Many people across the US anticipate an uptick of spiders in the basement during the fall and ants crawling along the carpet in the summer. For the last 20 years, more and more people also expect an influx of “stink bugs” a couple times each year. Stink bugs, officially called brown marmorated stink bugs, are squat insects about half an inch long. Their brownish, mottled bodies can make them hard to spot in the cracks of window sills but easy to see creeping across a wall or up the curtains.
What should you do if you think your house is being visited, or even infested, by these small but annoying bugs? Getting rid of stink bugs can be simple and might not even require a visit from the exterminator once you understand a bit more about them and their life cycle. By taking advantage of the way stink bugs invade your house, you may be able to remove them with little more than a vacuum cleaner and some due diligence.
Why Are Stink Bugs a Growing Problem?
If you don’t remember seeing stink bugs in your home just a decade ago, it’s because you probably didn’t have any around then. Stink bugs were introduced to the United States from Asia in the late 1990’s. They first appeared in eastern Pennsylvania but have since spread to 41 states. According to National Geographic, “These invasive insects are marching their way across more and more of the United States, spoiling fruit harvests and driving homeowners crazy.”
Don’t feel bad if you are having trouble managing stink bugs; even farmers who can dispense insecticide are having a hard time controlling the brown marmorated stink bug population. While they are completely harmless crawling around your home, these pests are bad news for fruit and vegetable farmers– according to Rodale’s Organic Life, this can translate into a problem for the domestic gardener, too. Failing to address the stink bugs in your garden means they can start to ruin the tomatoes, peppers, and berries you are growing by damaging fruit, leaves, and seeds. A garden infestation also increases the likelihood they will inhabit your house.
The Habits of Stink Bugs
Stink bugs are fairly simple to understand. They lay eggs and hatch outside your home, thankfully, and only come in seeking warmth during the fall. They appear during fall when they first arrive and again in spring when they are looking for a way back outside. The heat in your home may be enough to revive them during winter months, when you might see them crawling around or hear them bumping into your lamps and light bulbs.
This variety of stink bug is not harmful to humans. The worst part about them? When killed or startled they often release a strange small, hence the name “stink bug.” Since they do not pose a threat, you could just wait for them to leave in the spring and try harder to keep window and doors closed during their autumn invasion. There are, however, a few simple steps you can take to keep these intruders out once and for all.
How Can You Eliminate Stink Bugs From Your Home and Garden?
After your unwanted guests leave in the spring, consider taking extra precautions to block off any potential entry points. The National Pest Management Association suggests sealing up your house properly:
"To prevent stink bugs from entering homes and buildings, seal cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys, and underneath the wood fascia and other openings."
This is a great idea if you have any pest issues in addition to a stink bug problem.
Spring is the point when stink bugs leave the house and become a problem in your garden. Setting traps, which capture and hold onto stink bugs until they die, around your flowers and vegetables is the best chemical-free way to prevent brown marmorated stink bugs from attacking. If you wish to use pesticides, Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station provides a list of effective active ingredients for spraying on your plants or the outside of your home. Your local extension office or a nearby exterminator can give you a better idea of what might work for your house and garden.
Once fall arrives, greet incoming stink bugs with a fly swatter or vacuum cleaner. Do-It-Yourself Pest Control recommends preventing your stink bug problem before it even starts: “The key to getting rid of and eliminating indoor stink bugs in the spring is preventing their entry in the fall.” It might seem tedious, but picking them off one at a time or in small groups is the only way to keep your house stink-bug free through the winter. If you do choose to vacuum them up, keep the stink factor in mind. Anyone who has picked enough of them up with a vacuum knows the bag or canister starts to take on their odor, so be sure to clean out your vacuum before the smell becomes a problem.
Living Stink Bug Free
Following these few basic steps can help clear your house out of stink bugs. Since they are a fairly recent pest population in the United States, there is no way to know if mass insecticide initiatives will decrease the problem soon or if they will become more of an issue each season. No matter what stink bugs are doing across the US in general, you should be able to eliminate them from your home with the above do-it-yourself measures or simply calling an exterminator.