What’s that smell? Are those stink bugs?
Halyomorpha halys, or the brown marmorated stink bug, is an invasive and agricultural species of pest. Knowing how to get rid of stink bugs is a great skill to avoid an unwanted stench. They usually are found around human settlements during springtime, and let off an unpleasant odor when disturbed, swatted or crushed.
There are around 4,700 species of stink bugs in the world, and a few of them are found in the United States. Stink bugs don’t sting or feed on human blood, but they do attack plants, fruits, vegetables and nuts (and can contaminate your pantry!). Most stink bugs feed on plants and can destroy gardens. The stink bugs that invade houses end up attacking food reserves and spreading an overall bad odor.
Stink bugs are active during the springtime and search for shelter to rest during the winters. During winters many houses experience the nuisance of scores of stink bugs trying to enter the homes, while during spring these stink bugs often attach themselves in large numbers to the sides of buildings. Stink bugs are pests that need to be controlled and eliminated, and they are a major threat to plants and crops. If they enter homes, they bring about an unhygienic and unpleasant environment.
What do stink bugs look like?
Stink bugs are grayish-brown in color and are 2cm in length and width. Their coloring often looks ‘veined like marble’, which is what the word ‘marmorated’ means. Often bluish or coppery markings are seen on the stink bugs. They are triangular or shield-like in shape and have two short antennas. Their stink glands are located on the underside and are not visible outside.
In short to confirm that it is indeed a stink bug that you have found, look for the following physical characteristics –
- Greyish-brown or coppery in color
- Around 2cm long and 2cm wide
- Shield-shaped (almost triangular, but has 5 sides)
- Veined looking outer body
How to prevent stink bugs from coming inside:
Stink bugs usually feed on plants (and can be dangerous as they can destroy crops, gardens and ornamental plants!). During winters and spring, they often swarm inside and around buildings. Stink bugs can be a nuisance if they come inside the house. They can stick to walls, and when removed using dusters of vacuum cleaners can leave a lingering unpleasant smell. The stink bug usually invades homes around fall or winter, for “overwintering”. It is difficult to removed stink bugs once they have invaded the house because of their sheer numbers (can be in thousands).
The best course to take, then, is to prevent them from entering the house in the first place.
Here are several ways to prevent stink bugs from entering your home:
- Diatomaceous earth is highly effective in keeping out a range of common household bugs, and stink bugs are one of them. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth in and around the house will prevent stink bugs from coming inside. The target areas, in this case, are the doors, windows, open pipelines. You can even sprinkle diatomaceous outside your house, near the walls. Diatomaceous earth basically causes dehydration of the insect (as it breaks down its exoskeleton), and so stink bugs will stay away from it. You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth directly onto places where stink bugs gather.
- Neem oil is another effective stink bug repellent. Apply or spray neem oil (it can be mixed with water) to windows, doors and even your plants. This needs to be done well in advance, around a week or so before the season of stink-bug-invasion begins.
- Planting catnip around the house can keep away stink bugs. Sprinkling catnip powder around windows, doors and other openings will also shoo the stink bugs away.
- Garlic is also effective in repelling bed bugs. You can spray garlic around and on the target sites, and can even leave chopped up cloves of garlic near any openings (such as sinks).
- Seal the gaps in your doors and windows. This might not be fully effective but will at least help quite a bit in keeping away stink bugs.
- Rub all surfaces and screen with dryer-sheets, especially ones that have a strong smell.
- Weed out your garden. Stink bugs are attracted to weeds, and so removing the latter should discourage the former from appearing.
- Put fly tape or double-sided on the window sills and near doors. When a few stink bugs get stuck on it and die, the rest will stay away.
- Kill a few stink bugs at a distance from your house, so the other stink bugs will smell them and stay away.
- Stink bugs are attracted to light, so make sure there is not much outdoor lighting.
- Install screens over vents. This will keep them from entering the vents.
How to get rid of stink bugs:
It is not always possible to prevent stink bugs from coming inside. So how you do eliminate the infestation of stink bugs inside your house? Not only do they ruin the atmosphere with their acrid odor, but they might also eat vegetables and fruits. They can also swarm into your dustbin. Having stink bugs around is thus a big nuisance, and so it is important to get rid of them as soon as possible.
- Use a vacuum cleaner. A vacuum cleaner can effectively remove stink bugs, but it is necessary to immediately dispose of the vacuum bag (with the dead stink bugs) in order to make sure there is no spreading of the strong, unpleasant smell.
- If there aren’t too many stink bugs, you can just catch them using tape or use a plastic bag. Kill them once outside or just flush them down the toilet. Don’t directly touch them.
- You can even use the tip of an empty bottle to capture the stink bugs inside your house. Leave them outside, where they will freeze and die.
- Use soapy water to kill the stink bugs. Spray the bugs with soapy water, and collect them in a bucket of soapy water (where they will drown). This water can later be flushed away. This method also ensures there is no bad smell left behind.
If the stink bugs are too great in numbers and cannot be controlled using the above-mentioned methods, it is best to call a professional pest control service to deal with the situation.
What is the reproductive cycle of stink bugs?
Stink bugs mate in springtime, after their long winter rest. Stink bugs lay around 20-30 eggs each time they reproduce, and they do so almost 4 times a year. They lay their eggs on the leaves of plants. They have almost no natural predators in the US, and so can expand easily in numbers. A stink bug has three phases in its reproductive cycle – egg stage, nymph stage, adult stage.
In the egg stage, the eggs are deposited on leaves of plants. They are usually on the underside of leaves, in order to ensure protection.
In the nymph stage, the stink bug is roundish in shape and is not the distinctive shield-shaped. It takes almost 5 weeks for them to turn into adult stink bugs, and they go through five instars (periods of molting). During the last instar, the stink bug develops its wings. Stink bugs thus undergo incomplete metamorphosis.
In the adult stage, the stink bug is shield-shaped and around 2cm wide and long. These stink bugs will live for around 8 months and will reproduce almost 4 times in this duration.
So let it be known, if you ever see stink bugs in the home, take action immediately. They are a tricky pest to tackle because you don’t just want to squish them and be left with their horrendous smell. Your best option of disposing of them is catching them in something sealable or flushing them down the toilet. If you can’t seem to fully get rid of your stink bug problem, contact a local exterminator near you.