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15 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs (Boisea trivittata)

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16 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs (Boisea trivittata)

Though one of the less destructive plant pests, boxelder bugs can quickly become a nuisance around your home [1]. They feed on plant sap but do not cause much damage. However, you still need to get rid of them.

These distinctive red and black bugs not only form huge swarms around boxelder trees but frequently invade indoor spaces as well.

Below, you will learn how to prevent a boxelder bug infestation or keep them away using home remedies and organic control methods.

Here’s how to get rid of boxelder bugs naturally:

1. Soap Spray

These bugs are gregarious insects and often clump together in large groups. However, a little dish soap and water mixture makes an effective home remedy for boxelder bugs.

Mix up a DIY solution by combining 4 tablespoons of dish soap with a gallon of water. Shake well and spray it directly on the bugs. The soapy water will suffocate and kill them.

2. Horticultural Oils

The chief benefit of these oils is that each acts as a smotherant, making it difficult to breathe.

Horticultural oils will suffocate boxelder beetles and smother their eggs, breaking the life cycle.

Follow the instructions on the label on how to use it.

3. Vacuum Them

If you get up one morning to find the house swarming with these pests, the quickest action is to just vacuum them up. Next, remove and destroy the bag.

However, avoid squashing the bugs, as they are very stinky when crushed. They may also leave reddish-orange stains on your walls or carpets.

4. Sticky Trap

Another boxelder bug control home remedy is to hang sticky traps.

Brightly colored sticky tapes will easily attract these black bugs with red stripes. They will then stick to the sticky traps.

Therefore, hang sticky traps in trees or near the house, especially in corners where the bugs like to hide. Remove and replace frequently.

Alternatively, make a homemade box elder bug trap using pieces of cardboard and a sticky substance such as petroleum jelly.

Use the sticky substance to coat both sides of the cardboard. Next, place your DIY traps at entry points around the house. The bugs will get stuck on them.

5. Vinegar

This is another safe and natural way to repel boxelder bugs. You can use any type of vinegar; however, to avoid staining, white vinegar is best.

Combine with water in a 50/50 ratio. Spray in the same way as with soapy water, and repeat as necessary. This vinegar solution repels instead of killing.

6. Garden Hose

Box elder bugs found in large groups on trees can be sprayed away with a garden hose.

Hosing them down with a strong jet of water will disperse them. Though this will not kill them, it will reduce their numbers.

7. Seal Doors and Windows

As the winter months approach, you may find more and more black and red flying bugs congregating around and inside your home.

As they cluster together, they will push into any cracks or gaps in the house.

To tackle this, brush off the bugs or vacuum them away, and have the gaps sealed with caulk. The critters will also seek out warm areas. Therefore, they may need clearing from any hot air vents or electrical fittings as well.

8. Trim Boxelder Trees

These bugs with red backs feed on the seeds, leaves, and flowers of female box elder trees and shrubs [2].

Therefore, trimming the branches regularly will reduce the number of seed pods. Cutting down the female trees entirely is another, but rather drastic, solution to keep box elder bugs away.

9. Rake Fallen Box Elder Leaves

Another way to get rid of boxelder bugs organically is to rake up fallen leaves around trees and shrubs. Also, remove the pods.

The pods contain sap from the box elder maple tree. This is a primary source of food for the nymphs and adult bugs.

As a result, clearing away the pods, leaves, and mulch that harbor the red and black insects will effectively disrupt their life cycle.

10. Boiling Water

This method will kill adult and baby boxelder bugs but may also cause damage to foliage. Spraying hot water from a hose that was heated up in the sun may be less harmful.

11. Neem Oil

This is another vegetable oil derived from the Neem tree seed that is recognized as a useful natural pesticide.

This non-toxic repellent is safe to use. It causes no damage whatsoever to the plants unless you mix the solution too strongly.

Make a homemade box elder bug spray using neem oil by combining two tablespoons with a gallon of water. Next, add it to a sprayer and coat all areas where the critters love to hang out.

Alternatively, you can buy neem oil concentrate that is ready to use.

12. Essential Oils

The scent of essential oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, and cinnamon works well to get rid of boxelder bugs.

For the recipe, add 20 drops of your essential oil of choice to some alcohol. Next, add the solution to a gallon of water.

Finally, use it to spray entryways to repel the critters. They hate the smell of these oils.

13. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Use diatomaceous earth around the base of affected trees and directly on leaves to get rid of boxelder bugs outside. However, use food-grade DE for bugs indoors.

This powdery substance will cause dehydration when the bugs come into contact with it. The nymphs will also die as a result of the sharpness of the diatomaceous earth.

Encircle affected trees with this box elder bug killer. Also, dust it around window sills and doors to deter the critters from coming inside your home.

Repeat the application after a shower of rain or hosing down.

14. Monterey Fruit Tree Spray

This is an organic insecticide that you can use to keep boxelder bugs out of your home garden.

Monterey contains pyrethrins and neem oil. Both ingredients work against many types of insect pest infestations.

Spray it directly onto and under the box elder leaves to eliminate the existing bugs and repel new visitors.

15. Attract Predators

Birds can be your most useful weapon against bad garden bugs.

Thus, setting up bird tables and bird baths near box elder trees will attract large birds that may eat boxelder bugs.

Leaving spiders alone to spin their webs may be beneficial too.

16. Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.t.)

This is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the soil and infects and destroys certain pests.

Used as a biological pesticide by farmers worldwide, use B.t. to kill boxelder bugs in your garden. Follow the instructions on the package.


At first sight, boxelder bugs are attractive and may cause little to no damage to your home or garden. Therefore, it may be tempting to leave them alone.

By the end of the summer, when swarms of these red and black beetles start to appear, an organic method of eliminating them may become a necessity.

The picture above represents adult and nymph boxelders. Photo via commons.wikimedia.org

Andre Campbell

Organic farmer and co-founder of Dre Campbell Farm. He appreciates everything in nature—sunshine, plants, animals, and human life.

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