Remember all those boldly colored reddish-orange and black bugs all over the place in the fall? They hang out in massive clusters and are back; now they’re multiplying. Literally!
Ladybugs, leaf-footed bugs, stink bugs, spiders, and the Boxelder Bug are all frequent house squatters. It’s time to find a mate and make many little Boxelder Bugs! There always seemed to be a lot of bugs that were quick to take advantage of the warmth and shelter of something they didn’t build themselves.
Despite often being a nuisance, the Eastern Boxelder Bug generally causes little to no plant damage (in most cases) and is harmless to people and pets. They will stain your fabrics if you accidentally smash them in the curtains or couch, so try not to do that. Sometimes they are called Maple Bugs or Politician Bugs; the Boxelder Bug is native to North America and primarily feeds on the seeds of boxelder trees (hence the common name). They also love the roots of other maples, ash, and soapberry trees. Boxelder Bugs can be found everywhere you'd find boxelder, maple, soapberry, or ash trees - all the way from Canada down to Chile. While not considered invasive in the U.S., they are considered an invasive species in Chile and were just recently documented there for the first time in 2020.
Back to babymaking :-). Female Boxelder Bugs excrete an odor when they are ready to mate, and the males use their antennae to find the females. Once they find each other, they join rear ends to proceed with mating. To try and keep from becoming some larger critter’s snack, the female quickly scurries from hiding place to hiding place – dragging the male with her until mating is complete! But back to babymaking :-).
Video of Boxelder Bugs mating…
Once mating is complete, the female can lay 200-300 eggs - pretty much anywhere there is slight protection. On host trees, on top of the soil, leaf litter, grass, bark nooks, and crannies, lay them all together or split the eggs into multiple small clusters and lay them on all of the above. Not the pickiest of mothers, lol. Adults usually live for about a year but only 10-21 days after mating. Females can mate multiple times in one breeding season, and there can be one or two different generations every year; one in the spring and one in the fall.