Boxelder Bugs

Boisea trivittata

Eastern Boxelder Bug                                                                           R-closeup showing ocelli eyes

Recently, I found an Eastern Boxelder Bug (Boisea trivittata) in my kitchen. I know the females often seek shelter in homes during the winter but I have never seen one here. They don’t lay eggs inside or destroy anything by eating it, but they can become a nuisance if hundreds or thousands of them invade a home. If this occurs their droppings can stain an area. I have found six of them so far, one at a time. I moved them to my garage.

They also have other common names: Maple Bug, Democrat Bug, Populist Bug, or Politician Bug. Boxelder (Acer negundo) is a true maple also known as Ash-leaved Maple; hence the first common name. Boxelder Bugs lay their eggs on the foliage and seeds of Boxelders and swarms  of these insects are sometimes found during late June when the political conventions take place. Hence the latter names. The Eastern Boxelder Bug passes through five instars as it develops. They all look quite different from each other. Only the overwintering adult females invade houses.

Adult Eastern Boxelder Bugs are dull gray with red stripes along the wing edges and on the center of the pronotum. True bugs have a pronotum which is the segment behind their head.

The Eastern Boxelder Bug has two additional smaller eyes on the top of their head. These are ocelli eyes and they have only a single lens. They might only sense light areas and not images. It is difficult to determine their true function.

Adult Large Milkweed Bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) look similar to the Boxelder Bug. They have a black band across the middle of the wing, a black diamond toward the head and a black triangle on the tip of the wing. The remainder of the bug is orange or yellow-orange. It rarely invades houses.

Oncopeltus fasciatus

Large Milkweed Bug

Another look alike is an adult Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii). It is black or gray with a reddish “x” that does not cross on the wings. It also rarely invades houses.

Lygaeus kalmii

Small Milkweed Bug

Keep looking at Nature during the winter. You never know what you will find, even in your own home.

Copyright 2018 by Donald Drife

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