Boxelder Bugs


  • Scientific name: Boisea trivittata
  • Size: About ½ an inch long
  • Color: Dark brown or black with reddish orange markings on the shell and underside (adults), bright red (nymphs)
  • Shape: Elongated ovals with hard wing casings and long, slender antennae
  • Found in: Common in all parts of the United States

What are they?
The boxelder bug is a member of a group of insects known as “true bugs” that refers specifically to insects that have what is called a “rostrum” or proboscis which is a specific type of mouthparts that are able to pierce tissues and suck out liquids. Sometimes these bugs are mistaken for “stink beetles” but they are technically “scentless plant bugs” and, though they can produce a pungent, bad tasting compound when threatened, they are not a member of the same species. Because of this, the boxelder bug can form rather large groups without fear of predators.
How can you tell you have them?
Boxelder bugs are fairly easy to spot. A good way to tell if you have a possible source of boxelder bugs is to identify the trees that you have on your property. Since this species of bug is so specialized in it’s food source, it is highly unlikely that you will have an infestation if these trees (boxelder, maple and ash) are not present. If you do have these trees on your property or near it, then the infant form of the boxelder bug is a bright, eye-catching red. These types of bugs are not considered agricultural pests, but are considered nuisance pests because of their habit of gathering in large groups and the scent they produce can be quite off-putting.
What kind of environment do they like?
During the summer months the boxelder bug can form large groups for the purpose of sunning themselves and for breeding puroses. However, in the cooler months leading up to winter, the boxelder bug can invade homes to seek shelter from unfriendly temperatures and when looking for a place to spend the winter. Though they spend their time during cold weather hiding in the walls of homes and behind siding. Heating systems can waken them prematurely, however and the boxelder bugs will spread to the living parts of the home in search of food and water.
Eating habits
The boxelder bug is found mainly on the seed pods of the boxelder tree, though they can also be found on maple and ash trees. They are very specialized insects that prey almost exclusively on seeds of the Acer species of plants. They can cause light damage by their form of feeding when they pierce the tissue of plants, but their main source of irritation to humans is as a nuisance pest.
What to do?
If your house has a large amount of sun exposure during the winter months, then that, combined with proximity to boxelder, maple or ash trees could indicate that you have boxelder bugs that enjoy wintering in the siding or walls of your home. Be careful when you attempt to eradicate this pest insect, as not all of the bugs may become active at the same time, due to heat distribution in the home.

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