After mosquitoes, boxelder bugs are, unfortunately, probably the insect you’re the most familiar with. They’re the little black and red bugs that swarm around windows and porches in huge numbers every fall. They don’t seem to do much except hang around, but that’s more than enough to be freaky and gross.
If you haven’t seen boxelders around your windows, porch, or deck yet, you probably will soon. You don’t have to stand by and welcome them onto (and into!) your home, however. Here’s why boxelder bugs become so prevalent around this time of year, and how you can keep them from bugging you this fall--and next spring, too!
Why Boxelder Bugs Get Active In The Fall
Like many other insect-pests, a boxelder’s life cycle revolves around making sure they can survive the cold winter. Over the summer, boxelders keep themselves busy feeding on their preferred food source, the seeds of acer trees like maple, ash, and boxelders. Once they sense the temperature dropping, however, the fattened-up adult boxelders stop feeding and start looking for a place to wait out the winter.
Boxelder bugs hibernate over the winter, but they can’t do it unless they have somewhere safe and warm to sleep. Boxelders are actually consistently present starting in mid-spring. You just don’t see them because because they’re too busy feeding to come bother you. When fall comes around, however, boxelders get bold as they look for a warm place to stay. Those groups of bugs grouped around your windows and doors are trying to make their way inside where they can sleep without fear of freezing.
Why Boxelder Bugs Gather Around Your Home
Boxelders are even more sensitive to cold temperatures than most insects. They start feeling uncomfortable as soon the temperature starts dipping. The black-and-red buggers congregate on windows and light surfaces because they reflect more sunlight and consequently provide more warmth. Staying bunched together in a big, gross clump helps them stay warm, too.
You may have noticed that your home gets more boxelders than your neighbors’. Don’t worry, you’re not cursed (that we know of); your home probably just gets more sun than theirs does. Boxelders want to stay in the sun as long as possible, so they have the energy to look for more permanent accommodations. They tend to prefer gathering around tall structures, places with western or southern exposure, buildings that are painted white, or anywhere without much shade.
Problems Boxelder Bugs May Cause
Now for some good news: as far as actual pest-related damage goes, boxelder bugs barely rank. They don’t do structural damage, they’re not aggressive or dangerous, they don’t reproduce indoors, and they don’t infest food sources or clothing. In fact, boxelders generally leave the homes they slept in once winter is over! Even acer trees aren’t affected by their constant feeding.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider them pests. Boxelders may secrete a foul-smelling odor when threatened or crushed. Their liquid droppings also smell, and can stain fabrics, furniture, and flooring when there’s enough of it. Perhaps most importantly, there’s the simple psychological factor: you don’t like looking at giant piles of bugs crawling around on your house. We don’t blame you! You shouldn’t worry about boxelder bugs, but you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting them gone either.
How To Keep Boxelder Bugs Away This Fall
Boxelders usually get into houses by lucking out. They’re sunning themselves and they happen to find a crack or gap just wide enough to squeeze through. Their flat bodies make it easy for them to squeeze through even tiny cracks. The first thing you should do to prevent boxelders is investigate where they are now. Find the groups clumped up on your windows and doors and shoo them away with a vacuum or soapy water.
Once they’re gone, turn your attention to where th
ey were. Look for little gaps between windows and frames, doors and walls, or worn-out weather stripping. If you find cracks, seal them with caulk or steel wool. Replace weather stripping along the border of doors or windows if it looks even a little ragged. You can also take your prevention measures outdoors by taking away likely hiding spots like lawn debris and firewood stacks.
Boxelder bugs can seem like a foregone conclusion of fall, but we promise they’re not. No matter how many decide your home is the perfect winter getaway, you can keep them out and away if you block them at every turn.
And if the problem gets bad enough that you need to call in some backup, remember that Varment Guard always has your back
. We’re more than ready to help you ruin some boxelders’ winter vacation.