Box Elder Bug Identification
Contrary to their name, box elder bugs eat on a variety of plants aside from the female box elder trees. The additional trees and plants these bugs can be found feeding on include maple, ash, cherry, plum, apple, and peach trees along with grape and strawberry plants. Box elder bugs are not difficult to identify. The adult is about ½ inch in length and is black with red or orange stripes and markings. These flying bugs have wings that overlap their bodies in the form of an X.
Nymphs start out very small and are only 1/16th inch long at time of hatching. They begin their nymph stage bright red in color. This color changes to a combination of red and black as they begin maturing and growing larger.
The adult box elder is the only stage that survives the winter. They can be seen emerging in the spring as temperatures begin rising. It is at this time they can be seen feeding on vegetation. Box elder bugs will then begin mating within a couple weeks. By mid-summer they can be found on female seed-bearing box elder trees laying eggs on the bark of the tree. Eggs can even be found on branches and leaves. While there is no significant damage or danger to the tree, large numbers of these bugs can quickly become a nuisance. As the fall season approaches, the adult box elder bugs will begin leaving the trees and begin searching for a warm, safe place to winter. Often, large numbers of these bugs will begin invading homes. It should be noted that, while they do not bite and cause no harm to property, they can stain material and surfaces with excrement.
Dangers Associated With Box Elder Bugs
The dangers associated with box elder bugs are to the trees they feed on. They are not a danger to people or pets but are considered a nuisance pest that should be exterminated.
Box Elder Bug Prevention
Prevention is the number one choice in the management of box elder bugs. As with most household pests, it is much easier to prevent their entry than to exterminate or remove these bugs. There are steps you can take to remove access into the home. Consider the following suggestions and complete them prior to the fall season:
- Inspect all window and door screens for holes or rips and repair or replace as needed.
- Install screens over all roof, soffit and attic vents.
- Seal around all utility accesses into the home. This can include phone lines, cables, power lines, gas and water pipes and outdoor faucets.
- Use caulking to seal any cracks or gaps in the foundation and gaps where the concrete and wood comes together.