Prevent Box Elder Bugs

boxelder bugsIt seems really early in the year to be thinking about Box Elder Bugs but this is the time of year to work at preventing an infestation next fall.  Use a tube of calking to seal up sites where the bugs can enter the house.  Check cracks in the foundation or house siding and gaps around the windows or doors.  It may seem like a big job, but with the arrival of nice weather you can break the job down into smaller parts.  Perhaps do one side of the house every week this month.

Later in the year, you can spray massing box elder bugs with Sevin, Diazinon, or Orthene.  You can also make a spray of soapy water using 5 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water.  This is a very effective spray but does not have any residual effect.

Take a little time this summer to slow or eliminate the entry of Box Elder Bugs into your home.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Experience and answers at our fingertips

AnswerLineOne of the nice things about working on campus with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is learning about the different opportunities for assistance that are available.

AnswerLine staff members are home economists so some of the questions we get are outside of our area of expertise.  We are lucky to have several other hotlines available that we can share with callers to get those questions answered.

The horticulture line 515-294-3108 is available for callers from 10-12 and 1-4:30 Monday through Friday.  Richard Jauron will answer questions for callers throughout the state of Iowa.  Hortline began in 1983.  It was initially a toll-free number.  Because of demand, a second person was hired to answer hortline calls in 1991.  Unable to keep up with demand and after considering several options, the hortline number was moved from an 800 number to a standard (515) direct dial number in 1997.  A single person has answered hortline calls since 1997.

In Minnesota, callers may call the Yard and Garden line at 612-301-7590.  These callers will be instructed to leave a message and will receive a return call with an answer.

In South Dakota, the website allows consumers to ask questions on-line or callers can phone us at AnswerLine with the question and we will submit the email for them. Consumers will receive a call with an answer if they do not choose to use email.

We also have a Plant and Insect identification lab.  You can reach them by phone or email.  They can help identify plants or insects you find in your home or yard.  They also have some great articles and pictures to help you solve problems or identify insects.

The Iowa Concern line is another hotline that you can call at 800-447-1985.  They can help with legal issues, financial questions and family transitions.  They began in 1985 and were called Rural Concern as they assisted the agricultural community during that farm crisis. During the floods of 1993 the name was then changed to Iowa Concern as the program began assisting in urban areas as well.

If Iowans call us with entomology questions, we will likely transfer you to the Entomology department at Iowa State University.  Dr. Donald Lewis is often the specialist you will speak with and he will be able to assist you.

We are really fortunate to have so much expertise and experience readily available to answer your questions.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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What to do about boxelder bugs

boxelder bugsAre you being inundated with boxelder bugs?  Fortunately they are harmless, not disease bearing, they do not damage the house, its furnishings or occupants but they are definitely a nuisance and can be difficult to control!

According to our Iowa State University Entomologists during the summer months, they live, feed and reproduce on trees, shrubs and other plants.  They are not restricted to box elder trees as is commonly assumed, but will also be found on other trees, most commonly maples.  They feed on the sap from the host plant but do not cause significant damage to the plant.  They become nuisance pests in the fall when they leave the plant to find hiding places for the winter.  During their search for warmth they congregate on the south sides of buildings, trees and rocks.  From there they stray into houses through cracks in the foundation and siding, gaps along windows and doors and other small openings.  There they remain inactive while it is cold until they are warmed by the heat from a furnace or the sun and they crawl out into the rooms.

The best deterrent is to prevent their entry into your house by caulking and sealing possible entry sites.  Spraying with a lawn and garden insecticide (suggestions include Sevin, Diazinon or Orthene) or soapy water spray (5 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water) outside on the masses of bugs perched on and along the foundation in the fall can give some relief.  Repeated applications are usually necessary when using a soapy water spray.  Professional pest control operators can also be used for exterior treatment in the fall.

Once the boxelder bugs are in your house they are generally not killed by the “flying insect” aerosol household insecticide products.  The residual insecticides such as “ant and roach killers” also have not been shown to be of much benefit.   A sure control for bugs already in the house is to remove them as they appear by vacuuming, sweeping or picking them up and discarding.

For more information on insecticides available to homeowners please see “Insecticides in the Home Landscape and Garden


Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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