Discover everything you need to know about stink bugs in our guide below.
What Are Stink Bugs?
Stink bugs, scientifically known as Halyomorpha halys, are insects characterized by their shield-like shape.
They are commonly noted for their unpleasant odor, which is released as a defense mechanism against predators. Native to East Asia, these bugs have now spread to various parts of the world, becoming a significant pest in agriculture due to their tendency to feed on a wide range of plant species.
There are roughly 200 species of stink bugs in North America, and they commonly become household pests when they use structures to overwinter.
The Behavior, Diet, and Habits of Stink Bugs
Stink bugs develop via three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. During their immature stage, their colors vary from black to white.
Although some nymphs have white spots, the spots disappear as they mature. When stink bugs become adults, most are about 2 cm in length. They tend to be green or brown with patterns on their hard shells.
Stink bugs are primarily plant feeders. In the spring, they eat weeds or grasses. They’ll also feed on fruits and crops like apples, peaches, berries, and cotton.
In homes, stink bugs will eat ornamental plants. Some species of stink bugs, such as the Euthyrhynchus floridanus, are predatory, eating insects that attack plants rather than feeding on the plants themselves.
While stink bugs live throughout the US, they thrive in temperate environments. They’re known for entering buildings between September and October to seek warmth before winter arrives. Outside, they often seek shelter in weeds, tree bark, and other organic materials.
What Damage Do Stink Bugs Cause?
Stink bugs pose significant threats to both agricultural crops and residential gardens. They are infamous for their voracious feeding habits. Using their sharp, straw-like mouthparts, stink bugs pierce plant tissues, drain plant fluids, and in the process, inflict considerable damage.
In an agricultural context, stink bugs chiefly target fruits, vegetables, and nuts. When they feed on these, they leave discolored, distorted, or scarred produce that can’t be sold. Crops like corn, soybeans, peaches, and tomatoes are particularly vulnerable. Some species of stink bugs also pose a threat to commercial ornamental plants and flowers.
In residential settings, stink bugs can wreak havoc on home gardens and ornamental landscapes. They can decimate flowering plants, damage fruits and vegetable crops, and cause unsightly damage to foliage.
The harm they cause extends to homeowners themselves, as stink bugs, in large numbers, can infiltrate homes in search of warm shelter during colder months, becoming a major nuisance.
While some people may be sensitive to allergens given off by stink bugs, the pests do not bite people or pets and do not transmit diseases.
How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs
Stink bugs usually come in from the outside through cracks and crevices. To get rid of them, seal entry points with a good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk. Add weather-stripping or door sweeps to entry doors, and inspect for and seal foundation cracks.
When you spot stink bugs indoors, douse them in soapy water or use homemade deterrents to spray them. You can also place stink bug traps or fly tape throughout your home to catch and kill stink bugs.
Outdoors, remove all debris and edible vegetation from the area around your home’s foundation, and insulate exposed plumbing pipes around your foundation or crawl space with caulk or steel wool.
If your home has a fireplace, use a cap or screen to close up the top to keep out pests.
For more information on how to get rid of stink bugs, check out our guide.
To keep stink bugs out of your home, seal entry points, reduce moisture, replace and repair damaged screens, turn off your outdoor lights, remove food sources, promote airflow and ventilation, check your belongings before entering the house, and tidy up your landscaping
Stink bugs enter homes when they’re looking for protection, warmth, and food. They are particularly attracted to fruits, vegetables, and other crops, leading them to infest gardens and farms.
To kill stink bugs on contact, fill a jar with soapy water (add a few dashes of vinegar to make the mixture more lethal) and drop adult stink bugs into it. To kill the stink bugs without touching them, use a store-bought contact spray designed to target stink bugs and similar pests.