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Though native to eastern Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is now found in large numbers across North America. Since its accidental importation from China in the 1990s, this shield-shaped invasive species has been wreaking havoc on crops and gardens. These bugs can also become a nuisance for homeowners when they seek out warm places to overwinter. In this article, we’ll explore how to get rid of stink bugs, including both DIY and professional solutions.
Understanding Stink Bugs
The earliest stink bug sightings in North America occurred in the late 1990s in Allentown, Pennsylvania, though an official identification did not arrive until 2001. Since then, brown marmorated stink bugs have been spotted in 38 states and Washington, D.C. They are most common in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Here’s some more information about stink bugs, including their characteristics and habits:
Characteristics of Stink Bugs
Unlike wasps, termites, and roaches, stink bugs do not pose a threat to humans. They do not bite, spread disease, or cause structural damage. However, they do emit a foul odor when disturbed, hence their namesake. This pungent smell—emitted from scent glands on their abdomens—acts as a defense mechanism to deter predators and only gets worse if the bugs are squashed. Stink bugs can also damage crops and gardens.
Adult stink bugs can be identified by their flat, shield-shaped bodies and mottled brown coloring. They have straight antennae with light brown bands and wings. Young nymphs are yellow and red with red eyes. As they grow, the yellow coloring turns into an off-white shade.
Females lay clusters of 20 to 30 light-green eggs on the undersides of leaves, often producing multiple generations in a single season. The eggs hatch into nymphs and undergo a series of molts before reaching adulthood. Throughout their life cycle, stink bugs feed on plants. Possible food sources include ornamental plants, fruit trees, and field crops.
Why Do Stink Bugs Invade Homes?
Stink bugs do not invade homes in search of food, and they do not reproduce indoors. However, like ladybugs, they may overwinter indoors. As the weather turns cold each fall, stink bugs begin seeking warm places to spend the winter. During this time, they may take advantage of torn window screens, drafty doors, and other gaps or cracks in your home’s exterior.
Stink bugs that overwinter in the walls and crevices of your home will reemerge in the spring and make their way outside to begin breeding. You are most likely to see them congregating around window frames, doorways, and other entry points. Attics, crawl spaces, and garages can be attractive places for stink bugs to hibernate.
How to Prevent Stink Bug Infestations
You can prevent stink bug infestations by eliminating their points of entry. Install weatherstripping around windows and doors to create a tight seal, and apply caulk to small cracks and crevices. Fill any gaps around utility openings with steel wool and caulk.
Stink bugs are drawn to heat and light, so make sure your home is well-insulated. Minimize heat sources near entryways and use dim yellow bulbs or sodium-vapor lights outside to attract fewer bugs. Rake leaves and other debris away from your home’s foundation.
Consider using natural repellents, such as neem oil or cilantro, to discourage stink bugs from congregating around potential entry points. Research which plants stink bugs like best and avoid planting them near your home.
DIY Solutions for Stink Bug Infestations
For a mild infestation, DIY methods can be effective at reducing the number of stink bugs in your home. Here are a few simple, practical solutions to try.
You can build a DIY stink bug trap with an empty two-liter bottle, a small LED light, black electrical tape, and white masking tape. Here’s how:
- Cut off the top of a two-liter soda bottle just above the label.
- Wrap the bottom of the bottle in black tape and place a small battery-powered light inside.
- Add a few strips of masking tape down the outside to make it easier for stink bugs to climb up and into the trap.
- Invert the top of the bottle and place it inside the bottom, like a funnel.
- Place the trap in a darkened room overnight. Stink bugs will be able to climb in but unable to climb out.
Light is the simplest and most effective tool for catching stink bugs. You can either pair the light with a DIY trap or manually remove any bugs that land near it. Since stink bugs do not come inside looking for food, there is no need to bait the trap. The light itself is your best bet for attracting them.
You can manually relocate any stink bugs you find inside your home, but you should use more caution than you would with other bugs. Squashing the bugs will trigger their odor, as will sucking them into a vacuum cleaner. Instead, gently coax individual stink bugs into a jar, then seal it tightly and release the bug outside a good distance from your house.
You can use a mixture of water and dish soap to dispose of stink bugs without triggering an odor. Here are three options:
- Aluminum pan: Fill the bottom of a shallow aluminum pan with soapy water. Shine a desk lamp onto the trap and leave it in a dark room overnight to attract stink bugs.
- Spray bottle: Spray stink bugs directly with a mixture of hot water, vinegar, and dish soap to kill them.
- Wide-mouth jar: Fill a wide-mouth jar with soapy water. Position the jar under any stink bug you see. A startled stink bug will typically drop straight down, making it easy to catch it in the jar.
Professional Solutions for Stink Bug Infestations
Though DIY solutions are enough to handle a few stink bugs, severe infestations may require the expertise of a pest control company. Professional help may be necessary if an infestation becomes overwhelming or persists despite your best efforts.
The cost of professional pest control services typically includes an initial consultation, a customized treatment plan, and any necessary follow-up appointments. The exterminator will conduct a thorough inspection of your property to assess the extent of the infestation and determine how the bugs got into your house in the first place. They will then explain which methods and products will be most effective for your situation.
Implementing preventive measures, such as properly sealing windows and doors, can significantly reduce the risk of a stink bug infestation. Natural repellents, DIY light traps, and soapy water can also help you get or keep stink bugs out of your home.
If things get out of control, consider hiring a professional pest control company to handle the infestation for you. Companies such as Orkin and Terminix can provide targeted insecticide applications, identify entry points, and recommend ongoing prevention strategies. Their personalized approaches are often the fastest and most effective way to solve a stink bug problem.
Stink Bugs FAQ
What keeps stink bugs away?
Neem oil, diatomaceous earth, and dryer sheets can help keep stink bugs away. Stink bugs may also be repelled by clove, spearmint, and lemongrass oil or strong-smelling plants, such as lavender and catnip.
What attracts stink bugs to your house?
Light, warmth, edible vegetation, and their own pheromones can attract stink bugs to your home. In the colder months, stink bugs will seek a warm place to overwinter. They may also gather near food sources, windows, doorways, and light fixtures.
What is the most effective stink bug repellent?
The most effective way to repel stink bugs is to ensure that your home is properly sealed and well-insulated. Diatomaceous earth is a natural way to kill stink bugs who come in contact with it, while dryer sheets and certain essential oils, such as spearmint and lemongrass, can be effective repellents.
What are stink bugs?
Most people use the term “stink bug” to refer to the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). This native Asian insect has spread to North America, Europe, and other parts of the world as an invasive species. Stink bugs have flat, shield-shaped bodies and mottled brown-gray coloring. Their name comes from the foul-smelling odor they release when smashed or threatened.
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