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Insect Control

A Comprehensive Guide on Box Elder Bugs: Identification, Prevention and Treatment

By October 11, 2023No Comments
Box elder bug

Box elder bugs have been in the news lately, and not for good reasons. They are currently being identified as a nuisance in the Calgary area and around central Alberta. And if they’re a problem now, if they’re not dealt with, come spring they will be an issue as well.

You can learn more about the infestations here:

CTV News, Invasion of the six-legged creeps: Calgarians battling boxelder bugs

Global News, “Calgary‚Äôs hot dry summer created perfect conditions for boxelder bugs

Red Deer Advocate, “Some central Albertans are battling an onslaught of red and black insects this fall

While box elder bugs are generally harmless to humans, they can become a significant annoyance when they invade homes in large numbers and appear in your kitchen, bedroom and other indoor spaces (you get the idea!). In this blog, we’ll explore how to identify, manage, control, and treat box elder bugs to help keep your home pest-free.

Identifying Box Elder Bugs

Physical Appearance: Box elder bugs are about 1/2 inch long, with distinctive black and red markings on their bodies. Their wings lay flat over their backs, forming an ‘X’ shape when they’re at rest.

Box Elder Bug

Lifecycle: Understanding their lifecycle is crucial. They lay eggs on box elder trees and hatching nymphs are bright red, gradually turning dark as they mature.

Habitat: Box elder bugs are often found near their food source, box elder trees. However, they can also invade homes for warmth during colder months.

Box Elder Tree

Box Elder Tree

To learn more about boxelder trees, check out this informative article from The Spruce, “How to Identify and Remove Boxelder.

Managing box elder bugs outside your home is an essential step in preventing them from invading your living spaces. Following are some tips on how to manage these pests in your yard and garden:

Managing Box Elder Bugs Outside Your Home: Prevention and Control

Box elder bugs are often attracted to the box elder trees in your yard, making it crucial to manage them in your outdoor spaces to prevent infestations inside your home. They are also attracted to other trees and shrubs as well. Following are some tips on ways to manage box elder bugs in your yard and garden:

1. Prune and Maintain Box Elder Trees:

Regularly trim and prune box elder trees to reduce their attractiveness to box elder bugs. Removing any dead or overhanging branches can help deter the pests.

2. Remove Box Elder Bug Habitats:

Eliminate potential hiding spots for box elder bugs around your property. Clear away piles of leaves, debris, and clutter where they may seek refuge.

3. Diatomaceous Earth (DE):

Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around box elder bugs congregating areas in your garden. DE is a natural and safe substance that can help deter and dehydrate these bugs.

4. Insecticidal Soap or Neem Oil:

Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to box elder trees or areas where the bugs congregate. These products can help control the infestation without harming the environment.

5. Use Beneficial Insects:

Attract or release natural predators such as ladybugs, lacewings, or parasitoid wasps to help control the box elder bug population in your garden.

6. Exclude Them from Garden Areas:

Install garden row covers or mesh netting to keep box elder bugs away from your plants and crops, especially if they are causing damage.

7. Maintain Garden Hygiene:

Keep your garden clean by removing fallen leaves, fruits, and debris regularly. Box elder bugs can be drawn to decaying organic matter.

8. Trap Them:

Place sticky traps or light traps near box elder bug congregating areas to capture and reduce their numbers.

9. Pesticides as a Last Resort:

Consider chemical insecticides as a last resort, and use them only if the infestation is severe and alternative methods have been ineffective. Follow all safety guidelines and local regulations when applying pesticides.

Earth Smart Property Solutions offers insect control services outside your home. Learn more here.

By implementing these outdoor management techniques, you can significantly reduce the box elder bug population in your yard and garden, making it less likely for them to invade your home. Combining these strategies with indoor prevention and control measures will help you maintain a pest-free living environment and a pleasant outdoor space.

Tips to Reduce Box Elder Bug Infestations in Your Home:

  • Seal Entry Points: Inspect your home for cracks, gaps, or openings and seal them to prevent entry.
  • Remove Attractants: Trim box elder trees near your property to reduce the bugs’ food source.
  • Screen Vents: Install screens on doors, windows, and vents to block entry.
  • Maintain Cleanliness: Keep your home clean and clutter-free, as box elder bugs are less likely to infest a clean environment.

Managing Box Elder Bugs in Your Home:

  • Use a Vacuum Cleaner: Safely collect and dispose of box elder bugs using a vacuum cleaner. Do not squash as they can leave a red stain and bad odour.
  • Soap and Water Solution: A mixture of soapy water can be sprayed directly on the bugs to immobilize and remove them.
  • Exterior Barrier: Apply an insecticide barrier around the perimeter of your home to deter bugs from entering.
  • Professional Pest Control: If the infestation is extensive or persistent, consult a pest control expert for safe and effective treatment options.
  • Preventative Treatment: Consider regular pest control treatments during peak seasons (outside your home) to keep box elder bugs at bay.


Box elder bugs can be a frustrating problem for homeowners, but with the right identification, prevention, and management techniques, you can keep these pests under control. Remember that early intervention is key to preventing large infestations. If in doubt, consult a pest control professional for expert advice and treatment options. With a proactive approach, you can enjoy a bug-free home and garden year-round.


Earth Smart Property Solutions does not claim to be an expert on box elder bugs. The information provided above is compliments of a variety of articles sourced from the internet.