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Got Stink Bugs? Here’s How To Get Rid of Them

Stinkbugs are an invasive pest that show up unannounced this time of year. Learn what to do about these creepy bugs invading your home or garden!

Has this ever happened to you: You’re gazing out the window when you spot a creepy brown bug that looks like something from a sci-fi action thriller clinging to your screen. If the critter in question has a broad, shield-shaped body with stripes around the edges and on the antennae, long legs, and a comparatively tiny head, you may have a stink bug on your hands.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The brown marmorated stink bug (Eocanthecona furcellata) or simply “stink bug” for short, is an invasive pest that is native to China. It was first discovered in the United States in the late 1990s, in the state of Pennsylvania. Stinkbugs have since spread to 40 states, as well as parts of Canada, though they are still most plentiful in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

Stink bugs range in size from half an inch to an inch in size, but their most notable characteristic is the one that gives them their name. When stink bugs are frightened, disturbed, or killed by crushing, they emit a pungent odor that some describe as skunk-like. Some say it smells like the foliage of tomato plants.

Stink bugs are becoming an increasingly problematic agricultural pest—the herbivorous insects inject their sharp, pointy mouths into fruit and other crops, leaving behind rotted areas that make them unviable for sale as fresh produce.

To the average homeowner, though, stink bugs are mostly harmless. They do not cause any structural or other damage and, unlike roaches, ants, and other common household pests, stink bugs are solitary creatures and do not travel in colonies. While you may find a group of stinkbugs together in a garden, these are simply individuals drawn to the same food source.

Spring and Fall Pests

Stink bugs emerge in the spring to feed and reproduce. Late July and August are the most common times to see damage to plants. And in the fall, as the weather turns colder, the bugs start invading homes in search of a warm place to spend the winter. Stink bugs typically gather on warm, west-facing walls and enter buildings via cracks and crevices.

But they have been seen at all times of the year, in all regions.

Get Rid of Stink Bugs In Your Home

So what do you do if you encounter a stink bug, and how do you keep them out? Here’s a quick primer:

If you find a stink bug, or a few, in your home, do not panic. They are harmless to humans, structures, and fabrics. Whatever you do, do not crush a stink bug. As its name suggests, a threatened or crushed stinkbug will release an unpleasant, skunky odor. The easiest way to get rid of stink bugs is to vacuum them up. If you have a Shop-Vac or a little-used spare vacuum you keep in a garage, use it to prevent the smell from infiltrating your home. Be sure to replace the bag immediately, or clean out a bagless model with vinegar.

Some people like to catch stink bugs and flush them down the toilet. While effective, this method also results in a lot of wasted water if used too frequently.

Keeping Stink Bugs Out

  • To keep stink bugs from invading your home in the first place, make sure everything is sealed up well. Fill in cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, chimneys, and underneath fascia with good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk. Repair or replace damaged screens on doors and windows.
  • Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth both inside and outside, targeting areas where they may be getting in (windows, doorways). It acts as a natural, abrasive barrier to crawling insects and is harmless to humans and pets.
  • Stink bugs are repelled by garlic. Crush a few garlic cloves and put in a dish on a windowsill and at entryways.

Get Rid of Stink Bugs In The Garden

  • While stink bugs pose no real threat to homeowners, they can be incredibly destructive pests for farmers and gardeners. They feed on a wide range of tree fruits and seed pods as well as many vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, beans, and sweet corn.
  • To keep stink bugs from devouring your garden, you can purchase commercial stink bug traps that will capture adult stink bugs. Planting sunflowers and marigolds will also help by attracting beneficial insects that will eat stink bug eggs and larva.
  • Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth beneath growing watermelon, cantaloupe, squash and all fruits and vegetables resting on the ground, as well as on plant leaves.
  • Stink bugs also dislike the smell of mint. Consider planting it in your garden, or crushing a few leaves and scattering them around the base of other plants.
  • While the above remedies are deterrents, you can also make a solution of mild soapy water with dish soap, and spray directly on the bugs to kill them.

Is It A Stink Bug? Meet The Lookalikes

The Western Conifer Seed Bug has a long body and flies.

Squash bugs and Western Conifer Seed Bugs are often confused with stink bugs. Here’s how to tell them apart. Additionally, many people report getting “bit’ by stink bugs but this is highly unlikely. True marmorated stink bugs’ mouth aren’t designed for biting. The only food source they’re interested in is plant material and nothing related to mammals.

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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Lemongrass

I live in the Caribbean and stinky bugs are eating the leaves to my black sage trees. Recently I noticed them on my pigeon pea trees this year. I sprayed them with some homemade lemon rind water, but that did not help. I will try the garlic and salt water. Garlic does not grow very well in my neck of the woods, but I will scatter the garlic skins around the plant. So far they have not found my tomato plants. Hope they never do. I have tried catching them to place them in a soapy liquid, they always fly away.

Dianne

I sure would love to know suggestions for getting rid of the new and disgusting Aedes mosquito from Asia. (I live in So CA.) It is literally eating us alive!

Bob

We had stink bugs since I was a kid in the 60s. You mentioned them coming from China in the 90s. Is that a different type? They look very similar except ours were gray.

Karen

We usually get cedar beetles. AND way too damn many of them! Soapy water kills them dead

Mary

A quick and easy way to get rid of stink bugs and many other bugs that invade your garden. It also is environmentally friendly. You get a 24 oz spray bottle fill it about halfway up with water, put two heaping tablespoons of salt in, and then add Dawn dish soap. I don’t know exact measurements but what I do is I squeeze enough in to change the color of the water. Shake it up until the salt dissolved.
This stuff lasted me all summer. It just depends on how much you use it. I used it for flies and such on the patio.

Susan Higgins

Terrific!

Justine

I have a screened porch off my bedroom and in the spring/early summer sooo many stinkbugs! My method — I use a “mixing” size bowl half full of water/dish detergent and flick them into it. They drown, no smell.

Rose

Jamo – actually the bug you may be talking about is the kissing bug that causes a disease called Chagas and became pravelent in Texas in the 50s. It is still around and many Texans are infected. https://www.caller.com/story/news/local/2018/06/25/texas-has-11-types-kissing-bugs-and-all-carry-deadly-chagas-disease/695370002/

This is totally different from stink bugs or the assasian bug – they look similar if not side by side. If you see the very large wheel bug with similar color to stink bugs but different shape/size, etc – don’t kill it. It is our largest terrestrial bug. At the moment, it is the only natural killer of stink bugs we have. Though it can leave a bite worse than wasp or hornet and it sometimes eats ladybugs and bees – it consistently looks for stink bug eggs, young, and adults too. They pierce the skin of their prey similar to stink bugs do on fruit, vegetables, corn, soybeans, etc. But wheel bugs mostly are meat eaters and also prey upon soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, Japanese beetles, the cabbage worm, orange dogs, tent caterpillars, and the Mexican bean beetle,

See below brief statement of how bad stink bugs are to food crops..I can tell you – they ruin the taste of whatever they bite and because it causes rotting where it bites – you might think you can save the part not yet affected…not so – they are quite an issue for us on east coast and they are quickly spreading – by now are probably in all states. In 2012, it was reported in 40 states and into Canada, pretty fast for a bug that was first seen in 1998 in PA (most likely came from China or Japan in packing crates or with machinery parts).

“The brown marmorated stink bug is a serious agricultural pest that has been readily causing damage to crops across the Eastern United States. They feed on a wide array of plants including apples, apricots, Asian pears, cherries, corn, grapes, lima beans, peaches, peppers, tomatoes, and soybeans.This makes them extremely versatile, as they do not require a specific plant on which to feed. To obtain their food, stink bugs use their stylets to pierce the plant tissue to extract the plant fluids.In doing so, the plant loses necessary fluids, which can lead to deformation of seeds, destruction of seeds, destruction of fruiting structures, delayed plant maturation, and increased vulnerability to harmful pathogens.While harvesting the plant’s juices, the stink bug injects saliva into the plant, creating a dimpling of the fruit’s surface and rotting of the material underneath.“

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