The stink bug, or the common brown marmorated stink bug Halyomorpho halys, is native to Asia and was introduced to the United States in the 1990’s. These quarter-inch shield-shaped pests damage plants and food crops, and become a problem for people in the fall by looking for warmth in buildings.
If you have houseplants outside for the summer, stink bugs may hitch a ride when you bring them back inside in the fall. They don’t bite or sting people, but do smell awful if disturbed or squashed, and will damage leaves and roots of houseplants.
Here are 4 smart things to know about stink bugs:
#1 - Stink Bugs Signal Other Stink Bugs
Everyone knows that stink bugs stink. Whenever they feel threatened or when they are crushed, they emit a foul odor. Some people describe it as smelling like cilantro or skunks. But that’s not the only odor they make. When they find a good place to stow away for the winter, they emit a chemical odor detectable only to stink bugs, a pheromone, that signals other stink bugs to join them. So if you see one stink bug, you can be pretty sure there will be others.
#2 - No Need to Worry About Stink Bugs Breeding Inside
Although it’s not pleasant to find stink bugs in your home in the fall and winter, they are only hitchhikers, not making a permanent colony to live and breed. They aren’t laying eggs when they get inside to shelter from the winter cold. They are hibernating in a state called diapause. They are not mating, reproducing, or feeding. They are not capable of reproducing in this state and do so only in the spring.
#3 - How They Get In
Fall is the season you’ll see stink bugs inside because they can’t live in the cold temperatures outside. As the fall days get colder, stink bugs gravitate to warm locations, including houseplants that may be in sunny locations. Bringing plants inside without inspecting leaves, stems, and pots for hitchhikers like stink bugs can mean surprise bugs in your home.
They are also attracted to the warmth of buildings and get inside through doors, chimneys, windows, and any other openings. When the first few make their way to a warm location, they signal others to join them and you could have an infestation, so checking your home’s exterior for any cracks, crevices, and other openings and sealing them will keep stink bugs out.
#4 - What to do About Stink Bugs Inside
Finding stink bugs in your home in the winter months isn’t fun, but they aren’t too difficult to deal with. Fortunately, they are slow-moving and easy to dispatch. Pick them up gently with tweezers or slip a sheet of paper under them. Don’t step on them or squash them unless you want a stench. Get rid of them without triggering them to “stink” by tossing them in a cup of white vinegar, flushing them down the toilet, or tossing them outside in the cold.