Box elder bugs are easy to identify and it doesn’t take much to realize you have an infestation. The bodies of these bugs are in black color and are marked with red lines and it fair to say that these bugs on their own are quite attractive, but that’s just the problem. Any swarming insect can intimidate and box elder bugs are no different. When they congregate in large numbers as they do in the fall, any interest in their distinctive coloring is forgotten, and thoughts quickly move to eradication. But are their natural home remedies to get rid of box elder bugs? Well, fortunately, there are and combined with common sense tips to seal your home, you can get rid of box elder bugs permanently.
The box elder bug gets its name from the box elder tree which is their principle food source. These bugs will always be found near box elder or maple trees but they have been known to feed on apple and plums trees.
The adult bugs will lay their eggs on the box elder tree in the spring, feeding on the delicate parts of the tree such a leaves, flowers and fresh twigs, sucking the juices and sap. During the warmer months, the bug is quite content to breed and feed in and around the tree, but it is when the weather cools, that they seek warmer climbs. The bugs will not kill the box elder tree, but if in sufficient numbers can cause the leaves to yellow.
Migration to Mexico is not the bug’s favored vacation destination, but alas south facing walls and crevices of your house are. They seek small crevices and cracks, warmed by the sun, to spend the winter months and this can mean huge numbers swarming over your house, looking for a comfortable and warm place to winter. They cause no structural damage but will stain walls and window sills if left unchecked.
The bugs are not harmful to humans and carry no diseases. Yet, if handled, they have been known to bite in self-defense. They also can create a pungent odor which has lead many people to confuse them with stink bugs. But where they cause the most nuisance is if they manage to enter your property. Once inside, they will not lay eggs or breed but will seek out warm gaps, nooks, and crevices to overwinter. However, when disturbed, box elder bugs will leave behind reddish fecal material which, when in large numbers, can stain fabrics and clothing.
How to get rid of box elder bugs
When treating a box elder bug infestation, it is important to deal with the bugs outside just as it is inside your home. The bugs do not breed in your house and are just visiting, so without addressing the bugs outside, the problem will simply return the following year. There are many ways to get rid of box elder bugs naturally, and it is recommended that you combine several of the remedies for maximum effect.
Get rid of boxelder bugs inside your home
The first rule for controlling a box elder bug infestation is to stop the critters from entering your property in the first place. Each house is different but do a thorough check around the house looking for potential entry points.
- Caulking is the quickest and easiest way to block the holes, and you should do this anyway to keep the home dry.
- Consider wire bug meshing and screens over windows
- Use expandable foam for larger holes
- Fit chimney caps
- Cover vents
- Repoint brickwork
2. Vacuuming box elder bugs
Before you try natural insecticides for box elder bugs around the house, first you need to vacuum. Box elder bugs are easy to vacuum. If the vacuum is bagless, then disposing of the bugs is not an issue, but if you use a vacuum bag, its best to dispose of the bag after vacuuming as your vacuum will smell. If you don’t want box elder bugs in your vacuum at all, a neat trick is to use a nylon stocking which you can insert into the vacuum pipe, fixing it with an elastic band. The stocking effectively acts as the vacuum bag and the bugs never see the inside of your machine.
The obvious benefit of vacuuming is the speedy removal of bugs. You want to vacuum as many as possible before you try natural insecticides. The reason is that you don’t want dead bugs in your house as their remains will encourage a much more damaging pest – the carpet beetle.
3. Boric Acid
Boric acid is a fantastic natural insecticide for box elder bug control. Sprinkle boric acid granules on the box elder tree, around the house, on window sills, or any area where the bug congregates. You normally purchase borax in the big grocery department stores or certain major drug stores. Borax breaks down the defensive coating of the boxelder bug, killing the bug by its damaging cell membranes and dehydrating the bug.
This material is a sedimentary deposit which has of small fossilized materials known as diatoms. It absorbs the oils and fats from the insect’s exoskeleton causing death by dehydration. The powder can be sprinkled liberally across the home (as you would use boric acid) as it is harmless to pets and humans. (1) Also, spread this substance around the perimeter of the house and near the boxelder trees and any place of the yard where the boxelder bugs are likely to collect
Box elder bug sprays
5. Cedar Oil Bug Spray
Cedar oil is the go-to essential oil for use as an insecticide. It can be used in and out of the house and has the added bonus of smelling very pleasant. You can use it as an effective home remedy to get rid of box elder bugs because the oil causes osmotic dehydration and suffocation for all insects. The cedar oil emulsifies the bug’s body fats and finally kills them. (2). To make a cedar oil bug spray, add two teaspoons of oil to a small glass of vodka to dissolve the oil, then add the solution to a spray bottle with half a liter of water. You can spray the oil liberally around the house and outside.
6.Neem Oil bug spray
Neem oil is a great essential oil that you can use as an insecticide. Neem oil has a different mechanism to cedar oil for killing insects. Essentially, neem oil disrupts the hormones of the box elder bug so that its stops eating and mating, ensuring the next generation is no more. (3). As worth all essential oil box elder bug sprays, for best effects, mix the oil with some alcohol first before adding it to your spray bottle.
7.Essential oil box elder bug spray
Neem oil and cedar oil are not the only essential oils used to get rid of box elder bugs. Other essential oils such as peppermint, clove and eucalyptus oil all have insecticidal properties. (4) As with other oils, add ten drops of oil to a small glass of alcohol and then add the solution to sixteen ounces/half a liter of water. You can choose your essential oil depending on the smell you want.
Remember to spray the solution around windows, doorways, and entryways.
9.Water and Dish Soap bug spray
Water and dish soap is the most widely used natural elder bug insecticide. It is easy to use, cheap and readily available.
Detergents work by removing the wax and oils that cover the insect’s exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate and die.(5)
Just fill up one or half gallon water in a container and add laundry soap or dish soap to it. Spray the solution directly onto the bugs wherever you find them, inside or outside the house.
8.Garlic bug spray
Garlic is more of an insect repellent than insecticide. (6) The smell and acidity of garlic deter the bugs and will keep them away from areas that you spray. If you want to get rid of box elder bugs permanently, then add some essential oil or dish soap to the mix. To make your garlic spray, mixing four spoons of crushed garlic with sixteen ounces of water in a bottle. Spray on windows, doorways and other areas where the bugs might get in.
10.Lemon juice and vinegar bug spray
This is another box elder bug spray that is only you should only use as a repellant rather than an insecticide. Spray the solution on walls and window sills where the insects congregate. If you want the spray to kill the bugs, add essential oils or dish soap.
To prepare, add an ounce of lemon juice to an ounce of vinegar. Any vinegar will do, but plain vinegar tends to be stronger than most and certainly cheaper. You can buy pure acetic acid from hardware shops for the best effects. Shake the solution properly and spray it on the walls, windows, crevices, cracks and other places these bugs tend to be visible.
11. Box elder bug traps
Cut out some white card and cover one side in petroleum jelly, and place/hang in areas that the bugs like to swarm. The bugs will land and get stuck on the traps.
Commercially available glue traps and fly traps also work to catch the bugs. Similarly, insect light traps also work by using the bugs attraction to bright colors to trap it.
Do’s and Dont’s of Elder Bug Control
- Concentrate your efforts on sealing the home to get rid of box elder bugs. If box elders swarm, there will be too many to kill with insecticide. Keep them out of your home.
- Always use a mask when sprinkling boric acid and diatomaceous earth
- Vacuum dead elder bug bodies up. You don’t want to get a carpet beetle infestation
- Chop down box elder trees. It’s a drastic solution that probably won’t solve the problem
- Don’t ignore a swarm. They will quickly stain and destroy paint work.