The Simple Smelly Truth
Autumn arrives with bold colors, cool temperatures and yikes…. an explosion of unwanted visits from brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB). These Asian natives are invasive to the United States, have few natural predators and spread rapidly by finding cracks and crevices in homes and businesses to hide and reproduce. Simply, they are here to stay and their numbers are growing rapidly. Here are some details and 10 solutions for reducing populations on your property.
Since the 1990’s when BMSB made their first appearance in Pennsylvania, they have managed to spread, survive and thrive nearly nationwide. While BMSB do not bite people, and pose little risk to humans and animals directly, they are unsightly, smelly, prolific and they do cause devastating damage to the farming industry, specifically orchards and fruit bearing trees such as apples, peaches and pears, soy and corn crops, tomatoes, peppers and a variety of vegetables. Also, when found gathered in large numbers, their excretions can leave a nasty, staining residue.
They are becoming increasingly troublesome for home gardeners too.
In fall, especially after a streak of seasonably colder weather persists for a few days followed by more mild temperatures, residences and businesses are frequently bombarded with a more visibly noticeable physical presence of BMSB. They are especially drawn to southern, light filled exposure. These insects instinctively know what they need to survive and where to find it. Food sources and shelter in warm weather are abundant for BMSB, but the cold means they are preparing for their future where YOU live or work. Seeking protective places to lay eggs (in the cracks and crevices of your house), they tuck themselves away from the dangers of cold and potential predators creating a caravan of creeping and crawling through small spaces where warmth is found.
While larger farms often resort to using insecticidal pesticides, organic or natural farmers, residential properties and businesses have a tougher task of controlling populations using more sustainable, natural-based or low toxicity products or remedies. This can be challenging to navigate.
Top 10 suggestions for successfully saying goodbye to stink bugs:
1. Seek advice from a natural based, licensed pest management professional (such as Be Green Pro, llc). Your professional can pre or post treat infestations late summer through fall.
2. Seal cracks and crevices as best as possible with a high quality silicone type caulk. Even if you’re not able to get them all, it still helps considerably.
3. Make sure screens on windows and doors are intact without rips or tears.
4. Replace outdoor lighting with soft yellow bulbs.
5. Use a deterring natural soapy or essential oil solution to clean or spray typical BMSB entry points and surfaces indoors and outdoors. Stink bugs crawl and fly, so use thoroughly around windows, doors, base boards, foundations, wood soffits and fascia, utility crawl spaces, piping, chimneys, outlets for lights, phone and electricity, ceiling fans, mounted light fixtures, skylights, and any small openings. (Test areas with small amount of the solution to make sure it doesn’t damage surfaces and always use caution when using liquid near electricity.)
6. Clean up outdoor plants and organic debris. Rotting wood, decaying plants, and leafy build can attract BMSB. A professional property care partner (such as Be Green Pro, llc) can help you with outdoor clean ups or you can DIY.
7. Keep composting materials as far away from your home as possible.
8. Stink bugs are seemingly drawn to light, and breathe through their hard-shelled skin which make them deathly susceptible to soapy water solutions. Once they are indoors, try directly shining light from a small lamp toward a pan or bowl of dish-soapy water over night. The results will typically yield several bugs floating leg side up the next morning.
9. Use a vacuum cleaner or shop vac to remove BMSB live or dead, and frequently vacuum surfaces around windows, baseboards and crevices. Immediately clean the debris holder or remove, replace and dispose of used vacuum bags or debris in an outdoor sealed receptacle. Leaving the remains of the vacuumed debris in the vacuum or unsealed receptacle indoors or out can lead to odor or re-infestation.
10. If you notice one or more BMSB starting to congregate in a specific area indoors or out, act fast to isolate and remove. Where there is one, more will follow.
Watch this video to learn how to keep BMSB out and what to do when they get in.
By: Dr. Michael J Raupp – College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland