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What Are Stink Bugs? And How Do I Get Rid Of Them?

Stink bugs are poised to make news again this year. Last year they were all over the place. You could find them all around your home, and in your home. You could also find stink bugs all over the news.

Stink bugs are relatively new to the United States and are considered an invasive species of bug. That means that they have no natural predator in our parts to help keep their population under control. They hail from China, Japan and Taiwan and likely made their way across the world to our corner of the globe through some packing shipments or plants. They were first documented in the United States in 1998 in Pennsylvania. Since then they have started to migrate around and are showing up here in the Southeast with growing numbers each year. They do not pose a health risk to humans, but they can be a pretty alarming bug to find in and around your home due to size and sometimes volume in number.

So why are they called Stink Bugs? What can I do about them? How do I keep them out of my house?

The Stink Bug has a unique shape and large size making it easy to identify around the home.
This is a pretty succinct write-up from the Poughkeepsie Journal:

Who are they?

According to North Dakota State University, there are 4,700 species of stink bugs in the world with about 250 in the U.S. and Canada. Our pest is known as the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). It gets its name from the brown marbling pattern on its back.

To identify them, look for striping on its antennae, a striped pattern along the abdomen and smooth shoulders. It has a five-sided, shield-shaped body and is about 3/4of an inch long.

Why are they stinky?

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 odor will remain. Use a shop vac, and take it outside right away, if you go that route.

How did they get here?

Native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, brown marmorated stink bugs have been in the Hudson Valley since 2007. In the United States, they were first documented in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the mid-1990s. They probably hitched a ride in shipping containers, just like the Asian longhorn beetle that has killed millions of trees nationwide. Stink bugs are now in more than 30 states.

What do they eat?

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 been a major problem in the Hudson Valley as far north as Columbia County,” Jentsch says.

If we have summer drought conditions, the invasive bug looks for vegetable and fruit crops with sap or juice. “They eat peaches early, then apples and pears, and they really like hot peppers for some reason.” They also munch on soybeans and tomatoes.

To feed, the bug punctures agricultural products with a straw-like appendage and withdraws sap containing water, protein and carbohydrates. In agriculture, stink bugs have been more of a problem in mid-Atlantic states like Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The U.S. Apple Association estimated that stink bugs caused $37 million in damage to apple growers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia in 2010.
They have also been a real headache for home gardeners in these states.

If you have an indoor problem with stink bugs, it may because of the types of trees surrounding your house. They tend to like to eat the foliage and seeds of black locust, maple, ash, Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven) and catalpa trees.

How do I kill them?

For homeowners, Jentsch suggests a simple, nontoxic brew of soapy water (1- to 2-percent soap to water) in a household spray bottle. “That will probably work as well as anything,” he says.

“This time of year, if you blow at them the wrong way they’ll die,” he adds, partly in jest, explaining that they haven’t eaten anything in six months. In the field, “the insecticides that tend to work are the older chemistries,” Jentsch says. In agricultural settings in the Hudson Valley, an effective way to control them has been with trap and kill stations, using pheromone traps as a lure. That way, farmers and orchard growers don’t need to spray insecticides on the crops as frequently.

Stink bugs were a major problem in 2012, but two hard winters in a row has helped keep them in check in New York, Jentsch says.

How do I keep them out of my house?

Prevention in the fall is key.

“Once established in your house, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them,” Jentsch says.

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. Remove wall and window air conditioners; weather stripping around doors and windows may help. Repair broken screens and windows.

“You have to think like an insect,” Jentsch says.