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A North Dakota Nuisance


There are many signs of fall in North Dakota. The days get shorter. The leaves start changing color. And the boxelder bugs make an appearance. On this date in 1900, the Griggs Courier warned that boxelder bugs were on the march.

Over 100 years later, the bugs continue to make an annual appearance. An article in the September 2nd, 2004 Bismarck Tribune announced that it was time once again to prepare for the invasion. According to Burleigh County Extension Agent ElRoy Haadem, the bugs are only a bother. Haadem said, “They don’t damage crops or homes, carry disease, and they’re not poisonous.”

But the bugs do leave a stain if crushed. If found indoors, it is better to use a vacuum cleaner, or remove them carefully with a paper towel.

On warm days following cold nights, the bugs swarm sidewalks, yards, and homes. The cleaner a yard is, the fewer places there are for boxelders to hide. But once the bugs show up, it is very difficult to get rid of them. A spray of soap and water only gets rid of the bugs it directly hits. Pest control companies can apply chemicals that leave a residue to kill boxelders, but they’re difficult to control and may very well show up the very next day.

The boxelder bugs eat the seeds of the boxelder tree, but they’re adaptable and can reproduce in other leafy locations. Boxelder adults emerge in the spring and do the best when a warm spring is followed by a hot, dry summer. Their population might be high in the summer, but they are less noticeable because they stay in the foliage. In the fall they come out in search of warm places.

So, in all likelihood, the little guys will be out before you know it, gravitating to warm areas like the sunny side of buildings as they look for a nice, cozy place to hole up for the winter.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.


Griggs Courier. “News in Brief.” 20 September, 1900. Cooperstown, ND.

Bismarck Tribune. “Time to Prepare for Boxelder Bugs.” 2 September, 2004. Bismarck, ND.

Insect Identification. “Boxelder Bug.” "http://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Boxelder-Bug" http://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Boxelder-Bug Accessed 14 August, 2017.