The cooler temperatures of fall may make for a welcome change, but they can also usher pests like stink bugs into the warmer confines of your home. Stink bugs aren’t as dangerous as other insect intruders, but they’re definitely a nuisance, and a smelly one at that!
When stink bugs are disturbed, they emit a distinct odor that scientists believe is used for protection against predators. The scent is produced by a gland on the stink bug’s abdomen, and some species can spray it several inches. Therein lies the nuisance to you, the homeowner, along with the potential for dead stink bugs to trigger secondary infestations by such pests as carpet beetles. Fortunately, stink bugs don’t carry diseases that can be passed to humans, nor do they bite, sting or cause structural damage. But they do like to feast on fruits, vegetables, plant stems and leaves, and carry plant diseases. So they can definitely do damage to a sizable garden or orchard.
There are multiple species of stink bugs, also known as shield bugs, and those prevalent in the U.S. include the brown marmorated stink bug, green stink bug, and Kudzu or globular stink bugs. Adult brown marmorated stink bugs—the most common type—have an oval- or shield-shaped body that is mottled brown or gray in color, with light bands on their antennae and dark bands on their front wings. They grow to be approximately ¾ of an inch long. Newly hatched stink bug nymphs are yellow and red in color with bright red eyes. They shed their skin five times in their lifecycle, before becoming adult-sized and gray in color during the last molt.
So where exactly will you run into stink bugs? According to Penn State University, their population has spread to 34 states and the District of Columbia, primarily east of the Mississippi River. However, western states including Oregon have reported stink bug sightings. In all of these places, stink bugs seek shelter and warmth in the fall to wait out the winter season. Their overwintering sites include walls, cracks and crevices, and they’re relatively inactive once they settle in. Once temperatures rise again in the spring, you’ll likely spot stink bugs on walls and windows as they make their way outdoors to feed and reproduce.
To prevent a stink bug infestation in the first place, ensure that these pests don’t enter your home this autumn. Seal all cracks and crevices in and around your home, including windows and doors, and install weatherstripping under interior doors to deter entry. Protect vents in attics and crawlspaces with screening, and make sure all screens on windows are in good repair. Also monitor for stink bugs in pipes, chimneys and other home entry points. Outdoors, store firewood on a rack away from your home’s exterior walls, and remove any boards, boxes or other possible stink bug hideouts from your yard and garden. And as the summer yard care season winds down, keep weeds and grass trimmed around the fences and drainage ditches where stink bugs can congregate.
If you do find yourself in the company of stink bugs, avoid using a vacuum to catch them, because the odor they emit may linger inside the vacuum for a long time afterward. Instead, contact a pest control professional for assessment, removal and prevention of these stinky, pesky insect!