Red Black Beetle Menace:
It’s that time of year again here in Wisconsin (and many other places in the United States) where on warm spring or autumn days those pesky red black beetles know as Boxelder Bugs or more accurately Boxelder Beetles begin collecting into large groups searching for a place to over winter . They don’t bite, but the shear numbers of their swarms are frightening and create a major nuisance. Don’t mistake these beetles with Asian Beetles that look like Ladybugs.
If you have an outdoor pool or bar area, both varieties will attempt to find a crevice in which to spend the winter. They don’t harm structures and perhaps they could act as additional insulation for older homes (grin). Autumn isn’t the only time you’ll see these little critters, they also emerge in the spring time to “do their thing” and reproduce. This is a great time to wipe out the tiny masses of newly hatched beetles.
I’m sure you are wondering how to get rid of those red and black Box Elder Bugs, and if you’ve tried bug spray, you’ve already found that it does not work. They seem immune to the stuff and just keep on crawlin’.
The only way I have found to eliminate them is using an Ortho Sprayer filled with several cups of Dish Soap or Laundry Detergent. Yup, you read right, liquid dish soap or laundry detergent. Set the sprayer on the 2 oz setting, just so the mixture creates a foam.
For some reason, this concoction will kill them in their tracks. I’d love to know how this really works and I found this by accident while cleaning some garbage cans. At 1 to 2 oz per gallon concentration, the spray does not hurt plants & trees. I told a few people about this and now the whole neighborhood is in on the Box Elder Bug War. As we’ve learned, any cheap liquid dish soap works as will any non-phosphorus laundry detergent. If there are any Entomologists out there that can answer this mystery, feel free to comment.
How it Works: One reply below has shed light as to why a simple soap & water solution will kill them; Apparently these insects breath through tiny holes in the side of their abdomen called spiracles. The soap solution creates a bubble film that effectively plugs air flow to the spiracles and they quickly suffocate. Thanks Ken and Mark T!
Here is the gruesome aftermath of a good detergent wash down. You don’t need the volume of suds shown in the photo, 1 oz per gallon of liquid soap should kill 98% of Box Elder Beetles.
Increase the dosage if needed.
Very effective and leaves a fresh clean scent!
Follow up: If they’ve already made it inside your home, use a small wet / dry shop vac to collect them intruders and place a few cups of soap & water in the collection canister to kill them. Find the entrance and plug it with liquid spray foam, such as “Great Stuff” or a similar brand.
Be pro-active: In spring and early summer, watch for tiny swarms right after they hatch and soap ‘em down good so they can’t spread, mature and reproduce.
Caulk & Seal: all openings – while this won’t deter the bugs from gathering, it might keep them out of your home.
Have fun “cleaning up” those pesky bugs!