As the days get cooler, homeowners may start seeing the return of a familiar pest: stink bugs.
Stink bugs, so named because of the odor they expel when squished, are brown bugs that have a triangle-shaped exterior and what appears to be a shield on their back.
“Stink bugs are not considered to be household pests like a termites, but they can be problematic for homeowners, particularly people who have houses in rural areas, if they get inside,” said Dr. Rebecca Fornker, assistant professor of invertebrate conservation at George Mason University.
The summer season is primarily when stink bugs are at their most common, but Forkner said the bugs will migrate to where they feel warmth coming from homes during the cooler months in the fall.
There are two types of stink bugs: fruits feeders and predators. Forkner said it’s difficult to tell the two types apart, but neither is harmful to humans. They're annoying, but they can’t bite and don’t transmit diseases.
In Northern Virginia, the brown marmorated stink bug is the most common. This type usually feeds on plants and crops such as soybeans, apples and peaches.
Tips to Keep Stink Bugs Outside
“People don't realize that bugs will eat plants like sunflowers, potted plants or tomatoes. These are things that draw them in. They’re colorful. It’s best to keep those things at a distance away from your home,” said Forkner. She also suggests residents move tall plants, brightly colored plants, and items like birdfeeders away from doorways and windows.
Forkner said pesticides residents buy at stores like Home Depot are not effective on stink bugs due to their external shell-like covering.
“You can buy sprays that are toxins that would poison the insect, but for crop pests like stink bugs, juvenile hormone analogues are most effective,” said Forkner.
Stink bugs generally enter the home near doors or other open spaces near windows, basements, or attics. According to WTOP, the most effective method for removing stink bugs is with a vacuum.
Residents who are worried about stink bugs can follow these steps to avoid an infestation:
- Call a local pest control operator to conduct a perimeter control of your home. Forkner said an added benefit of this is other temporary household dwellers such as centipedes can be prevented.
- Winterize your home. Have Dominion Power or your local energy company do an energy audit of your home to see where warm air may be escaping.
- Caulk along windows, doors, vents and screens for open spaces where stink bugs could crawl in.
- You may purchase colorful, triangle-shaped traps to attract the stink bugs. WTOP also has instructions on how to create inexpensive traps to catch stink bugs.