Yesterday evening I left work and drove East into the eye of the monsoon. The gray clouds were thick and scary looking, to the west of me it was raining so hard there was no visibility. I recently read a short article that stated that the Box Elder Beetle population is extremely bad this Arizona monsoon season. The article was produced by a local Arizona ABC affiliate and I must say that it would be a complete waste of time if you were to read it. Let me summarize the article for you in so many words:
Reporter: “Beware the Box Elder Beetle they are everywhere.” Atomic Pest Control Expert: “Don’t worry…they don’t harm anything, just wait them out…and slap some silly putty on any cracks your home may have.”
I guess I may be expecting too much from an ABC affiliated story. Here is a little background on the Box Elder Beetle and some tips on how to control them.
- Boxelder bugs are a nuisance in and around homes from fall through early spring.
- The bug overwinters as an adult in protected places such as houses or other buildings.
- Removing female boxelder trees is the most permanent solution to the problem, although this may not be practical or desirable.
- Laundry detergents offer safe, effective control when applied directly to the insects.
The boxelder bug overwinters as an adult in protected places such as houses and other buildings, in cracks or crevices in walls, doors, under windows and around foundations, particularly on south and west exposures. In the spring when tree buds open, females lay small, red eggs on leaves and stones and in cracks and crevices in the bark of female boxelder trees. The eggs later hatch into young nymphs that are wingless and bright red with some black markings. These young bugs usually are found on low vegetation near boxelder trees until seeds are formed on the tree, on which they start to feed.
Boxelder bugs are primarily a nuisance pest, annoying residents by crawling on exteriors and inside dwellings on warm fall and winter days. They also may stain draperies and other light-colored surfaces and produce an unpleasant odor when crushed, but these are not major problems. They do not reproduce during this period. They may attempt to feed on house plants but do not cause any damage. On rare occasions, they have been reported to bite humans.
The most permanent solution to the boxelder bug problem is the removal of female boxelder trees from a neighborhood, although this may not be practical or desirable. Because boxelder bugs usually overwinter near the trees that they feed on, the removal of one or two problem trees may help. Screening or sealing cracks or other entrances into the dwelling is important. Once boxelder bugs have entered the home, control becomes more difficult.
When the bugs begin to congregate on building exteriors, these areas (including all resting and hiding places) may be sprayed with residual insecticides. However, most insecticides registered for treatment of building exteriors are not that effective against boxelder bugs. Laundry detergent and water mixes are cheap, safe and effective when applied directly to boxelder bugs. Drawbacks of detergent sprays are that they will kill only if they contact the insect directly, and they may damage vegetation.
Use a vacuum cleaner to control bugs that have entered the house. Household insecticidal aerosols and many household spray cleaners also are effective when applied directly to individual Insects. These measures provide temporary relief only. Bugs may continue to enter the home as they move about on warmer days throughout the fall, winter and early spring. Nuisance infestations should be finished by late May, as the boxelder bugs have either died or moved back to the host trees.
Source:F.B. Peairs, Colorado State University Extension entomologist and professor, bioagricultural sciences and pest management.