by David Moore
Manager of Technical Services and Board Certified Entomologist
with contributions by Eric Smith, PhD, BCE
The Brown Marmorated stink bug is an invasive agricultural pest from Asia and first discovered in Pennsylvania in 1998. Since then, stink bug populations have exploded and spread in over 17 known states since they have no natural predators in North America.
Although North America has many native stink bugs, the brown marmorated stink bugs can be identified by the following distinguishing marks:
- Alternating dark and light bands on the antennae
- Alternating dark and light banding on the exposed side edges of the abdomen
They acquired their name because they have small glands located on their thorax that are capable of emitting an offensive odor.
Why do they come into my home?
Part of the reason why they come into your home is where it is physically located. Homes located on mountains are typically infested on a regular basis. Having a house near the woods or near some crops such as soybeans or apples are at increased risk as well. Stink bugs search for overwintering sites in late fall to find shelter from the winter weather. In the spring, they often congregate on the sides of buildings.
There are other factors which make your home attractive to stink bugs as well. How much light your structure emits is another leading cause for stink bug infestations. The amount of clutter and shrubbery around your home can have an influence as well. If your home is yellow, there have been studies showing an increase in attractiveness to this color.
One of the main reasons why stink bugs infest a home is when they find an overwintering structure, they secrete a pheromone that attracts other stink bugs to the location. This pheromone does not go away just because the stink bugs are dead, so prevention is the best way to keep stink bug populations low inside your home.
What can I do to help prevent stink bugs?
The first thing I would do is invest in some silicone, caulk, and weather-stripping. Sealing up as many cracks and crevices as you can find will help prevent stink bugs from entering your home. Don’t forget to seal up around the windows and door frames as well. Ensure the following are sealed up: screens, attic vents, keeping the chimney damper closed, door sweeps, and pipes entering the home.
Next, make sure your house is the least attractive thing to stink bugs as possible. Turn off your lights and close your blinds at night. Stink bugs are attracted to light, and we do not want your house to be a beacon like a lighthouse. Make sure you turn off your porch lights if possible. If you have not already done so, move away from mercury vapor bulbs and install sodium vapor bulbs instead. They are much less attractive to insects and will save you a tremendous amount of time. Some LED lights are very attractive to insects, so you will need to check with the manufacturer to determine if LED lights are the best option for you.
Cleaning up your yard will help as well. Reducing the amount of shrubbery around your home will reduce the likelihood of stink bugs entering your structure, especially if the plants are touching your home. Keeping firewood and other stacked objects at least 20 feet away from your home will help reduce the attractiveness of your home as well.
Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The more you do upfront, the less likely stink bugs will get into your home and cause undue stress on your family.
What can I do once stink bugs get into my home?
Brown marmorated stink bugs are not harmful to people, pets, or structures. They may stain some items due to fecal matter or from being squished. Residents can become alarmed when the bugs enter their homes and noisily fly about when lights are on.
Take a second look around your home in areas you were finding stink bugs to see if there are any cracks and crevices you missed when you were sealing up your home proactively. Once you find these, seal them up to help reduce the number of stink bugs that can enter your living quarters. A vacuum is a quick way to reduce numbers and not receive the smell from their excretions on yourself. Make sure you empty the vacuum and dispose of the bag or else you risk having the stink bugs escape and perpetuate the issue. Additionally, there are reports of insect light traps and pans of substances that will help reduce populations. However, many of these items will not help solve your issue and only build frustration with the situation.
If these measures are not enough, contact a local pest management professional. Although there are many over the counter pesticides available, knowing where to apply them and how much is necessary is going to accelerate your resolution. Additionally, a pest management professional might be able to show you how the stink bugs are entering your home and provide additional assistance in that regards.
One thing to keep in mind is that once stink bugs have entered your home, it is usually a matter of managing the problem, not complete elimination. This is because the pests are overwintering in voids such as your walls and ceiling and come out randomly. The above mentioned items will eliminate the bugs once they have been discovered, but they are only harvesting the insects. For the best possible outcome, take preventative measures now before the stink bugs become entrenched in your home.