Repel Boxelder Bugs From Your Garden Naturally With This Popular Bulb

A boxelder bug infestation isn't necessarily damaging to your garden but can make pruning and caring for your plants more challenging. These black with orange or red coloring bugs are also a concern once the weather gets a bit colder, and they try to head into the house to find warmth. Though not dangerous to most people, boxelder bugs can be an annoyance you'll want to tame as soon as possible. Luckily, what you need is right in your pantry — garlic.

Though garlic isn't toxic to these bugs, its powerful odor is enough to encourage them to move to another location, allowing your garden to get a break from them. This is a non-toxic solution that can help support other strategies for pest control in your outdoor area and even inside the home should they sneak in through small openings. Other options, including chemical-based pesticides, can be a treatment option for those facing a more serious infestation or recurrent instances of large numbers of these pests arriving. Boxelder bugs, just about a half-inch long with wings that lay flat on their backs, are in the same family as stink bugs and cicadas — if you smash them, they release a foul odor.

Why garlic repels boxelder bugs

Chopping garlic is sure to give you a fast whiff of its intense, pungent scent. Most people won't appreciate your breath after you've eaten a garlic-loaded meal, either. What's behind this strong scent is allicin, a compound that contains allyl methyl sulfide. This scent is released by garlic as a type of defense mechanism, according to a 2021 article published in Molecules. It can help the plant defend against pests and has antibacterial elements that keep pathogens at bay. All these pests and boxelder bugs have no interest in being that close to garlic.

The boxelder bug has an antennae that helps it to smell. When a strong scent like garlic is nearby, it's sure to make it much harder for the bugs to actually find a source of food or pick up on a nearby predator's presence. Garlic, along with other strong scents, including lavender, mint, and thyme, can make it hard for this bug to remain within the area safely, encouraging it to move on to another location outside of your garlic-pungent garden.

How to use garlic to keep boxelder bugs out of your garden

Garlic's most pungent scent comes from the individual bulbs being cut open and crushed. In other words, just growing garlic in your garden may not be enough to deter boxelder bugs from spending their time there. Instead, you'll want to make a solution potent enough to remain present for some time.

One option is to crush four cloves of garlic and place them into about a tablespoon of mineral oil or another flavorless oil. Allow it to sit for at least a full day in a covered container. Then, strain out the small pieces of garlic. Add the oil to a clean spray bottle with about 16 ounces of water. You can also add a few drops of dish soap to this mixture. The soap will help the oil adhere to and remain on the plants. Then, spray this on a few of the plants near the border of your garden. 

This natural pest repellent works best when used frequently  – about once a week or so – but may need to be reapplied after it rains. This method can be supported by other strategies to keep boxelder bugs away, including sealing off all entrances to your home, especially in the fall before the cool weather hits, and keeping plants like grapes, strawberries, and stone-fruit trees pruned well, as that's their primary food source during the breeding season.