What Do Baby Boxelder Bugs Look Like? (Identifying Boxelder Nymphs)

Some critters damage plants, while others damage your sanity. The boxelder bug is a perfect example of the latter. They get their name because they love boxelder trees, but are also found on ash and maple trees.

But they get their reputation for covering warm, sunny surfaces and giving off a foul odor when handled, much like stink bugs.

But what do baby boxelder bugs look like? Are they similar to the adults or vastly different? And what do you do if they invade your property?

Boxelder Bugs 101

There are two species of boxelder bugs. Adult boxelder bugs measure about 1/2 inches long and nearly 1/3 inches wide. Both species are brown to black with bright reddish orange markings. The red veins are visible on the upper part of the western boxelder bug’s forewings, but not on its cousin.

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Females will lay a cluster of yellowish eggs once in spring and once in summer. When possible, she’ll lay the eggs on female boxelder trees, especially boxelder seed pods. The eggs darken to red as their nymphs develop.

after about two weeks, the eggs hatch, with the immature boxelder bugs going through five stages. Only the adults will survive the winter to complete the year-long boxelder bug life cycle.

What Do Baby Boxelder Bugs Look Like?

Baby boxelder bugs, or nymphs, are bright red when they first hatch. As they pass through each instar, they darken to a reddish-brown and look increasingly like the adult bugs in size, shape. and color. They won’t begin forming wings until the final instar.

During the summer months, nymphs and adults will largely remain on their host tree. However, this changes in late summer when the weather begins to cool off and more nymphs reach adulthood.

This is when boxelder bugs become a nuisance pest. Both the adults and nymphs leave their trees in search of warm places to sun themselves. When one finds a nice spot, they send a pheromone signal to attract others. The result is a mass of nymphs and adults in various stages and shades of red.

See Also: What Do June Bugs Look Like?

Pictures of Baby Boxelder Bugs


Adult boxelders

What Do Boxelder Bugs Eat?

Like stink bugs and mealybugs, box elder bugs are piercing insects which feed on plant sap. They prefer young leaves, but will feed on any part of the plant. In very rare cases, they’re known to attack fruit.

Outside of a little discoloration, the damage to plants is very minor. However, when you have thousands of boxelder bugs gathered together, the damage can become significant.

See Also: What Do Earwigs Eat?

Are Baby Boxelder Bugs Harmful?

As mentioned, large numbers can cause a lot of damage, but a handful are totally harmless to your plants. Unfortunately, they can cause a number of other problems when the warmer months draw to a close.

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In their search for warmth, nymphs may make their way into crevices in walls or holes in window screens, becoming an indoor problem. Their fecal matter can leave red stains on furniture, walls, and curtains. They’ll also produce an unpleasant odor when threatened that could draw in even more boxelders.

Controlling a Boxelder Infestation

There are many ways you can control or even get rid of boxelder bug invasions.


Commercial pesticides marked for box elder bugs can reduce populations quickly if not overused.

Boiling water can also be used to kill these pests on contact. However, this can be dangerous and will only deal with one cluster at a time.

Treat your plants with regular neem soil soaks to kill boxelder bugs without harming beneficial insects.

You can use a garden hose to knock the bugs off of surfaces. Alternatively, you can knock them into a bucket of soapy water or pull out your trusty Bug-A-Salt for some fun target practice.


Check any trees for damaged or loose bark, especially female box elder trees.

Be on the lookout for cracks around windows and doors, caulking as needed. You will also want to check the exterior walls of your home for any potential entry points.

Keep your yard free of any debris that can provide shelter in cooler temperatures.

Remove any dead boxelder bugs and wipe down the location to remove any released pheromones.

Read Also: How to Get Rid of Lovebugs

When to Call Pest Control

Adult and baby boxelder bugs are more of a nuisance pest than anything else in most cases. Unfortunately, there may be times when you need to call in the big guns. This is especially true if you have a lot of maple or ash trees.

They can eliminate a large infestation in trees or deal with boxelder infestations within your home’s wall voids at a reasonable cost. As an added bonus, they’ll even help ensure the infestation doesn’t come back or remains far more manageable.

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Some Final Thoughts

Boxelder bug infestations may not usually require help from a pest control company, but they are a nuisance. Baby box elders lack wings but can get around just as well as their adult counterparts. These attractive bugs tend to stick to the trees during warmer weather but migrate to any source of warmth as the weather cools.

As these are native to the United States and are generally harmless, it’s up to you whether or not you wish to get rid of them or let them stick around. Just be sure not to let them get into your home if you don’t want to be scrubbing red poop stains off your upholstery!


3 thoughts on “What Do Baby Boxelder Bugs Look Like? (Identifying Boxelder Nymphs)”

  1. Others may Find this Interesting, But I’m Actually Trying to Keep Them As Pets, and This Helped Me Know that The Eggs Are Initially Yellow. I Can’t Wait For The Baby Boxelder Bug Nymphs To Hatch. I Keep Them in a Container with Some Celery. It Works. They Eat The Celery. And Just Now I’ve Seen Some Mating. So Exciting!

  2. These bugs are in the rock bed in front of our house. We have hundreds of babies crawling around. Not sure why or what they are attracted to. Never seen a nest before.

  3. I’m in western PA and had a problem 4 years ago. We had an exterminator come, but now they are back! Spraying babies and adults with dish liquid and water, it works but I am going to add ammonia to the mix!!

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