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

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15 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 keep them away or prevent an infestation 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 alarmingly large groups. Spraying with pure water may disperse them but using a soapy water solution instead is more effective.

Mix up a solution of organic liquid soap and water — 4 tablespoons per gallon of water.

You can use a hand spray around the house but a pump is more efficient in tackling garden swarms. Consequently, this will drown some bugs and deter others.

Wipe some of the leftover solution around window sills and door frames to repel future invaders.

2. Horticultural Oils

The chief benefit of these oils is that each acts as a smotherant, preventing insect respiration.

Horticultural oils seal in the breathing spaces of the bugs, thus suffocating them, destroying their eggs, and breaking their life cycle.

Follow the usage instructions on the container or package.

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, remove and destroy the bag.

Avoid squashing the bugs as they are very stinky when crushed and leave brown stains on your walls or carpets.

4. Trap

A simple way to deal with the problem is to hang sticky traps.

Colored sticky strips will easily attract these black bugs with red stripes. They will trap them in the gluey substance, making it impossible for the insects to feed and survive.

Hang the traps in the trees or in/near the house, especially in corners where they may be hidden.

Remove and replace frequently. This is an unsightly method but effective.

5. Vinegar

This is a natural way of eliminating large numbers of pests.

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.

6. Garden Hose

Box elder bugs give off a powerful smell that is unpleasant to humans but attracts other friends to join the party.

Hosing them down with a strong jet of water will disperse them and reduce the numbers around the trees or house.

7. Seal Doors and Windows

Approaching the winter months, 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 in masonry 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 any warm areas and may also need clearing from any hot air vents or electrical fittings.

8. Trim Boxelder Trees

The critters feed on the seeds, leaves, and flowers of female Box elder trees and shrubs [2].

Trimming the branches regularly will reduce the number of seed pods while the fallen ones can be taken away from the tree bases.

Cutting down the female trees entirely is another, but a rather drastic, solution to keep box elder bugs away.

9. Rake Fallen Boxelder Leaves

Raking up leaves around trees and shrubs removes many of the pods which are the prime source of food for the pests.

The pods contain sap from the box elder maple tree which 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 insect will effectively disrupt their life cycle.

10. Boiling Water

This method will kill off most pests but may 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 a recognized useful natural pesticide.

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

Combine two tablespoons of neem oil in a gallon of water. Add to a sprayer and coat all areas where they love to hang out.

12. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

You can use diatomaceous earth around the base of the trees and directly onto leaves to kill off the bugs.

DE is made from the fossilized remains of diatoms. This powdery substance causes a process of dehydration in the adult box elder bugs on contact.

The nymphs will also die as a result of the sharpness of the diatomaceous earth.

Encircle the trees with this box elder bug killer from the spring onwards to eliminate the bugs during their life cycle. Also, dust it around window sills and doors later in the year to deter the critters from entering your home.

Repeat the application after a rain shower or hosing down.

13. Monterey Fruit Tree Spray

A ready-prepared organic total pest control product.

Monterey contains organic pyrethrin, a natural insecticide derived from chrysanthemum, and neem oil. Both ingredients are active against many types of infestations and plant diseases.

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

14. Attract Predators

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

Thus, setting up bird tables and bird baths near the Box elder trees will attract this natural predator of bugs.

Leaving spiders alone to spin their deadly webs will be beneficial too.

15. Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)

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

Used as a biological pesticide for large-scale infestations, this method is often employed by farmers to eliminate swarms.

Bt also works great for mosquito control. 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 so it may be tempting to leave them alone.

By the end of the summer, when large armies of the red and black beetle start to appear, an organic method of eliminating them may then become a necessity.

The picture above represents an 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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