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How to Get Rid of Elm Seed Bugs?

Updated on January 24, 2018
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Novel Treasure is a published author who is an avid gardener and enjoys home remedies for pest control.

In order to find out how to get rid of elm seed bugs, we should first understand what they are. The Elm Seed Bug also known as the Elm Bug has seen an increase in population of the last two years.

It is often confused with the Boxelder bug, but they are two separate species.

It is one of the most commonly googled bugs, on how to get rid of them.

Elm Seed Bug
Elm Seed Bug | Source

What is the Elm Seed Bug?

The Elm Seed Bug (Arocatus melanocephalus) is a black and reddish-brown bug in the Seed bug family.

They range from about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in length with unique triangular shaped markings on its back.

The pesky bug is more commonly found in the south-central parts of Europe, however it has found it's way to the United States for the first time last year during the major heat wave and drought of 2013.

With the first cases having been reported first in Idaho, then more in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia.

As of 2014, they are not considered a nuisance in over 26 states across the U.S.


The Elm Seed bug is like many other in the Seed bug family.

They overwinter as adults, mating in the springtime, and lay their eggs in Elm trees. Their larvae feed on the fruits and seed of the trees in late spring and early summer.

Once hatched they will make their homes in gutters, under siding, and in mulch or pine needles near other elm trees. If they are able to make it inside your home, they will most commonly nest in the attic insulation or in the insulatin in your walls.

One interesting characteristic of this bug is that it gives off an extremely unpleasant noxious odor, especially when squished. The odor is part of a defense mechanism against predators.

They typically live up to around five years.

Is it harmful?

The Elm Seed Bug is not considered to be a public health risk, as they pose no threat to humans. They are not known to carry any infectious disease nor do they bite humans.

They also are not considered an agricultural threat, as they do not cause harm to Elm trees, to which, they get their name from. They do feed on Elm tree seeds, but are not known to cause harm to the bark or leaves of the tree.

Bugs travel in luggage
Bugs travel in luggage

Why are they here?

More commonly found in South-Central Europe, the recent swarms and invasions of the Elm Seed bug in Idaho, North Carolina, and Kentucky have many people, including experts, questioning how they came here. One common theory is that they hitched a ride on the luggage of travelers.

A more pertinent question is why are the swarming and invading our homes. According to the Journal of Thermal Biology, "Some evidence suggests that the home invasions are correlated to spells of unusually hot weather." With more than 35 US states experience the worst drought and heat weave in decades, it is not surprising that we are seeing this phenomenon. Even Elm Seed bugs want to get out of the heat too.

Elm Seed Bug Control

In order to get rid of an Elm Seed bug infestation, you will have to not only treat the interior of your house, but you will also have to treat the source.

This will be outside near any Elm Trees on your property. Elm Seed Bugs are attracted to the seeds that are dropped from the elm trees.

Elm Seed Bugs can be find in the elm trees, but they also will nest around the base of the elm tree, in piles of leaves, mulch, or pine needles. Anywhere that the elm seeds can be found, is an opportunity for an Elm Seed bug infestation.

How to get rid of them:

  • Treat your lawn with cyonar rts. It comes in a spray bottle and is available at most home garden stores. It hooks right to your hose and you can spray the treatment on infected areas in the exterior of your home. Treat the base of the elm trees and surrounding areas, but also treat the exterior perimeter of your house to keep them from coming indoors.
  • Treat your gutters with cyonar rts as well, because elm seed bugs will often find elm tree seeds on your roof and gutters. Make sure to routinely clean your gutters of any leaves and debris as this creates a perfect nesting ground.
  • To treat the interior of your home, you can use deltamethren dust in non-traffic areas of your home (crawl spaces, unfinished basements, attics)
  • To treat interior areas of your home that you live in, spray Phantom Aerosol in the cracks and crevices around windows, doorways, baseboards, or crown molding. Do not spray entire room as if it is an air freshener.

Long Term Prevention

  • Treat your lawn with bifen granules quarterly (4 x per year). This is a preventative maintenance treatment. This won't kill existing elm seed bug infestation but will prevent further hatchings and infestations

Non Invasive - Bug Prevention

There is no way to 100% prevent Elm Seed bug infestation. No house is 100% airtight, therefore something can always get in. But you can eliminate their feeding and water sources which will cause them to look for other places to live.

They come in through the cracks, holes, and seams of our houses. For those of you who don't like the idea of harmful chemicals or pesticides, here are some ideas on how to help reduce the change of an infestation.

  1. Seal all windows and doors using weather stripping and/or caulk
  2. Seal any cracks and holes in the mortar around bricks, chimney, and foundation with mortar caulk
  3. Cover any and all vents with small gap screens, including dryer vents, chimney vents, and attic fan vents
  4. Fix or repair any holes or gaps in siding
  5. Eliminate any potential water sources: Make sure to seal all outside hose spigots to prevent drips and leaks. Indoors, fix any leaky faucets, pipes, and elminate any condensation or moisture buildup around ducts and washer/dryers.

Not recommended, but if you are just that annoyed with the infestation you can eliminate any and all elm trees surrounding your property. As they are attracted to the Elm Tree seeds.

Note: They are not harmful to the Elm Tree itself because they feed on the seeds dropped from the tree.

When can I expect results?

The Phantom Aerosol is very effective, but is delivered from elm seed bug to elm seed bug. So once one bug comes into contact with it, it will then take it back to the nesting area and infest the rest of the population.

It takes about 48 hours to kill the elm seed bug once contact has been made.


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