Ten Things You May Not Know About Stink Bugs

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1.     They are a relatively new arrival in this country

Although most insects, such as roaches, have a long history of being annoying pests that get into our homes, stink bugs only arrived on our shores in the late 1990’s. More precisely, they were first found in a field in Altoona Pennsylvania in the spring of 1998. It is currently thought that they hitched a ride over on shipping crates from several countries in Southeast Asia where they are known to be a hugely problematic species.

2.     Unlike many other pests, they are primarily a threat in fall and winter

Generally speaking, the greatest threat to your home comes during the spring and summer as the warm weather draws many different species of insect out of hibernation and into the home in search of food.

The stink bug, however, is different in that they are not particularly problematic during the warmer months for homeowners as they are primarily an outdoor pest. Although as the temperature drops, they will often seek out the warmth of a home in order to hibernate for the winter.

This obviously leads to some issues, as they will almost always enter a home in very large numbers, often exceeding several hundred individual insects. One significant problem is that the bugs will be able to enter the house through any size crack in the exterior siding or baseboards. This alone makes it very hard to prepare your home in anticipation of their arrival.

3.     Their name is in no way a misnomer

Brown Marmorated Stink BugThere are few things more offensive to the nose than the defensive odor emitted by these bugs when they are threatened or harmed in any way. The product of a gland in their abdomen, the release of this spray will not only repel any predators close to the source but will also call in reinforcements from other bugs in the vicinity.

Because they have such a potent and unpleasant odor at their disposal, and because it has the potential to attract many more insects, it is best to not attempt to dispose of these bugs through squashing or otherwise harming them like you might with a roach or an ant.

4.     Although infestations are annoying, they will not reproduce in your home

If there is any good news about these troublesome creatures, it is that although they can overrun a home in short order, they will not be able to reproduce inside the home, thus keeping the total number of bugs down. They are known to only reproduce outdoors, because their eggs require sunlight to properly grow.

Because of this fact, they will tend to lay their eggs in bunches of 20-30 at a time on the undersides of leaves and branches. The young insects once hatched will then be able to eat through any fruit that they might find on those same plants, giving them a head start as the new generation of bugs.

The emergence of new bugs is generally seen in the early portion of spring and will then lay new eggs in the time between May and August before searching for a comfortable place to hibernate. This again is when your home is at the greatest risk for an infestation.


5.     They are a major agricultural pest and will eat virtually any crop

Since they first arrived in the country, their most destructive impact has been    on farmers and other involved in the agricultural industry. Their effects have mostly been felt in the Mid-Atlantic States such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland although they are quickly spreading throughout the entire country.

The most destructive effects thus far have been on crops such as apples, peaches, and citrus fruits. This is because they are drawn to crops that contain a high level of natural sugars, and will quickly decimate any field that they can gain a foothold in. Their presence has caused several hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage so far, and this is only likely to get worse as their geographic footprint grows each year.

6.     They are quite resistant to many different pesticides

One of the first things that many farmers noticed when first confronted with these pests was how they showed a strong natural resistance to the major agricultural pesticides in use today, even without having prior exposure to them. This has made the problem of stink bugs much worse in many respects, as this resistance obviously makes protecting the year’s crop much more difficult. So far the most effective method of control to come into widespread use has been the trap, which has shown itself to be much more effective than pesticides.

7.     There are over 4,700 species of stink bugs on the planet

Out of this large number, so far there are only about two hundred different species of the bug that have been identified and catalogued in the United States. The most common species and the one that has caused the most trouble in this country are known as the Brown Marmorated stink bug.

These are approximately one inch long and are notable for the dark brown coloring they exhibit all over their bodies, which is often streaked with light gray or lighter brown markings on the antennae.

8.     They have no natural predators in the U.S.

Part of the reason that they have grown to become such a large pest so quickly is the fact that because they first arrived roughly a decade ago there are no true natural predators to help keep their numbers down.

In addition the defensive liquid that gives them their foul smelling name is also quite acidic and will present an unpleasant surprise for any mammal or bird that might try to prey on them. Once this fact is added to their natural pesticide resistance, it becomes clear that they are likely here to stay as a pest species.

9.     There are a few things you can do to make your house less attractive to them

Because their primary reason for coming into a home is to protect themselves from cold temperatures, they often will be more attracted to light colored houses or those with a large amount of sun exposure.

Although repainting your home is likely too drastic a step, you can keep curtains drawn and if possible keep the temperature inside your home a bit lower than usual during the fall months to keep any bugs that enter your home from thinking that it is an ideal spot and calling in more insects to join their inchoate infestation.

During the summer months you should also think about making a few changes to the exterior of your home in preparation for fall such as caulking any cracks and making sure that windows and doors are all tightly sealed and flush with their frames. Making sure there are no cracks or crevices exposed to the outdoors will make it much harder for these bugs to enter your home in the first place.

10.     Despite being annoying, they pose no real threat to humans

There is no doubt that they smell terrible and that an infestation in your home is extremely unpleasant, but if there’s any good news about these bugs it is the fact that they are in no way dangerous to humans. They do not usually bite unless directly threatened, and are not poisonous. In fact, in several African nations such as Zambia and Mozambique some species of stink bug are even eaten as a delicacy.

Learn more about stink bug control, including the popular Strube Stink Bug Trap at www.domyownpestcontrol.com.

Image credit: http://stinkbugsguide.net/

Updated: September 1, 2011 — 12:19 pm