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Why Have Box Elder Bugs Taken Over Your Home?

We asked an expert at the U of M.

10:55 AM CDT on April 15, 2022

We've heard of Elden Ring infesting the minds of impressionable gamers, but box elder bugs infesting the properties of local homeowners?!

Actually, disregard our incredulity. We have heard about that second one. A lot.

"So I am living on the U of M campus with three roommates, and our house is littered in boxelder bugs," one Reddit user shared. "I know they're harmless and such but it just grosses me out that they're climbing around in the kitchen. Is this normal?"

"My home is overrun with boxelder bugs," an Edina homeowner exclaimed on Nextdoor. "I’ve owned my home for 30 years and I’ve never had more than a handful of boxelder bugs in any given year. This past fall, all winter, and now early spring, I’ve killed hundreds every week."

Now let's hear from this lady on TikTok.

At this point, you might be joining the chorus of: What the hell's up with all these bugs? For some insight we called Marissa Schuh, who teaches about integrated pest management at the University of Minnesota.

“We heard a lot from people last fall, and now we’re seeing the flipside of that," she explains. "They’ve been hunkered down in the walls of our homes, in the attics, and now that it’s getting warm again they’re starting to get active."

Box elder bugs are obnoxious yet harmless, Schuh says. Unlike Shelob, they don't eat people or elements of their homes like insulation or wood. Similar to Bart's evil twin, they simply live and sleep inside the walls, never spreading disease or reproducing. Their populations tend to spike every five to seven years, she adds, especially after dry summers. It just so happens our drought-stricken state experienced one of those last year, perhaps a harrowing preview of Minnesota's Missourish climatological future.

“Anecdotally, this seems like a big box elder bug year," Schuh says. "If we look historically, like records from Dust Bowl even, they show a lot of box elder bugs during dry, hot summers. But they’re not anything but a nuisance, so we don’t trap them to keep records."

Box elder bugs may well annoy the trees they eat too, but their feeding doesn't cause any damage, Schuh says. The ones stuck in your home? They're simply trying to return to the outdoors for a marathon summer of joyful tree-munching. If you can't assist on that journey, Schuh recommends standard methods of permanent removal—vacuum, broom, squishing with a tissue. "I’d just really discourage people from going after these guys with pesticides, because that can be very risky considering how little these bugs do besides annoy us," she says.

Be warned: These "true bugs"—complete with "piercing and sucking mouthparts"—emit a stink when they're crushed, according to the University of Minnesota. If you don't wanna cohabitate with box elder bugs next winter, the U suggests sealing all cracks and gaps around your home.

Alright! Thus concludes our bug report. Take us out, Pavement.

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