Seasonal changes in temperature and day length cue stink bugs to find winter quarters. These insects naturally spend winter holed up outdoors, but they’ll also seek shelter in structures like your home. While stink bugs don’t bite, raid the pantry or munch clothing, they do have one problem: They stink.
Stink bugs release a foul odor when they’re disturbed or threatened. In the wild, this smell gives predators the brush-off. In a home setting, the smell lingers long past the time the stink bug may be dead, because it clings to whatever the insect touches.
Outdoors, stink bugs feast on plant material. They cause millions of dollars in economic damage by feeding on commercially produced fruit. Stink bug feeding lowers fruit value by roughly 90 percent, making it unfit for the fresh consumption market and destined for processing.
Keeping Stink Bugs Out
To prevent stink bugs from entering your home, block all points of entry. The same principles used to keep boxelder bugs from entering a home apply to stink bugs. Physical barriers provide the most effective long-term solution.
You can also apply an insecticide as a perimeter treatment outside your home. This method can block would-be insect invaders from entering your home for several days to a week.
Try these methods – which have been used successfully by homeowners and entomologists – to keep stink bugs at bay:
- Rub screens with dryer sheets – the more pungent the better. Some homeowners have found this can reduce stink bugs entering a home by up to 80 percent.
- Hang a damp towel over a lawn chair or deck railing overnight. In the morning, stink bugs will blanket the towel. Dispatch bugs in a bucket of soapy water.
- Squish a few stink bugs outdoors. The odor warns other stink bugs to flee.
When stink bugs appear indoors, your options vary based on how many bugs you’re facing. What can you do?
- Don’t touch them directly or squish them.
- Stink bugs move slowly enough that you can catch them and deposit them outdoors in wintry climates (where they’ll freeze) or flush them into oblivion.
- Grab them gently with a plastic bag to avoid touching them directly.
- Take an empty water bottle and use the lid to flick the bug into the bottle. Tighten the lid to contain the smell, and place the whole thing outdoors. In cold climates, the bug will freeze. Re-use the bottle for more bug-catching.
- Prepare a soapy solution for killing stink bugs. Choose a straight-sided 1/2- or 1-gallon container. Fill it one-fourth full of water mixed with 1 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent. When disturbed, stink bugs tend to drop downward. Knock them into the bucket from walls, draperies, screens, etc. Unable to escape, they will ultimately drown.
- Vacuum bugs, and empty the bag afterward. Don’t suck stink bugs into a bagless vacuum you use in your home. After vacuuming stink bugs, the vacuum will stink.
- Many homeowners in the worst-afflicted regions purchase small wet/dry vacs used solely for gathering stink bugs. Immediately after gathering bugs, dump th e vacuum’s contents into a larger garbage bag and seal it tightly. Open the bag to add more bugs until garbage day arrives.
- Another technique to try is to wrap a knee-high stocking around the outside of the vacuum tube, secure it with a rubber band, and then stuff it into the tube. Stink bugs will be trapped in the stocking and won’t enter the vacuum filter. When you turn off the vacuum, careful remove the stocking, holding the end closed. Dump the captured stink bugs into a container of soapy water, as noted above, to kill the bugs.
- Do not apply insecticides indoors to control stink bugs. While insecticidal dust may kill bugs in wall voids, the carcasses can stink and attract other pests, such as carpet beetles, which can damage other things in your home. Applying an interior pesticide along baseboards won’t kill stink bugs nor will it keep them from emerging around the baseboards.