The stink bugs have invaded

By Jim Janke | Sep 03, 2014

Over the past few years a new pest has appeared in our area — the brown marmorated stink bug (“BMSB”), and if you’ve squashed one you know how it got its name. Originating in Asia, these invasive pests are causing lots of damage to a wide variety of commercial crops and home landscapes. They don’t sting or bite or otherwise harm humans, although this writer can confirm that one suddenly dropping on your head from the living room ceiling results in language not fit for small children.

There are over 200 other stink bug species that are native to North America, but these are largely controlled by natural predators. They do not cause widespread crop damage nor try to overwinter in homes. The BMSB population has become a major problem because they have no natural enemies here. If you have stinkbugs in your home, here are some things you can do.

Brown marmorated stink bug adults are shield-shaped insects a little over half an inch long. They overwinter in the adult stage, emerging in spring to mate. Greenish-white eggs are deposited in clusters on the underside of leaves of fruit trees, vegetables, field crops and ornamental plants. The eggs hatch and feed, molting five times before appearing as adults in late June or July. BMSB nymphs and adults have sucking mouthparts that remove plant sap and inject secretions that break down plant tissue. Damage varies with the crop, but can be severe. A second generation of adults may arrive in August and September. When BMSB find a good overwintering site they release a scent that attracts others, forming a large cluster of bugs. This scent is not the same chemical that stinks when the bugs are squashed.

Commercial farming operations can use insecticides to protect high-value crops, but for homeowners the BMSB is more of a nuisance pest. Several pesticides are listed as barriers to prevent them from entering a structure, but these are not recommended because the deterrence is short-lived. The best prevention is to seal doors, windows and other entry points so they can’t physically get into the house (at our place they enter mostly between two sliding screen doors.)

Once in the house vacuuming is probably the most effective method of removal. If the smell from the vacuum becomes too much, put a swatch of pantyhose over the entry to the vacuum’s collection vessel, to collect the bugs for disposal.

Jim Janke is an Extension Master Gardener volunteer in Haywood County. For more information call the Haywood County Extension Center at 456-3575. © 2014 NC State University.

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