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Fall is on the way! I’m not rushing along this beautiful weather, but the chilly mornings and evenings that we’re experiencing are a reminder that cool weather is not so far away. That also means that our fall and winter pests are coming into season. So, it is now time for your annual reminder about overwintering pests. This time, we’ll take a closer look at the boxelder bug, a fall pest that can cause trouble for Knoxville home and business owners.

Much of this article may sound like old hat to you if you’ve seen our ladybug or stink bug articles in the past. However, in case you’re just joining us, let’s briefly go over the trademarks of an overwintering pest. Overwintering pests like ladybugs, stink bugs, and boxelder bugs spend most of their lives feeding on plant matter in your yard. Many insects are truly spring and summer creatures, meaning that they may largely die out in the cooler months. However, overwintering pests survive the cold weather by moving somewhere warm and comfortable where they can hibernate until spring. Yep, you guessed it: That warm and comfortable location is often someone’s home! Overwintering pests will swarm into buildings by the hundreds. Unfortunately, the homeowner may not even know the pests are there until it is too late. Boxelders and their cousins generally hide in the attic or wall voids as soon as they move into the house; homeowners may not know about the problem until the spring when the pests wake up and get lost on their way back outside.

Now that we’re having some cool mornings, you may be seeing boxelder bugs around your house without knowing what they are. These insects can be identified by their distinct coloring, which changes drastically over their lifetimes. Young boxelders are solid, bright red and are very eye-catching (though they hardly resemble the adult form at this stage). As they age, they get wider bodies, develop wings, and begin to turn from red to grayish black. By the time they are fully mature, they are flat and gray, but they retain red markings on their wings, usually in the shape of an “X.”

Like ladybugs, boxelder bugs will bite if handled. The bite may seem surprisingly sharp, but it has no real effects or dangers for humans. However, like most overwintering pests, they can stain fabrics or paint with their feces. If you smash them, they will likely leave a stain and will also put off an unpleasant odor (much like the infamous stink bug).

You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t have any boxelder trees, so I won’t have a problem with these pests.” That is good news that may help to decrease your risk. Unfortunately, their other favorite food source is maple trees; let’s face it, East Tennessee is absolutely covered with those. One quick way to see if you may have a boxelder bug problem is to go outside to your south and west walls in the mid-morning or early afternoon when the sun is just starting to warm up. There is a good chance that you might find some of these pests soaking up heat by basking on your walls. If they are there now, it’s quite likely that they will be wriggling their way through cracks and into the house before long.

The best way to stop them from getting inside is to seal up all of those cracks. Enjoy the outdoors while walking around your house with some caulk and weather stripping. If boxelder bugs can’t find any openings, they won’t be attracted to your house. If you know overwintering pests are a problem at your home (or if you don’t want to take any chances), give us a call or contact Russell’s Pest Control here. Our technicians perform very thorough treatments that can make the boxelder bugs, ladybugs, and stink bugs think twice before setting up housekeeping in your home.

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