Have you seen the boxelder bug around your house? Relax, it’s mostly harmless
Some uninvited house guests, like mice, need immediate attention due to their ability to spread disease.
Others are relatively harmless.
This is the type of pest we’re talking about today. Identified by red and black markings and a flat body, it is none other than the boxelder beetle.
Here’s the good news: Boxelders don’t bite or sting, and they don’t transmit disease. They won’t eat themselves up in your home like some species of ants or termites might, and they won’t attack your plants.
Graphic created by Cheryl Santa Maria. Boxelder image: Getty.
SEE ALSO: How to keep the mice out when the season changes
But they can be unsightly and a little messy. They like to hang out in groups, huddle together near windows and doors, and defecate in ways that could leave stains.
But be careful when getting rid of them because you might find yourself on the receiving end of an unwanted surprise.
“You should really try to stay away from them if you can or avoid touching them because they can smell. They have a bad smell that keeps predators away, and that includes us, but also birds and small mammals that would eat them,” Sandy Smith, Ph.D. says The Weather Network.
Sandy is Director of Forestry Programs at the University of Toronto and runs a laboratory focused on forest health, tracking changes in insects and insects and insects and plants over time.
Part of her laboratory is monitoring invasive species.
So do boxelders fall into this category?
“I wouldn’t call them invasive, but invasive is really a very subjective term because it doesn’t define whether they’ve always been here [in Canada] or not. “Invasive” is whether they take over a room. If you’re a homeowner with boxelders, you certainly feel like they’re taking your place.”
But in a broader sense: Boxelders are [considered a ‘native’ species](https://www.toronto.ca/311/knowledgebase/kb/docs/articles/parks,-forestry-and-recreation/urban-forestry/eastern-box-elder-bug.html#:~:text=Eastern %20Box%20Elder%20Bug%20 (Leptocoris, as a%20a%20common%20household pest.) common in eastern parts of Canada and the US
Boxelders like to gather in groups. (GIF created with video from Getty Images)
“They’re not really pests unless you don’t like bugs,” says Sandy, “and then of course they’re an incredible nuisance to you.”
Boxelders feed on the seeds of, you guessed it, Boxelder trees, and the seeds can still be found on trees in the fall.
Like all things, Boxelder populations go through cycles. Mild winters mean adults are more likely to lay more eggs, and a warm, dry spring can result in too many seeds to feed one. Both of these factors can contribute to a population boom and increase the risk of having a boxelder party at your home in the fall.
If you see them inside, it’s probably because you left a door or window open, or there’s a crack somewhere they can sneak in through. This species will not chew its way into it.
“They’re just looking for somewhere to shelter on the really cold days of January and February,” says Sandy.
So – they’re harmless and they’re non-destructive – OK, fine. But what if you want them out of your house?
“They move slower in the fall,” says Sandy.
“You can sweep them up and try to throw them away. The garbage or compost would probably be the best place for these guys.”