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Boxelder bugs: What are they?

By Chris Williams on April 30, 2016.
Boxelder Bug

Boxelder Bug

Critters are rapidly waking up with this soon to be concluded mild winter.  After the coldest and one of the snowiest months of February ever, last year, February 2016 is ending sunny with temperatures in the 50’s. Today I observed box elder bugs on the outside of a home. They are waking up with the stronger sun and warmer temperatures.  What are boxelder bugs anyway? Its scientific name is Boisea trivittatus, and it is a ‘true bug’ which is how Entomologists refer to insects in the taxonomic order Hemiptera.  The hallmark characteristics of nearly all of the ‘true bugs’ are highly modified piercing mouthparts designed for ingesting liquid foods and specially modified wings or ‘half wings’ as the ordinal name suggests.  Boxelder bug adults are black with orange or red markings and not normally noticed during the summer months while they are feeding on their preferred host Acer negundo (boxelder) or other species in the Maple family (Acer sp.). During the fall, they will often congregate in great numbers on the sunny sides of trees, homes, and commercial buildings. I remember the first time I observed this occur one October day at a medical office building in my old hometown and was actually quite an amazing sight to see. They had already begun to enter the building to seek shelter for the winter. With the recent mild winter temperatures, they had begun emerging in the home that I was called to service.  I treated several spots on the home’s exterior and showed the homeowner these areas where they possibly could have entered the structure during the fall prior to their taking possession of the property. These included some defects in the shingle siding and brick fascia, and also some gaps around window and door sills. They will do some mechanical exclusion at these sites this spring to help keep them out later on, and they’ve also signed up for our semi annual service program.  The following reference was used in the creation of this article. http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/boxelder-bug

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