Stink Bug and Box Elder Bug are the Same Bug

The box elder bug can be a very annoying bug to homeowners. It is actually known to be a nuisance more than a pest because the box elder bug does not harm things like other pests do. The box elder bug does not damage things within a home, does not bite people, and rarely damages things outdoors. The only slight damage that comes from having box elder bugs inside a home is that their excrement can leave a stain on items like carpet, draperies, and walls. Also, if a box elder bug were to be killed by being stepped on or crushed by something it would let out a foul smell. The box elder bug is also known as the stink bug due to the foul odor it releases if crushed. Those are about the only two negatives that a box elder can bring into a home. When the box elder is outside it doesn’t do much harm either. Of course it feeds off of trees and such, but it actually does not damage them. The only time the box elder bugs could damage a tree or plant they eat is if there were an abundance of box elder bugs feeding all at once. Considering the damage that many other household pests can cause the box elder bug is not a threat, rather just a nuisance.

stink bug box elder bug

Here is a close up of a box elder bug.

Spotting the annoying critter is easy. The box elder bug has very distinct physical traits. They are about half an inch long, are an elongated oval shape, have wings, dark gray to black coloring, have three stripes of reddish orange right behind their head, red lines along their sides, a diagonal line on each wing, their abdomen is bright red, and their legs and antennae are black. The only problem is that their darker features help them blend in with tree bark, so they aren’t always easy to see. When they are not on trees they are easier to spot. Many times box elder bugs can be found on plants, grass, or flowers and the contrast of colors will make them more apparent.

stink bug box elder bug

This is a box elder tree, a main food and shelter source for the box elder bug. If you see one of these trees there are box elder bugs near by.

While on plants, grass, or flowers the box elder is most likely eating, as these are some of the foods they eat. The box elder bug also eats low vegetation, seeds, new twigs, cherry trees, peach trees, apple trees, ash trees, maple trees, and female seed bearing box elder trees. The female box elder tree is a favorite food for the box elder bug, and provides as a place to live. Also the ash and maple trees can both be food and shelter.

Outside the box elder bug enjoys the warmth from the sun. Many times if the box elder bug is not on a tree or plant, homeowners can find them along the south side of the home enjoying the sun. The box elder bugs sun themselves, just as people lie out and sun bathe. While sunning on the walls of homes box elder bugs will look for entry points like cracks or crevices. Box elder bugs will need to get inside the home when it gets too cold out, and cracks and crevices are the easiest way in. There are easy tips to help homeowners prevent box elder bugs from getting inside their home to hibernate.

Even though the box elder’s food supply and home is outdoors they do go into homes, but not for food like other pests. The box elder bug hibernates in the fall / winter. They start looking for a place to take cover in the fall and will make their way into the home or building as the weather cools down. Box elder bugs really like warm weather, so while inside homes they may follow the warmth of the house or any sunny areas to hibernate. Most often they hibernate in walls and attics. Once they find their spot, box elder bugs will become inactive, for the most part. At times in the day some box elder bugs will leave their spot in search of more warmth or sun, they will then return by the evening. This does not always occur, but it is how most homeowners end up seeing box elder bugs wandering through their home. Unlike other bugs or pests, the box elder bug will not even reproduce during hibernation. Only adult box elder bugs will survive hibernation, and even then some box elder bugs will get trapped within the home after hibernation and die.

Since the box elder bug does not reproduce in the fall and winter it will start reproduction once it gets outside again, in the spring. Box elder bugs will create one or two generations a year. The female box elder bug will lay her eggs on tree trunks, tree branches, leaves, stones, and or crack and crevices of tree bark. The eggs are a yellow tone, and as the nymphs inside develop the egg will change into a red tone. About two weeks later the eggs will hatch. The nymphs are about one sixteenth of an inch big, bright red, and wingless. Other than the coloring and the wings the nymphs look like smaller versions of adult box elder bugs. In order for the nymphs to develop into adults they suck fluids out of seeds, foliage, twigs, and or fruit. Also, during their development they will molt. Once they have become an adult they are on their own, and will keep the cycle going.

stink bug box elder bug

These are box elder eggs, some are more developed than the others as they are already red. There is also a nymph crawling over the pile of eggs.

Pictures courtesy of www.creativecommons.org

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