The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), while harmless to humans, has become a serious crop pest on the East Coast since its introduction to Pennsylvania from Asia in the 1990s. Though they don't bite or cause damage to clothing or other items stored indoors, their habit of congregating in large numbers in homes over the winter can be a serious nuisance. As the stink bug invasion is still relatively new, scientists and researchers are developing methods for dealing with this rapidly spreading pest.
The primary defense against an autumn stink bug invasion is prevention. Ensuring windows and doors are properly caulked and sealed is the single most effective method of preventing entry once stink bugs begin to gather on the sides of homes in September. Patching holes in window screens, gaps in the siding at the roofline and along the foundation of the home also help deny stink bugs from gaining access to the indoors.
Soap and Water
With patience and persistence, one very effective home remedy for killing stink bugs already in the house is to knock them into a cup of soapy water. When disturbed, the stink bug’s natural defense mechanism is to drop straight down, and even a light touch will cause the insect to fall straight into the soapy trap and drown. Vacuuming the bugs, dead or alive, isn't recommended because they usually cause the vacuum to acquire the insect's distinctive musk for several weeks afterward.
Pheromone and Sticky Traps
Yellow flypaper and traps baited with pheromone are two commercially available remedies that may be useful in trapping and killing smaller populations of stink bugs in the home. The insects are attracted to the yellow color of the flypaper trap, which can be hung in attics or in other areas where stink bugs gather for the winter. Pheromone traps are more controversial, however, as there's some debate over whether the traps serve to attract more insects than might otherwise naturally find their way into the home.
Few insecticides have shown to be useful in killing stink bugs, and researchers warn against using pesticides indoors once stink bugs have established themselves in a home. Carpet beetles and other highly damaging insects can then feed on stinkbug carcasses, leading to greater pest problems indoors. Pyrethroid pesticides are of limited effectiveness when used outdoors because they break down quickly in sunlight. They may be helpful in treating small populations on the exterior of the home but only early in autumn, when stink bugs are just beginning to gather before cold weather sets in.
- Penn State; Brown Marmorated Stink Bug; Steve Jacobs; April 2011
- Rutgers University; Invasion of the Stink Bug; Fredda Sacharow; December 2010
- Michigan State University; Brown Marmorated Stink Bug; Anne L. Nielsen, Matthew J. Grieshop and Larry Gut; February 2011
- Virginia Tech; Stink Bugs: What to Do!; September 2011