BUGS – The Goldenrain Tree Bug is the Bane of My Existence

See the pretty tree in this picture?

How pretty!

Oooh, beautiful!

This is a Goldenrain tree. It’s a very colorful tree, starting in the spring with tiny yellow blossoms (golden rain) that give way to little pinkish-orange pods (seen in the above picture), which contain tiny little black seeds. In the fall the green leaves turn a vibrant yellow before they fall off around November. When my wife and I bought our house, the majestic Goldenrain tree in the front yard was one of our favorite things about the house. Then, one day, I saw a few of these little fellas roaming around the driveway.

Say, that's kind of ugly.

Say, that’s kind of ugly.

Growing up in the desert of California, I had never seen a bug like it. So, not knowing what they were, I did what any reasonable homeowner would do. I killed every one of the little buggers that I saw. Sprayed ’em with bug spray, problem solved. Until the next year. Then I noticed little clusters of them, on the driveway and in seemingly random places around the yard. Kinda like this:

Oh, look. They've multiplied. Lovely.

Oh, look. They’ve multiplied. Lovely.

Again, I sprayed them, they went away. Then they would come back. I sprayed. They came back. There were at least three “waves” of them before they went away in the late fall. By this point I was getting pretty frustrated. This brings us to the summer before last. As spring sprung, I started to notice them earlier than years past.

Not again, I thought. I’ll show those stupid bugs who’s boss.

I finally decided to try and look these things up online. I didn’t find much at first, so I put it off. A month or two went by, I kept killing them, but it was not so much waves anymore as much as just a constant barrage of them. We started finding dead ones in the garage, and spreading to the side of the house. Finally, I stumbled upon pics of the Boxelder bug online, which is very similar in appearance. From there, it didn’t take long to find out about these wretched Goldenrain tree bugs.

The bugs are exclusive to the Goldenrain tree (hence the name). Among the things I discovered about them:

They eat the tiny little seeds that are inside those pretty pods that grow on the trees. That’s it. They don’t eat anything else but those seeds.

Spiders and birds don’t eat them because they evidently taste like a dirty sock (or something similarly disgusting).

They are easily killed with a simple solution of soapy water.

They are completely harmless. Just a minor (that’s a matter of opinion) nuisance.

YOU CAN NEVER BE COMPLETELY RID OF THEM. 

I found that last bit hard to believe. I went out in the yard, armed with a garden hose connected to a little jug of laundry detergent, and I walked up to that damn Goldenrain Tree determined to unleash hell on those bugs. What I saw looked a little bit like this:

Holy crap, run for your lives!

Holy crap, run for your lives!

They were covering practically the entire tree. I sprayed, and sprayed, and sprayed. I went through an entire bottle of laundry soap. I bought more, and sprayed more. It took four days of spraying to make a serious dent. After a week, I hardly saw any. But they came back. They keep. Coming. Back.

Last summer I kept them pretty well under control, and I just accepted it was a part of having such a pretty tree in the yard. I sprayed with the soapy water, which allows you to kill them much more efficiently, a few times over the summer. But I hate them. I hate them with the fury of a thousand burning suns.

And now that the weather is starting to warm up, I’ve seen the first few of the year out on the porch. I squashed them under my shoe, and felt a sick sense of satisfaction. God help me.

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32 thoughts on “BUGS – The Goldenrain Tree Bug is the Bane of My Existence

  1. Thanks. I laughed (and cried) along with you on this one. Here in Missouri we have a bug who only eats evergreen trees. You never see the bug, they stay under the bark and slowly kill your tree until the whole thing is brown and dead. There’s no treatment. We had been buying and planting live Christmas trees for years. Each one had a memory attached. All gone.

    Carolyn

    • Carolyn,
      That’s absolutely terrible, I’m so sorry to hear that! I think I’ll just keep quiet about my little bugs now, at least they don’t harm the tree. Here’s to making more Christmas memories.

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  3. We have a Golden rain Tree and love it as well. Although the constant raining of the tree sometimes is overwhelming and not timed with our schedule to clean up the messes it makes. Sometimes after a wind storm I am shocked at how much has come off the tree.

    We look forward to the bugs as a part of nature and welcome them to their feast. One year we had plague like amounts of them and the ground crawled with them. That was really cool.

    The reason why you will never get rid of this true “bug” is that they can fly and can easily spot these trees.

    If I was you or anyone with this tree, SAVE your karma and do not try to go against nature on something that is no more than a minor nuisance. Now If they start to feed on your family or other humans…We hunt them down

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  5. I have an abundance of golden rain bugs if anyone wants to start their own colony. (Smile). I intend to spray them with a mixture of soap, alcohol and vinegar. That should get rid of some of them. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    • Hello! Sorry for the delay getting back to you, how did your mixture work? All I’ve been able to do is contain them to the yard with my soapy water spray (with a little malathion mixed in for good measure), and using my leaf blower to keep the seeds they eat in the yard and off the porch and driveway. I’d love to know how you’re faring in the great bug war!

  6. I CANNOT tell you grateful I am for reading this post!!! I have 3, yes 3 lovely raintrees in my front yard here in Albuquerque New Mexico and these little buggers are EVERYWHERE!! as stated they do no harm to anything or anyone, they are just a nuisance!!! I will try the dish soap on them to at least keep them at bay!

    Thanks again, I will now share this info with ALL the local nurseries who didnt know what the heck I was talking about.

    Cheers

    Nikki P

    • I’m so glad you found this helpful! Here in the Midwest we had a very cool, wet summer last year, so we got a slight reprieve from the hellbugs. The dish soap should work, although on the advice of the local ‘bug guy’ at the corner hardware store I also mix in a dash of malathion to make extra sure. I’m pretty sure it’s unnecessary—I think the soapy water does the job—but my wife especially likes the reassurance that there’s some poison mixed in.

      Also, I’ve come to realize I had a pretty helpful tool at my disposal and didn’t know it: my leaf blower. When the pods fall all over the place I put the vacuum mulcher attachment on the blower and suck them all up, then whatever little seeds I miss I blow back into the yard (or if it’s just a few, into the street). That seems to help keep the bugs contained to the yard and off the driveway and porch.

      We love our golden raintree, but the bugs feel like quite a burden sometimes. Good luck to you, and thanks for leaving a comment!

  7. My problem is that my neighbor has the tree and I get the mess including bugs. I didn’t make the connection between the tree and bug until I had built a COVERED patio so we could eat out there without something falling on our food. Last year, the entire side of my house was covered in the bugs…onesies and twosies. Yes they fly and every time I opened the door…in they came. Glad to hear that there are others in my frame of mind. Now I am trying to go after the tree!

    • That’s extra frustrating since someone else’s problem has become your problem. If you have a leaf blower you can try blowing the pods and seeds back into the neighbor’s yard, but it sounds like you’ll still need to spray them to keep them at bay. Maybe your neighbor will meet you halfway and start spraying the tree for you. Good luck!

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  9. There must be a better way to rid our yard of these bugs. I keep running out of soap. We are considering cutting the tree down. The problem with the pest control guy is that what they spray kills everything else besides this bug. There must be a better solution.

  10. Put this in your ammo bag. They love peanut butter. I tainted about 2 tablespoons with drop of dish soap. They eat it like candy! I don’t know if it will kill them, yet. Pick your poison. I learned they were stealing peanut butter from a mousetrap I had set in the garage.

  11. Wow, I’m so happy I read all the information/comments. The vacant lot next to my back yard has three golden rain trees and the darned bugs are making me crazy. I called the lawn service I use and asked them to spray and was informed it can’t be done (???). They have sprayed for me twice in past years. Learning about dish soap and peanut butter is interesting and I will give it a try.

  12. I’m glad you found this page, I hope it helps. We never did hear back from Mr. Peanut Butter, not sure how he fared with his poison concoction. The soapy water basically suffocates them, no poisoning involved. It can at least keep the bugs at bay somewhat, but I’ve yet to hear of anyone totally being rid of them as long as there are still the trees that feed them around. Good luck, Nancy!

  13. so glad to finally find out what these bugs were. one day I saw all these bugs on our rain tree we spray with ortho home defense it kills them I sweep the front porch every day for them but millions come back. our neighbors say they don’t have the bugs. they come in the house also. really enjoyed our neighbors of the rain tree bugs stories good luck but you didn’t say what kind of soap I live in tx. maxine

    • Sorry, I didn’t realize that I didn’t specify what kind of soap, to my knowledge any kind of soap will do. I used the cheapest laundry soap I could find at a Dollar Tree type store, but I think Ajax or some other dishwashing soap would work just as well. In the house I think the easiest thing seems to be vacuuming up. They sure are a nuisance, aren’t they? I guess it’s worth it to have such a pretty tree.

  14. Oh Kenneth, I resonate with your story so much! I laugh and I cry because I have completely the same thoughts. I have been fighting these bugs for a few years not realizing they were coming for my Golden Rain Tree or that I even had a Golden Rain Tree until today.. I have shop vac’d for hours upon hours, squished like a maniac for days on end, and have recently been spraying with spray bottles of mixed Dawn dish soap and water until I formed a blister on my finger after reading about Boxelder bugs and thinking that’s what they were. But I noticed they were not quite the same looking. Then I did a search on the tree pods that are falling from the tree they are all around and I found out they are indeed Rain Tree bugs and while related to the boxelder bug family, they are indeed a different bug. Then I found your article and felt a kindred spirit in my downward spiral of obsessed craziness in “getting” these things! My mom called me a couple nights ago and my husband said, “she’s outside, shooting bugs like a crazy woman” and my mom didn’t even question it. It’s all I talk about…I’m completely obsessed with getting these darn things out of my yard! It’s all I can talk about at the water cooler at work and my co-workers are starting to run when they see me coming to avoid my daily rants of my ongoing soap opera with these bugs which I’ve started naming. The neighbors are watching me pace back and forth in my yard with shop vacs and spray bottles for hours on end…I’m shocked they haven’t called the insane asylum to come pick me up! Lol. If you see a few, there are hundreds, no, actually thousands more that you can’t see hiding in every crack and crevice around. And the soap only kills the ones it lands on to my distress and I’m also going through soap like nobody’s business. They are crawling all over my tree, my landscape, rocks and plants. I’m happy to hear they are not going to destroy my new plants, but the clusters of them are really disgusting looking crawling out in swarms everywhere. They were very bad a few years ago and I sucked up all the little black seeds mistakenly thinking they were their eggs and the next year they weren’t bad at all, but then this year they came back with a vengeance. I found out it’s because they like hot, sunny days and we’ve been having an extremely hot summer in Missouri this year, so now I know why they are swarming again. Seal up any crevices and caulk around your windows by the end of August, because that’s when and where they go in the fall to hibernate over the winter. Then they come out in the Spring and lay their eggs everywhere to hatch in the summer and they mate like crazy! So Kenneth, I just had to tell you I really feel for what you and your wife are going through and I am so happy to hear I am not alone in this insane fight! I hope this made you smile like your post did us. I shall carry on the battle knowing there are others out there, like me, fighting the good fight. 🙂

    • Angela, I have to tell you something: this comment really made my day. I have had the worst, weirdest week of my life and was sitting here deflated about the state of things, and this comment made me smile.

      The one silver lining is that they do hibernate eventually, so you get a brief reprieve during the winter, but that first one you see in March or so will set you off lol. I’m not sure how long you’ve been using the soap mixture but with enough dogged determination (which you appear to have in spades) you should at least get them under control to some degree. You must have a really big, beautiful tree, take some comfort in that if you can.

      Thank you again for your comment, I desperately needed it more than you know. Keep fighting!

      • Kenneth, I am so happy to hear my crazy bug endeavors made you smile during a rough week. I’ve had those too my friend and I’m sending good, happy vibes your way. I’ll be out once again fighting the bug battle tonight and will laugh each time I squirt those little suckers with my soap mixture in your honor!! 🙂

  15. I loved your tale. My goodness. I can’t believe that there are no entomologists willing to take a stab at this? I’m no pest control expert, but I can come up with at least three possibilities & one no-go (for me).
    1. Boric acid? No, NOT borax. People mix it up w/borax. One washes clothes, the other kills arthropods. Powdered boric acid is an insecticide that can be dangerous if you plan to use it in a way that people/pets of any age can eat it. I’m talking about a light, very light powdering of the tree/seeds. If you over apply it, these insects will avoid it. They’re bugs but they’re not stupid. They can detect the clumps of boric acid with their little insect feet. Less is more here. (You could also try & mix a small bit w/peanut butter & apply to the tree. I wouldn’t eat it if I were the bug—low pH, probably yucky to the bug.) *Just don’t leave it where kids, pets, or people can get to it.
    2. IGR powder or spray? IGR is an insect growth regulator. It keeps the insects from being able to successfully reproduce by stopping their maturing at some point in its lifecycle…sort of a bug birth control because they can’t grow up! It’s usually used for roaches ticks, beetles, and fleas. I understand from a previous poster that the pest control folks refused to spray, presumably with an adulticide, but I wonder if they ever considered an IGR mixed in? Sadly, I’m not a pest control specialist, and there are a couple of IGRs, depending on the bug type. Because sunlight tends to break IGR down, you would need to re-treat, depending on the type of IGR.
    3. Food grade Diatomaceous Earth or DE. DE is the silicate (crystalline sand-like) skeletons of tiny ocean life that has died and collected in bunches. These crystals do not harm mammals—neither ingesting or contact. For the few folks that shake their heads and say, “I’ll never eat that stuff.” You already have. Farmers use it to keep weevils out of their seed corn/beans, etc., If you eat vegetables, you’ve eaten it.
    The way the DE works is like tiny knives. It slices open the insect’s exoskeleton, and they literally dehydrate to death. Again, less is more. There’s one little caveat though…when the DE gets wet, it’s like a cardboard-knife—useless. Morning fog—useless. Dew—useless. Sprinklers misting over near the tree—useless. When it dries, it cuts. Also, again, less is more; big clumps—useless. Remember, the bugs can taste with their feet? And they communicate in their little bug language, “Hey, don’t touch this big pile of stuff!”
    You could try a “light” direct application to any areas where you see the bugs. he peanut butter mix (wet) probably wouldn’t work. Your hardware store has DE in bags for about $9 for 4 lbs.
    4. My last stab is probably the least dangerous, but mega-distasteful to me, a tree-hugger to the end. You could get rid of the tree by poisoning or cutting it down and replanting something else, and it may be the only option for those bug-phobic enough.

    Continue to live positively! Thankfully, the bugs don’t stink. Without the bugs, the tree’s only known enemy, this specie of tree, already a Class 2 invasive, would spread like weeds. This is a tree that can live with very little water & much temperature instability. And someone may be innovative enough to come up with a natural red dye from their little bug bodies or a cure for some disease. Who knows? A grin-and-bear-it attitude will keep you more relaxed, help keep your blood pressure down while you enjoy its shade, and keep your AC/electric bill down. Please remember, I’m not a pest control expert & just taking a stab at bug homicide!

  16. Just leave them alone. They are so completely harmless and will come and go with the seasons. My wife and I view them as little neighbors. One year it seemed we didn’t see them at all and got sort of worried. Eventually they showed up. The Golden Rain Tree seeds sprout incessantly and these little guys and girls eat the seeds, keeping weeding down.
    Think Avatar the Movie, and understand these little critters life cycle are tied directly to the tree. A small nuscience at worst. No reason for a massive kill that will amplify your ant population.

  17. I’m so happy I’m not alone in this battle with the bugs! Our Goldenrain tree is infested AGAIN. I gave my 8 year old a spray bottle of Ajax & vinegar and we ran around spraying them. My son said, “This is fun!” And after we discussed their obvious mating habits (ew) my son told them, “Die bugs! The only ones who can mate at this house are my mom & dad!” Um..ok. Awkward. But yeah nobody wants to see them mating all over the place! They were getting into our house and crawling all over our porch and rocking chairs. Sometimes we even looked up and saw them crawling on our living room ceiling! I told my son, I don’t like killing anything, not even bugs, but these suckers have got to go! The vinegar & Ajax killed them pretty fast. Tomorrow will be my 5 year old son’s turn as I’m sure there will be more…

    • I’ve never heard of Ajax and vinegar, that’s a new one! What kind of ratio do you use? I think the “let them be” mentality is for people who can’t fully appreciate how bad it can really get. I’m a passive (lazy) person, but when something invades every facet of my home life, action must be taken. Good luck!

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