The extreme close-up image of the boxelder bug, or Boisea trivittata, pictured above certainly looks frightening. In fact, most insects appear quite alien under magnification. Some, like the tiny black ant seen below, almost seem sinister under a microscope.

Photo by Егор Камелев on Unsplash

Boxelder bugs are annoying, but not harmful.

Native to much of North America, the western boxelder bug can be found from British Columbia, south to California, Nevada, and Utah. The USDA reports the harmless bugs can appear basically wherever they can find their favorite host tree, the boxelder. There are plenty of boxelder trees in Montana and they are commonly found in urban and riparian areas.

Image from YouTube/Utah University

They just want to stay warm.

The black and orange/red insects only want to get in your house where it's warm and that's why you can often find them snuggling under your siding, crawling into a garage, or sneaking in through gaps in window screens and doors. They do not bite, nor do they eat the wood in your house. They do have an odor when smashed, although the smell is not as potent as the stinkbug.

The USDA/Montana DNRC report on the boxelder bug stays they are harmless, other than perhaps staining your drapes with droppings. They're also fairly easy to eradicate without toxic chemicals. The most obvious way to prevent infestations is to remove their habitat from your yard. If you don't want to cut down your boxelder tree(s), you have other options.

Here's how to eradicate boxelder bugs from your home.

  • Seal all cracks and crevices in screens, doors, crawlspace openings, etc.
  • Remove all fallen seeds from beneath host trees and dispose of them.
  • Spray them with diluted soap!  Mix five tablespoons of liquid detergent or 1/2 cup of powdered laundry detergent to one gallon of water and spray the clusters of insects directly with the solution. Repeat as necessary. This spray solution may harm foliage.

Another option is to call a reputable pest control company. Some may offer non-toxic solutions.

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