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7 Stink Bug Facts

Over the past few decades, stink bugs have become an increasingly prevalent pest here in the Midwest. Though there are several thousand species of stink bugs worldwide and even several hundred in the United States, the one causing the biggest stink here is definitely the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. Named for its marbled pattern of coloring, this shield-shaped insect was first found in the United States in 1998 and has been causing trouble for homeowners and farmers alike as its territory has expanded. Here are seven facts you might not know about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. 

Stink Bugs Cannot Bite People

Though plenty of pests pack a punch in their bite or sting, the stink bug is not one of them. Though stink bugs have piercing and sucking mouthparts, these are designed for injecting their saliva into fruit. Their saliva is toxic to the fruit’s cells, so the places where stink bugs bite fruit are left rotting inside and with a visible scar. Many people think these scars look like cat faces, which have earned stink bugs the nickname of “cat-face bugs” from the damage they leave behind. But while they cannot pierce human skin, some people become irritated from their armored edges or the stinky liquid they produce.

Stink Bugs’ Odor Comes From a Specialized Gland

The way stink bugs store and release their odors is a fascinating process. They have a gland on the underside of their thorax that stores two different chemical compounds. From the thorax, these chemicals are released onto a part of the exoskeleton called the evapatorium. Its shape and texture help the chemicals evaporate more easily and spread quickly. The stink bugs are in full control of when they release these chemicals, such as when they feel threatened or when communicating with other stink bugs. Though stink bugs are not the only insect that produces odors, they earn their name because of how pungent their smell is.

“Stink Bug” by born1945 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Stink Bugs Produce Two Different Odors

Most people rightfully associate the stink bug with a smelly odor, often compared to cilantro or skunk. This is what you smell when they are threatened or crushed. But while it is the odor they are named for, stink bugs actually create another as well. This one is an aggregation pheromone, meaning they release it to attract other stink bugs. This cannot be smelled by humans, but other stink bugs have no trouble picking it up. They do this when they have found a nice warm spot (like inside your home) to overwinter. They are not usually social insects, but they do not mind sharing a good spot with other stink bugs for the coldest months of the year.

Stink Bugs Overwinter

Some homeowners consider stink bugs a fall pest, as this is the time of year they frequently begin to try entering a home. But stink bugs actually live throughout the year and the reason you see them more in the fall is that they are busy looking for a way inside. You may see them crawling around your screen doors or windows, looking for a way in. When they find it, they select a place out of the way like an attic, basement, or wall void. These are far superior to their outdoor overwintering sites such as under leaf piles or in dead trees. Once they have found the perfect spot, they do two things. First, they produce the aggregation hormone mentioned above to broadcast to other stink bugs. Second, they enter a state similar to hibernation called diapause. During the cold months stink bugs do not eat or reproduce. As they come out of diapause in the spring, they resume their eating and mating habits and the cycle begins again.

Stink Bugs Are Costly

As mentioned previously, stink bugs are expensive–and not just for homeowners. From an agricultural perspective, they are costly due to both the crops they decimate and the money spent on their control. When using pesticides, multiple applications are needed to continue treating during the same growing season. One estimate places the cost of their damage to be between $10-$75 per acre, and that adds up quickly. In 2010, mid-Atlantic farmers reported $37 in lost apple crops having been damaged by stink bugs. According to the USDA, stink bugs are classified as posing severe agricultural problems in 10 states and nuisance problems in 21 others. But why are they so hard to get rid of?

Stink Bugs Are Invasive and Have Few Natural Predators

The stink bug’s lack of natural predators is a key reason why they are so difficult to eradicate. Stink bugs are also considered an invasive species. But not every non-native species is considered invasive–it has to have a detrimental impact on the local ecosystem. Stink bugs, being both a household pest and an agricultural nuisance, fit the bill. Originally found in Asia, they were first found in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1998 and have been spreading rapidly since. They have now been found in over 40 states. Stink bugs have excellent defenses, and because of this less other species want to eat them. Some birds, reptiles, and other insects do eat adult stink bugs, but not in large enough quantities to reduce the population–probably because the bad smell puts a literal bad taste in their mouth! Though adult stink bugs have few predators, their eggs are vulnerable.

“File:Brown marmorated stink bug eggs hatched.jpg” by David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Fighting Stink Bugs With Samurai Wasps

Samurai wasps are small wasps that cannot sting humans and are native to Asia. They are about the size of a sesame seed, have the same native habitat as stink bugs, and successfully control stink bugs in their native habitat through a fascinating process. These wasps are parasitoid wasps, meaning that they inject their eggs on or into a host–in this case, the stink bug eggs. The samurai wasp deposits one of her own eggs inside of each stink bug egg, which are laid in clusters, and as the wasp develops it consumes the stink bug egg entirely and emerges as an adult wasp from the stink bug’s former egg. 

In their native habitat, samurai wasps successfully parasitize 60-90% of stink bug eggs. Entomologists in the United States have been advocating for this wasp’s release here as a biological control for stink bugs for over a decade. But while those discussions were happening, the wasps found their own way. First found in Maryland in 2014, then Washington State in 2015 followed by 10 more states, no one is sure how the samurai wasps got here but they do seem to be following areas where stink bugs are found. How effective they will be here against stink bugs remains to be seen, but is being followed closely as stink bugs pose an ever-growing nuisance.

Stop Stink Bugs With Spidexx

Though stink bugs do not cause structural damage to a home, they can still be a very stubborn pest for homeowners. At Spidexx, we treat stink bugs all the time and are happy to help! We understand their habits and the headaches they cause, and are always just a phone call away. Whether you have mice, wasps, spiders–or just stink bugs–we are here to professionally offer peace of mind. Call (844) 922-7732 or get a free quote online today! Click here to get a free quote today!