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Box elder bugs

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Many listeners called the past few weeks wondering about the infamous box elder bugs.

In the fall, large numbers of adult insects leave nearby box elder and other maple trees, where they have developed throughout the summer. They migrate to nearby building looking for a protected area to spend the cold winter months.

Box elder bugs prefer rough surfaces and tall buildings. Two story houses are more likely to attract the pests. They also favor houses with large trees immediately adjacent to the structure.

For some unfortunate homeowners, box elder bugs are a yearly trial as the collect on the south sides of homes or buildings. Worse yet, they often invade the homes and make people even more uncomfortable.

The box elder bug is a medium-size insect, mostly black with distinctive red markings on its back, along the wing margins. They are often called firebugs because the wingless immature insects are bright red in color.

In spite of their numbers they are a rather innocuous pest because they cause no real damage to anything in and around the home. They never structurally harm your home, they never harm you and they never breed indoors.

They are a real nuisance when they gather in large numbers around the house. If they get indoors they can also “spot” interior furnishings with their droppings.

Unfortunately the control options are very limited. There are no permanent solutions to the pests. These suggestions should help reduce the number of pests inside the home. Caulk any openings and cracks around doors and windows and repair window screens to prevent the insect invasion.

In extreme cases have a pest control company apply a residual insecticide to exterior wall(s) in the fall where the bugs are congregating - this will tend to discourage them from landing. Insecticides are not very effective after the weather turns cold, or in the spring.

The insects are feed and breed on female box elder trees so judicious removal of selected trees might reduce the problem. The pest can fly up to a mile so you might not be successful with this project.

Inside the home, use a vacuum cleaner to pick up the pests. Never spray any insecticide inside the home that is not registered for that purpose.

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