When you think of annoying household pests, your mind probably jumps to field crickets, flies, centipedes, and spiders. But there's one home invader that is very different from the rest: stink bugs.
Not all stink bugs are alike, though. There are many native, non-invasive native species, but the type that usually gives homeowners trouble is the brown marmorated stink bug—an invasive species from Asia that was first discovered in Pennsylvania in the early 2000s, explains Michael J. Raupp, PhD, professor of entomology at The University of Maryland and creator of Bug of the Week.
Brown marmorated stink bugs are the most common, "very large" insect that reach crazy-high densities both inside and outside of your home. They spread quickly in large numbers (yep, they do fly!), wreaking havoc on plants and gardens, eventually sneaking their way into houses during early autumn. "You're not going to have any other bug invading people's home to which you're going to get with stink bugs," Raupp says.
While infestations used to be more common on the east coast, the populations have "declined dramatically" and have become more of a problem in the Midwestern states, he adds.
So, should you be worried if you find them on your property? Here, entomologists (aka bug experts) explain everything you need to know about stink bugs, whether or not they're dangerous, and how to prevent them from setting up shop in your house.
First, what do stink bugs look like?
Brown marmorated stink bugs have a very distinct appearance. Marmorated actually stems from the Latin word for "marbled," Raupp explains. "When you look at its abdomen from the top, just around where its wings are, you'll see a marbled pattern on its back," he says, which is shaped like a shield that tapers at the end.
Another telltale feature of the brown marmorated stink bug is the white bands on its antennae and legs, which distinguishes it from other native species that are also brown in color. Again, they're large compared to other bugs, and may span up to nearly 2 centimeters long and wide.
Do stink bugs bite humans?
You can breathe a sigh of relief, because stink bugs do not bite people, they won't harm your pets, and they don't spread diseases. In fact, most species of stink bugs, including brown marmorated stink bugs, are herbivores that prefer to feed on plants, fruits, and sometimes even nuts and seeds. (While this is good news for you, it can lead to costly damage if you have a vegetable or fruit garden.)
Even if they feel threatened—say, you're mishandling the critter—stink bugs won't harm you, says Raupp. "I have handled, literally, thousands of these things myself," he says "I have never heard of a report of a brown marmorated stink bug biting a human being."
As for other household bugs that do bite humans? You likely won't mistake them for stink bugs. "Due to the large size and color of stink bugs, especially the brown marmorated stink bug, they are not easily confused for their distant, blood-sucking relatives like bed bugs," explains Matthew Bertone, PhD, entomologist and director of the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic at North Carolina State University. "Bed bugs are small and reddish-brown and build up colonies in infested homes. There are larger bugs called kissing bugs that may superficially resemble stink bugs, but they are very rarely encountered by people, let alone found feeding on them."
Do stink bugs really stink?
Stink bugs do stink, but not all the time. Like many other insects that release pungent smells, the odor is a defense mechanism used to keep predators away. They have scent glands that "produce a cocktail of chemicals that have various odors and properties as repellents," explains Bertone.
This smell can vary, and some people can't pick up on it at all, so it's hard to give it a specific description, says Bertone. "It is an acrid but somewhat sweet smell," he says. "I liken it to a very sour, fermenting apple, but other people detect other odors." One of the compounds emitted by stink bugs can actually be found in cilantro, adds Raupp, so some people find that the odor smells somewhat similar to the herb.
While this odor repels predators, rest assured it really can't do humans any harm. "There are cases of these chemicals staining human skin, especially when bugs are crushed, but it is not a very common phenomenon and is not dangerous," Bertone says.
How to prevent stink bugs from entering your home
Stink bugs can be annoying to get rid of, so taking preventive measures to keep them away from your property and out of your home will be your best bet, says Raupp.
First, it's helpful to know how they get in and when they like to make their move. In early autumn, stink bugs will start looking for a protective area to chill out in a hibernation-like state to get through the colder seasons when food is scarce. They'll come in through loose siding, vents, openings around utility boxes, window and door cracks, under the shutters, and basically every nook and cranny to accomplish that goal.
Stink bugs are most attracted to attics because they stay cool, but as springtime approaches, it becomes one of the first areas in your home to get warm. So, during February and March, they'll attempt to find their way out by heading downstairs. "This is where part of the nuisance problem really begins," says Raupp.
While some stink bug traps can be placed in home gardens to keep them away from your fruits and vegetables, there's no concrete evidence that they actually reduce the amount stink bugs coming into your house, Raupp says. (However, they can still catch large numbers of them.)
Instead, he recommends making a few simple upgrades to your home to keep them out. "Anything that's going to be really good for energy conservation is going to be really good for stink bug exclusion," Raupp says. It's a win-win, because all of these adjustments will keep a cold breeze out of your house and trap heat indoors:
- Seal up cracks, crevices, and any openings around utility boxes using caulk or foam sealant.
- Insulate windows and doors using weather stripping foam tape.
- Place screens over vents and crawl spaces.
- Cover your air conditioner if you have a window unit, and caulk around any cracks and crevices.
- Invest in door sweeps or stoppers for any entrances that lead outdoors.
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If that doesn't work, don't hesitate to call the pros for help. "In any situation where a pest is present in large numbers and control by the homeowner is not adequate, a reputable professional pest management service should be consulted," Bertone says.
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Stink Bugs Start Invading Homes in the Fall—Here's How to Keep Them Out, Source:https://www.prevention.com/health/a28835102/do-stink-bugs-bite/