Overview

Even if you’re someone who likes bugs (yes, they can be fascinating!), you’ll likely be put off by the stink bug. If you live in one of the 38 states that have been invaded by the brown marmorated stink bug, you may already be familiar with this little critter.

With their shield-like shape and marbled brown color, and measuring less than an inch in length (generally about 14–17 millimeters), these bugs are easy to identify. Perhaps their most recognizable trait is the skunk-like smell they emit when disturbed. They also tend to congregate in large numbers and can lay up to five generations in one year if the temperature’s warm enough.

The brown marmorated stink bug hails from Asia and was introduced into the United States in the mid-1990s, probably by hitching a ride on a shipping container. The bug was initially found in Pennsylvania. Since then, the brown marmorated stink bug has become a much larger problem than the stink bugs native to the United States, which are smaller and often help crops by eating other pests.

Do stink bugs bite or cause damage?

The good news is that stink bugs don’t bite. They also don’t harm people or pets, nor do they spread disease.

However, some people are allergic to the compounds released by the stink bug. Symptoms of this allergy can include a runny nose and, if you come in contact with crushed bugs, dermatitis. You may be at risk for crushing bugs if you work in agriculture or accidentally handle produce with bugs on it.

Stink bugs affect crops, including corn and soy. They pierce kernels or soybeans and suck out the moisture, damaging the produce. They can also affect fruits such as apples, peaches, figs, citrus, persimmons, and blackberries.

How do I keep stink bugs away?

The nasty smell stink bugs give off when killed or handled is enough to give them a bad reputation. They can be nuisances, but luckily they don’t cause any damage to the structure of your home. And even better, they don’t reproduce indoors.

If there’s a stink bug infestation near your home, the bugs will soon come your way. If you know about stink bug problems in your area, bug-proof your home right away to prevent an invasion.

The best way to do this is to seal off all possible entries for the bugs. Here are some tips:

  • Caulk your windows.
  • Install weather strips at each entry door.
  • Remove any vegetation or debris near the foundation of your home.
  • Close off all entry points from the outside, including fireplaces and bathroom windows.
  • Make sure any crawl spaces are sealed with no contact to the outside (check for cracks in the walls).
  • Install screen windows and doors and regularly check for tears in the screens.
  • Have a plumbing inspection and seal any gaps using either caulking material or steel wool (this serves a double purpose, as it will also prevent mice from taking residence in your home).

How do I get rid of stink bugs?

If you find stink bugs in your house or garden, the best way to eliminate them is by physically removing them. Vacuuming is one reliable method for removing the bugs from both indoor and outdoor areas.

Be warned: They’re called stink bugs for a reason! The bugs release the skunk-smelling substance when crushed, which also happens if you vacuum them.

Another natural way to remove stink bugs is by using a soapy trap. Here’s how:

  • Fill a metal pan with soapy water.
  • Place it under a light source.
  • Find the areas with the highest concentration of bugs and watch them flock to the trap.

Should I spray?

The most obvious disadvantage when using any kind of pest control poison indoors is that the substance might affect the people and pets in the house. If you have a severe infestation of stink bugs, consult with a professional before spraying. Choose natural pest control compounds that won’t affect you, your pets, or any other wildlife.

Natural bug control substances include neem (extracted from the neem tree), pyrethrum (extracted from Chrysanthemum plants), and various insecticidal soaps, which should be biodegradable. Note that pyrethrum is toxic to fish and other wildlife.

After spraying, make sure you remove all dead bugs from your premises. If you leave any dead bugs in tight spaces where you can’t vacuum, they can attract carpet bugs, which might then go after stored foods and woolen products in the house.

If you use poisonous sprays or even naturally extracted bug killers, keep in mind that once the vapors disappear, the insecticide won’t affect the rest of the bugs.

The bottom line

The brown marmorated stink bug can be a nuisance, but it doesn’t bite or cause harm to people or pets. Prevent an infestation by sealing all entry points to your home and keeping an eye out for garden visitors. If you notice stink bugs around your property, make sure you remove them as soon as possible.

Physically removing stink bugs remains one of the most reliable methods. You can also use a soapy trap or try a natural bug control product. If you opt for a poisonous spray, consult a professional before use.