I wonder if you might advise me of the best way to curb the nuisance effect...

Asked February 11, 2015, 11:12 AM EST

I wonder if you might advise me of the best way to curb the nuisance effect of boxelder bugs.... short of cutting down the boxelder tree just out my back door. I've read about using a soap mixture to spray them with and I will try that this summer. Is there any sort of preventive application? Are they more prevalent in certain years? What affects this prevalence? Ample moisture or dry environments? I know they seek warmth and that's why I have them in the house this winter. I've lived in this row house in DC for 10 years. For the first several years I don't even recall seeing any boxelder bugs. Then I started seeing a "few." But last year, they were swarming on the sceen door. The neighbor lady wants us to cut the tree down. She's a big squimish baby, however. It's the only tree we have in our back yard so I'm hesitant to do that, however it is getting larger (40 ft) and requires more trimming every year to contain it for our small back yard. Thanks for your help,

District of Columbia County District of Columbia

1 Response

Box elder bugs are a nuisance insect. In early fall these insects will attempt to enter your home for protection. Prevention includes caulking , weather strip and sealing up all cracks and entry points around your house foundation, vent openings, windows and doorways to prevent these critters from coming indoors. We do not recommend insecticides indoors. You can use a shop vac indoors and drown in soapy water or vacuum up the bugs and dispose of the bag. Outdoors the insects can be knocked down with a forceful spray of soapy water. If plants are nearby you may want to use insecticidal soap. The most efficient control can be obtained in October when the population is concentrated on the trunks of boxelder trees near the ground. For more information see our Box Elder publication https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG10_Boxelder_Bug.p...

Insect populations are hard to predict from one year to another for many reasons but primarily due to the weather. You also need to check nearby to see if there are other boxelder trees in the area. However, if the tree is mature and losing branches, it may be a good idea to contact several certified arborists for a site visit regarding the health of the tree and recommendations for pruning and/or removal. If you really think the tree is too large for your backyard, you may want to consider removal.