Box Elder Beetle-Pest Control Tips

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.

Quick Facts…

  • 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.

PestControl Myth #1- Revisited

As a technician or service manager with Bulwark Exterminating I would find it very challenging to overcome various stereotypes surrounding the pest control industry while trying to meet a customer’s expectations. I will eventually cover all of these challenges but for this post, I would like to focus on what is myth #1 in my book.

Myth #1: “The best pesticide kills on contact.”

Contact killers are what most people think of when they think of insecticides. As soon as the insect is exposed to the chemical they expect the insect to stop dead in their tracks. The usage of this type of pesticide is very ineffective for various reasons.

Pesticides that kill on contact are very problematic because you are prone to attack symptoms of the problem rather than the root cause of your infestation.

If you kill ants within the home they die right there on the spot. The insecticide quickly dissipates where it has been sprayed and the chemical never makes it back to the ant nest. Secondly, because of ant sensitivity it often times instinctively knows to avoid areas where a pesticide that kills on contact has been used. Studies have shown that at any time; approximately only 10 – 20% of the ant population is away from the nest…and the best way to eradicate a nest is to remove the queen. The ant colony will reproduce more rapidly than what is killed on a day to day basis and thus you will never really eradicate your ant problem.

Similar to the situation regarding ants it may be very hard for you to locate the nest, web, or other harborage for various insects and therefore contact kill insecticides are ineffective. (Understanding that you need to apply contact killers directly onto the pest.)
Insects are very good at finding places within your home that are rarely disturbed; a place where you will not be able to apply your contact kill insecticide. Insects are often nocturnal which adds to the problem of having to locate the insect and applying the pesticide directly onto the little critter.

“Try to find insects in their hard to reach places, and make sure you’re looking in the dark while you are at it…Good Luck.” (Don’t forget the scorpions that can live without food or water for up to 18 months.)
In conclusion we are assuming that a contact kill pesticide is highly toxic and dissipates quickly (as most do); the last thing the EPA would like is a commercial pesticide that is highly toxic and resides over a long period of time within the environment. (Did someone say DDT?) Pesticides that are spread through body contact, that resides on an insect, and allows the insect to make it to nest would be far more effective than a contact kill pesticide in eradicating a pest problem.


Researchers, growers and Industry specialists from 22 countries are sharing the latest research into the use of Brassica species, such as mustard, radish, or rapeseed, to manage soil-borne pests and weeds – a technique known as biofumigation, according to eurekalert press release.

“Brassica plants naturally release compounds that suppress pests and pathogens, principally isothiocyanates (ITCs), which most people would recognise as the ‘hot’ flavour in mustard or horseradish,” says CSIRO’s Dr John Kirkegaard.

“When ITCs are released in soil by green-manuring, soil-borne pests and pathogens can be suppressed and the yields of solanaceous vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants can be increased by up to 40 per cent in some cases.

“The technique is relevant to developed countries seeking alternatives to banned synthetic pesticides such as methyl-bromide, as well as poor farmers in developing countries who often have few alternatives for controlling serious diseases in their crops,” Dr Kirkegaard says.

“It can provide economic and social benefits, as improved crop yields lead to increased incomes, as well as a range of environmental and health benefits from a reduced reliance on fumigants and pesticides.”

Using brassicas to manage soil-borne pests is not new, but modern science is providing new insights and techniques to enhance the reliability of the effect as part of an integrated pest control strategy. Brassicas can also provide other benefits to the soil as green manures.

Pest Control For Pantry Pests

I would often be called to a clients home around this time of the year for ants in the pantry.  Most of the time we were dealing with either Pavement or Argentine colonies; but they were both attracted to one thing, “SUGAR.”  I felt bad requesting that I be allowed to throw away the Cap’n Crunch, Frosted Flakes, and pop tarts that the ants have by then- thoroughly besieged; and an even harder time requesting that we also get rid of anything not sealed properly.

Thoughts come to mind of this woman in tears who had just gone shopping the day before and could not afford to throw away the new pantry goods.  I advised her that I was merely suggesting that we throw the food away; however she can keep the goods if she would like if she would store them in the freezer for a couple of hours in ziplock bags or sealed containers.  Ultimately there was a compromise that she would keep the food that was “barely infested” and throw the cereal box (Frosted Flakes) that was heavily infested.  I recommend that all known food sources that have been tainted to be trashed; but I hear its fashionably fitting to eat insects in communities around the globe.  Maybe some of that extra protein will provide a more balanced breakfast. (Trying to be funny)

Something not so funny are the pantry pests that I would like to quickly introduce.  My least favorite pantry pests are:

  1. Indian Meal Moth
  2. Mediterranean Meal Moth
  3. Sawtooth Grain Beetle

These are the pantry pests that show up in your flour, rice, nuts, herbs, dog food, fish food, pasta, grains, dry-goods, etc.  The Indian and Mediterranean Meal Moths look like maggots/caterpillars when they are in their larval stage.  This is often when they will be found infested in flour, grains, herbs, etc.  If you find small beetle looking creatures in your flour, grains, etc, it is most likely the Sawtooth Grain Beetle.  These buggers are persistent once in the home and because of their “saw teeth” can get into most packaging.

The worst part about infestations with these types of pantry pests is that it is usually necessary to empty out the whole pantry; and the subsequent use of plastic storage containers is required/suggested to be used from ‘there on out.’  Providing a crack and crevice treatment with your choice of insecticide will help solidify that these pantry pests problems do not persist.

If you have pantry pests and need an exterminator click here.



While sitting in front of my computer screen thinking about what I was going to write about next; I watch a small little row of ants walk along the edge of my desk. Instinctively, the first thing I do is try to identify the pest. When dealing with ants it can be very hard to determine the specific type of ant based on its different physical characteristics unless you have a magnifying glass available or have the “eye of a hawk” as me and my cousins used to call it. I have read many books that would say this ant is this color, and that ant is this color, etc; but I have found that in the real world trying to distinguish based on color is quite a dreadful task as different types of ants can be within the same color ranges. Here are some characteristics about different ants that may help you identify your home’s native ant-lings. (Did I go there…yes I did; Ant-lings…LOL.)

Pharaoh Ant: Primarily indoors, known for splitting into different colonies, sometimes found in wounds of hospital patients.

Carpenter Ant: The largest, Biggest, humongous, enormous fellers. (Exaggeration)

Harvester Ant: Known for producing mounds with entry points that are at least approximately 2 inches in diameter.

Pavement Ant: Generally will reside under or around pavement.

Argentine Ant: Also a very popular ant, known for producing super colonies…these infestations can grow rapidly.

Odorous House Ants: When crushed emit a coconut like smelling odor.

Red Imported Fire Ant: These ants are very aggressive and secrete a toxin when biting. These ants are what we refer to as a “quarantined” species; so if you think you have come across them contact your local department of agriculture etc for removal. Each case is required to be documented and handled in a specific fashion.

For More Information please click here.


Its that time of the year where you begin to see one too many of those pesky little critters. Its that time of the year where insects seem to cross the threshold from being eco-friendly to home invader and you promise yourself you are going to pick up some “insect spray” on your way home from the store.

Maybe this is the time of the year when you know that scorpions in your area become active and you are wondering where you put the number for the last bug guy. Maybe you finally gotaround to your spring cleaning and realized that you had uninvited summer rodents. Have you cleaned your pool and found “Ratatouille” having first class dining while relaxing near your Spa?

Don’t wait for “Honey” to do it. Don’t wait for “Honey’s” friend, of a friend, of an acquaintance, of an ex-girlfriend’s little brother, whose dog plays with this one dog of a guy who said “fetch” who was at a park near a home, where you saw an exterminator truck parked and can only remember the cool looking truck, but can’t for the life of you remember the number.














Environmentally Friendly?

Environmentally Friendly Pest Control – What does it mean to be Environmentally Friendly? What is Green Pest Control? Is Pest Control Safe? These are all too common questions and none with a simple answer. So how do pest control companies answer these?

This is an interesting area of our industry.  In some states the use of the phrase “environmentally friendly” is illegal. Even if you only use your boots to smash the roaches.  In these states, the laws are enforced only partially.  In other words, if someone or some inspector at the state wants to harass you, they’ll enforce the law just for you and not against the competitors.  Generally the law is not enforced.

The real question in answering “Is pest control safe?” is exploring the potential risks of any given product, natural or man-made. For example: the EPA measures toxicity of every substance in the United States, including plain dirt. Substances with higher toxicity rates are labeled “danger” (gasoline, and paint for example). The next level down “warning” (toothpaste, household cleaners). The next level down “caution #3” (salt, botanical insecticides like cayenne pepper) the next level down “caution #4” (every other substance known to man not included in the first three categories). This has nothing to do with whether the substance is natural or organic.  Many natural substances are very toxic, cyanide for example or a popular one in Pest Control is “diatomaceous earth”, crushed silica\glass, this scratches the waxy cuticle of the insects exoskeleton and causes the insect to dehydrate, it is natural but also known to be very toxic to humans because the crushed glass is not metabolizable by our bodies and causes cancerous damage to our lungs. Even though diatomaceous earth is natural, it is very dangerous and Bulwark will never use it.  Many consumers do not know this.

Toxicity Ratings are based on whether or not your body can break down and metabolize the measured substance without damage to the host.  Often times products like salt are perfectly fine at a certain concentration but are lethal at higher levels of acute doses. Comparison wise, table salt is more toxic to humans than boric acid, but its highly unlikely that you will ever die or be injured from over exposure or over consumption of table salt.

Most Pest Control companies use insecticides in “warning” and “caution three” categories.  Bulwark never uses warning grade chemicals.  Our products fall within the “caution three” category.  Upon request consumers can receive “eco-smart” technologies for interior treatment.  The active ingredients in these products are various types of plant oils.  The products themselves are food grade quality meaning that they legally could be put in food in the United States.  Eco-smart technologies are only applied inside the home, and only on request because they have an odor to them which consumers generally do not like.  If the consumer does not request “eco-smart technologies” then we apply natural boric acid and other products which are made in a factory synthetically but are derived from a compound found in chrysanthemum flowers.  All these products are considered less toxic to humans than toothpaste.

Finally, the bulwark pest defense system, focuses on exterior treatments were the insects breed so that interior treatments are unnecessary.  It’s always going to be better to treat the source of where the pests are breeding in the yard with higher quality products to maintain a barrier or “bulwark” around the home.  This is a much cleaner method because interior treatments are rarely needed and only done on request.  Most companies use lower grade products on the exterior which break down rapidly and allow pests back into the home before the next service call.  That’s why many companies prefer to treat inside and outside every time.  They have to chase the pests back out of the home because the barrier did not last on the outside. It’s so much cleaner just to keep a good wall up so little or no treatments are conducted on the interior.

Hope this helps.  Please feel free to add your comments.

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