Stink Bug Population Increasing in the United States

Updated on April 21, 2018
Casey White profile image

Dorothy McKenney is a former newspaper reporter turned researcher. Her husband, Mike, is a professional landscape/nature photographer.

Recognized By Their Shield Shape

This is a colorful sting bug. These bugs have many different looks, but their shield shape remains pretty consistent so they should be easily recognizable.
This is a colorful sting bug. These bugs have many different looks, but their shield shape remains pretty consistent so they should be easily recognizable. | Source

Why Couldn't We Have More Butterflies?

Of all the beautiful things that could be increasing in population—you know...butterflies, hummingbirds, swans—it has to be stink bugs? They release an odor when they are disturbed that smells a lot like stinky feet, so learning that their population is increasing is disturbing to a lot of people.

The brown marmorated stink bug has been a problem since it arrived in the United States from Asia in 1996. Luckily, they don't harm humans and don't breed indoors. However, they have become more than a little bit irritating to people in the agricultural areas of the eastern United States, much like squash bugs and boxelder bugs.

But, just because they don't breed indoors doesn't mean they won't come inside. When they do enter your home, you might find them buzzing around your head or on your lights, draperies, or any window covering. By all means, don't grab a tissue and squash one because your whole room will be filled with an odor that is unpleasant, to say the least. If you didn't know how this creature got its name, you will if you squash him with a tissue.

A Variety of Stink Bugs

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the brown marmorated stink bug.  Not known to bite humans, but their tendency to invade homes in high numbers can be extremely frustrating.  They release an odor when disturbed or crushed much like the smell of dirty feet.The Banasa dimidiata stink bug.The spined soldier stink bug is a predator of gypsy moth caterpillars and the larvae of beetles such as the Colorado potato beetle and the Mexican bean beetle, making them beneficial garden bugs.A Florida predatory stink bug.  People in that state have witnessed the bugs eating large cicadas, as you can see if the photo below.
This is the brown marmorated stink bug.  Not known to bite humans, but their tendency to invade homes in high numbers can be extremely frustrating.  They release an odor when disturbed or crushed much like the smell of dirty feet.
This is the brown marmorated stink bug. Not known to bite humans, but their tendency to invade homes in high numbers can be extremely frustrating. They release an odor when disturbed or crushed much like the smell of dirty feet. | Source
The Banasa dimidiata stink bug.
The Banasa dimidiata stink bug. | Source
The spined soldier stink bug is a predator of gypsy moth caterpillars and the larvae of beetles such as the Colorado potato beetle and the Mexican bean beetle, making them beneficial garden bugs.
The spined soldier stink bug is a predator of gypsy moth caterpillars and the larvae of beetles such as the Colorado potato beetle and the Mexican bean beetle, making them beneficial garden bugs. | Source
A Florida predatory stink bug.  People in that state have witnessed the bugs eating large cicadas, as you can see if the photo below.
A Florida predatory stink bug. People in that state have witnessed the bugs eating large cicadas, as you can see if the photo below.

A Homeowner's Nightmare

Stink bugs, especially the brown marmorated ones, enter a home and spend the winter months living in an attic, crawl space, or even a crack in the wall. In the spring, they emerge from hiding only to go outside and begin feeding on your plants.

Depending on who you ask, the stink bug is large and oval-shaped or shield-shaped. They have six very long legs extending from their side, which makes them look deceptively large. They are, in fact, pretty large, with their width being almost the same as their length.

It is rare for a stink bug to bite a human, but they have on occasion when they were disturbed. Being herbivores, they prefer to eat fruits and vegetables like apples, green beans, peaches, pears, and soybeans to name a few.

If you do get bitten, you are likely to experience some swelling in the area of the bite, but that's about it. The stink they emit, although unpleasant, is harmless. Small children and pets, however, might have a more severe reaction though, so it is best to keep them away from the bugs.

Use Natural Remedies Instead of Insecticides

Avoid insecticides! Adult stink bugs can easily shake them off and you are exposing your family to potentially deadly toxins. Stick to natural remedies like garlic powder and water. They hate the smell of garlic. You can also vacuum up stink bugs, but only if you have a vacuum cleaner with a bag. After vacuuming, throw the bag away.

The Southern Green Stink Bug and Its Eggs

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the green stink bug.These are eggs of the southern green stink bug.  The life cycle of this bug is completed in 65 to 70 days, but it all starts with the egg.
This is the green stink bug.
This is the green stink bug. | Source
These are eggs of the southern green stink bug.  The life cycle of this bug is completed in 65 to 70 days, but it all starts with the egg.
These are eggs of the southern green stink bug. The life cycle of this bug is completed in 65 to 70 days, but it all starts with the egg. | Source

Use Soapy Water or Hairspray

Create a soapy mixture with water using a mild detergent (to keep from damaging your property or your health). The soap will break down their exterior and leave them dehydrated. The soapy mixture can be sprayed directly on them. Spraying hairspray on stink bugs will paralyze them and you can dispose of them in any manner you wish. The hairspray won't kill them.

Ways to Prevent Stink Bugs

  • Use mesh screening on porches, air vents, chimneys and other open areas.
  • Seal all points of entry with high-grade silicone caulk.
  • Spray areas through which they might enter with garlic powder and water. Put a few tablespoons of the powder in a spray bottle with a few cups of water. Stink bugs hate the smell of garlic.
  • Wipe your windowsills and doorways with scented dryer sheets. We hate the stink bug's smell, but they hate the smell of scented dryer sheets and will avoid them whenever possible.
  • Keep your garden weeded because stink bugs love weeds.
  • If you have to kill a stink bug, kill it outside, and the smell will keep others away.
  • Plant flowers that will attract wasps, although that's not a good idea if you have small children that play in an area nearby. Wasps are natural predators of stink bugs.

Morphology of the Stink Bug

Source

Catch and Release...or Something Else

If you have a stink bug in your house, don't antagonize it because you know what will happen when it panics. It is better to get a plastic bottle, using the lid to collect the bug. If it does decide to release its odor, the bottle will trap the smell inside. Then, just toss it outside. There are many people who would prefer to handle the bugs in this manner, but others who don't mind taking a more drastic approach to getting rid of these little stinkers.

For example, once you have the bug captured, flush it down the toilet. If it is freezing cold outside, you can put the bottle outside where the bug will freeze. In the summer, you can just put the bottle in the freezer and get the same result.

How to Set a Stink Bug Trap

If you decide you want to set a trap for stink bugs, you will need the following supplies:

  • A two-liter bottle
  • A razor blade
  • Black electrical tape
  • Masking tape
  • An LED light
  • A pencil

Using the razor blade, cut off the top 1/3 of the bottle, then wrap the bottom of the bottle with black electrical tape. Don't discard the top part of the bottle.

Set the LED light in the bottom part of the bottle in a position that will allow you to turn it on later, then place the top part of the bottle that you cut off upside-down into the bottom, creating a funnel.

You will need a way to enable the bugs to climb the slippery sides of the bottle, so stick strips of masking tape on the outside of it. They will be able to climb the sides, then fall into the funnel.

The LED light will need to be turned on, so you can do so by using a pencil (or any other long, slim object). Put the trap outside and leave it there overnight. The light will attract them and once they get into the bottle, they won't be able to climb back out.

Dispose of them in any manner you wish.

References

https://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/occasional-invaders/stink-bugs/ Retrieved 02/21/2018

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/bean/southern_green_stink_bug.htm. Retrieved 02/21/2018

Paiero, S.M., Marshall, S.A., McPherson, J.E., Ma, M.-S. 2013. Stink bugs (Pentatomidae) and parent bugs (Acanthosomatidae) of Ontario and adjacent areas: A key to species and a review of the fauna. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification No. 24, 1 September, 2013

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

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      • Casey White profile image
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        Mike and Dorothy McKenney 4 weeks ago from United States

        Thank you very much!

      • profile image

        Sharlee 4 weeks ago

        Enjoyed the read... I agree why not more butterflies ? Wonderful work.

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