2017-04-23 / Insight

The pesky, but harmless boxelder bug

LAPEER COUNTY — With warmer weather comes everyone’s favorite pesky but harmless critter — the boxelder bug. Its distinctive look — a black, oval shell with red or orange highlights — as well as its widespread nature put the insect on many lists of most-hated bug around. But what are some facts about the boxelder bug that we can learn to help us understand more?

Boxelder bugs live and thrive on maple and seed-bearing boxelder trees (hence the name) during warmer months, where they lay their eggs and feed on leaves and flowers. During colder months, the bugs seek warmth and shelter to hibernate, which often takes them into the walls of homes and structures. In late March and early April, boxelder bugs leave their hibernation state and return to their preferred trees.

Boxelder bugs rarely bite humans, though their piercing mouthparts are capable of puncturing human skin. The resulting mark from a boxelder bug bite is very similar in nature to a mosquito bite. Boxelder bugs do not transmit diseases, and other than an occasional annoying nibble, the critters are completely harmless.

Boxelders bugs secrete a reddish-orange substance when threatened or crushed that can stain carpets, furniture and clothing and when killed release a foul odor. Despite the irritating staining, boxelder bugs do not cause any structural damage and do not bore through or otherwise damage wood.

Ever in search of warmth, boxelders enter a home or building only during winter to hibernate and never lay eggs inside a structure.

— Nicholas Pugliese

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