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Stink Bug Population Increasing in the United States

Dorothy is a master gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape and nature photographer.

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

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

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 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 once you squash him with a tissue.

A Homeowner's Nightmare

Stink bugs, especially the brown marmorated ones, will 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 then 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.

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


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.

While many people prefer to handle the bugs in this manner, others 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 Retrieved 02/21/2018 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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Mike and Dorothy McKenney


Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on April 21, 2018:

Thank you very much!

Sharlee on April 21, 2018:

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