Boxelder Bugs stock photo

The Eastern boxelder bug is common in Northern Utah and experts say they're harmless.

OGDEN — They’re small with black red or orange-colored markings and they’re everywhere.

Those bugs you’re seeing? Helen Muntz, the Weber County horticulture agent for Utah State University Extension, said they’re either an elm seed or boxelder bug. While the boxelders have been in Northern Utah for a very long time, the elm seeds migrated here around 2014.

“They’re not going to damage anything in the landscape, they’re just a nuisance,” Muntz said.

Boxelder bugs are commonly found in the fall on walls with southern exposure to warmth and sunlight. According to a USU Extension factsheet, they eat several plants including fruit, maple and ash trees, but are most commonly found on female boxelder trees where nymphs and adults eat the tree’s developing seeds.

“I wouldn't say don’t plant them, just be aware,” Muntz said. “Usually they don’t cause a huge amount of damage unless the population is just huge.”

Elm seed bugs were first noticed by the USU Extension the summer of 2014. They’re native to Europe and eat mostly elm tree seeds.

Jason Lamarr, the owner of Legacy Pest Control, said they get calls every day about boxelder and elm seed bugs. He has noticed the majority of the insects are living in central Ogden this summer.

Lamarr said they can spray chemicals and keep the bugs at a manageable level.

“We can keep them down, pest control companies should be able to get them out of the house, but nobody is going to really eliminate them,” he said.

The USU Extension says both bugs are easily drowned, which can be accomplished with a garden hose.

Beeline Pest Control manager Tamesa Cook said they also get calls all the time about the two kinds of bugs. She said while a spray bottle of water and dish soap will easily kill them one at a time, it’s not very effective for large populations.

“You’re not going to be able to get enough,” Cook said. “You’re going to stand there for three weeks shooting that spray bottle, killing them all day.”

Cook’s staff has noticed there are a lot of calls coming from the Murray, Sandy and Cottonwood area this year.

“They’re always in a different area every season,” she said.

Muntz said the thing both boxelder and elm seed bugs have in common is their smell; they most likely taste awful and have a distinct odor when squished. But don’t worry — neither bug bites or stings.

“They’re related to the stink bug,” she said.

Muntz also noted a particularly harsh winter might lessen the influx of the bugs the following summer, which would explain why some summers are better than others for those with a bug problem. 

And for those with a boxelder or elm seed bug problem, Muntz recommended making sure all windows and doors are sealed well to keep the insects outside.

“They’re hard to get rid of because they’re very mobile,” she said.

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

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