Adult boxelder bugs are 1/2″ long and brown-black with three red stripes on the thorax (segments with the legs attached) and red veins in the wings. The nymphs are smaller and are bright red. Boxelder bugs are found throughout the United States east of Nevada.
The adults overwinter in dry, protected locations, emerging in the spring to lay small, red eggs in the cracks and crevices in the bark of boxelder trees. The nymphs hatch in approximately two weeks when new leaves appear. The young bugs suck the juice out of the tree leaves and twigs with their piercing-sucking mouth parts. They molt five times before becoming adults. In warm climates, these bugs have two generations per year.
They prefer to feed on the leaves, twigs, and seeds of female boxelder trees and also on maple, ash, and the young fruit of grapes, apples, and plums.
Boxelder bug do little apparent damage to the boxelder tree. They become a nuisance around structures when they attempt to enter to find overwintering sites. Their migration begins in the autumn when they congregate on the south side of structures, rocks, and trees in areas warmed by the sun. Subsequently, they may fly to an adjacent building, enter it, and hibernate for the winter.
Indoors, their droppings stain drapes, curtains, furniture, sheers, and other materials where they rest. If handled, boxelder bugs can bit, and when crushed, they emit a strong disagrable odor.
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