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Boxelder bugs in the house     Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 11, 2004]  URBANA -- Fall's arrival also signals the return of a pest that invades homes, seeking warm lodgings for the winter, said Sharon Yiesla, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator based in Lake County.

"We may start to notice these bugs in our homes," said Yiesla. "They are boxelders, and the adult boxelder bugs are flattened, oval insects, about a half-inch long. They are dark brown to black in color with red markings on their backs. The nymphs (young) are smaller than the adults and are bright red with small, partially formed wings. These small wings look like dark shoulder pads."

During the growing season, boxelder bugs feed primarily on the box elder tree (Acer negundo), sucking sap from the leaves and seeds.  The damage done to trees is relatively minor, but boxelder bugs are annoying as a household pest.

"In the fall, as temperatures begin to drop, the insects migrate to homes," said Yiesla. "They can often be found clustered on the outside of the house, especially on the south and west sides, where the sun warms the building.

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"Eventually they crawl into cracks and crevices and enter the home. These insects do no real damage in the home; they are merely a nuisance. They do not feed or reproduce inside the home; they enter only for protection against winter."

Yielsa noted that the easiest method of control is removal using a vacuum cleaner. The bugs should be swept up and the vacuum cleaner bag should be discarded. Do not crush the insects, as they can leave a red stain behind. Caulk cracks and crevices around windows and doors to limit entry into the home.

[University of Illinois news release]




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