, this method is unpleasant since it damages other desirable plants in your gardens.
5) Home Remedies
Manual mass killing is an unpleasant way of exterminating bugs since they emit stinky odor in the environment. In such cases, these homemade recipes work wonders!
Insects are allergic to vinegar due to its acidic nature. Pour one part water and one part white vinegar in a spray bottle. Shake it well and use it as a homemade repellent to eliminate pest population.
“Pump spray” bottles produce better results than bottles fitted with finger atomizers. The latter allows you to spray more amount of liquid, with greater force. Target dark, sparsely populated areas in your home where bugs like to congregate.
6) Chemical Treatments
Despite trying home remedies, if the bugs crawl back, you are left with no other choice. You have to use chemicals to get rid of box elder bug permanently.
Borax or boric acid is boron based chemical compound. This white colored chemical is used for green house cleaning. It works effectively in open crevices and narrow gaps.
You can spray dilute solution of boric acid along sides and surfaces. Fill the holes with acidic solution. The bugs will avoid these areas.
Dish Soap And Laundry Detergent
Prepare a 5% solution of dish soap in warm water– a quick fix that eliminates elder bugs by acting on their exoskeletons. Likewise, you can prepare 2 to 3% spray solution consisting of laundry detergent. Add two tablespoons of laundry detergent in a glass of warm water.
Fill the spray bottles with soap or laundry detergent. Shake it well. Spray the mixture on bug colonies and target areas. Pests will die relatively quickly. Once you kill these pests, you can dispose them off by vacuuming.
Although the bugs will die as soon as they are exposed to the soap solution yet, the new ones are likely to migrate inside. Hence, you need to repeat this process on alternate days.
Chemical treatment is an effective method that produces quick results. Follow the instructions mentioned on the label of chemicals and take necessary precautions while using them.
Nevertheless, there are certain locations (like nurseries, flowerbeds, congested rooms with asthma patients inside), where this practice is not practical. Here, you need to switch to other methods of extermination.
Make sure that you use gloves and face mask when spraying soaps and detergents. Late summer and early fall is a convenient time to kill bugs. You can easily get rid of large insect populations in this season.
7) Alternate Treatments
Natural, porous, sedimentary deposit of fossilized phytoplankton or diatoms constitutes diatomaceous earth. This substance is easily available at home improvement stores, garden supply centers and nurseries. The material seeps through the external covering of insects, destroys its protective coating and kills it slowly.
It is available in two varieties—food grade and chemical grade. You should use food grade chemical to exterminate pests. Purchase a bottle of this substance and sprinkle it inside your house. Spray a generous amount of diatomaceous earth on trees and grasses.
Even though diatomaceous earth is non-toxic in nature, sometimes, it may produce allergic reactions, when exposed to sensitive skin. Make sure you read the instructions carefully before using this chemical.
8) Insecticide Application
Using insecticides in a sure fire method to get rid of box elder bug. Insecticides are powerful chemicals that breakdown insect machinery. Pyrehtrin based chemicals such as Tempo WP are poisonous and kill bugs instantly. They are most effective against wasp population. These chemicals are usually extracted from poisonous animals or plant varieties. Other synthetic chemicals are added to intensify their approach.
Use pump garden sprayer, power spray rig or a backpack sprayer for sprinkling insecticides. The spray bottles provide maximum coverage. Pour the insecticide mixture inside spray bottles. Spray it around the house. Spread a steady stream of chemical on target areas to produce quick results. You can use it in yards, fields and parks.
The pests die as soon as they encounter these pesticides. Once they are dead, collect their bodies in plastic bags, with the help of a broom. Dump them in a container and dispose it off.
Do not burry it in soil. Dispose the bag in a trash receptacle or dump yards that deal with chemical wastes.
Insecticides are toxic to humans and animals. Make sure you opt for odorless varieties (in order to avoid breathing problems).
You should be careful while spraying insecticides inside. Follow proper precautions. Keep your rooms well ventilated. Wear protective gloves, mask and eye cover. Avoid direct contact with skin, eyes and mouth.
Do not spray pesticides on food items or organic substances and around pets or animals. Avoid cross contamination.
Prepare 1 to 10% dilute pesticide solution for plants. Don’t use concentrated chemicals as it will damage them.
Although it is easy to use insecticides at home yet, you must contact the best pest management services operating in your area. They are expert at handling chemicals and follow proper safety measures.
An appropriate bug treatment program includes an integrated approach that involves both chemical and non-chemical methods. Research and come up with the best solution to get rid of box elder bug.