Boxelder bugs, scientifically known as Boisea trivittata, can be a persistent nuisance for homeowners, especially during the fall when they seek shelter in warm spaces. While these insects are generally harmless to humans, their presence in large numbers can be unsettling. Rather than resorting to chemical insecticides, consider a natural and eco-friendly solution. In this blog post, we'll explore what boxelder bugs are, the benefits of using Diatomaceous Earth, and how to effectively implement this natural method for pest control.
Understanding Boxelder Bugs
Boxelder bugs are small, elongated insects with distinct red and black markings. They feed on the seeds of boxelder trees, as well as other seed-bearing trees such as maple and ash. During the fall, they often congregate on the sunny side of buildings, seeking refuge from the cooler temperatures. Boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata) belong to the order Hemiptera and are commonly found in North America. Here are some key characteristics and behaviors to help you better understand these insects:
Physical Appearance: Boxelder bugs are easily recognizable by their distinct markings. They have an elongated oval shape and typically measure about half an inch in length. The most notable features are their red or orange coloration, with black markings on the wings and thorax. Nymphs, or young boxelder bugs, are smaller and are often bright red.
Preferred Habitat: Boxelder bugs primarily feed on the seeds of boxelder trees, as well as those of maple and ash trees. During the warmer months, they can be found congregating on these trees. However, as the temperatures drop in the fall, they seek shelter in protected areas, often choosing buildings and homes as their winter retreats.
Behavioral Patterns: In the fall, boxelder bugs exhibit aggregating behavior, gathering in large numbers on the sunlit sides of buildings. They are attracted to warmth and may enter homes through small cracks, gaps, or open windows in search of a cozy place to spend the winter. While they don't pose a direct threat to humans, their sheer numbers can be a nuisance.
Seasonal Activity: Boxelder bugs are most active during the spring and summer when they feed on seeds and mate. As temperatures drop in the fall, their activity shifts towards finding winter shelters. During warmer winter days, they may become active again, sometimes venturing into living spaces.
Life Cycle: Boxelder bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis, consisting of egg, nymph, and adult stages. Females lay clusters of eggs on host trees, and nymphs emerge in a few weeks. Nymphs resemble adults but lack wings and are often bright red. As they molt and grow, they gradually develop the distinctive coloration of mature boxelder bugs.
Communication: Boxelder bugs communicate with each other through the release of pheromones. These chemical signals help them aggregate in large groups, facilitating their search for suitable winter shelters.
Understanding the life cycle, habits, and preferences of boxelder bugs is essential for effective pest management. By being aware of their behavior, homeowners can take proactive measures to deter infestations and employ natural methods like Diatomaceous Earth for eco-friendly control. Regular inspection and early intervention can help maintain a harmonious living environment while minimizing the impact of these insects. While boxelder bugs do not pose a direct threat to humans, their sheer numbers and tendency to invade homes in search of warmth can be a cause for concern. Squashing them can leave unsightly stains and smell like a stink bug, and traditional chemical insecticides may not align with those seeking environmentally conscious alternatives.
Diatomaceous Earth for Natural Boxelder Bug Control
Diatomaceous earth is a sedimentary rock formed from the fossilized remains of diatoms, microscopic algae with silica-rich cell walls. Mined from ancient seabeds, DE consists primarily of silica, a compound that gives it unique properties beneficial for pest control. DE is a versatile and natural solution for pest control, offering several benefits:
Non-Toxic to Humans and Pets: Unlike chemical insecticides, Diatomaceous Earth is non-toxic to humans and pets. It is a mechanical insecticide, meaning it works by physically damaging the exoskeletons of insects, rather than through chemical means.
Effective Against Various Pests: DE is not specific to boxelder bugs; it can also be effective against a range of pests, including ants, fleas, roaches, and more. This makes it a multipurpose solution for households.
Environmentally Friendly: Diatomaceous Earth is a sustainable and environmentally friendly option. It does not harm beneficial insects, and its production has a minimal environmental impact.
Applying Diatomaceous Earth on the Outside of Your Home for Boxelder Bug Control
Now that you have a good understanding of boxelder bugs and the benefits of using Diatomaceous Earth (DE), let's delve into the specifics of applying DE on the exterior of your home to deter boxelder bugs. Follow these steps for an effective and eco-friendly solution:
Identify Problem Areas: Before applying DE, identify the areas where boxelder bugs are likely to congregate or enter your home. Common areas include window sills, doorways, cracks in walls, and any other openings or gaps in the structure. Adult boxelder bugs tend to be on the outside of our homes where the sun is shining directly on it. They also like warm reflective surfaces.
Choose Diatomaceous Earth: Ensure that the Diatomaceous Earth you use is not labeled as filter grade. This type of DE is not safe for use around humans, pets, and plants. It's important to avoid industrial-grade DE, which may contain additives and could be harmful if inhaled. Choosing diatomaceous earth that is not filter or industrial grade is safe for you and your pets.
Equip Yourself Properly: When applying DE, wear a dust mask to protect yourself from inhaling the fine powder. Additionally, consider using gloves to minimize skin contact.
Apply a Thin Layer: Sprinkle a thin, even layer of Diatomaceous Earth around your entire foundation. Use a duster or a small handheld spreader to distribute the powder, ensuring it covers surfaces where boxelder bugs are likely to travel. Pay attention to entry points, such as around doors and windows. Along with the application of diatomaceous earth, we want to gather a spray bottle to mix up soapy water and diatomaceous earth. Mix 2 tablespoons of dish soap with water in a spray bottle. Mix 3 tablespoons of diatomaceous earth with the mix. Spray the mixture onto groups of box elder bugs and also on the outside of your home where the sun hits. You will more than likely kill a few of those bugs. Be sure not to crush them. They stink like a stink bug when they release their smell, which attracts other insects that you don't want.
Focus on Sunlit Sides and seal up cracks and crevices: Boxelder bugs are attracted to warmth, so concentrate your application on the sunlit sides of your home. This is where the bugs are more likely to gather, especially during the fall when they seek shelter. Gather some sealant and seal up any cracks or crevices along the outside foundation and windows and doors. This helps prevent bugs from entering your home and helps kill boxelder bugs.
Reapply as Needed: DE loses its effectiveness when it gets wet, so it's important to reapply after rain or if the treated area becomes damp. Regularly monitor the effectiveness of the treatment, and don't hesitate to reapply as necessary. When applied as a spray, you just need the solution to dry and it becomes effective.
Use a Handheld Duster for Precision: For precise application, especially in cracks and crevices, use a handheld duster. This allows you to deliver DE directly to the target areas without creating a mess or wasting the product. Try to do this before sealing those cracks and crevices. Gives you double the protection against a boxelder bug infestation.
Be Patient: Diatomaceous Earth takes time to work, as it acts by dehydrating and physically damaging the exoskeletons of insects. It may take several days to see a noticeable reduction in boxelder bug activity. During this time, focus on seed bearing trees around your home to find out if the bugs are congregating there. These bugs love eating seeds from trees. The same method of application stated above for the outside of you home should be used on the trees as well.
Combine with Other Prevention Methods: Enhance the effectiveness of DE by combining it with other preventive measures. Seal any cracks or gaps in the exterior of your home, fix damaged screens, and eliminate potential harborage sites like cleaning seeds up in your yard that fall from trees.
Practice Regular Maintenance: Keep the exterior of your home well-maintained to discourage box elder bugs from finding shelter and laying eggs. Trim vegetation away from the house, repair damaged window screens, and ensure a tidy environment to help get rid of boxelder bugs.
Applying Diatomaceous Earth on the outside of your home is a natural, non-toxic, and effective method for controlling boxelder bugs. By taking a proactive approach and incorporating DE into your pest management strategy, you can enjoy a pest-free home without compromising your commitment to eco-friendly practices.
Applying Diatomaceous Earth on the Inside of Your Home for Boxelder Bug Control
Implementing Diatomaceous Earth for boxelder bug control is a straightforward process:
Choose Diatomaceous Earth: Ensure that you purchase Diatomaceous Earth that is not filter grade or industrial grade for safe use around the home.
Apply a Thin Layer: Sprinkle a thin layer of DE in areas where boxelder bugs are likely to travel, such as window sills, doorways, and cracks in walls.
Reapply as Needed: DE is effective as long as it remains dry. Reapply after rain or if the area becomes damp.
Monitor and Vacuum: Regularly monitor the treated areas and use a vacuum cleaner vacuum up any accumulated bugs and DE. Dispose of the vacuum bag carefully. Be sure not to crush any of the boxelder bugs as they release a nasty smell and it will attract other insects like spiders into your home.
Dealing with boxelder bugs doesn't have to involve harsh chemicals that harm the environment. Diatomaceous Earth offers a natural, safe, and effective solution for controlling these pests. By choosing eco-friendly alternatives, homeowners can create a healthier living environment while maintaining a balance with nature. Embracing natural solutions not only benefits your home but contributes to the broader goal of sustainable and responsible pest management.