By Steven Farley
The brown marmorated stink bug arrived in the U.S. from the Far East in 1998, landing in the Allentown area. The bug has no known predators and will eat almost anything that grows. It doesn’t bite humans or animals, and it causes no damage to buildings or crops, but swarms can cover windows and screens; and the poor-flying bug seemingly would rather bump into things than fly around them. Its numbers seem to be growing every year.
Oh, it stinks, too.
Left alone, they’ll make your house stink and keep residents in a virtual state of siege.
Asked if this is a worse than normal year for infestations, Steve Jacobs of Penn State University’s Department of Entomology’s Cooperative Extension program replied: “From the number of phone calls I’ve got,” it is. There is no formal method to track stink bug numbers, Jacobs said. The invasive insect is still seeking its niche in our ecosystem, and infestations might keep growing until the bug meets its yet-unknown match.
Stink bugs swarm the outside of houses on warm fall days, from mid-September to mid-October, in search of protected sites where they can winter, Jacobs said. They don’t smell if left alone, but they try to get inside any way they can. Just opening an outside door can let several bugs into a house in seconds.
They are also attracted to light and will find their way into homes during the night when porch and deck lights are on and doors are being opened and closed.
Many people have tried pesticides to deter the invaders, but have found the best weapon against them are caulk, weather-stripping and screens to never let them inside, Jacobs said. Stink bugs can flatten themselves and can enter buildings through very slight cracks, Jacobs said.
STINK BUG FACTS
- Where did it come from? Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan.
- What does it eat? Virtually anything that grows, but prefers peaches, apples, citrus fruits, figs, maple leaves and trumpet vine.
- What are its predators? It doesn’t have any.
- Will infestations get worse? Probably.
- Does it lay eggs? Yes, but not inside.
- Do they bite humans or animals? No.
DEALING WITH STINK BUGS
- Can I kill them with pesticides? Yes, but several applications will be needed.
- What pesticides work? Applications should consist of a synthetic pyrethroid (i.e. deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, cypermethrin, sumithrin or tralomethrin) and should be applied by a licensed pest control operator in the fall just prior to bug congregation.
- How do I keep them out of my house? Use caulk to seal any opening or cracks near windows or doors. Repair screens.
- They smell when I pick them up. How do I get rid of them? Use a vacuum.