Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSBs) have a shield-shaped mottled brownish gray body. An Asian import, this particular version of stink bug was first discovered in the US in the late ’90s and has since spread throughout the country. Like Asian lady beetles, stink bugs typically gather on warm, west-facing walls in the fall, working their way in any crack or crevice to hunker down for the winter inside walls, attics, and crawlspaces. Once they’re in, they release pheromones to tell their buddies where the party’s at, which attracts more of the invasive insects. During this period of diapause the little stinkers are dormant, biding their time until spring.
Stink bugs do not pose a health or property risk to homeowners. They don’t bite or raid the pantry, but like skunks, they do release a foul odor if disturbed or threatened which clings to whatever the insect touches. Plus, they poop. Their excretion can stain walls, drapes, lampshades, window sills, and other surfaces. Some people are allergic to brown marmorated stink bugs odor. The invasive species are serious agricultural pests, known to feed on many fruit and vegetables, including apples, apricots, cherries, grapes, lima beans, peaches, pears, peppers, and tomatoes. They are also attracted to ornamental plants, including Eastern redbud, butterfly bush, mimosa, holly, fruit trees, maple, and magnolia. According to BioAdvanced, “In a typical home garden setting, they like corn, sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers and berry crops.”
Thankfully, these little buggers don’t produce inside structures, preferring instead to lay eggs on backs of leaves. Contrary to popular belief, killing a stink bug does not attract more stink bugs. It just releases the pungent cilantro-smelling defensive chemicals that offend the olfactories. Here are some ways to fight these foul-smelling invaders if and when they try infesting your home.
Say what? “Mechanical exclusion” is a fancy phrase the pest control world uses for blocking points of entry. According to BioAdvanced, “Physical barriers provide the most effective long-term solution.” Orkin advises that “stink bugs gain entry into structures through cracks, crevices, gaps and holes in foundations, window and door frames, soffits, attics, and underneath siding.” Prevent them from coming in in the first place by inspecting your home and sealing off entry points. Defend your home from stink bugs by caulking around windows, door frames, under wooden fascia boards, siding, pipes, and around water spigots.
Other places you may not think to check include around exhaust fans or lights in ceilings. Also look for torn weather-stripping and loose mortar. If you have a fireplace, remember to close the flu when it’s not in use. In addition to sealing and cracks or holes with a good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk, you’ll also want to repair or replace damaged screens on windows or doors. Pest World suggests installing door sweeps and putting screens over your chimney and attic vents.
Turn off the Lights
Then they can’t see you! J/k. Stink bugs are attracted to lights—a phenomena dubbed “positive phototaxis” in the insect world. Swap your porch lights out with yellow bug lights and try to avoid turning them on at night. Close your curtains if possible at night too so that indoor light doesn’t attract them.
Cut off Their Food Supply
While stinkbugs won’t raid your pantry, they are fond of the fruit bowl. This is pest control 101, but Pest World advises storing your “food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles. Also, make sure you wipe down counters and sweep floors to eliminate crumbs and residue from spills.”
Suck Them Up
Orkin says the best way to remove stink bugs from your home is with a vacuum, however other pest control peeps have some caveats to that. Pest World recommends disposing of the vaccum bag immediately, “to prevent odor from permeating the area, as dead stink bugs leave a residue inside the bag that can stink up your home”. This technique sounds awfully wasteful, plus my Dyson doesn’t even have a bag. BioAdvanced says you shouldn’t vaccum up the bugs with your bagless vac, lest you risk making your Dirt Devil stink to high heaven. Instead, they suggest wrapping panty hose around the hose, securing it with a rubber band, then hoovering up the bugs that way, which sounds like a lot of work.
Pick Them up and Put Them Outside
Before you say “no thanks” to this manual method, please understand that I am not encouraging you to touch an icky bug. I don’t want you to get dermatitis or get your hands stained or stinky. However, the Missouri Botanical Garden says that hand-picking is probably the best way to get rid of stink bugs. Take a paper towel, tissue, or plastic bag, catch it and dispose of it. That doesn’t mean throw it in the trash! A living stink bug will just crawl or fly right out and a dead one will smell for days even after you take out the trash. Throw it outside, or flush it down the toilet. As MBot points out, “The process of removing stink bugs is not a one-time solution. You will need to inspect and remove at least daily until the numbers are reduced to a level you can live with.”
Using an Insecticide
It’s really no use calling the bug guy over stink bugs. Applying an insecticide around the perimeter of your house may prevent them from coming in in the fall, but insecticide is not recommended as an indoor treatment. As BioAdvanced puts it, “While insecticidal dust may kill bugs in wall voids, the carcasses can stink and attract other pests, such as carpet beetles, which can damage other things in your home,” like woolens and dry goods. Penn State’s extension tells us that aerosol-type pyrethrum foggers will kill whatever bugs are in the room, but they won’t prevent more from sneaking in afterwards. It goes on to say that “Spray insecticides, directed into cracks and crevices, will not prevent the bugs from emerging and is not a viable or recommended treatment.” Remember that pesticides can also be poisonous to humans, so you should always be cautious and follow the instructions on the label.
Cut Down Dead Trees
Large dead standing trees, especially oak and locust, with peeling bark can attract these pesky pests.
Towel Trap Trick
Have you ever noticed that these little stinkers like to hide in the folds of your drapes? Use this fact to your advantage and give this this towel tactic a try. Dampen a towel and hang it over the deck railing or on a lawn chair overnight. In the morning, the bugs should be all over the towel. Send your husband out to shake the towel. Just kidding! Put some soap and water in a bucket, then carefully submerge the towel in it to drown those suckers!
Speaking of soapy solutions, here is another way to murder your enemy…I mean, control stink bugs. Perhaps you’ve noticed how stink bugs tend to drop down when disturbed. Use this to your advantage and prepare some soapy water in a little bucket for them to fall into. When you find one on the wall, ceiling, in the curtains, or on the windows or screens, simply flick it into the soapy solution to its untimely death.