10 Things You Should Know About Stink Bugs

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Populating WNY

The unseasonably warm weather last winter could bring a more than usual amount of the area's smelliest pests this fall.

Brown marmorated stink bugs, an invasive species hailing from Asia, have been showing up across the U.S. for years, and made their way to the Rochester area several years ago.

Check It Out: NC Cooperative Extension Stink Bug Facts 

The bugs chew up over 100 types of plants and crops, including shrubs, apples and various vegetables, and have caused major agriculture issues across the country. While western New York agriculture hasn't been significantly affected in recent years, a stink bug locator map on a website called Stop BMSB designates New York as reporting "severe agricultural and nuisance problems" related to the pests.

The half-inch long critters shelter in cracks and crevices in the winter, make their way out in the warmer months and are now trying stay warm inside homes as temperatures drop. The warm winter could have helped their incubation period, which means residents may see more of them crawling around, said Amanda Grisa of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

"They’re not going to be as affected by over wintering — warmer winters help the incoming generation," said Grisa.

On the flip side, they also need moisture, so the dry summer could have dealt a blow to the overall stink bug population, she said.

The pests often appear around windows and doors inside homes, but they're mostly a nuisance and not costly for homeowners, said Chris Hahn, vice-president of operations for exterminator company BUGMAN of Rochester. If you discover one, it's likely more are waiting to be found, he said.

"If they can't go outside, they are going to work their way into the interior of your home," said Hahn. Studies show that light-colored homes tend to attract more of the bugs, said Hahn.

Resist the temptation to squash the bugs, unless you are curious about why these insects are called stink bugs.

Prevention is the easiest way to combat stink bugs, he said. Seal cracks and other openings around door jams and windows with caulk.

Here are 10 other things to know about the little brown stinkers.

1. They're not from around here.

Brown marmorated stink bugs are native to Japan, China and Korea and were accidentally imported to the Allentown, Pennsylvania, region in the late 1990s. They have no natural predators in the U.S.

2. They're multiplying.

They've spread to 43 states in 2016, up from 42 states in 2015. The new state is North Dakota. They were found in New York in 2010.

3. They really stink.

People have described the smell as anything from skunk to dirty socks to coriander, and squashing them releases the odor. Do so at your own risk.

4. They're ruining agriculture.

Six states in the Mid-Atlantic reported "severe nuisance and agricultural damage" in June 2014, with farmers reporting total losses of tomato, apple and corn crops in 2013, said research entomologist Tracy Leskey of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The stink bugs' effect can cause "scabs" and bruising on fruit and vegetables. Monroe County's crop yield hasn't been severely affected, but crops like garden vegetables and apples may have some aesthetic damage.


5. They find creative ways into houses.

If there are cracks in screens, door jams, roofs or walls, stink bugs will find them. To make your home stink bug-proof, check around windows and doors for small openings, both indoors and outdoors.

Chun Li of Pittsford found stink bugs sitting along her new home's window jams when cold weather came a few winters ago.

"I found a few and just picked them up and got rid of them," Li said. "Then I pulled back my curtains and found 10 more."

6. They like plants.

If you live near a wooded area or have a vegetable garden, your home may have a higher risk of stink bugs, said Ray Miller, owner of Upstate X-Treme Solutions pest control. If you have potted plants in your home, that's where stink bugs might congregate.

7. They won't bite you, harm your pets or ruin your carpet.

Stink bugs don't pose any danger to humans or animals, and won't destroy indoor non-plant material.The bugs just want a warm window where they can sun themselves.

8. Vacuum them at your own risk.

Vacuuming stink bugs makes for a quick and clean disposal, but your vacuum might not smell so great afterward, said resident Veronica Miller of Irondequoit, who dealt with a few indoor stink bugs this year.

9. You can buy or make stink bug traps.

Stink bugs like light and they can't swim, so a desk lamp with a tub of soapy water underneath works as an impromptu stink bug trap. You can also buy lighted stink bug traps at local hardware stores.

10. If all else fails, call an exterminator.

Ray Miller said exterminators can spray the exterior of a severely infested house with chemicals that kill insects on contact. Exterminators sprayed Li's home, and she said she hasn't seen a stink bug since. While there are pesticide products on the market that can legally be used against stink bugs inside the home, they are not the most effective option, as stinkbugs may live within walls and pesticides can be harmful to humans and pets inside, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Read more: To read more about how stinkbug populations are growing nationally and what is being done to stop them, go to StopBMSB.org, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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