Toronto is witnessing a seasonal invasion of creepy-crawly insects, and while their red and black bodies and densely clustered swarms may trigger a primal fear in many, these so-called boxelder bugs are, at most, a bit of an annoyance.
They aren’t going to bite you, destroy your garden, or damage your home in any way. They just kind of show up and chill in large writhing clusters, looking gross and soaking in rays like overtanned Florida sunbathers but with entirely too many legs.
Rebecca Morton of Toronto-based Armour Pest Control tells blogTO that, unlike other insects that invade households, there really isn’t much in the way of defence available to homeowners against boxelders, or Boisea trivittata.
Morton explains that “they come from outside, inside, so you can’t really avoid them like you could with like a cockroach or a bedbug.”
Still, their presence of clustered masses on home exteriors and windows is rarely welcome, and Morton mentions that a much higher volume of calls from homeowners facing boxelder invasion originate from the west end of the city.
“They seem to be more prominent in the west end of the city,” says Morton, adding that the insects feed on the seeds of boxelder trees, among others, which are more prominent in west end locales like High Park.
— miketaggart (@MikeTaggart) September 13, 2019
Boxelder bugs often become more of a household pest in the autumn months, when colder temperatures have the insects attempt — often successfully — to overwinter in the relative warmth of human homes.
Morton says that in cases where the bugs set up shop outdoors, “we generally just spray the outside of the house for them.”
Online comments suggest that a simple spraying of soapy water is enough to eradicate an infestation, but Morton suggests it’s not quite so easy once they make it indoors, saying that “I actually had somewhat of a difficult time getting boxelder bugs out of people’s houses with our actual chemical, but it’s always case by case.”
Unlike other pests that invade households seeking food, Morton explains that these mini-Houdinis “just kind of go around the windows and get into a crack,” adding that “there’s not really anything in [your home] that they like in particular.”
So if you see thousands of these red and black bugs crawling on the outside of your house, your main takeaway here should be, “good for me, I own a house in Toronto.”