Carnivorous Box Elder Bugs

In July 2007, I received a call from a resident of Paonia, CO regarding box elder bugs that were predatory on larvae of European paper wasps. I was skeptical until I saw these pictures. They were taken by Suzannne Watson, and are proof beyond any doubt that box elder bugs will prey on living European paper wasp larvae, and also scavenge on dead insects and mice. As far as I know, the only other reference to a box elder bug feeding on another insect is a picture taken by Whitney Cranshaw of one feeding on a dead billbug, taken in New York.

These box elder bug nymphs are entering empty cells of a European paper wasp nest, ajacent to cells that have a living larva. They then feed on the larva through the nest cell lining! Box Elder Bugs feeding on a wasp nest
In this shot you can actually see the bug's rostrum entering the paper wasp larva after piercing the cell liner.
The box elder bug nymphs are entering open cells of the paper wasp nest to feed directly on exposed larvae. Empty cells in a wasp nest
Box elder bug nymphs are scavenging from a dying European paper wasp adult. Thewasp was incapacitated when they started feedin, and dead by the time they had finished.
When presented with a dead mouse , the bugs take advantage of it. They clustered on the bare tail, but also worked their way through the hair to feed directly on the mouse body. Box Elder Bugs feeding on a dead mouse
The box elder bugs shared their feeding space on the mouse with a carrion beetle and carrion feeding blow flies.

This page was updated on April 26, 2014