Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stink Bugs

Stink bugs are one of the slowest moving and peskiest pests. Sure, our home has seen greater numbers of ladybugs; but ladybugs are smaller and cuter, and don't smell badly.

Harmless Pests...As with many pests, stink bugs aren't native to America. They were found around 1998 in Pennsylvania. It is believed that they were accidentally introduced from China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Without their natural predators, they now thrive throughout the United States. Few of our local critters will eat them; their flavor must be an acquired taste.

It's all in the Name...Stink bugs are from the Pentatomidae family (penta for their five-segmented antennae). They have two common names. Some people know them as shield bugs since their backs are covered with a scutella (skyoo TEHL uh) that resembles the shape of a shield and protect their body like one. However, most of us know them for their more memorable trait: the vile odor they emit when scared or squashed. Their strong odor contains cyanide compounds and may linger more than six months. Caution: some people may get a rash from the smelly secretions of stink bugs.

Their offensive odor serves a few purposes. This foul smelling liquid secreted from glands between the first and second pair of legs (their thorax), is pungent enough to deter predators. It also works as a welcome sign to their friends that our homes are cozy.

Give Me Shelter...As soon as nights start to cool in the fall, stink bugs begin searching for warm, bright places to stay. On warm days, they will venture outside, only to slowly return as the temperature drops again. Once winter sets in, they may hunker down in your attic or find a cozy wall space. Their winters are spent in semi-hibernation, not feeding, breeding or doing any harm. Once temperatures start warming up in the spring, they will eventually find their way outside. If they are unable to find their way inside a warm building, stink bugs will spend their winter in rock crevices or under tree bark. Homes nestled among the pines (or spruce, hemlock or fir) are prime targets since stink bugs prefer their sap.

Keep them out...When temperatures drop, stink bugs will try to get into your home. They are attracted by warmth and light. Deter them by closing curtains at night and using fewer outside lights.Since stink bugs can sidle their way into a space as narrow as the thickness of a dime, seal up all the cracks you can with silicone caulk. Especially around windows, doors, utility entry points and other openings. Torn or damaged screens should be mended or replaced.

Keep it clean...Chemicals aren't an effective control when it comes to stink bugs. Insecticides will only kill exposed stink bugs, but will not prevent more from entering the room once it is aerated. Not to mention that, although a nuisance, stink bugs are mostly harmless, can you say the same for insecticides? Remember that organic pest controls aren't necessarily non-toxic.

Proliferation. Like many other species, adult stink bugs mate in the spring. Females then lay clusters of eggs beneath plant leaves. While the young are maturing through five stages in three months, they will dine on any plants nearby. Stink bugs don't eat the plants, they suck their sap which weakens them and malforms buds and fruit. Their favorites include: honeydew and any other type of fruit and berries, tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, okra, and cabbage.

Think stink bugs stink? Deter them from your garden by growing plants that they think stink. Known as companion planting, this is an easy way to discourage them from their (and your) favorite plants. Stink bugs dislike:

  • Catnip (unless kitties visit your garden)
  • Garlic
  • Marigold
  • Mint (if you can keep it contained)
  • Radish
  • Tansy

Now that you've discouraged them from your garden, lure them further away by planting decoys of their favorite plants. In addition to being attracted to yellow flowers, some of their favorite plants include:

  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Sorghum
  • Sunflower
  • Triticale

Get them Out...I admit to “freeing” spiders and lady bugs, rather than squashing or flushing them. With stink bugs, it is definitely in your best interest to rid your house of them quickly, without smushing or scaring the stink out of them. Note to self: vacuums scare them.

While researching this article, I came across some additional interesting solutions for dealing with stink bugs:

"...grab them with a tissue and flushing them away, but that always seemed so wasteful. Recently, my friend was telling me about her daughter's Venus Flytrap and I thought about how I hadn't seen one of these plants since I was a kid and I wondered how I had never owned one of these oddballs. I've started dropping the stink bugs into the container and it's working out beautifully. The plant came in a plastic sleeve with a cap so if the stink bug doesn't immediately hit an open pod that slaps shut on it, it can't escape forever. No mess, no fuss, and it's very quiet. ...I like the idea of the plant eating the bugs for a change.Posted by kitselo PA

Put dish washing detergent and vinegar and some water in a small glass. Flies and gnats are attracted to this and will drown themselves. I brush the stink bugs into the glass. Posted by rhodyman z6 PA

Drop them into a fish tank. The fish love them and my passive little guppies and mollies act like piranhas when they get a stink bug treat. Posted by jiggreen zone 6b, carlisle PA

Sometimes we catch them and feed them to the turtle. Posted by craftlady07

Like our local ladybug population, remember that stink bugs are harmless (other than their odor and quantity) to our families, pets, and homes. They don't sting or carry diseases.

Article Compiled by Renee Brannigan

Sources include: bug.html

1 comment:

jason said...

they are really harmless, but so irritating when they infested in our house during rainy seasons. how to kill stink bugs without any stinky leftovers from them.