Stink bugs are active in March and April and very active in September when they’re trying to get into your house. The majority of the population lives in the tree canopy year-round, or in the fall they head for man-made sites like commercial buildings or your house. Once they find their way in, in the fall, stink bugs tend to head toward the attic. They may settle in stacks of newspapers or piles of clothes. When squashed, frightened or disturbed, stink bugs secrete a foul-smelling, bad-tasting substance.
Be careful about vacuuming them up in a household vacuum cleaner because the strong odour will remain. Stink bugs are a serious pest, feeding on a long list of host plants, including fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and legumes. They also feed on weeds and tree leaves, and are comparatively impervious to insecticides. They have also been a real headache for home gardeners in these states.
If you have an indoor problem with stink bugs, it may be because of the types of trees surrounding your house. The bugs tend to like to eat the foliage and seeds of black locust, maple, ash, Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven) and catalpa trees. To feed, the bug punctures agricultural products with a straw-like appendage and withdraws sap containing water, protein and carbohydrates.
Methods to prevent infestation with stink bugs inside your house
Prevention is always the key, as once the stink bugs are established in your house, it is almost impossible to get rid of them. as mentioned above, stink bugs invade homes in search for shelter as they need a warm place to hibernate in during the winter. By preventing them from entering your house, you will avoid the nuisance of getting rid of them, in the spring, when they awaken from hibernation. As they are quite small, stink bugs can enter through open doors and windows, but they also creep in through the cracks and crevices of your house.
- Seal all cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys and underneath the wood fascia and other openings with high quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk;
- Repair broken screens and windows;
- Install door sweeps if necessary;
- Fix any holes in your window screens, and make sure there’s no tiny space between the screen and the window. If there is, use tape to seal it up;
- Make sure you do not have any rotten wood in your window sills, sidings or outdoor decks, as the bugs can also infiltrate through there; replace any rotten wood, especially on the sides that face the sun;
- Put weather stripping around your windows and doors, and replace any stripping that is worn;
- Keep any outdoor lights off, and turn off as many lights inside your home as possible, as stink bugs are attracted to light;
- Pull down window shades and blinds to keep the light from spilling outside at night.
- Reduce moisture sites, by elimination leaking pipes and clogged drains;
- Eliminate any food sources by storing food in airtight containers and by disposing of garbage regularly in sealed bags or trash cans;
- Wipe down counters and sweep floors to eliminate crumbs and residue from spills;
- Properly ventilate your basement, attic, garage and any other crawl spaces to avoid harborage points for the stink bug;
- Use dehumidifiers if needed in damper areas of the house;
- Inspect items such as boxes containing holiday decorations before opening them indoors;
- Carefully check grocery bags before bringing them into the house;
- Keep branches and shrubbery well trimmed around your house;
- Store firewood at least 20 ft away from your house;
Preventive measures in the garden
When it comes to preventing the infestation of a certain crop with stink bugs, it is quite difficult, as they are known to develop resistance to chemical insecticides, and they are quite hard to get rid of. As of 2012, native predators such as wasps and birds were showing increased signs of feeding on the bugs as they adapt to the new food source. Several spider species attacked both the eggs as well as live stink bugs. Woodlice eat stinkbug eggs. The wheel bug, however, was the most voracious predator and attacked the eggs as well as stink bugs more consistently. However, introducing another type of pest to eliminate the stink bug may not be the best solution for one’s crops.
Managing this pest species is challenging because there are currently few effective pesticides that are labeled for use against them. Researchers are looking into ways to effectively control this species but many more experiments are needed to develop a consistent pesticide that can manage to kill these pests and protect crops world wide.
The vegetables most at risk to stink bug damage are sweetcorn, most varieties of pepper, tomato, okra, aubergine and edible beans. Plants are typically attacked in late summer when fruiting structures are present. Adults can also move into orchards at any time. Stone fruit, particularly peaches and nectarines are vulnerable in the early season, but the majority of fruit injury to pome fruit occurs later in the season.
Brown marmorated stink bugs feed by inserting their stylets into the fruit, pods, buds, leaves, and stems of plants. Their injury can manifest itself in different ways.
- In peppers and tomatoes, feeding on the fruit will produce characteristic white or yellow scars on the skin where the feeding stylets were inserted, or sunken in areas from the internal fruit tissue collapsing below.
- In corn, the feeding stylets of stink bug nymphs and adults are inserted through the husk and pierce the tender kernels, which may cause them to become aborted, collapsed or discolored.
- Feeding injury to beans may result in scarred, faded out sunken areas, as well as deformed pods, which also occurs in okra.
- In blueberry, the sugar levels are lower in stink bug-damaged fruit.
- In hazelnut, blanks are found predominantly early, and corky tissue is found later in the growing season.
An attract-and-kill strategy for the stink bug would involve luring large numbers of the insects to a specific area, and then treating that area. Such a program could reduce pesticide applications, save money, and minimize health and environmental risks. But mass trapping of the stink bug has not yet been shown to be an effective or economical control. Also, organic growers face a special challenge when it comes to the stink bug because there are no organically approved pesticides for management of the insect.
It is difficult when it comes to chemical control, as broad-spectrum aerosol insecticides also kill beneficial insects that help to control pest populations, presenting a setback for growers who use integrated pest management to promote nature’s own checks and balances on their farms. In addition, the risk of pest resistance increases with greater use of chemical products.
Because the bugs insert their proboscis below the surface of fruit and then feed, some insecticides are ineffective; in addition, the bugs are mobile, and a new population may fly in after the resident population has been killed, making permanent removal nearly impossible. In the case of soybean infestations research shows that spraying only the perimeter of a field may be the most effective method of preventing stinkbugs from damaging the crops.
The brown marmorated stink bug is a serious agricultural pest that has been readily causing damage to crops across the Eastern United States. The most common signs of stink bug damage are pitting and scarring of the fruit, leaf destruction, and a mealy texture to the harvested fruits and vegetables. In most cases the signs of stink bug damage make the plant unsuitable for sale in the market as the insides are usually rotten. In field crops such as corn and soy beans the damage may not be as evident as the damage seen in fruit plants. When stink bugs feed on corn they go through the husk before eating the kernels, hiding the damage until the husks are removed during harvesting.
All these contamination possibilities by the stink bug are able to lead to millions of dollars’ worth of damage when it comes to crops around the USA or Europe. Getting rid of them from inside the house might be easier than protecting your crops and elimination the bugs from your garden or fields. You can check the details on how you can get rid of a stink bug infestation in our related article, where natural and chemical methods of eliminating this pest will be presented.