Recently, I have received a few phone calls on boxelder bugs and even seen a few of the black and red bugs around our farm so today I would like to share some information on this particular insect that some folks will call a nuisance pest.
For reference, I will share information from two articles put out on our UGA Center for Urban Agriculture website. One by a former co-worker in Bartow County, Randy Drinkard and one by Lowndes County Agent, Jacob Price.
First, it is not uncommon to see a lot of boxelder bugs congregating in large numbers this time of year. If you are not sure of what they look like you can simply do a google investigation and see many pictures of the insects. The adult box elder is about ½ inch long and can more of a grey-black in color with three red stripes behind the head and more additional red lines on the wings. The back margin of the wings can be red and the abdomen can be red too. The nymph stage of boxelders will find them red in color with a darker colored head. Right now, you will be seeing adult boxelders.
In the late summer and into the fall, you will see more groupings of these insects. They will try to find places to overwinter. Places that can be overwinter sites is in crevices along walls, doors, windows, foundations of houses , holes in trees, etc. On warm days, the insects can emerge and be seen on mainly the southwestern sides of homes. Boxelders will emerge for good in the spring and will mate in about two weeks. The female boxelder will lay her eggs close to host plants. The hatching is normally about the time that new leaves are putting out on host plants. In the middle of the summer, new adult boxelders will lay eggs again for a second generation of boxelders.
The insects get their name from their primary host tree, boxelder. The insects will feed by sucking sap from leaves, twigs and developing tree seed. They can also feed on maple, plum, cherry, peach, grape, apple and ash trees. They can cause some scarring on fruit.
From research data, it does seem that overall they mainly do little damage to the host items. The main issue is when people see them as a nuisance pest when they appear to be invading their homes. Boxelders can cause some problems if they do get in your home in large numbers. Their fecal matter can stain wallpaper, curtains and other items in a home. They can also put out a foul to the smell odor if you crush them. This means the best thing to do is to try to keep them out of the home in the beginning.
This means you need to do an inspection of home access areas and make sure you are sealed properly. Check areas around you doors, windows and even your foundation. Weather stripping and sealing up home access areas can really help. Boxelders like hiding places for overwintering so removal of rock piles, excessive leaves and grass can make your property less inviting for them. If you do have a large population of the pests in your home, a vacuum cleaner may be an easy way to get them out.
If you choose to use insecticides on the outside of your home to treat clusters of boxelders, make sure you read to a make sure that product will not stain the siding of your home and also about proper usage of that product and where you can use the product. You can also read the label to see if that product will control boxelder bugs. It is much easier to simply have a goal of keeping them out of your home the next few week because soon they will be gone till next spring with cold weather and may only reappear on warm winter afternoons.
For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.