Stink bugs are a member of the family of insects known as true bugs, which includes aphids, assassin bugs and bed bugs. All members of the true bug family have a needle-like mouthpart that pierces plants or prey and sucks up liquid food. Their terrible odor is used as protection against predators. The smell is difficult to describe, but it is similar to rotting garbage. It can make your eyes water. Not pleasant at all!
Stink bugs are prevalent in the Southern U.S., but recently they are becoming a bigger problem on the East Coast, even as far north as Quebec. Some stink bug species are native to North America, like the green stink bugs you find in the South, while others are native to Asia. At some point in the 1990s, the brown-marmorated stink bug from Asia was discovered in Pennsylvania and has reproduced rapidly since.
There are many varieties of stink bugs, but they all have a couple things in common: their shield-shaped body and nasty stench. The bugs tend to come out of winter dormancy when temperatures reach around 70 F. If they are living in your home, they may come out a little earlier.
Stink bugs feed on plants with a preference for wild plants, but they will choose flowers, shrubs, fruits and vegetables as a host plant when available. When they feed, they not only physically injure the plant but they can spread disease. Yeast-spot disease and other bacteria is spread from plant to plant by the bug’s needle-like mouth. The severity of the damage generally depends on the plant’s age and health. Control stink bugs on plants with insecticides.
While they are harmful to the garden, the larger concern is what happens once they get indoors. The lights and warm temperatures of a home are generally enticing for them, especially on chilly nights. Although they don’t do any true damage to a house, their presence can be overwhelming and downright disgusting. Once inside, they can be difficult to get rid of because of their tendency to live in the walls. In the walls, a few dozen can multiply to thousands—a complete invasion of the stinky insects! If you notice stink bugs in your home, the first thing to do is figure out how they are getting in and seal off that area. Caulk is a good sealant choice for around windows and doors.
Unfortunately, pesticides are not especially effective toward stink bugs inside the home because it’s difficult to find and spray their in-wall home. Gradual disposal will lower their adult population and their eggs. Dispose of the stink bugs themselves by vacuuming them up and then placing them in a resealable plastic bag, which you can place in the freezer to chill them to death. Stepping on them to squish them only releases more of their stink, and their odorous liquid has a tendency to cling to whatever it was released on.