Originating in Asia, they first showed up in the United States in Allentown, Pennsylvania in the mid-1990s and now stink bugs--more formally known as the foreign brown marmorated stink bug--are in at least 33 states and still on the move.
In the spring, they crawl out of their winter hiding places and do everything from annoying homeowners to causing real destruction of crops.
Stink bugs are "one of the most serious agricultural pests we've ever seen in the United States," Mike Raupp, a professor of etymology at the University of Maryland in College Park, told WTOP News in Washington, D.C.
In 2010, which was a particularly bad year for stink bugs, they caused more than $37 million dollars in damage to fruit growers alone.
What are stink bugs? They are six-legged invertebrates with sucking mouth parts called rostrums. StinkBugsRemoval.org says they are characterized by their shield-shaped bodies and pointed rear ends.
They are called "stink bugs" because when they are frightened their scent glands, located between their front legs, release a foul-smelling chemical which discourages predators.
Stink bugs are herbivores. They pierce the juicy stems and fleshier parts of plants and fruit and suck out the sap and juices. This causes the plant to die or the fruit to rot. They especially love sweet plants, including corn, tomatoes, peaches and other fruit.
Unlike many other bugs, they are not "colonial." That is, they don't build nests or hives, and they don't travel in groups. Stink bugs are loners. But they do tend to gravitate to similar areas. They are attracted to warmth and light, so they tend to come inside houses when the seasons change. They will congregate and breed in out-of-the-way places, such as attics and crawl spaces.
So what is the best way to kill them? DO NOT SQUISH THEM! Why? They will emit a noxious odor. While one or two just smell icky, the odor becomes unbearable if dozens release their stink.
StinkBugsRemoval.org explains some creative ways to kill the buggers without the stink:
- Try to prevent stink bugs from entering your home by sealing entries through cracks and gaps in the siding, pipes, crawlspaces and attics.
- If you occasionally spot just one or two stink bugs in your home, carefully pick them up with a tissue or napkin and drop them in a toilet, sending them to a watery grave. You can also drop them into a jar of isopropyl alcohol, which will kill them in seconds. Since they are slow and cumbersome, they are easy to catch.
- If you spot stink bugs on your indoor house plants, spray the leaves with a mixture of 3/4 cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid and 32 ounces of hot water. This will discourage the bugs from damaging the plants and kill the stink bugs already there.
- If you find a lot of stink bugs in your attic or crawl space, vacuum them up with a shop-vac. Do not use your home vacuum cleaner, as it will be stinky for a long time! The shop-vac is more easily cleaned and can then stored in the garage.
- Stink bugs are attracted to light so a light trap placed in the attic, crawl space or basement will draw them and trap them in such a way that they won't release their characteristic odor. Empty the trap daily and reposition it, changing the location occasionally.
- Sticky traps work like flypaper. Place them on windowsills or other areas where you have noticed stink bug activity. The sweetish scent of the sticky trap will attract the stink bugs. Throw out the sticky trap when several stink bugs are on it.
--From the Editors at Netscape