En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - February 02, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Box elder beetles in Austin TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We have an large infestation of box elder beetles. They are crawling all over the yard and sometimes on the outside of the house. When you walk in the yard a cloud of them rises up and fills the air. They are annoying and land all over you. Can you recommend how best to eliminate box elder beetles or someone who know how to eliminate them?


 Acer negundo (Ash-leaf maple) or Box elder, is native to Austin, and the seeds on the female are apparently a main food for the bug. University of Wisconsin article Box Elder Bugs discusses ways to deal with them that do not necessarily include pesticides. They will be attracted to warm, sunny places to overwinter, sometimes ending up inside the house. Some of the information we looked at recommended getting rid of any female box elder trees you have. Everything we read said that the bugs don't harm the trees, but may cause disfiguring of the fruits of some trees. Mainly they are, as you say, a nuisance.

Although we didn't see this particular explanation for their presence now, in mid-winter, we are wondering if the very mild winter we have had could have caused them to overwinter without having to take shelter anywhere. Where is a good hard freeze when you need it? We also saw a reference to the bug reproducing in 10-year cycles, but didn't find out where in that cycle we would be right now.

We are native plant people, not entomologists, so beyond referring you to articles that discuss the bug, we are afraid we can't help. If this is a common problem in your yard, it probably is for others in the area. We would suggest you contact the Extension Education Office for Travis County.


From the Image Gallery

Ash-leaf maple
Acer negundo

More Trees Questions

Small trees for Alberta
March 17, 2011 - I would like to know if there is a short, 15 feet and under, deciduous tree that can be grown outside in Calgary, AB
view the full question and answer

Need a shade tree to plant in Houston, TX
November 18, 2013 - Hi, i'm looking for a shade tree to plant on the southwest side of our house, both to make our backyard more enjoyable and to improve energy efficiency. We really like Live Oaks, but they just take t...
view the full question and answer

Will Texas madrone (Arbutus xalapensis) grow in northeast Texas?
November 24, 2009 - Will Texas madrones grow by Cedar Creek Lake and if so, do you know where I could purchase them "sort of" locally?
view the full question and answer

Chinkapin Oak Planted Too Deep
July 15, 2014 - I planted a 15 gallon chinkapin oak last year and it's doing very well. As I didn't know that much about tree planting at that time, I planted it too deep by probably 3 inches. Is this a very seriou...
view the full question and answer

Drought resistant flowering plants for Spring, TX
January 25, 2012 - Hi Mr. Smarty Pants. I live in Spring Tx. and wanted to plant a garden in my front yard. I'm looking for flowering plants that are colorful, easy to manage, and drought resistant but so far can't fi...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center