Fall’s arrival means different things for many people, but perhaps one of the most unwelcome for homeowners and gardeners alike is the congregation of the brown marmorated stink bug, now one of West Virginia’s more prevalent late-season pests.
During the growing season the stink bug feeds preferentially on fruits and vegetables which can result in pitting, deformation and discoloration— that can add up to significant losses for commercial producers and serves as an annoyance for home gardeners.
Since the insects pierce the fruit with their mouthparts, it can create a site for plant pathogens to enter which cause rotting. Typically, the stink bug lives one to two generations in West Virginia depending on temperatures.
Adults overwinter in protected sites, sometimes including homes. It’s here where most of the state’s residents encounter the pest.
They don’t pose any health risk to humans, do not cause structural or cosmetic damage to homes and don’t further reproduce in that environment.
Peak stink bug visibility occurs in fall since they begin to look for overwintering sites before the first frost and are drawn to the outside surfaces of homes during warm fall days.
Homeowners who are looking to keep the pests at bay are best served when they prevent stink bugs from entering the home in the first place.
Cracks as small as 1/16 of an inch are large enough for stink bugs to enter. To prevent this, caulk with silicone or a silicone-latex blend around window and outside door frames and ensure that window screens aren’t damaged.
Ensure that any weather stripping around windows and doors is in good condition, and remove window air conditioners after summer use.
Exterior insecticides can also be used, but if used alone, they only provide limited control. Making sure that every measure is taken to seal up the gaps and cracks on the structure is key.
When stink bugs appear indoors, your options vary based on how many bugs you’re facing.
Don’t touch them directly or squish them. Stink bugs move slowly enough that you can catch them and deposit them outdoors in wintry weather (where they’ll freeze) or flush them into oblivion.
You can also 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.
In a dark room, fill an aluminum pan half or more with water, add dish soap, then put a bright light on it. The light attracts them and they drown when they land in a pan of soapy water.
Don’t suck stink bugs into a bagless vacuum you use in your home. After vacuuming stink bugs, the vacuum will stink.
If you have a serious problem, you might consider purchasing a small wet/dry vac used solely for gathering stink bugs.
Immediately after gathering bugs, dump the 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.