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How to Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs, According to Pest Experts

You don't need to live with these uninvited guests taking over the side of your house.

Your home is supposed to be your oasis, but nothing can ruin that feeling of safety quite like finding a new bug (or two or three) in your space. A boxelder bug infestation can be particularly upsetting—they typically arrive in large numbers, and they're much bigger than pests like fruit flies or ants. If you're wondering how to get rid of boxelder bugs, keep reading. We asked pest control pros for the most effective methods.

RELATED: How to Get Rid of Ants in the Kitchen.

What Are Boxelder Bugs?

boxelder bug on green surface

"Named after the boxelder tree where they are commonly found, boxelder bugs are 'true bugs' in the scientific order Hemiptera, the same order as stink bugs, cicadas, and aphids," says Emma Grace Crumbley, an expert entomologist working with Mosquito Squad. "These true bugs are strictly herbivorous, and their piercing/sucking mouthparts allow them to attack and eat boxelder tree seeds and leaves as well as some fruiting trees."

How Can I Identify Boxelder Bugs?

These critters have a distinct look. Adult boxelder bugs are about a half-inch long and have black bodies and orange or red markings, including three stripes on the area behind the head. The nymphs are about 1/16 inch long; they're bright red at their earliest stage and change to red and black as they grow.

They're also known for their somewhat unpleasant odor. Boxelder bugs release a chemical that acts as a defense mechanism against predators—and yes, it's pretty pungent.

Where Do Boxelder Bugs Typically Nest?

Boxelder bug large breeding infestation group on wood fence

In the spring, boxelder bugs will emerge from their overwintering hiding spots to find food and nest near it. "They eat the seeds of maple trees, ash trees, and boxelder trees," says Megan Wede, co-owner of Done Right Pest Solutions in the Twin Cities. "They'll nest in and around these trees in spring, summer, and fall typically." You'll sometimes see them sunbathing on the siding of houses and businesses or on the bark of a maple tree.

In the late fall, these pests start looking for cover. "They sun themselves on the sunny parts of homes during the day, and then they crawl in the cracks and crevices, under the siding, and in window frames and door frames of homes and businesses," says Wede. "It is in the wall voids of homes and businesses where these boxelder bugs spend the winter."

Many people will start to notice them during a time Wede says pest control companies call "false spring," or when the sun heats up one side of your home so the bugs wake up and move toward it. "At this time, it is still cold out [in many places], so they head to the interior of your home, which your furnace heats to a nice temperature—and you think, 'Why do I have these bugs right now?!'"

Wede explains that you likely had them since the fall but just didn't know it.

Are Boxelder Bugs Harmful?

Not in the typical sense. Boxelder bugs "can't bite you in the same way something like a wasp or ant might, and you won't catch them chewing on your home or furniture," according to Charles van Rees, PhD, conservation scientist, naturalist, and founder of the Gulo in Nature blog.

They aren't dangerous to people, plants, or structures, but they may stain surfaces with their droppings. Additionally, they can create a foul smell when threatened or dead, though it's not harmful.

What Attracts Boxelder Bugs to Your Home?

As mentioned, some of the biggest attractors are maple and female boxelder trees, where these pests like to feast and nest. The seed pods and helicopters are a primary food source, so leaving a bunch on the ground can lure the pests. Boxelder bugs congregate around sunny surfaces, as well. (Unfortunately, so do many of us!)

RELATED: The Best Natural Insecticides to Help Save Your Garden.

Getting Rid of Boxelder Bugs

Residual Pesticides

Industrial worker using sprayer for organic pesticide distribution in fruit orchard

Each of the pest control experts we chatted with considers this the gold standard for controlling boxelder bugs and keeping them out of your home.

"It is a direct kill while wet at the time of application, and then it's a residual chemical that lasts about the length of the season that will come off on boxelder bug legs and kill them, preventing them from entering your home," says Wede. "That is possible through micro-encapsulation technology that is employed within a lot of the widely-tested and approved commercial-grade pest control products."

Plus, it dries clear and has no harmful effects on people, kids, pets, or structures. Call an expert to do it in your own home.

Dish Soap

bottle of dish soap / Shutterstock

Dish soap can be helpful, but you'll have to be diligent with reapplication. "If you'd like to use dish soap to prevent boxelder bugs from getting inside your home in the fall, I recommend using a handheld sprayer and coating your home a couple to several times per week to completely prevent them from getting into the wall voids," says Wede.

If they're already in your home, repeated application will kill the bugs and you can vacuum them up. "The downside is that this method is typically quite a lot of work," says Wede.

But it's particularly helpful for use on edible plants that you don't want to douse in chemicals.


Vinegar cleaning product

A solution made of one-to-one parts vinegar and water can kill boxelder bugs when sprayed directly onto them. However, Joe Malinowski, vice president of pest management for Pest Authority, explains that it's not a long-term solution. "It should be viewed as a preliminary defense measure," he says.

Essential Oils

Peppermint oil with leaves.
Tatevosian Yana / Shutterstock

Essential oils like lavender, sage, lemongrass, and peppermint can also help deter boxelder bugs.

"Oils can be sprayed around the home," says James Adams, area manager for Truly Nolen Pest Control. "Unfortunately, they do not last long outside and need to be reapplied frequently." These substances also won't kill the bugs, they'll just keep them away.

Diatomaceous Earth

bag of Diatomaceous earth spilling out
MonaMakela / iStock

This talc-like powder is harmless to humans but can kill boxelder bugs. Sprinkle it on the areas where the bugs enter your home or around any trees they flock to.

Hot Water

Boiling Water in a pan on a stove

Boiling water will kill these bugs on contact. But remember, it won't prevent them from returning and could harm humans or plant life if used outside.

RELATED: 6 Bugs You Should Never Kill, Pest Experts Warn.

How Can I Prevent Boxelder Bugs From Coming Back?

Seal Your Entryways

Person Sealing Cracks in Home
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

This keeps the pests from coming inside. "Seal cracks and crevices around windows, doors, siding, and utility pipes to prevent entry," says Erika Milenkovic, owner of Pest Czar. "And ensure window screens are intact and well-fitted."

Patch Cracks

Sealing a Window / Shutterstock

"Boxelder bugs can squeeze in any opening 1/8 inch in diameter or larger, so half of the size of a pencil eraser," says Wede. "You could go around the foundation and around all window frames and door frames, ensuring there are no gaps 1/8 inch in diameter."

However, she says a preventative pest control spray is much easier since patching cracks of that size is extremely cumbersome.

Vacuum and Clean

man removing vacuum bag, vacuuming tips
Shutterstock / Georgy Dzyura

You'll have to take the vacuum outside for this one.

"If you have any of those maple tree seeds along any rock gardens or around the foundation of your home, a simple thing to do every year is to vacuum them up," says Wede. "This eliminates their food source, and if they don't have a food source, they will move on to another tree in another yard and away from your home, further preventing these fall invaders from overwintering in your home."

Eliminate Woodpiles

A woodpile on palates behind a house

These stacks are known for attracting boxelder bugs since they offer both food and shelter.

Get Rid of Boxelder Trees

closeup of boxelder tree
BestPhotoStudio / Shutterstock

These trees are the primary attractants, so removing them can be effective in preventing an infestation. Just remember that you can't remove all the boxelder trees in your neighborhood, so taking down the one in your yard may not reduce the impact from those in your neighbors' yards.

It's not only boxelder trees to consider. "Keep shrubs trimmed back from home 18 to 24 inches since they can give the insects an easy 'ladder' to enter your home," advises Malinowski. "The same goes for trees: Remove overhanging trees from the roof line and an easy access point for pests and rodents."

RELATED: How to Get Rid of Cockroaches.


Deciding how to get rid of boxelder bugs in the house depends on your preference. Many experts suggest calling a professional pest control company to use a commercial-grade boxelder bug control spray, but you could also employ DIY solutions. Finally, preventing boxelder bugs is important. Keep your yard tidy and free of attractants for best results.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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