Thank Goodness For Boxelder Bugs

Note:  When I wrote this post back in 2013, I had no idea so many people would find it while looking for information on these harmless little critters who often like to share our living space.  The many comments added to this post since then have been tremendous, heartwarming, and are worth reading.  I’ve also written a separate post with more information on boxelder bugs if you are someone looking for that.  Most importantly, please don’t let boxelder bugs frighten you.  They’re fascinating creatures and present no danger to you.  

I finally broke down and bought a close-up flash system for my camera.  Until now, I’ve just relied on natural light to illuminate the flowers, insects, and prairies I photograph.  However, during the last couple years, I’ve been weakening, and looking at recent images from people like Clay Bolt and Piotr Naskrecki finally pushed me over the edge.  After considerable wandering about in the world of internet photography websites and equipment reviews, I am now the owner of a Nikon R1 Wireless Close-up Speedlight Kit. (Say THAT five times fast!)

Here’s my next problem:  Now that I’ve got a flash system to help me get better close-up insect photos, where am I supposed to find an insect to photograph during the middle of February in Nebraska??

Enter the friendly neighborhood boxelder bug…

Boxelder bug - photographed in my kitchen.

A boxelder bug captured on my front porch and photographed in my kitchen.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been seeing boxelder bugs around their house this winter.  It seems there are always a couple of them nearby – soaking up some sun by the window or reading over my shoulder at my desk.  Sure enough, as soon as I got the new flash assembly hooked up and ready to test, I was able to find one boxelder bug in the kitchen and another out on the front porch.  (You can tell which is which in the photos because the bug from outside is covered in dust.)

The other boxelder bug - less dusty - that I found in my kitchen.

The other boxelder bug – less dusty – that I found in my kitchen.

Boxelder bugs are considered by many people to be pests, but that’s not a completely fair characterization.  Sure, they suck the juices out of leaves and the developing seeds of boxelder and maple trees, but they don’t siphon enough out to actually hurt the trees.  Yes, they can congregate in large numbers on the sunny sides of houses, but they’re not doing any actual damage there.  Also, while they are happy to spend the winter in cozy crevices around your house, they don’t eat anything during that time, and can make themselves available on short notice should you have the urge to try some wintertime insect photography in your kitchen.

As the photo shoot went on, the boxelder bugs and I got more creative in our portrait compositions.

As the photo shoot went on, the boxelder bugs and I got more creative in our portrait compositions.  (Also, this one didn’t want to hold still.)

The species of boxelder bug in my neighborhood is the Eastern Boxelder Bug (Boisea trivittata), which is found throughout most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, as well as in some western states, parts of southern Canada, and even Central America.  Boxelder bugs are “true bugs”, meaning they are members of the taxonomic order Hemiptera, along with other bugs such as stink bugs, plant bugs, cicadas, and many other insects that have piercing/sucking mouth parts.  Like many other true bugs, boxelder bugs also have a characteristic triangle between the tops of their wings (as opposed to beetles, in the order Coloeptera, which have hardened forewings that form a hard shell on their back when they’re not flying.)

They're even cuter from the front, aren't they?

They’re even cuter from the front, aren’t they?

One of the endearing qualities of boxelder bugs is that they can release bad-smelling/tasting chemicals to discourage predators.  Like many other insects with similar capabilities (monarch butterflies and long-horned milkweed beetles, for example), they have bright orange or red markings to warn predators off.  That defense mechanism may be why boxelder bugs feel comfortable hanging around – often in large crowds – in plain sight, while most other insects work hard to stay hidden.

Last shot.

Last shot.  Note the small eyes behind each of the main eyes.  Those smaller eyes are ocelli, or simple eyes, that (we think) can discriminate only between light and dark.  Their function is still a topic of debate among entomologists.

I understand that many of you won’t ever become fans of boxelder bugs.  I guess I can live with that, and – with the exception of those you squish – so can the boxelder bugs.  Personally, I like them.  As with every other insect species I know of, they have an fascinating life story, and they’re just trying to make their way through life like the rest of us.

Plus, they make very accomodating photo subjects in the dead of winter.

Photography notes for those of you who care…  These photos were all taken with the “standard” set-up of the R1 system, with two speedlight flashes, mounted at “9 and 3” at the front of my Nikon 105mm macro lens.  I had an 8mm extension tube on for all but the second photo shown here.  The bugs were photographed walking around on the white plastic (acrylic?) diffuser that came with the flash system.  All these shots were hand-held at 1/250 sec exposures.  I’m looking forward to using this flash system outside, so I can capture images of insects, flowers, and other small things when the available natural light isn’t quite as good as I might want.  We’ll see how that goes.

120 thoughts on “Thank Goodness For Boxelder Bugs

  1. Chris: Neat Pictures. When I was a kid, boxelder bugs were usually called “democrat bugs”. Here in Kansas, that was possibly a term of denigration. Personally I think being called “democrats” is one of their most endearing qualities. I’m sure many people know that the boxelder tree also has streaks of red in its wood which makes it highly desirable.

  2. First I would like to say I found this very interesting but do these insects bite,,,,,Next here {Manitoba} we have a similar insect but all blacka{looks the same} can you tell me anything about these?

  3. Nice detail and good color balance. And you got good depth of field in spite of being so close – not bad for hand held. Can’t wait to see your field shots when the spring wind is blowing!!

  4. Perhaps you can write something on the American dung beetle, because they remove the feces of plains bison, pronghorn antelope, and wapiti. Who digs up their larvae and eats them? In Africa, it is the bat-eared fox.

  5. As a Nikon owner, this post gives me hope for better insect photos without having to go out and spend a lot an unaffordable Canon set-up.
    I had some quality time watching these as a completely unwired kid (those were the days), during summers spent in northern New Mexico. One thing I learned is they eat a lot besides plant juice. Carrion (including of their own species), the moisture from cake crumbs, animal dung and much more were also on the menu. I suspect they also drink up honeydew voided by aphids onto low vegetation or leaf litter.
    And if anyone asks, though distasteful, they are neither poisonous nor venomous.

  6. I think the warmish day made for extra box elder bug activity in my kitchen tonight. What a good coincidence to be able to greet them up close through your photos. And congratulations on the new equipment!

  7. To immobilize your bugs for photographing, try a shot of automobile starting fluid (ether) on a cotton ball placed in a small glass jar.Remove bug as soon as it stops moving and it will probably recover. Protozoan can be stopped with chloral hydrate, but it is hard to get without a prescription.

  8. Hey Chris – if you run out of subjects let me know – I got lots. Oh, and they are keeping company with ladybugs in almost equal numbers on my windowsills (asian ladybugs? They’ve got white-heads rather than the black ones I remember from childhood) .

  9. Great pictures and I learned something new today about a bug I have always taken for granted- thanks for teaching me something new Chris and other bug commentators!

  10. I have had bunches of these pretty little insects hanging around the back of my porch here in south-central Kansas every sunny day for the last few months at least, but not ever knowing a great deal about Hemipterans (or sadly, insects in general) I didn’t know what they were. So I’m pretty thrilled to read this week’s post and learn a little about them and their life history!

    I do wonder, though — is it uniformly true that they don’t eat anything in winter? Last week I saw 8-10 of them out on the flagstones gathered around another, definitely much deader boxelder bug, and I wondered at the time whether they were cannibalizing it. But my lunch break was over and I had to go back to work and leave them be, so their activities remained shrouded in mystery (to me, anyway).

    • Ardath,

      Thanks – I think it’s very likely you were seeing cannibalization. See James Trager’s comment above about their varied diet. I’m glad to have been able to give you a little insight into this great little species.

  11. Great post, I was happy to learn more about these bugs! I observed scads of these all year in southern Saskatchewan while growing up. [Ardath, I’d agree with your potential cannibalization viewing.]
    I’m new to your blog and want to throw a compliment your way: you did a great job balancing education (about a few different topics) with good humour and interest. I WANTED to read this post, which is a great feeling distinct from sometimes slogging through other conservation/ecology blogs. I’m thrilling that you’re putting this material out there, and I’ll be back to read more!

  12. Love this article – my son is doing a report on insects. Your article and picts are the best we found about this bug. Every other one is so negative and not so informative (other than to tell us how to get rid of them). My son and I agree that the boxelder is quite cute from the front (although, honestly, he’s in Kindergarten and thinks most bugs are pretty cute!). You’ve just gained yourself some new fans!! Thanks!!

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  14. I thought I’d say that these little guys are really nice bugs. There are too many creepy or ugly insects around but these ones I can enjoy. I believe that all forms of life deserve a place on this planet, even pesky mosquitos or cockroaches. When I find an insect in my house rather than kill it I simply put it outside, it is wrong to kill an insect for absolutely no reason. I like boxelder bugs particularly because they are cute, and they are more docile than carpenter ants, they don’t even hurt the environment they inhabit. The only down-side about them is that they are scavengers, they will eat ANYTHING including each other, if they are hungry enough they will even try to eat humans though they don’t like the taste. I’d also like to give a little of my own information after studying them, to answer some people’s curiosities, these insects typically do NOT bite humans, however as I said before they are scavengers, if you pick up a particularly hungry one they may poke you with their sucker, and it will pinch a bit, other than this though they do not hurt humans, and their bite is non-toxic.

      • Emily, We always have a couple of hundred hanging out in our south-facing windows during the winter. We feed them on tea with sugar and milk, the same as we like it. The tea has proved very popular and they come running when they see the spoon. The ladybird beetles (lady bugs) also join the party regularly.

    • I do the same thing! (I do not kill bugs, just take them out.) I was glad to hear that there are others that follow this philosophy(;

    • Kate, I’ll almost guarantee what’s on your milkweed plants are milkweed bugs, not boxelder bugs. Regardless, they are herbivorous and won’t hurt monarch larvae (and also won’t do serious damage to the plants – they are native insects and they and the plants are pretty well adapted to each other).

  15. Are box elder bugs related to the kissing bug that is in the news lately? They look similar and I think some of the news sites are using them.

  16. I love boxelder bugs and never kill them! I have one that has been hanging around my bedroom since august. I call him Larry! Do u know what i can feed him? I was thinking maybe a grape?

    • I have a buddy in my house, too- he seems to like the grapes stems I gave him. Try that with Larry, maybe he will like it too. Good luck!

  17. Do you know why they are all attracted to light bulbs inside the house rather than seeking the sun on the outside? Also, do you know if they attract stink bugs? Generally, I only get stink bugs when there’s multiples of boxelder bugs also in tow.

  18. Loved reading this blog and am thrilled to know there are like minded people out there! We have boxelder bugs all over the room in which I work, I find them fascinating and amusing and if I do say so myself quite a handsome insect. I observed one today sucking up some dried milk & honey I guess I dripped out of my tea. I guess if they’re eating its a good sign that spring is soon to come! Unfortunately my admiration for insects is not shared here in the work place. I have cringed on numerous occasions when someone just outright smashes them or flicks them across the room, it always seems so unwarranted!

  19. Thanks to your good picture , I was able to identify the bugs that were all over the building I work in, and they were on the sunny side. I thought it looked simular to ” love bugs” but I’m I’m Chattanooga, not Florida.

  20. I have one living in a small terrarium in my house this winter. I worry about it starving though, is there something I should be supplying him/her with? I would like to see the little guy/girl make it through these winter months. I’m a sucker for a bug in need.

  21. Thank you for this informative and to me,hysterical captions, of your new found friends.winter can be tedious at times.I know.

  22. We have a couple box elder bugs pets that we winter in the house. They’re very friendly. What can we feed them to keep them alive?

  23. Thanks for your photography and thoughts on such an interesting subject, the boxelder bug. All things are wonderfully made, Thanks for sharing.

  24. I loved your commentary on the Boxelder bug. I also am a fan of these cute little insects. I always rescue them when I find them(usually in my kitchen sink on their backs trying to right themselves)and I relocate them to one of my house plants. My family thinks I’m a bit wacky but I am a live and let live kind of person, and I don’t believe in squashing an insect like the cute Boxelder just because it’s A BUG!

  25. I live in Minnesota, just found a boxelder bug on the bedroom level of our house about a week ago. My husband know after 24 years of marriage never to kill anything that is harmless and clever enough to evade a MN winter. I find him/her in different rooms in the same day. He usually settles in my sewing room, being the sunniest. Our cat just passed recently so this little critters is my little buddy now. I’ve taught my grandkids never to step on bugs just to kill them, trying to teach respect for every critter’s journey. Crazy grandma. Thanks for sharing your pics!

  26. Came across your blog while trying to learn more about these insects which seem to be invading our house. I like them and have no wish to harm them. They seem to gravitate to my bathroom and tub so I put a damp washcloth on the floor. Soon, it was covered with boxelder bugs. They don’t seem to eat anything but the ingestion of water seems to expedite their demise, for some reason. I almost never harm insects, with the exception of mosquitos, ticks and fleas. Hopefully God will forgive me for this!

  27. This was a very cool article on the Boxelder bug. We have been totally infested and overwhelmed with them this spring in NY. This has made me very curious about them. I have been collecting them in a gallon sized, clear sided water bottle, and in two days, I have over 50 in there. I can get 25 per day and have been collecting and releasing for a good month! I am having fun watching them and catching them. They always go to the top of the container. I have big ones and smaller ones. I will be trying out the grape stems for them, and keep them safe, for now on, until warmer weather.

  28. I suddenly have hundreds of these bugs in my house, I gather they are not starving but what do they live on? I don’t mind them and the occasional stink bug, which are just as interesting with their prehistoric look.

  29. You are a kindred spirit! I just watched a video on the weather network warning about box elder beetles and offering suggestions for ways to exterminate them. I was alarmed at first that they were milkweed beetles as I am a monarch enthusiast. But now I realize they are separate beetles. I stumbled upon your article and found it refreshing in contrast to the video on the weather network. It is just an insect another one of God’s creatures!

  30. One of my favorite bugs! When I was a kid I called them my “friend bugs” and even brought some in for winter because I didn’t want them to be cold. Good to see others who enjoy these fun little creatures

  31. Hey! This is weird, there is one on the screen door in my kitchen! What is it about kitchens with these guys? And why can’t they do some dishes or make me a grilled cheese sandwich while they hang around sucking up the free heat?

  32. Forgive me for anthropomorphizing, but OMG, totes adorbs!!! You’ve made him (her?) look absolutely adorable. I found this site after performing a catch/release on a highly energetic boxelder in my apartment complex study room in Northern California. Always thought they were kinda cute. My Republican, Nebraskan grandmother called them Democrat bugs; I thought it was her personal nickname for them. but thanks to the other posts here, I’ve learned a cool linguistics lesson!

  33. I am so happy to know they don’t eat during the winter. I usually have 1 or 2 keeping me company in my office over the winter, wandering across my computer screen and I worried about yhem starving. Good to know that’s not the case!

  34. Since you did ask for feedback I will say I love this article. I have a few box elder bugs wintering with me in my house this year. My boyfriend is (sadly) extremely allergic to cats, but seemingly not to box elder bugs. They are the least obtrusive creatures, requiring only to be transported out of an unwise resting place in the middle of the kitchen while I’m cooking or to be unraveled after stumbling into an old abandoned cobweb here or there. I was feeling pretty sheepish about my hostess skills, and found your article while searching for what they eat…which turns out to be nothing during the winter. I really couldn’t ask for a better houseguest! Thank you for your article!

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  36. I also love those little bugs! The only tree that grows on our property are box elders so we have plenty. I washed a load of laundry one day and when i opened the lid there was one in the washer the whole time! I don’t know how he survived!

  37. I absolutely love box elders, so I enjoyed reading your article! They are a regular winter guest in my Michigan home. I leave little cups of water in all of my windowsills. If you love insects, leave out some water, they will drink it! I use plastic bottle caps and I make sure to position 1 or 2 wooden toothpicks into the water, to provide a way out, if they fall in. Without the toothpick, sometimes they drown. They have a tendency to fall into dish water, so I try to not leave dishes sitting for too long and clean things up as quickly as possible. I find it odd to hear that they do not eat during the winter, but I cannot argue about this because any attempt to feed them (little pieces of fruits, bread crumbs, etc) was a failure. It is fun to photograph them and I have some really good shots, but sadly, no means to share them in this thread. Last year I made it a project in the cold months to keep as many of them alive as possible. Many survived! When it was warm enough to release them back outside, I did so. Soon after, they were having babies like crazy (hundreds!) which provided me with photos of all stages of their life which was super interesting. I am fond of them because I like their color and they are also very friendly insects. They will crawl onto your hand or finger if you allow them to do so. This is another way to give them water, by the way. Just use a fine misting water sprayer and lightly mist them and your hand, and very often you will get the pleasure of watching their proboscis extend and they will drink the water right off of your skin. They have never bitten me, and I feel that they are completely harmless. I have gone so far as to rescue and take them home from grocery stores and even restaurants in the winter, as it seems a lot of people see them as pests. Long live the box elder! :)

  38. I love my boxelder bug.. he seems to appear our of nowhere and then he’ll be on a chair or in the kitchen on the floor or windowsill. He’s quiet..he’s clean..makes me smile when i see him…

  39. Thank you Chris for posting these pictures. We have a visiting Boxelder Bug, and we have named him Horace. He is visiting for the winter, I didn’t have the heart to put him out in the snow. I protect him from my cats- ( of course, I do, in the back of my mind, realize there might be multiple Horaces) but he is so friendly, I can only assume it is the same feller. And, he is utterly adorable.

  40. I was just saying the same thing about the box elder bug in my kitchen- he’s just trying to May his way through life. Thank you for writing about this bug. I really like them too. I’ll have to check out more of your posts.

  41. Id like yo say I’m a big fan of BOX elder bugs, I live in an old FARM house and enjoy there company and seeing there activity. There friendly as heck and do no harm in my opinion. My favorite scene of them is completely invading and old dead tree stump with multiple generation. Also to enjoy them sunning on the south side of my barn. All’s a haven for them here. They are simply free to do their thing. I think it’s sad that people feel compelled to kill things for no reason. Like if a BIG FOOT came down on you simply because your there. Thanks

  42. We get a ton of them outside (& inside) our office. Now that it’s winter, it’s dwindled down to a dozen or so. A lonely looking, dusty fella was crawling sluggishly across my desk today so I filled up my Vitamin Water cap with some lemonade and set it an inch or so from it. It immediately crawled over and up the side and dipped his lil’ nose in for a looooong drink. Good to keep the non-pest insect visitors hydrated in the winter.

  43. Funny. I’m here at work, and once in awhile, a box elder bug will walk across my desk and I’ll snap a picture of it with my phone. When googling “What do box elder bugs eat,” I came across this page. Anyway, glad I found someone else who actually doesn’t mind the bug, and takes pics of it, too :)

  44. I love boxelders lol I call them my babies as well as stinkbugs. They seem to flack to me for some reason and they just seem so peaceful and beautiful.

  45. I also have 2 boxelder bug pets. I gave them water and a little bit of broccoli. Thanks to your info, I will try grape stems!

  46. East coaster here. After the exterminator came to our development and power sprayed because a bunch of Russian tenants made a big honkin’ fuss about the “Halloween bugs” (aka boxelders) that seemed to be all over their outside walls and invading their apts., I found one survivor in my unit. and rescued him/her. I found this site looking for what to feed my new friend. I NEVER harm bugs and share the feelings of the rest of you. Love stinkbugs too!. I’m so glad to find so many nice people who have a heart for the other living beings that all have a purpose here.

  47. I have a “pet” boxelder bug, and I think he’s dying of starvation. I know what boxelder bugs eat, but today the snow could be 20-35 centimeters. And it hasn’t snowed yet today. Anyway its useless. All the leaves are dry and dead. All the grass is dead. What do I do? ;•;

  48. I gave him water in a bottle cap but he won’t drink it. I’ve checked if hes alive. He is moving but really slowly and he won’t get off his side. I’ve seen him get off of his side to his front but he also won’t walk. I don’t understand him!
    ” ‘

  49. I tried putting him on something so that he could drink the water. He just fell off the thing and into the water. I quickly got him out but now his butt is stuck to the bottle cap. Why does he stick to everything!? His leg stuck to my leg and now this? Oh, Bob. (I named him Bob)

  50. At our school there are thousands of Box Elder bugs. We love them! We have some Box Elder trees in our school yard. We take care of them every recess. We give them water, leaves and seeds from the trees. We have a Box Elder Hospital, and we take care of them, hydrate them, and release them back into the trees. We have eggs on our exterior walls. We love Box Elder Bugs!! Acton Ann Arbor School

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  52. I really like this story, and also care about these kind of bugs. I think they actually do have pretty markings. Like the person who took photos, I wouldn’t want to kill them. They are just like us, going their way through life. Thanks for your story and photos of the boxelder bugs:).

  53. My wife and I didn’t know what these were called, so we nicknamed them shield bugs (African warrior). I was just wondering if they eat dust mites. In any case thanks for the great photos.

  54. Nice article, but you have obviously not lived through an invasion of these bugs! They leave orange dots everywhere, and swarms keep you from enjoying your deck. We kill thousands with dishwashing liquid and water in sprayers. We can’t get in our door because of these bugs! Enjoy your pics, but for us, these are bugs from hell!

  55. Thanx. I had one right in front of me. I live in east TX, and have a niece who likes bugs not me even though I like them two. So I took the pic to send to her. I hope she likes it. Thanks for the info.

  56. Our home has what seems to be an infestation of these bugs and I’m torn about what to do. We have one big tree that I think is maple that is covered with thousands of them and they are everywhere on the surrounding grass and now my sons’ trampoline. They won’t use it because they don’t want to step on all of them. They of course congregate on the sunny side of our house but now they are everywhere inside. It’s much worse than our first fall here last year (the house was built in 1995 but we moved in in 2019 so I’m sure there are many cracks that need to be sealed up). We also just invested in brand-new carpet in the entire home and now we are stepping around boxelder bugs every step we take. We try not to step on them for not wanting to hurt them but also not to leave stains in our brand-new carpet (I know this seems petty compared to sparing a life but we spent thousands). They are all over the kitchen and even crawling on us when we sit on the couch. I normally try to just take bugs outside that get in but it would be a losing battle.

    I may need to resort to vacuuming them up and sealing cracks in the exterior walls and doorways/windows but what steps could we take outside that would deter them and be humane?

  57. Love the photos! I’ve had one hanging around my sewing room; he keeps trying to be in the middle of my appliqué work. 😊 I’ve moved him several times to different parts of the room, but he crawls right back in a beeline for my work area. (He must like my Ott lamp, but I’m pretending he likes my company. ☺️) I moved him once to the opposite wall, where he crawled up to the ceiling and roamed around a while. Then when I happened to glance up at him, he finally launched himself and flew right back to my work area. I’ve named him Bob the Boxelder Bug – thinking of writing a children’s book about him! (Hey, we get by as we can during the COVID pandemic, right?! Lol.)

  58. I too love boxelder bugs. I once noticed one on my fridge. When I moved in for a closer look it stopped walking and appeared to turn its head to look at me. I find it hard to kill them by vacuum cleaner to prevent their stains which is their fate around my wife. I came to your interesting post when looking up how to sex them. I have a 40x scope to help. I am a retired bio teacher that considers all living things my cousins by common ancestor many generations back. Whether it’s a tree or a bug, both with mitochondria showing we arose from the same organisms that first had these complex Organelles by symbiosis as with any feature held in common with me! How fascinating that we should come together again after so many generations apart! To think we each represent a continuous line of those who survived to reproduce, for perhaps four billion years!
    Thanks for your post!
    Dan Ress
    Chaska, MN

  59. I found these insects swarming in the park near my house and was concerned maybe they were bad for trees. I am happy to hear they are well-adapted. It’s been a pretty warm winter here, which I’m guessing is why they’re out in such numbers today. It’s not really the season for maple seeds, so I was here partly trying to figure out what else they might have been eating, and your very intelligent and knowledgeable commenters had lots of suggestions for me! (I have not seen such a charming, informed, and well-intentioned set of commenters anywhere else on the internet, so I decided I needed to join in!)

  60. Thanks for this. Nice to find some positive and friendly comments about these little guys among all the “pest control” ads that appear when one searches for information on boxelder bugs. We always have a few who overwinter in our south-facing rooms. Nice photographs too!

  61. This was great! I live in Michigan & i have hundreds of boxelder bugs living outside my house I even have some babies that crawl around my succulents in my house. People think its weird that I just coexist with them but they cause no harm & don’t bug me. Glad I’m not the only one who sees them as harmless

  62. I really enjoyed reading the article and comments here. I was fascinated by a bunch of boxelder nymphs I saw in my parents yard this past weekend. I’m so glad to find other people like me who don’t kill bugs.

  63. Weirdo…and I love it! Lol I am dealing with a ton of these in my grass and on my tree. They’re scary in numbers!

  64. I assume the reason they are regarded as pests is because they have a not acceptable habit of infesting homes; and not as occasional strays, but as swarms. And their fearlessness means they are quite comfortable landing on your neck, or climbing up your arm. I do not WANT these things in my food or my person; and once they invade, they are ubiquitous. This is one variety of organism I would be glad to extinguish.

  65. Each year, a few luckies are invited indoors to keep me company during the long, dark winter. They make wonderful little pets.

  66. Thank you for the info! My kids and I found it interesting. They want to take care of the boxelder bugs that are joining us in our house this fall/winter. They are wondering if they should put water out for them. Do you happen to know if they drink water during this time?

  67. They ARE cute.
    I started naming some of the little devils sitting around by my window. I just get alittle miffed when there’s too many of them. I usually get about 4 or 5 by the window. They don’t do much but lounge around. Funny bugs.

  68. Here in southern Saskatchewan, Canada we have hundreds this year. We still have many in our house in January. I thought they were quite cute compared to most other bugs until one bit me as I sat in a chair reading ..Our yard has many trees but they seem to love tall grass and weeds. just as much. There are poisons that can kill them. One is called “Doctor Death” but I suspect it will kill people too. Dish detergent will kill Box Elder beetles if it is diluted with water and directly sprayed on the bugs. They will sometimes die if they are in a large amount of water for a long time. Should people be using dish detergent on their dishes, I wonder? It appears that Box Elder beetles have been here for ever like the deer and buffalo – probably longer than people. This summer I saw several large red clusters (nests) in the trees and on the prairie .They were even in the west block of Grass Lands National Park. I have about a hundred house plants and the bugs don’t seem to hurt them. As you know we had a very dry year and the air is dry too. The Box Elder beetles seem to appreciate a small amount of water ( or moisture) and a sunny day. You can almost predict the outside temperature by the amount of activity of the bugs in the warm house. We pick up several dozen bugs every day but there are usually the same amount around the next day, so I guess we will just have to live with then]m ’til they move outside in the spring. Writing from a prairie area where we live in Grassland National Park area.

    If anyone needs advice on feeding, we have found the following works;
    Tea (with milk and sugar) in a Chinese soup spoon. We have a little ramp alongside the spoon so they can crawl up with ease.
    Chocolate cake made from Bulk Barn deluxe chocolate cake mix. They love this!
    We feed them every day. Especially hungry from mid-February onwards.

    For sun-bathing and sleeping, we keep a pepperomia plant on the windowsill, the one with the yellow and green leaves and red stems.

    • I’m so glad you posted this! Here in South Dakota we have a big boxelder season, but year-round I find two or three around the house. I felt sorry for these little soldiers, searching for I-didn’t-know-what, and I was searching the net for information on how to keep them. My boxelders thank you! :-)

  70. Thank you for that description! We are so happy to know we do not need to worry about these bugs.
    Grimsby, Ontario

  71. born & raised in new hampshire, obsessed with/fond of insects for as long as i can remember, and these have always been of my favorite bugs <3 i WISH they came to visit me inside; i have only seen them outdoors. cute and harmless little fellas.

  72. I started feeding boxelder bugs pieces of a banana placed on leaves and they seem (along with the ladybugs to really like the stuff.)

  73. Oh, this put a much needed smile on my face! I have a little boxelder friend living in my bathroom. He’s a bit of a creeper, trying to get in the shower with me, but I let him stick around anyways. Hopefully my husband won’t find him. Glad I’m not the only one who enjoys this “pest.”

    • When I was little I used to play with box elder bugs. They would crawl on my hand and eventually I would let them go. They’re so cute and friendly, and I have many fond memories of them. I’m happy to see so many people appreciating these harmless cuties!

  74. Interesting to learn the bug is gentle to people except that they may crowd the residence.
    And, that the Boxelder bug doesn’t harm the vegetation. Fascinating that you took such care to photograph them. Only, it seemed to me that those here in Oshkosh, WI had more red than yellow.

  75. Pingback: Top 21 where do boxelder bugs come from

  76. We’ve been dealing with Box elders for years. Some years worse than others. This year for the first time we are finding their wings all over the deck in the morning. Is something eating them and leaving the wings behind? We also have a newcomer living under our deck. Never see him, but he has two large dug out holes. Raccoon?

  77. It’s a pleasure to read a fellow appreciator of elder bugs. The article is a welcomed change from the magnitude of ‘how to kill and destroy boxelder bugs posts and links.

  78. Boxelder bugs look like they’re wearing a cape with orange trim, kind of cool. I took some pics and used “Google lens” to find out what they are. Wish they’d stay out of my kitchen!

  79. When I was about 8 years old was fascinated by boxelder bugs(I still am) but I even dressed up as one for Halloween. I examined these little bugs and I painted some cardboard as the wings and connected pipe cleaners to a headband for antenna. I was devastated when no one knew what my costume was; I’m glad that there are other people who appreciate boxelder bugs.

  80. Loved your post, photos and all of the comments. Like so many others, I found your post while googling What do boxelder bugs eat? .. it is a o refreshing amongst all the “exterminator” posts. These friendly bugs are welcome little guests in our home in the winter. We give them water in canister lids-like from cans of snacks- the water sits in the outer ring of the lid and the bugs can drink without drowning. The little bugs provide experience for my 3 year old to respect and care for all living things. He loves to find and “save” the little bugs. Heartwarming to see all the kind comments and people who also help the little guys through winter.

  81. I’m thrilled to find kindred spirits who love Box Elder bugs! I call them, “my little friends,” and rescue them. I laughingly think of them as pets because they really do seem to behave more like tiny animals than bugs. They are so cute and animated! I first started liking them years ago while I was vacuuming and noticed one madly crawling ahead of the vacuum nozzle. Like a cartoon character, it was racing as fast as it could, and it seemed to be looking over its shoulder as it ran. Cute! My heart swelled with compassion. Then, when I reached out my hand to rescue it, it visibly flinched away, but then crawled onto my finger for the ride outside. Of course I know I am anthropomorphizing them, but it’s fun. :)
    As many others have shared, I’ve noticed Box Elder bugs like warmth and moisture. I keep a dampened sponge in with one of my many plants in my plant room and hope it helps them get a drink without drowning. I can close the glass doors on my plant room and seclude the Box Elder bugs in with the plants so they can live their short lives in the sunshine amongst the greenery. Doing that makes me feel happy.
    I hate to reveal that twice I have been (bitten?) poked by a Box Elder bug. Both times I had rescued my little friend while washing my hands at the kitchen sink. The thirsty little guy was obviously looking for a drink of water. My hands were damp from just having washed them and hurrying to gather the sweet bug before it drowned. Each time before I released my cute little friend I held it for awhile to have a wee chat and admire it from a close vantage point. Well, who can blame the little cutie-pie if it inadvertently thought my warm, wet palm might actually be a juicy treat? Not I! Although my feelings were momentarily hurt when my minuscule pet bit the hand that feeds it, I forgave it instantly. It had no malicious intent, it was simply confused. Btw, the tiny poke is certainly no worse than a mosquito bite. Also, before people start thinking Box Elder bugs lurk around to prey on human flesh, keep in mind that over the years I have handled thousands of them and only twice have I been accidentally poked by a desperately dehydrated little fellow.
    I too discovered this blog while searching for what Box Elder bugs eat. What a delight it has been to read the blog and comments, and see the excellent photos. My favourite photo is the one in which the Box Elder bum is sticking up past the edge of the counter. For some reason, for me, it captures a bit of the endearing Box Elder bug ‘personality,’ that warms my heart.
    Carry on Box Elder pet bug fans! Knowing you with your kind hearts are out there truly makes me feel more hope for this crazy world. 🙌🏻

  82. I live in South East Idaho where box elder bugs are extremely prevalent. Most people here consider them a pain in the butt because they leave box elder poop everywhere on walls, window’s, mirrors etc. Plus their carcasses lie in piles in window frames, bathtubs and showers. Also, though for most people they are just a neusance when they crawl on you but they bite me. They also bite one of my neighbors. Their bites leave small, very itchy bubbles. They can devastate a crop of apricots by sucking the juices out of the fruit and leaving hard crusty brown scabs on the skins. But, as much as I dislike them, I can’t bring myself to let them drown in the toilet. I usually scoop them out on a piece of tissue and toss them in the trash. As you said, they’re just doing what nature designed them to do. By the way. They are cannibals. I haven’t seen them attack each other while alive but they don’t mind gobbling up their dead, leaving the wings and legs behind.

  83. I am happy for ya! That you enjoy taking photos of these seemingly (in your opinion) pesty invasive insects. However until they invade your eating and sleeping quarters and heaven forbid carry disease are a threat to both humans and our otherwise enjoyment of our outdoors and for some our indoors! I’ve never before had a problem with these until now, and for whatever reason it is multiplying. Something is making them out of balance, and it is only getting worse! I have 2 people with compromised immune systems I am concerned about. I do not find these “BUGS” attractive! The growing population is very concerning and their very existence has me very worried. Hopefully our agriculture and farming of food will not be jeopardized as a result because I have not noticed a decline or absence of them over the winter months and live in an area of extreme cold weather temperatures. Something needs to be done! 😳😬🤔🤬

  84. Hi Chris, thanks for the article. I take macro photos of insects and they are cool looking close up. I don’t have any problem with them but by the end of the winter my wife and daughter are at the end of their tolerance. So being March here in WI, I am now collecting them and putting them in a container with some woodchips in the bottom and a little cap of water. I’ll let them go once it warms up. We don’t harm much here at my house. But I need to keep the family happy.

    Would they eat something if I put it in there? I see a lot of dead ones in the sunroom, are they dying of thirst?


  85. I am from FL where all we had were fireflies and love bugs ( ok we had cockroaches and spiders that would carry you away they were so big) but most of them bit. I went to visit my sister in OR and they had an infestation of box elder bugs and they were amazing because they came in mass and as fast as they came, they were gone!

  86. Like you I also am interested in Boxelder bugs. I am a teacher and artist who sculpts and paints and I am creating a large Japanese screen triptych for next years Nobel Conference about INSECTS at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter MN. I want to capture both sides of the insects I am painting. I am wondering if you have any pictures of the underside of this fascinating insect. If yes I am wondering if you can share them with me to study for the large paintings? I saw a colorful, patterned, partial underside picture but am interested in seeing the full underside… maybe crawling on plexiglass or glass.
    Seeing this insect up close shows the beauty! Thank you.

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