Box elder bugs and how to get rid of them

This past year there were box elder bugs in my goldenrain tree. Can you tell me why they were there, and is there any way to prevent them?

— Joel

What you have is a relative of the box elder bug called a goldenrain tree bug (aren’t entomologists an imaginative group!) or a red shouldered bug. To most of us they look pretty much the same (though there are subtle differences) and they behave pretty much alike.

Goldenrain tree bugs don’t hurt the tree really, they feed on the developing seeds of the plant. The problem with them is that they can become a nuisance, especially in the spring and fall when it is cool outside.

They tend to congregate in large masses on the house, fences and plants in the yard and can get inside the house if there is any kind of opening in windows, doors or screens.

Since they are attracted to the developing seeds of the plant, the only way I can think of to prevent them is to prevent formation of the seeds. I’ve never tried this, but a couple sprays of Florel when the tree is blooming in late spring might eliminate some of the seed pods. You’ll lose those attractive “Chinese Lantern” looking pods, but it might be worth it to have to deal with fewer bugs

Other than that, dealing with the bug masses by spraying them with Permethrin or Bifenthrin or simply vacuuming them up with a shop vac would work. However, my experience is that if you eliminate those masses, other bugs will replace them in a week or two and you’ll have to do it again.

I’m thinking about a new lawn mower. Would you recommend a mower with a bagger or a mulching mower?


I am a big fan of mulching mowers. I’ve had one for 10 or 15 years, and I love it.

I initially got it to save time mowing. Without having to stop and empty the bag, it took me half the time to mow the lawn. Just get behind it and go.

The other advantage is that returning the grass clippings to the lawn saves me from having to fertilize it as much (as well as keeping the clippings out of the landfill).

Grass clippings are rich in nitrogen and as they decompose, they release it back to the lawn. It saves 25–30 percent of the nitrogen I need to apply.

The only drawback I’ve experienced is that sometimes, when the grass is growing especially fast, I have to mow more often. Tall, heavy grass will clump up on top of the lawn and bog the mower down. Even when I had to mow twice as often (for two or three weeks after spring fertilizing), I was still spending the same amount of time it took me to mow before with a bag.

If you’re looking for a new mower, I’d choose a built-from-scratch mulching mower. Converting a standard mower with a mulching kit works OK, but a mulching mower is designed specifically to chop the grass up into finer bits so it filters down into the lawn.

People often worry that they’ll create a thatch layer by using a mulching mower. That’s just not the case.

Thatch is an accumulation of roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of the grass and occurs BELOW the grass plant.

The grass clippings left by a mulching mower are on top of the grass plant and decompose rapidly, benefiting the lawn.

When folks use a power rake in the spring they’ll accumulate piles of dead grass. This grass is simply the grass blades that died out over the winter that would quickly decompose once the weather warmed up and regular watering was started.

For a power rake to do anything at all for a thatch layer, it would have to tear up the entire lawn because the thatch is below the grass.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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