Controlling Stink Bugs

by JC · 17 comments

How the Infestation Starts

A relationship with the brown marmorated stink bug often begins gradually.  You may have first noticed them in the fall of the year, sitting on the outside of your home.  You may have been mildly curious and wondered what they were, asking friends or coworkers if they too had noticed this ugly and unusual creature hanging about outside.  Over the winter months you may have had no visitors at all or noticed one or two on the inside of your home.  ‘Stink bug virgins’ may have been inclined to gently return this wayward creature back to the outdoors, with the humanitarian ‘live and let live’ attitude.  Then spring arrived and your home was invaded from the inside out. You soon learned that they fly in that erratic, drunken manner preceded by that dreaded bzzzzzztttttt, before dive bombing humans for no apparent reason. You may have discovered them in your clothes, on your toothbrush or in your water glass or bottle on your nightstand.  It is most likely that you also learn they can spray that foul smelling, almost impossible to eliminate signature odor.  It is at this point that many of us become so distressed that we are driven to uncover every resource detailing this miserable little monster and setting out on a mission to eliminate them from our homes (or optimistically, from the face of the earth).

How Stink Bugs Got Here

The brown marmorated stink bug first arrived in the Allentown,  PA area (originating in Asia) a number of years ago.  Since that time, this seemingly alien creature, with no natural predators in the US, has been steadily spreading north, south, east and west, with the heaviest concentrations thus far in the northeast.  Because they have no natural predators, human intervention is necessary as they are exponentially increasing in numbers as they spread throughout the US.  The bmsb differs from other stink bugs in that they prefer to overwinter on the inside of our homes.

How to Keep Them Out

It is best to begin the exclusion process soon after the stink bugs move outdoors for the summer. Careful observation is your best defense against the stink bug.  Observe them as they move about outside over the summer months.  Do they linger on your spouting or in the area where your porch joins your house? Do they seem to prefer certain sides of the house over others?  Do you see them in your sun room or a certain bedroom?   These are the areas that will require your first attention.

They enter the home in the fall months, seeking shelter for overwintering.  They move in under siding and roofing, through unscreened ridge vents and gable end vents, down chimneys, by way of outside cracks and crevices, overwintering in walls, attics and crawl spaces, etc.   Watch and determine which rooms are their favorite points of entry and caulk and screen those areas first. It may seem an overwhelming task, but, except for the spraying and dusting, it is a once and done project.  Caulk around windows, doors, attic entries or any areas where they may enter.  They enter living spaces from the attic and walls by way of light fixtures, a/c return vents, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. They are attracted to the warmth and light of lamps, televisions, computer monitors, etc.  Feeling the warmth and seeing the light, they believe it is time to awaken from their dormant slumber and make their way outdoors for feasting and reproducing. They are happy to make themselves at home in your residence until spring actually arrives.

The window air conditioner is a favorite place for stink bugs to over winter, allowing easy access to your rooms. Try to avoid placing the units in the window until mid June.  Remove window a/c units by the first of September (before the swarming begins) and store them in large trash bags sealed shut with duct tape. You may choose to use free standing a/c units or the two part units with one part hanging on the inside wall while the condenser unit resides outside (Mitsubishi, etc.)

Place childproof caps in unused electrical outlets.  Repair window and door screens. Re-caulk the areas where the cable and electric lines enter the house.  Caulk the area where the chimney adjoins the house.  Keep fireplace and wood stove flues closed when they are not in use. Periodically inspect chimneys and woodstoves and remove any sbs that may be present. Painters tape and masking tape may be used as a quick or temporary fix for areas that cannot be caulked.

In addition to exclusion methods, spraying with an effective product is your best defense against the stink bug.  It is recommended that you do quarterly power spraying with a residual spray on the outside of your home, garage and storage sheds. The most important spraying is done in early September before the stink bugs begin to swarm.  Demand CS and Talstar One products are residual, microencapsulated sprays that last for 3 months and are most effective when power sprayed on the exterior of the home, top to bottom (including spouting, ridge vents, gable end vents, etc.).

Using Delta dust or Tempo dust in your attic makes your exclusion efforts even more effective.  Apply to the lowest point where the fascia, gables and soffits exist in attics, crawl spaces, etc. for the purpose of stink bug elimination.  Tempo is easier to apply but Delta is more humidity resistant.  These products are effective for a number of months and are available online.

If it is winter and stink bugs have already invaded your home, it may be helpful to set off an insect fogger such as Hot Shot or Black Flag in the attic and crawl spaces.  It is important to vacuum up the dead stink bugs as they may attract other stink bugs and insects.  If you choose to use a vacuum cleaner for disposal, try to use an old or inexpensive one reserved just for this purpose, as the strong odor may permanently make the cleaner undesirable for regular use. If you prefer not to use chemicals, you can vacuum up the live but dormant stink bugs and carefully dispose of them remembering that by doing this you may be spreading stink bugs (by way of trash removal) to new locations.

Dawn or Ivory dishwashing liquid mixed in a 50/50 concentration with water is effective in killing, capturing and disposing of stink bugs. Keep a spray bottle filled with this mixture for killing stink bugs or keep a container (old coffee container or jar) filled with the mixture. Hold the open container up to the stink bug and it will jump in.  Keep the container covered when not in use.  When you have a container filled with sbs, seal and dispose of the container.

Screening efforts should include replacing old screens on windows or doors that may have holes or gaps in them.  It is helpful to inspect ridge vent and gable end screens.  Fine screening placed on the inside of bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans and on the inside of central a/c air return vents is also effective against the stink bug. Deep Woods Off applied daily to window and door screens during the swarming periods is an effective deterrent.

The efforts required to keep stink bugs out of your home may seem daunting and overwhelming.  Begin the process as soon as you see your first stink bug.  If you follow the recommended steps and procedures, you too can join those of us who have regained our peace of mind and home by becoming stink bug free.

Every gardener has a strange and romantic tale to tell, if you can worm it out of him – of blue flowers that came up yellow, or of a white lily that sinned in the night and greeted the dawn with crimson cheeks. In the strong heart of every gardener, some wild secret stirs.
Beverly Nichols, Rhapsody in Green

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

spn March 21, 2014 at 8:01 am

Did a lot of research after the first VERY disturbing invasion of thousands of stink bugs into our home (in Maryland). This method keeps them out of the house (now we don’t see more than two or three a year inside).
We use Deltamethrin spray at mixed at a “residual” concentration according to the instructions, and with protective gear. After this chemical dries, it is safe for children and pets. We spray three times. The first is around the second or third week of September just before the stinkbugs start to gather to find places for the winter, and two more times a few weeks apart after that. We have a cedar siding house. Besides spraying the outside of the house, window and door frames, and the entire roof, we also spray the door frames of vehicles as that first year hundreds got into our parked and locked Suburban!
We also apply Delta Dust according to directions (and with protective gear – see directions) in the attic.
This was the strategy we came up with after speaking several times to the owner of http://www.DoMyOwnPestControl.com .
Good luck and post here if you use this method and let us all know how it worked for you.

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Suzanne March 11, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I’m so sick of them! I kill 300 a day and that just when I get tired of counting. In my house!

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Cynthia November 22, 2013 at 12:18 am

I am furious. I was vigilant in killing each one I saw inside and out during the swarm this year (no fancy method, just a clean kill with a whack of a shoe to avoid the odor). I picked up my cold storage from the dry cleaners and when I unpacked my clothes from the plastic bags, the clothes were filled with stink bugs. Perhaps 7 or 8 bugs on each garment; on, inside, down sleeves, in pockets. My first instinct was to take the clothes outside and shake them out, then I realized I would be infesting my garden. Once I get the adults out (and dead) do I need to worry about eggs in my clothes? They have been at the dry cleaners April through November supposedly in cold storage.

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Chelsea October 24, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Found two in my apartment yesterday both from my window units (living in Richmond virginia). I’m paranoid since last year I slept with my window open and woke up to find 8 in my bed… TALK ABOUT HORROR STORY. I have now sealed everything possible with duct tape but was wondering what a good spray would be??

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JC October 25, 2013 at 7:40 am

The best thing you could do at this point is to remove the window a/c units and store them in large lawn and leaf bags, sealing the bags with duct tape.
If it is not possible to remove the units, cover each unit with a large trash or leaf bag (in place) and seal with painters tape (duct tape can cause surface damage when removed.). Otherwise you will be visited by stinkbugs who are using the a/c units for a home until they move outside for the summer. Remember, you can catch and kill stinkbugs by filling a coffee can 2/3 full of water and add 1/3 cup Dawn dishwashing liquid to the can. Stinkbugs will jump in if you hold the container close to them. From personal experience, I find that Dawn works the best.

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molly October 6, 2013 at 8:54 am

had some in the house as early as September found three alive in the attic my attic is freezing in the winter if there are more in the attic will they die from the cold this winter

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Robyn September 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I live in Southwest Ohio and 1st encoutered the BM stink bug last fall when I accidentally left the top, unscreened portion of a window opened. Luckily, I was able to eradicate that problem with my vacuum cleaner and an insect fogger. Last week, I began my battle with them again, outside of my house (same window as last year) and near the family room fireplace. I fogged the basement family room & put plastic over the fireplace opening…so far so good. However outside on the patio area the problem is growing, for the past two weeks I’ve killed at least 20 of them. Since we have a dog who goes in & out of the house several times a day, I currently use the garden hose (power wash setting) to knock them off of the house and once they fall (landing on their backs) I drown them in insect spray. This is so tedious, especially to do everyday. How can I deter them from coming into the patio area?

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Diane September 7, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I have seen stinkbugs randomly through out the summer outside, but I just had one in my house last week 09/04/13 sooo its that time again ,I did not get my house stinkbug proof yet but I am working on it. They are invaders people need to wake up and realize these are a truly a destructive pest and a nuisance.Thank you Stevieb for the e-mail. I am a real sinkbug HATER!
Diane (Western Pa.)

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Stevieb September 5, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I was wondering if anybody has seen any activity yet this fall and good luck my fellow stinkbug haters

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Diane January 30, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I am from western pa the only thing that will help is to stink bug proof you whole house with caulking ,screens on vents covering unused outlets,vents woodburners, fresh air inlet furnace, recess lighting, It is a very daunting job takes some time you must block every point of entry I cannot even sit on my porch in the fall the are flying, buzzing and landing on all the porch furiture. I do live in a rural area with corn fields and soybeans fields. I have been through hell with these bugs, cannot even read a book in bed they divebomb me… So I hope and pray after I secure the house I can have peace in my home again. They stole my favorite season from me but I will not surrender.

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Andrew January 10, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Stink bugs are the worst. Here in PA, they seem to sense the winter is coming and they’ll do whatever they can to get inside. Honestly, the only thing I find effective at keeping them out of the house is by not opening the windows in the fall. Which is unfortunate, cause that’s the best time of the year to keep the windows open, but if I do the house will be crawling with them all winter.

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Gregg Schaaf October 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I don’t know if it is true but I have been told that the scent released by the bug in distress draws stinkbugs the following year. Taking that to be true, I have been careful not to squash them. I take a shop vac and vacuum them plugging the nozzle to prevent escape. Sometimes I have a rag with ammonia inside it. Each year I have fewer of them.

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Julia Hofley September 10, 2011 at 5:28 am

Hi Kathy,
I had no idea about this abhorrent beast! I’m not sure what one looks like. I’ve seen large bugs in our house in the fall/winter, on occasion, but do not know what they are. I will research them…your writing about these creatures in so carefully researched…the voice of unfortunate experience. Let’s hope your lovely new home is stink bug free.
All the best!

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Kathy Purdy September 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Julia, let’s set the record straight. I really don’t know if the bug I found was a stink bug, much less the brown marmorated stink bug. I didn’t know there were so many kinds, and I didn’t do that much research. The article above was written by JC, a longtime commenter and a veteran in the stink bug war. It is the collected wisdom of many of the early stink bug commenters.

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Patsy Bell Hobson March 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm

This is very helpful. I know when my friends in Illinois and Kentucky start to complain about stink bugs, the stink bugs are on there way to southeast Missouri. It is easy to follow infestations across the country, like the Japanese beetles on my roses or or white nose on bats. Thank you for this.

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Dawn January 30, 2011 at 7:50 am

This is great information. I’m on a mission to be stink bug free also :)

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