A Bug Problem That Really Stinks: What Are Stink Bugs?

A Bug Problem That Really Stinks: What Are Stink Bugs?

Last week, it was reported that farms on Long Island were being overrun by stink bugs, threatening to kills millions of dollars in crops. But it’s not just farmers who have to deal with these ugly smelly pests. Homeowners throughout the U.S., and especially in New England, are dealing with stink bugs in their outdoor gardens and inside their homes. Entomologists are saying the stink bug problem will make the bed bug resurgence look tame in comparison.

Stink bugs live up to their name. When crushed or disturbed, their glands squirt a foul-smelling liquid described as rancid almonds or moldy fruit. This smell enables them to avoid getting eaten by several species of birds and lizards. If many of them are squashed or pulled into a vacuum cleaner, their smell can be quite apparent.

Stink bugs will release their stench onto most any surface they land and it will last a long time – 6 months or more. This lingering odor attracts other stink bugs that have hibernated nearby, in addition as new stink bugs looking for a good place to reside for the upcoming winter. And once your home has been “stunk up,” the stink bugs will return year after year. So already though they are gone during the summer, don’t be surprised when they return next fall. Dead stink bugs are not good news either – stink bug corpses can attract scavenger insects like carpet beetles that can cause you already more expensive trouble.

Not only do these nasty bugs release an odor, but many people have allergic responses to this secretion. Try not to manager them, and be careful if you do – not only will they release that nasty smell but many species are able to inflict a nasty bite, stabbing you with the same sharp proboscis they use to pierce fruit and suck plant juices. Covered in an armor-like shell, the bugs can be frightening when they go into your home and noisily fly about.

Like boxelder bugs, and the Asian multicolored lady beetles I wrote about in another article, brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) are generally found in the garden. A few around the garden won’t do a lot of harm. However, if you have them eating the very produce you are trying to grow, the damage they do will quickly ruin all your effort. Feeding on tree fruits such as apples results in a characteristic distortion referred to as “cat facing,” that renders the fruit unmarketable as a fresh product.

The real problem happens when stink bugs find their way into homes and structures. They are attracted to light and begin to move into the home during the long summer nights when porch and deck lights are on and doors are being opened and closed. Then when the fall evenings start getting colder, and days become shorter, stink bugs will ramp up their efforts to seek a warm place to use the winter, where they are protected from rain, cold and other elements.

You may find them clinging to your screens and siding, creeping up your walls, hiding in your lamp shades and nestling in your laundry baskets. They will work their way into fractures and crevices, under siding, into soffits, around window and door frames, under roof shingles and into any crawl space or attic vent which has openings small enough to fit them. Since stink bugs like to live in the home for a long time, they often forage into attics and wall voids. Once inside the home, they will become active all by the winter.

But here’s the good news: They don’t copy indoors and they don’t satisfy on much of anything. They do not eat fabric or furniture and they aren’t poisonous. In fact, the Vietnamese eat them fried, like popcorn.

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