The United States considers Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (aka Halyomorpha halys or BMSB) as invasive pests. These insects come from Asia, but it somehow turned up in North America, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2001.
Many thought the brown marmorated stink bug made its way to this country by stowing away in shipping crates. Highly adaptable and rugged, the insect lost no time in becoming established in PA, and soon, it began to spread.
Today, many people across the eastern United States see this invader as an agricultural pest because crops are threatened, as well as a threat to the interior and exterior of homes. Its presence has been acknowledged in all 50 states, according to BMSB State-by-State.
What Do These Stink Bugs Look Like?
This invasive species measures about a half inch long. They are dark, mottled brown in color and shaped like a shield. Their antennae display alternating dark and light bands, as do the edges of the abdomen.
During the summer months, typically June-August, the adults lay eggs on the undersides of plant leaves. The eggs look green and cylindrical in shape.
The eggs of this green stink bug hatch late in the summer and the colorful nymphs feed on plant leaves and fruit. You can easily recognize them with their yellow, red, and black markings. As the nymphs grow and develop, they look more like adult beetles.
If you see these bugs in your yard in the springtime, deal with them right away, or you will find yourself fending them off when they try to move into your house in the autumn.
What Harm Do They Do?
In areas of warm weather year-round, the brown marmorated stink bugs become active and destructive. In areas with cold winter, they show most activeness in the spring and autumn. During springtime, adults emerge from their winter hideouts to mate, lay eggs, and wreak havoc.
In the autumn, they congregate around windows, doors, and other home openings seeking shelter.
Although they do not sting, bite, or spread any kind of disease, BMSBs’ sheer numbers and offensive odor cause problems for homeowners. This appears especially true in the autumn when the adult beetles begin to search en masse for a place to spend the winter.
These stink bugs invade homes persistently, and they can make their way through very tiny spaces and crevices.
In addition to being a nuisance in the home, BMSBs also cause problems in orchards and gardens. They eat the buds, leaves, and fruits of numerous kinds of plants. Moreover, predicting the types of plants these insects will attack makes a difficult task because infest all kinds and they feed a lot.
Below lists some of the plants which commonly serve as hosts to the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug:
- Asian Pear Trees
- Knockout Roses
- Butterfly Bush
- Peach Trees
This list only shows a few of the plants affected by these invasive insects. They like fruit trees, shade trees, and woody ornamentals. Also, the brown marmorated stink bugs can destroy fruit harvests which makes it important to take aggressive action against them upon sighting. Below are proven tips on how you can prevent or solve a stink bug infestation.
15 Proven Tips To Get Rid Of Stink Bugs!
Here are a few proven pest management methods for eradicating (or at least discouraging) BMSBs in your home, yard, and garden.
#1 – Seal Up Your Home
Stink bugs slip through tiny cracks and openings. Therefore, establishing tight seals around the following makes a crucial task:
- Air Conditioners
- Light Fixtures
- Wood Fascia
- Utility Pipes
Inspect all areas of your home and seal off any gaps with a silicone-latex caulk or just silicone. Blocking off access works efficiently if you live in an area with cold winters because the adults will die if they cannot find a warm place to live during the winter.
#2 – Install Good Screens
Even when you seal everything off, stink bugs may still bother you by congregating on your window screens. Make sure all your screens remain in good condition and fit tightly to prevent stink bug invasion.
#3 – Ward Them off with Garlic
A solution of garlic and water provides an effective bug repellent. Mix up a simple solution by combining two cups of warm water with four tablespoons of garlic powder. Fill a spray bottle then spray around the garden, doors, and window sills to repel stink bugs. You will need to spray this solution every few days optimum effectiveness.
#4 – Repel Them with Essential Oils
Strong smelling essential oils such as eucalyptus, lemon, Indian lavender, mint, and catnip may have a repellent effect on stink bugs. Mix up solutions at a rate of one teaspoon per two cups of warm water. Place the solution in a spray bottle. Spray as previously directed for garlic spray.
#5 – Practice Smart Combination Planting
The stink bug species does not like smelly plants! Go figure by conducting a small experiment. To keep them away from your trees, bushes, and ornamentals, surround these plants with chrysanthemums, basil, garlic, mint, lavender, hot peppers, and other plants that are not to their liking.
Catnip also discourages them, and you can grow catnip in your yard along with your other deterrent plants; however, be aware that if you grow catnip in your garden, you are very likely to attract cats!
#6 – Suck it up
These bugs tend to congregate, so sucking them up with a vacuum cleaner is a very easy way to massacre great swathes of them at once. Of course, when you do this you run the risk of encountering dreadful smell and stinking up your vacuum cleaner.
Rest assured that the smell should be temporary, but if you don’t want to risk smelling stink bugs every time you vacuum, you can take a knee-high stocking and put the top of it over the end of your vacuum cleaner hose.
Secure it in place with a rubber band and then stuff the rest of the stocking into the tube. When you suck up the stinkbugs, they will get stuck inside the stocking. Then you can just tie it up and toss them into a bucket of soapy water before throwing them away.
Alternately, you might seal the stocking full of stink bugs in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for a few days. That will kill stink bugs, too. Don’t flush them down the toilet. This is an unnecessary waste of water.
#7 – Dehydrate Them
When you have cleared all the stink bugs out of a congregating area, sprinkle the area with diatomaceous earth.
When more stink bugs inevitably arrive, they will walk through the substance and become coated with it. This fine, all-natural powder draws the lipids out of the chitin-walls of the exoskeleton and causes fatal dehydration.
#8 – Trick Them into Dropping into a Deadly Solution
If they are congregated up high, you can disturb them and get them to drop. Position a bucket of some deadly solution beneath them so that they will drop right into it. Here are some of the best combinations for sending stink bugs plunging to an inglorious death:
- Hot water with a teaspoon of strongly scented essential oil.
- Hot water with a squirt of dish soap.
- Pure rubbing alcohol.
The strongly scented essential oil is not only unpleasant for BMSBs, it will help ward off any stink bug scent you may encounter.
Note that some articles and videos recommend using ammonia, bleach, or a combination of hot sauce or hot peppers and water. The problem with this is that these substances could be dangerous for you. Bleach can damage your throat and lungs, and even your clothing and furnishings. Bleach and ammonia combined can kill you!
Hot sauce and hot peppers can burn your skin and cause real damage to your eyes. It’s not necessary to use these potentially dangerous substances, and they are no deadlier to stink bugs than the milder alternatives, so just avoid them.
#9 – Sweep Them into a Deadly Solution
To catch individual bugs, keep a smaller container with a bit of soapy water (or some-such) at hand. Cut the top off a 2-liter bottle so that you have a tall, slippery, cylindrical container. Put approximately an inch of soapy water, alcohol, or water with essential oil in the bottom of the container.
Whenever you see a stink bug, hold the container under it and sweep it into the deadly solution with a whisk broom, piece of cardboard, or your hand, if you are very brave.
You can make a smaller version of this contraption using a small soda bottle. This can be attached to a broom handle or other pole so that you can reach high places, touch the stink bug with the lip of your container and trick it into dropping into the container to meet its demise.
#10 – Make Stink Bugs See the Light
Set up traps in your house and garden that use light to trick them into flying into a deadly solution! Some stink bug warriors have come up with rather complex and ingenious light traps.
There are many variations of this concept. Some use 2-liter bottles cut in two and then reconfigured to form a trap containing a light in the bottom that attracts the bugs and an inverted funnel that allows them to enter the trap but not exit.
Other light traps are made using a cylindrical container such as a coffee can or flower pot with a light bulb inside. A clear glass bowl filled with soapy water, rubbing alcohol or some other BMSB killing solution is placed on top of the lighted cylinder. Stink bugs are attracted to the light, so they will fly into the solution and die.
#11 – Trap Them with a Damp Towel
Late in the afternoon, soak a large towel in water. Wring it out and hang it in your garden. Stink bugs will congregate in the damp folds overnight. Retrieve the towel early in the morning before the bugs get active and plunge it into a bucket of soapy water!
#12 – Trick Stink Bugs Into Thinking They Have Found a Good Place to Spend the Night
Make a multilayered, cardboard stink bug trap. Using shims and layers of cardboard, you can make a large trap that provides lots of inviting hiding places for stink bugs. Set these up in high, warm locations around the outside of your home and in your garden in the autumn. The stink bugs will go inside, thinking they have found a good place to hibernate for winter. They will then be at your mercy, and you can dispose of them as you see fit!
#13 – Spray Them
While chemical insecticides are generally ineffective and dangerous, natural pesticides can be a good alternative. If you are going to go the DIY route with pesticides, try to keep it minimal and go with natural products such as neem oil and spinosad.
You might also have some luck spraying individual bugs up close using the same solutions you would use in your buckets and containers as repellent sprays.
These can have a negative effect on stink bugs when sprayed in their concentrated form. Hairspray is also apparently quite deadly to them. Selective spraying could be a useful way of dealing with individual invaders once you have the mass populace under control.
#14 – Set Up Sticky Traps
The yellow, sticky traps used to trap flies will also trap stink bugs. They are fond of the color and will be drawn to it. Just remember that lots of beneficial insects are also drawn to yellow so you may end up killing off butterflies and bees as well if you use this method in your garden.
#15 – Eliminate Stink Bug Eggs & Nymphs
Keep your plants well-trimmed to limit BMSB reproductive territory. Check the undersides of leaves in your garden and yard for stink bug eggs and nymphs. When you see them, destroy them. You can scrape them off into soapy water or prune off the affected leaves and limbs and dispose of them promptly. Be sure not to compost them. Instead, seal them in plastic bags and put them out with the trash or burn them (without plastic bags).
Know Your Enemy
Here are some points to keep in mind when plotting your plan of attack:
- BMSBs can fly very fast and tend to drop down quickly if disturbed. You can use this behavior to trick them into dropping into traps filled with rubbing alcohol or soapy water, both of which will lead to a speedy demise!
- They are faster and harder to kill on warm, sunny days; however, you can take advantage of cool, overcast days to make some real headway in your elimination plans as they are apt to be quite sluggish when the weather is less than ideal.
- When the weather begins to cool, they tend to gather together in warm, high places. Take advantage of this habit when setting traps!
- Crushing them will certainly kill them, but remember that they aren’t called “stink bugs” without reason. When you crush them, the odor will be offensive. Luckily, the smell dissipates quickly.
This video from the National Geographic gives more information about the brown marmorated stink bug control.
What About Pesticides?
Pesticides are not usually effective against BMSBs, and these creatures are so numerous that the amount of pesticide you would need to eliminate them would likely negatively impact you. Consequently, many gardeners and homeowners have come up with ingenious and somewhat fiendish methods of killing these little devils off!
Some homeowners have had success killing BMSBs by spraying their screens and entry points with poison every day in the autumn to prevent stink bugs from coming in and kill them if they attempt to enter. This may be very tempting, but remember that wholesale spraying of pesticides kills both undesirable and desirable insect life. Coating your screens with pesticide is likely to have ill effects on your health and/or the health of your pets.
Using insecticidal dust and other treatments on stink bugs in your home are also likely to have unwanted consequences. For example, if stink bugs die in hidden areas, other undesirables such as carpet beetles are likely to feed on their carcasses. Then you could very well end up with an infestation of carpet beetles eating up your dry goods, clothing, and other valuable items in your home.
If you insist on using a chemical pesticide to solve the stink bug problem, synthetic pyrethroids have shown the most effectiveness. It’s best to hire a professional pest control service to apply these chemicals in the fall. You should realize that this type of insecticide is usually broken down by sunlight, so it does not remain active for very long. Applying it can be costly and may have little outcome.
You may also wish to check your local garden/home improvement center for pesticides that are specifically intended to be applied around door frames, window sills, and other openings to repel pests. Don’t apply this pesticide around the foundation of your home or to mulch as rain will cause it to soak into the ground where it will eventually end up contaminating ground water.
Follow label instructions very carefully, and don’t be surprised if you find that you have wasted your money. BMSBs are notoriously resistant to pesticides, and the amount needed to affect them would be generally damaging and quite costly. For these reasons, trapping and deflecting are more effective and more desirable than poisoning.