Boxelder bug
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
April 2, 2024 ·  4 min read

Boxelder bugs: A Household Pest You Should Never Squish

March 20th, 2024, is the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. That means that although beautiful flowers and lovely warm days are just around the corner, pesky bugs will soon also appear. Most people either deal with these pests by squishing or releasing them outside. However, experts warn that this should not be done with Boxelder bugs.

Boxelder Bugs aren’t Uncommon

The Boxelder bugs’ name comes from their diet because they’re most often found feeding on the sap, seeds, and nectar of Boxelder maple trees, otherwise known as Manitoba Maples. However, they can also be found in Ash trees. Although they’re most predominant in the Midwest, the Boxelder bugs live all over North America.

Typically, the Boxelder bugs have a red or orange and black elongated body. One of their most notable characteristics is one they share with their cousin, the Stink bug. They secrete a strong and unappealing odor when they feel threatened or get squished. In fact, they’re so similar that despite being different species, they’re frequently mistaken for Stink bugs. Furthermore, an interesting side note is that Boxelder bugs aren’t classified as beetles, according to Entomology technician Antonia Guidotti. Guidotti works at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and explained that’s because the Boxelder bugs don’t have the ability to chew their food and have wings to fly short distances.

Non-Threatening but Still Unpleasant

Fortunately, they are not known to bite but still can puncture the skin with their “mouth suction parts.” Essentially, the same part of their mouths they’d use to bite is the part they use to suction their food. Because they don’t necessarily want to eat people, they’ll rarely bite unless they feel threatened.

However, just because they don’t often bite doesn’t mean the Boxelder bugs’ presence is any more desirable. Despite their harmless nature, they can become a nuisance when they’ve gathered by the hundreds and taken over homes and yards. Their odor is unpleasant and difficult to eliminate, particularly when they get squished in hard-to-reach places.

With their harmless, albeit pesky, existence, it seems odd that experts would warn never to squish them. However, the reason will save you from the unpleasant smell and a little cleaning. Apparently, their insides are bright red and leave behind a hard-to-remove stain, not to mention that unpleasant smell.

Read: Why Woodpeckers Don’t Get Headaches from Hammering

Getting Rid of Boxelder Bugs

If the notion of dealing with Boxelder bugs, or any bugs, doesn’t appeal to you, then it’s probably safe to assume that setting them free isn’t for you. Which likely means you’ll want to resort to squishing them. On the other hand, there are many other methods of doing away with these unpleasant pests. Unfortunately, aside from setting them free, there aren’t many options for humane treatment plans, but that doesn’t mean there are no options. There’s the obvious contacting a pest control company. Many companies use humane and or eco-friendly methods that keep your home pest free and your conscience clear.

Eco-Friendly and Humane

At-home methods are always an option and usually the cheaper route. Dish soap has been recommended as a gentler alternative to harsh chemicals and toxic pesticides. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it can also be used to keep Boxelder bugs at bay. Adding dish soap and water into a squirt bottle and spraying them in clusters can kill them off as the soap keeps them trapped, and ironically, they don’t enjoy the scent left behind. As a result, they’re less likely to congregate there again. However, it’s important to remember you’ll have to be persistent to ensure the pests stay away long-term, like spraying areas that get a lot of sun in advance.

Although it may take some handy work, another option is to seal the cracks and fix the vents so the Boxelder bugs cannot enter the house or lay eggs indoors. Another environmentally-conscious option is to check out your local health food store. They may have organic and natural pesticides available.

More Heavy-Duty Treatment

Alternatively, if you’re less concerned with the environment and more concerned with how much time or effort the natural options will take, there are home improvement and hardware stores that have more industrial and heavy-duty options.

Although everything serves its purpose in our ecosystem, many pests wreak havoc on homes, crops, and our noses. While Boxelder bugs are relatively harmless, they’re annoying and unpleasant, nonetheless. Finding a way to keep them away from the house as possible creates a cleaner feeling and a less smelly environment.

Keep Reading: The Easiest Way to Destink Your Smelly Sink Drain


  1. What are boxelder bugs and how do you get rid of them?Forbes. Rebecca Brill. November 21, 2022.
  2. What are boxelder bugs? also, why you should never squash them” CBC News. Andrew Lupton. March 14, 2023.
  3. “Do Boxelder Bugs Bite? 10 Wild Facts About Boxelder Bugs” Pest Pointers. January 6, 2022.