Controlling Stink Bugs

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.