Current Moon Phase

Waxing Gibbous
57% of full

Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Attack of the Stinkbugs!

Attack of the Stinkbugs!

Has this ever happened to you: You’re cleaning up around your house when you spot a massive brown bug that looks like something from a sci-fi action thriller. 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 stinkbug on your hands.

The brown marmorated stinkbug, or simply stinkbug 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.

Stinkbugs range in size from half an in to an inch in size, but their most notable characteristic is the one that gives them their name. When stinkbugs are frightened, disturbed, or killed by crushing, they emit a pungent odor that some describe as skunk-like.

Stinkbugs 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, stinkbugs are mostly harmless. They do not cause any structural or other damage and, unlike roaches, ants, and other common household pests, stinkbugs 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.

Stinkbugs emerge in the spring to feed and reproduce. As the weather turns colder, the bugs start invading homes in search of a warm place to spend the winter. Late July and August are the most common times to see damage on plants.

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

In Your Home
If you find a stinkbug, or a few, in your home, do not panic. Stinkbugs are harmless to humans, structures, and fabrics. Whatever you do, do not crush a stinkbug. As its name suggests, a threatened or crushed stinkbug will release an unpleasant, skunky odor. The easiest way to get rid of stinkbugs is to vacuum them up. If you have a 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 replace the bag immediately, or clean out a bagless model with vinegar.

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

Keeping Them Out
To keep stinkbugs 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.

In The Garden
While stinkbugs 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 stinkbugs from devouring your garden, you can purchase commercial stinkbug traps that will capture adult stinkbugs. Planting sunflowers and marigolds will also help by attracting beneficial insects that will eat stinkbug eggs and larva.

19 comments

1 Melissa { 08.12.14 at 6:44 pm }

Stinkbug larva!! That’s what ate the leaves of my morning glories!! I couldn’t figure it out. Thank you for the article.

2 Louise { 08.12.14 at 1:13 pm }

Just saw one this morning, not knowing what it was, and I tried to kill it, but it got away. It was on my porch outside. Never saw one before!

3 Fionna { 06.03.14 at 3:49 pm }

This article will be a valuable tool for my melon crop this year. thank you so much.

4 Dale { 03.11.14 at 1:35 am }

In Texas there have been, forever, little green ones, inside and out…I just stay away from them but, sometimes they will lite on you in flight

5 Bill { 03.03.14 at 2:21 pm }

I heard Lysol spray will kill them instantly and a solution of dawn liquid soap and water works. I always us paper towels and squish them and I have never smelled any odor. They just freak me out. We have them everywhere this year, even after the sub zero weather. They say they are attracted to the color yellow, so don’t plant yellow flowers close to your house.

6 Mi { 02.27.14 at 7:33 pm }

Yes. Box elder bug. And they can be black&red in color. And I’m not so sure that they don’t bite…I sprayed Black flag spray around doors and windows and haven’t seen one since.

7 Cecil { 02.27.14 at 1:34 pm }

They’ve been around for ever in the south. I had one squirt its foul fluid up my nose. I think they do this instinctively. My nose actually bled. Truly horrible experience. These things smell much worse than a skunk. MUCH worse.

8 Joyfulmom { 11.26.13 at 3:58 pm }

Have had many in my house. Most died of natural causes(no odor). Just swept them up and threw them in the trash.

9 Jaime McLeod { 11.18.13 at 12:14 pm }

DNewell, This article is specifically about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. There are other species, but this is the species that has become a huge problem recently, especially in Eastern States.

10 DNewell { 11.18.13 at 2:17 am }

Don’t know about you all, but the bug their showing looks like a box elder beetle…our stink bugs here in Oregon are Black and boy are they potent!!!! Using Pine Sol inside the house seems to keep them down and at bay….

11 CM { 11.14.13 at 5:04 pm }

The date of these pesky things being discovered is completely false I was born in the 60′s and we had them around when I was a small child!

12 Jaime McLeod { 11.14.13 at 8:46 am }

Rob,
I don’t know where you got your information about the federal government importing stinkbugs, but that is completely false. Stinkbugs were first confirmed in Allentown, PA, in 1998, though there had been scattered reports of them before that time. State and federal agencies have considered them to be a harmful invasive species since that first confirmed report.

13 Marian { 11.13.13 at 1:33 pm }

I use one of those tennis racquet shaped bug zappers on stink bugs, which always seem to collect in the screenhouse on my deck. One zap knocks them out, then I just sweep them off the deck

14 Leanne { 11.13.13 at 9:44 am }

I have a terrible problem with squash bugs attacking all manner of melon plants. I found that if I take an entire bulb of garlic, run it through the Vitamix, run it through a strainer, place in a gallon sprayer, full to the correct water level and spray your plants. This doesn’t kill them but it does repel them for several days. Kind of tedious but it keeps your garden organic.

15 R { 11.13.13 at 9:40 am }

I love the little stinkers! If they don’t bother me, I don’t bother them :) As a bonus, if you’re gentle you can even play with them and watch them fly off the tips of your fingers. It’s not so great that they’re invasive, but killing the few in my home would do little to change that, unfortunately. Might as well enjoy them :)

16 Dean { 11.13.13 at 9:07 am }

If you see a stink bug get a disposable cup and put a few drops of dishwashing detergent in it. Fill it half full of water and mix it up. Hold cup under the stink bug and bring it up until it touches the bug. The bug will hop off, attempting to fly, and end up in your cup. For some reason, the soapy water kills them rather quickly. I have used this method when the cooler weather comes and the bugs seek out the sun warmed, west facing wall of my house. I have collected a dozen at a time with this method. Give it a try.

17 Rob { 11.13.13 at 9:06 am }

Your comment that stink bugs are “harmless to humans, structures and fabrics” is completely wrong. They SPOT everything, whether they are peeing or defalcating I do not know but they spot woodwork, lamp shades, clothes and anything else they sit on for long. It will clean off if found early. This miserable import by the Federal government to control a previous stupid import of lady bugs has created a nightmare.

18 cp { 11.13.13 at 9:04 am }

Either I have a bad nose..possible..or I have encountered stinkless bugs!! I smash everyone I see that is out on the screen porch or deck, but inside they get the royal flush! So far I have
not smelled them when I smash them. Last year they I was over-run…this year I have only seen about a dozen or so. Maybe next year there won’t be any! HA!

19 Dragnlaw { 11.13.13 at 8:56 am }

I scoop them up in a tissue and run for the door, then squash. I found that vacuuming them up still leaves a stink around. By accident, I ‘beheaded’ one – and there was no stink! Will I deliberately try beheading again? Doubt I could do it again without a lot of preplanned effort and I just want them out and gone ASAP!

Leave a Comment

Note: Comments that further the discussion of the above content are likely to be approved. Those comments that are vague or are simply submitted in order to promote a product, service or web site, although not necessarily considered "spam," are generally not approved.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.