It’s that time of the year again — as the fall settles in, bugs start looking for new places to find warmth and shelter. Unfortunately for Boulder homeowners, that often means inside our houses!
Many homeowners around Boulder County may find themselves dealing with a lot of unwanted guests – from elm bugs and spiders to boxelder bugs and earwigs. No thanks!
These last two pests — boxelder bugs and earwigs — burrow their way into your home through cracks and small openings, making them good at playing hide-and-seek.
Boxelder bugs and earwigs are a nuisance bug, which means they aren’t harmful. They don’t damage or eat away at walls or furniture, and don’t transmit any diseases.
Still, most homeowners don’t need convincing when it comes to wanting to keep these critters out of your home. We’ve put together a few ways to get rid of boxelder bugs and earwigs in your home this fall, and how to prevent them from coming back in the future.
What Do Boxelder Bugs and Earwigs Do?
Besides crawling over your stuff and scaring you when you least expect it, boxelder bugs leave an unpleasant surprise if you smash them.
Their orange insides have a distinct coloring that can stains walls and carpets. And when they’re crushed, they release a strong smell as a defense mechanism to avoid predators.
These pests usually don’t bite unless in defense, and their bites don’t do much damage besides occasionally piercing the skin and leaving a small red mark, similar to a mosquito bite.
Similarly, earwigs have pincers they will use in defense if humans pick them up, but the pinch is relatively harmless besides sometimes being slightly painful.
And contrary to their name, earwigs don’t want anything to do with your ear – it’s an old myth that the creatures crawl into people’s ears to lay eggs. Thank goodness!
Why Do I Have So Many Bugs?
Boxelder bugs reside largely in North America. In autumn, the bugs congregate by collecting in large groups. And when the season starts to change, they migrate to nearby buildings and houses to seek shelter from colder weather.
These insects are attracted to boxelder trees (hence their name), and feed on their seeds, as well as on the seeds of ash trees, maple trees, and sometimes plum and apple trees.
They love warm areas with sunlight. In the winter, boxelder bugs hide in small crevices to insulate themselves from the cold. This leads these bugs into the cracks around your windows, in your walls, or inside electrical outlets.
Earwigs like dark, damp places, and feed on all kinds of decaying wood and plants. They can chew holes in leaves and plants around your property, and their bites can be identified as ragged edges or holes on the leaves and petals.
Earwigs in your home could also be a sign of water damage in your walls or foundation. Water damage makes it easier for these bugs to get inside your home.
How to Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs
Use a Vacuum
- Instead of grabbing a boot, vacuuming is an easier and less hands-on approach to eliminating these bugs. Plus, it helps you avoid leaving stains or strange smells on your carpet.
- This is also a great solution because dead insect bodies can attract dermestid beetles, which is another pest you want to avoid!
- If you find a congregation of boxelder bugs on your lawn or on the outside of your house, they can be sprayed away with a hose.
- This may deter them from wanting to set up shop in your trees, but this isn’t fool-proof. They very well could return if they survive. If they do come back, see the prevention section below on preventing pests with a soap and water concoction.
How to Get Rid of Earwigs
Spread petroleum jelly or alcohol around your indoor plants
- Be sure to coat only the stem — the jelly can block leaves from absorbing oxygen and harm the plant.
- Since earwigs feed on plants, making their food hard to climb on will make them much less likely to go after your plants.
- Be sure to test anything on a small leaf or portion of the plant before spreading more over it – wait 24 hours to know for sure how it will affect the plant.
Make a rubbing alcohol and water spray
- Combine equal parts isopropyl alcohol and water into a 32 oz. spray bottle. After shaking to mix the liquid, it will kill the earwigs when you spray them.
- You can also spray this around your flowerbed, house foundation, and anywhere else you’ve seen them gather.
- But be careful with this method – the alcohol can burn or kill sensitive plants. Only spray around plants, and not actually on them.
Set bamboo or hose traps
- Place one-foot sections of bamboo or hose along the edges of your garden and between the plants. The pests get stuck in the long areas of the bamboo or hose, and are unable to escape.
- Check these each morning, and dump any stragglers in a bucket of soapy water.
Earwigs don’t leave a stain or release a stink like boxelder bugs do, and some argue you shouldn’t kill earwigs because they are “helper bugs” that eat plants and bugs that are already dead, helping in eliminating waste. It’s your choice!
How to Prevent Boxelder Bugs and Earwigs from Getting Into Your Home
The easiest way to avoid the headache of bugs in your home is to prevent them in the first place. That means eliminating things they like to eat and making places they congregate inhabitable for them. We’ve gathered some advice below to help you conquer these pests.
- Trim Boxelder Trees
- The bugs are attracted to the seeds, so by maintaining the limbs and keeping seeds from producing, the bugs won’t find it quite as appetizing.
- Seal off outlets, doors, vents, and windows
- Seal the covers of electrical outlets, heating ducts and air vents
- A cover that is slightly out-of-place can create a crack big enough for them to crawl through. Be sure to replace and repair damaged or ill-fitting areas where they may be able to squeeze in.
- For electrical outlets, use caulk to fill in gaps around the area, then use a serrated knife to slice off excess foam once it has hardened.
- Seal heating ducts and gaps around air vents by placing a strip of aluminum foil tape or mastic sealant over the gap or leak.
- Mastic sealant is a liquid sealer that dries with elastic properties. After applying the liquid, use a paintbrush to smooth over the liquid to ensure it is flush with surrounding structures.
- Mitigate Moisture
- Make sure there are no moist places or leaks in or around yourhome.
- This includes places where water can linger, like carpets in bathrooms, at the base foundation of a house where ground meets concrete, where roofs may be damaged and leak, or other places that water may weaken its integrity.
- Use Vinegar
- Spray white vinegar where the bugs like to gather, and an extra spray or two to places you notice the bugs seem to be coming into your home the most. Other vinegars will work, too, but white vinegar doesn’t stain.
- (This is also a safe alternative that is safe to use around children and animals)
- Use Soap and Water
- Many bugs have developed an immunity to pesticides.
- Add a tablespoon of soap into a spray bottle full of water.
- This concoction kills on contact only, so just spraying near the bugs won’t be effective.
- Spray this soap water on areas where you notice them congregate – it will make the area less appetizing for them to sunbathe in.
- Use Citronella Candles
- Some scents naturally repel bugs, like citronella. Here’s how you can make your own DIY citronella candle >
- Call Pest Control
- If it feels like you’re facing an infestation and the above solutions aren’t yielding the results you want, consider calling a pest control service for further support. A good house cleaning can always help your home stay cleaner to contain and avoid pest problems in the future.
By making your home less accessible and hospitable to bugs, you’ll be more prepared in setting up your battle stations against common pests this fall.
Keeping your home clean and tidy can help repel pests of all kinds. With bugs coming inside each time the seasons change to autumn, you’ll want to check out our housecleaning blog packed with hacks to save you some energy that you’ll be able to use for years to come.