Ward off box elder bugs by sealing cracks, crevices
BY LISA KLEIN Ask a Master Gardener
Saturday, September 22, 2012
9/22/12 at 5:45 AM
Q: I am seeing significant numbers of red and black bugs around my house. What are they, and how can I get rid of them? Larry E., Tulsa
A: Chances are the bug you are describing is the box elder bug. The good news is they are not considered harmful, and if they are still just outside your house you can take steps to keep them from venturing indoors.
After spending the summer feeding on seeds from maple and elm trees, box elder bugs begin their migration to a warm winter destination, possibly your home. They are considered a nuisance pest when they are swarming on your outside walls, and they can become a real headache once inside.
Take time now to inspect your home for any cracks and crevices that would allow entry for the bugs. Repair any damaged screens on windows and doors, and, if needed, caulk around dryer vents, phone lines and other obvious entry points.
Another common winter house guest is the multicolored Asian lady beetle. Although very similar in looks to a ladybug, the multicolored Asian lady beetle is slightly larger and has an M-shaped mark behind its head. Like the box elder bug, preventing entry is your best defense.
If you do encounter either bug in the house, it is best to either sweep them up or use a vacuum. You will want to avoid smashing the bugs, especially the multicolored Asian lady beetle, as they can excrete a yellow fluid that can stain floors and fabric. Make sure if you are vacuuming live bugs you change your vacuum bag.
Insecticides are not recommended for indoor use, but there is still time to treat outside if you have especially large populations of bugs. Treat host tree trunks and foundation walls where bugs are present. Additional treatments next spring might help controlling large outbreaks of the bugs.
The box elder bugs don't offer any benefits to the garden, but you might want to spare the lady beetle. Originally introduced by the USDA to control several agricultural pests, the lady beetle has proven itself very beneficial by helping rid the home garden and landscape of immature scales, aphids and other soft-bodied insect pests.
If you have a garden-related question you would like the Master Gardeners to answer in a future column, call 918-746-3701.
Original Print Headline: Seal cracks to ward off box elder bugs
September garden tip: Moving plants indoors
Now is the time to start preparing any plants you have moved outdoors for the summer to make the transition to the indoor environment.
Check the plant and the pot itself for insects and slugs. Hose the foliage down with a stiff stream of water and, if needed, treat with an insecticidal soap or oil.
Your plants will need to acclimate to lower light levels indoors. Over the course of a week or two move your plants from their sunny location to light shade then to heavy shade. Once inside, depending upon the lighting and space available for your plants, you may need to repeat this process. Start in the sunniest location in your house and gradually move into the permanent winter location.
Box elder bugs (left is the adult, right is an immature bug) are not considered harmful, but it's best to prevent their entry into your house by eliminating cracks and other small entry points. BILL SEVIER/Courtesy