Stink bugs! Despite the terrible name, these bugs aren’t particularly harmful but that doesn’t mean you want them hanging around the house.
There are a whopping 250 different species of stink bugs native to North America, yet the most common species of which is the brown marmorated stink bug which is a foreign invasive species! This stink bug came from Asia and was first seen in America in the 1990s.
The entry point for this invasion was Pennsylvania and from there the insect rapidly made its way across America. The brown marmorated stink bug may now be found in most of the continental United States.
You are most likely to encounter a stink bug in your home during late summer and autumn which is around the time when outside temperatures begin to fall.
Stink Bug Identification
Stink Bugs are often confused with other types of insects such as the western conifer seed bug so it is necessary to positively identify the insect before coming up with a strategy for its extermination.
Wrongly identifying an insect that you want to get rid of limits the effectiveness of your methods if not making it entirely impossible to get rid of the pest.
The brown marmorated stink bug has a distinct shield-like body shape with adults measuring about 5/8 of an inch long. The insect has a mottled brownish-grey color with a white underside. The underside may sometimes feature grey or black markings.
Brown marmorated stink bugs also have alternating black and white triangles on the abdomen and have black and white bands on the last two antennal segments.
Lastly, brown marmorated stink bugs have a smooth shield (technically called a pronotum) just behind the insect’s eyes unlike the toothed texture of the rough stinkbug.
Other Types of Stink Bugs
There are other types of stink bugs that are native to the North America that are worth quickly looking over. These other species rarely break into houses and typically are not a big problem for homeowners. Some of these bugs can cause serious damage to crops though and are considered nuisance pests by farmers.
One Spotted Stink Bug
The one spotted stink bug is often confused with the marmorated stink bug.
The one spotted stink bug is most common in the Pacific Northwest and eastern states.
This insect measures about 7/16 inches and is an agricultural threat to corn. The stink bug may also be found throughout the US, particularly in agricultural areas.
Southern Green Stink Bug
The southern green stink bug is very easy to identify for its distinct dull green color. This insect can grow to between ½ inch and ¾ inch in length and prefers to hide in leaf litters and in trees.
This species of stink bug is most common in the southeastern states but has been reported as far west as Texas.
The southern green stink bug is a nuisance pest in agricultural areas and attacks crops such as soybeans, cotton, and peas.
Spined Soldier Bug
The spined soldier bug is mostly beneficial to farmers and preys on other invasive species of agricultural pests. This species is often introduced to farming areas deliberately for this purpose.
The spined soldier bug grows to about a ½ inch in length and is mottled brown in color.
Dusky Stink Bugs
Although a common species of stink bugs, the dusky stink bug is much rarer than the brown marmorated and one spotted stink bugs around human populations. This species is also relatively small and grows to about ½ inch in length, usually smaller.
The dusky stink bug has a consistent brown color and is most common in fruit-growing areas of the United States, particularly the eastern states. This species prefers peaches and apples but may attack all types of fruit trees.
Stink bugs are not dangerous to humans or pets. These insects are not known to carry or spread any diseases to human beings or pets. Furthermore, stink bugs are not known to bite, sting, or otherwise harm human beings.
Stink bugs are also not known to cause any structural damage to homes as is common with termites and other such insects.
These insects are typically considered a nuisance pest rather than a health risk.
Stink Bug Odor
Ever wonder how the stink bug got it’s name? Stink bugs release a potent odor as a defense mechanism, usually against their natural predators such as birds and fish. If you’ve ever smushed a stink bug you may have smelled this as well.
The insect has scent glands on each side of the thorax where it releases an odorous chemical when threatened. The insect can control exactly when to release the smelly chemical. You are also likely to release the chemical when you crush the bug.
Individual insects may have a slightly different chemical blend which means that different stink bugs may produce a slightly different scent. Generally speaking, stink bug odor may be described as a combination of sweet and acrid.
Some people may compare the stink bug odor to strong herbs and/or spices such as coriander or cilantro. This comparison is hardly accidental since some of the chemicals that make up the bug’s odor are often used in food additives and may also be found in cilantro.
Believe it or not, some people do not smell the odor at all. The good news is that this odor is harmless, even if you accidentally get some of the bug’s chemicals on your skin.
Stink Bugs and Plants
Stink bugs may be harmless to animals and humans but the same cannot be said for plants.
Most species of stink bugs, including the most common variety the brown marmorated stink bug, feed on plants. The insect uses its mouthparts to pierce the skin of the plant and extract the juice to feed.
Stink bugs are most active during spring when they feed, typically on thistles and weeds. As the population grows and the new eggs hatch, the insects invade other plants including fruits trees such as berries, peaches, and apples.
In the garden, stink bugs feed on produce such as tomatoes, green peppers, beans, and corn. Indoor insects feed on ornamental flowers and plants. Too many of these insects can cause significant damage to your house and garden plants as unfortunate homeowners find out the hard way.
Signs of a Stink Bug Infestation
If you are not sure that you have stink bugs, there are a couple of ways that you can find out for sure. Again, taking the proper action against pests relies on having accurate and hopefully timely information.
Below are a few ways you can confirm if you have a stink bug infestation:
Spotting Live Stink Bugs
Now that you know how to identify stink bugs from our previous section, you should be able to confirm an infestation if you see a live insect crawling around.
Unlike bed bugs and roaches that tend to hide away in the dark and well away from active humans if they can help it, stink bugs can be brazen.
These insects congregate everywhere from inside your kitchen drawers, on curtains and lamps, and may even crawl over you while you are seated on the sofa.
In short, stink bug infestations are hard to miss as these insects will crawl everywhere.
Spotting Dead Stink Bugs
You may not immediately spot live stink bugs but dead ones are a sure sign of an infestation. You can count on there being more bugs even if you haven’t seen live ones yet.
Dead stink bugs look identical to live ones…except dead.
You will hardly miss the stink bug odor in a house with pets. The insect will release its defensive odor when cornered by a pet or if startled when you walk by it.
Stink bug odor is relatively distinct especially if you have smelled it before. Common comparisons of the stink bug odor include:
- Skunk smell
- Burnt tires
Damaged House Plants
Since stink bugs feed on plants for sustenance, you are sure to see some signs of infestation on your house plants. These insects especially love vegetable plants and fruit trees. You may either see a live bug on a house plant or flower or signs of plant damage that indicate that it has been eaten by an insect.
How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs
Stink bugs may not be harmful but the sight of these bugs in your home is enough to make your skin crawl. These insects may also be tearing up your beautiful houseplants and not to mention the offending odor.
The good news is that you don’t have to sit by and watch helplessly as the insects overrun your home. You don’t even need to call an exterminator.
Here is what you can do to get rid of stink bugs:
Step 1: Remove (Inside Home)
The first step is to obviously remove any stink bunks that you see inside your home. Vacuuming stink bugs is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get rid of stink bugs. Just make sure that your vacuum has a bag otherwise the insect might stink up your equipment.
Take your time to vacuum the entire house, paying special attention to areas where you think the insects may be hiding. Take the vacuum cleaner out of the house when removing the bag, seal tightly, and dispose of it. You don’t have to use your regular vacuum cleaner if yours is a bag-less model or if you are afraid of stinking up your precious equipment. You can buy an inexpensive bug vacuum that is specifically designed for picking up bugs, like this one shown below.
- No dead bugs smashed against your wall, and less chance of being bitten or stung
- Press the button to start the suction, bring the open end near the insect, and it's swiftly swept inside
- Slip the safety cap over the end to prevent escape
The Sonic Technology Bugbuster is a neat little device with a powerful suction that sucks insects at the touch of a button. Its long design means you don’t have to get too close to the offending insect if you are squeamish.
This bug vacuum even looks like a toy so the kids can help out with your fight against stink bugs! You can use this device for all kinds of bugs including spiders and other insects. It doesn’t require any electricity, just one 9 volt battery.
If you are not squeamish and don’t have a full-blown stink bug infestation, capturing the insects by hand may be a viable option. Pick the insects up by hand with a tissue or plastic bag and flush them down the toilet (don’t flush the bag though!) or let them go outside. Be quick but gentle when picking up these insects by hand to avoid triggering their defense system and that awful odor. Crushing the insects will likely release the odor.
Step 2: Kill (Outdoors)
If you have an infestation outside your house and they keep finding ways inside, your best bet is to spray Talstar insecticide along all nooks and crannies around your home. Spray around windows, door frames, soffits, and any other possible points of entry. Talstar will kill on contact as well, so if you really want to get rid of any you see outside, spraying them directly works well too.
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Here’s a few more natural ways to kill stink bugs outside:
Spray Nicotine-Water on Stink Bugs
If you are hesitant to use pesticides on stink bugs, you would be right in your reservations. It is best to leave chemical use to licensed exterminators indoors especially in a house with children and pets.
Smokers may find a good use for their cigarettes in this case. Mix in 10-12 shredded cigarettes with about half a gallon of water. Shake the mixture vigorously, sieve out any solid pieces, and pour the nicotine-water in a spray bottle.
You may mix in a strong-smelling powder detergent to the nicotine-water to enhance its potency.
Spray the nicotine water directly on any stink bugs you find and this should exterminate the pests.
Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Another great alternative to chemical pesticides for exterminating stink bugs is diatomaceous earth. This dust-like powder is not toxic and also works well for exterminating other common household insects.
This is a naturally occurring compound derived from hard-shelled algae technically known as diatoms.
Insects that crawl through diatomaceous earth absorb particles into their exoskeleton. The diatomaceous earth particles begin to draw liquids from the insect and dehydrate it to death.
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To use diatomaceous earth, simply sprinkle the dust liberally where you have spotted the insects. Focus on entryways such as doors, door frames, and windowsills.
Step 3: Install a Bug Zapper
A bug zapper works well in dark spaces where the stink bugs may be congregating such as in the attic. The great thing about a bug zapper is it kills the insect instantaneously so it doesn’t get a chance to release its odorous chemicals.
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This is also a good solution for your porch or patio and will kill the stink bugs before they can find their way into the house. Some inexpensive bug zappers can save you a world of trouble especially during winter when stink bugs are looking for a warm place to hide i.e. your house.
Step 4: Lay Traps
The beauty with laying stink bug traps is that this is a passive control measure that doesn’t take too much effort. Simply identify the problem areas, lay the traps and wait.
One such trap is the Trapper Max Glue Trap. It is easy to use and especially useful if you have identified a few problem areas where the insects like to congregate.
- Great non-toxic way of catching rodents and insects.
- The glue covered surface measures 4.5"X 6.5" (The whole trap is 5.25"X 7.75")
- Can be used as flat or folded and placed where rodent or other target pests activities have been observed.
This is a board that you lay flat on surfaces and has a layer of film covering the adhesive glue on the top of the board. Place the trap and peel off the layer of film to expose the glue and wait.
Check-in every few days and dispose of the trap once it has captured a few stink bugs. Repeat the process until you are happy that all the insects have been removed.
This trap is an inexpensive solution and has a thin profile that allows you to place it in stink bug hot spots such as nooks and crannies.
When All Else Fails…Wait Them Out
You might be happy to know that stink bugs typically don’t mate or lay eggs indoors. Native to the tropical climate of Southeast Asia, brown marmorated stink bugs are not very used to our cold winters.
As late summer and fall roll around, you begin to see these pests congregating around your home, usually on the west or south-facing walls. The stink bugs are attempting to catch some sun, and hopefully break into your warm home for the winter.
Once the outside temperatures begin to warm up, the stink bugs will naturally try to get outside to eat and mate. Any infestation left in the house at this point may be manageable with the methods explored here.
If the stink bugs in your house aren’t too much of a nuisance, it may be worth waiting them out and they will leave on their own accord. Just be sure to take the proper steps to prevent a future invasion.
How Do Stink Bugs Get in The House?
Stink bugs have a low profile and can squeeze through small openings into your house. The insects tend to access the house through gaps in sills or frames, and cracks in the foundation.
Stink bugs can also jump and fly fairly well and can access higher entry points such openings near utility lines, and gaps in the roof. Any gap more than 4 millimeters is enough for a stink bug to squeeze through. Adult stink bugs need a gap or hole more than 7 millimeters to gain access to the house.
The most affected buildings are those located near common stink bug sanctuaries including large gardens, fruit orchards, agricultural fields, and near ornamental trees and shrubs.
How to Prevent Stink Bugs
Getting rid of stink bugs is all well and good except be prepared to do it again next year. That is unless you take precautionary measures to prevent the bugs from gaining access to your home in the first place.
The best defense against stink bugs is a good offense so a proactive exclusion strategy will ensure that you keep the insects away for good next time colder weather rolls around.
1. Fix Exterior Cracks
Stink bugs are nimble critters and will use any opportunity to gain access to your home. Perform a thorough inspection of your home’s exterior and seal any gaps smaller than 0.25 inches.
Good quality caulk gun along with caulking should do the job. Be careful to seal all the gaps and cracks completely and perform annual inspection and maintenance to keep your home insect proof.
2. Repair Damaged Entryways
A damaged window screen is an invitation for stink bugs and other types of insects to invade your home. Fix broken windows and doors screens with screen material patches or replace any screens that cannot be repaired.
Inspect your weather-stripping for damage and perform the necessary repairs.
3. Improve Your Landscaping
Stink bugs like to be outside when the weather allows so proper landscaping can help to keep the insects away from your home. Trim your shrubbery and branches especially those near the house.
Keep your firewood at least 5 inches off the ground and at least 20 feet from the house. Stink bugs like to live under firewood.
4. Spray a Stink Bug Repellent
A good stink bug repellent will keep the critters away from your yard and around your home, forcing them to find alternative scavenging sites. There are plenty of non-toxic stink bug repellents that you can spray on your crops and/or around the exterior of your house to keep the bugs at bay.
These treatments are especially effective when used around August or early fall when the stink bugs begin to congregate around your house and are most likely to break in.
FenvaStar EcoCap is a great multi-insect product that you can spray around the perimeter of your house or inside cracks and cervices where you suspect the stink bugs are hiding.
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Simply mix one ounce of the product with 1 gallon of water and spray. The effects of this potent pesticide last a lot longer than any DIY repellent you can concoct.
5. Use a Towel Trap
A simple towel trap can be effective for a small infestation during summer. Simply soak a towel in water and wring it out to make it damp. Next, hang the damp towel where you have seen stink bugs congregating, preferably as far away from the house as possible.
The moisture on the towel will attract thirsty stink bugs that get trapped on the DIY trap. Take the towel and dump it in a bucket of soapy water to drown and kill the stink bugs. Repeat the process as long as it is necessary.
6. Squash the Stink Bugs – Outside
The last thing you want to do is squash a stink bug in your home but outside in open air, these insects are fair game. Squashing any stink bugs you find around your house will release an odor that warns other stink bugs of impending danger.
The stink bug odor, foul as it may be, also acts as a warning sign to other bugs to stay away.
Avoid stomping the insects with your foot as you could easily carry the carcass indoors. Use a fly swatter instead or any other objects that you can rinse easily.
7. Minimize Outdoor Lighting
Stink bugs are attracted to light so your porch light may be inviting them to your home especially as the outside temperatures begin to drop.
Consider moving the outdoor lighting further away from entryways or the main house. You may also benefit from motion-activated lights so that the lights aren’t all throughout the night.
Where these solutions aren’t practical, at least consider installing an outdoor bug zapper near your light source to exterminate the insects before they have a chance to get in the house.