We are in that time of year when stinkbugs start to move indoors. They can be a real annoyance. Let’s talk about where these bugs came from and what you can do to keep them from becoming a big pest in your house.
The stinkbugs that are trying to get inside your house are most likely brown marmorated stinkbugs (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys. We have some other species of stinks bugs, like green stinkbugs, but these other species are not normally a pest inside the house. BMSB are brown as their name implies, but to really be able to tell them from other brown stinkbugs you have to look at their antennae. BMSB will have dark antennae with light bands on them. Part of the reason why these BMSB are such a pest is that they are an invasive species. They originally are from Asia, and first arrived to the US in Pennsylvania sometime before 1998.
One of the things that makes BMSB such a bad pest is that they aren’t only a pest in the home, but during the growing season they’re a pest to a lot of fruit and vegetable crops too. Stink bugs feeding on the fruit of plants causes that fruit to not develop properly. Apples and peaches will have ‘cat facing’ or sunken spots on them. Beans and okra will have deformed pods, and tomatoes will get spongy areas. Stink bug damage doesn’t always mean that the produce is inedible, but it does make it more difficult for the farmer to sell, because it doesn’t look as nice.
BMSB mate in the spring, so there is not a concern that they are reproducing in your house, even though it may seem like they’re multiplying. They don’t feed inside your home either. Their mouth is like a needle that sucks up juices, so they can’t eat building materials.
The first step to keeping them from becoming a pest inside your home is exclusion. Seal up cracks around windows, doors, pipes, and any other spots with a good caulk to block their entry. Insecticides around the exterior of the house will help temporarily, but may not be effective beyond a few days or a week.
Vacuuming BMSB is an efficient method, but it can cause your vacuum to stink temporarily. An alternative is to put some pantyhose over the vacuum tube secured with a rubber band. Stuff the pantyhose down the vacuum tube to keep the bugs from entering the vacuum bag. Once you’ve vacuumed up some BMSB drop them into some soapy water and they’ll drown.
Using an aerosol fogger may kill BMSB, but it won’t keep more from entering the house and emerging. Always use care when using pesticides. Make sure you follow the label entirely. Pesticides will only provide brief respite and can lead to more carpet beetles that feed on the dead stinkbugs and then feed on woolens or stored dry goods.
Some homemade traps are quite effective at trapping stinkbugs. One of them uses a foil roasting pan, filled with soapy water. Simply point a desk lamp at the pan, and stink bugs will find their way in there and not be able to get out.
If you have questions about stinkbugs contact your County Extension Office or send me an email at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.