Stink Bugs

Protect Your Home or Business From Stink Bugs

General Information

These insects are not beetles. They are in the bug family, related to bed bugs.

The brown bug that is currently invading homes across the Northeast is called the Western Conifer Seed Bug, sometimes referred to as a “stink bug”. This insect originated in the warmer West and Midwest and moved it’s way to the East coast by 1990.

These bugs are also known as leaf-footed bugs because of a flattened segment resembling a leaf on their hind legs.

The color is a brownish/red hue and they have very long back legs. These bugs do fly and when they are in flight they are very loud.

The bug gets the name “stink bug” from its ability exude a smell to ward off danger or when squashed.

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Appearance & Identification

What Do Stink Bugs Look Like?

Typically 2/3 to 3/4 of an inch in length, both species of stink bugs in New England possess a distinct shield-shaped body.

The green stink bug is solid green with either a red, orange, or yellow edge. The insect also possesses a triangular plate that partially covers its wings.

The brown marmorated stink bug appears mottled in coloration, with grays and browns the predominant colors. With banded antennae alternating dark to light, the bug has a marbled appearance that provides its name. The underside may appear either white or gray.

Nymphs of the green stink bug hatch and appear predominantly black at first, before going through stages of red or yellow. Body shape appears oval and the wings are nonfunctional until the final nymphal instar. Brown marmorated stink bugs appear black and red as nymphs.

Facts About Stink Bugs

In the New England states like Vermont or Massachusetts, residents encounter both green stink bugs, Acrosternum hilare and the emerging brown marmorated stink bug, or Halyomorpha halys.

Also called shield bugs for the distinctive flat, shield-like appearance, the insects feed on fruits, vegetables, and other farm crops, causing both cosmetic damages and reduction in overall food quality.

Both stink bug species possess large stink glands on the underside of the thorax which may release a foul-smelling liquid whenever disturbed, to ward off predators, or when squashed. The insect may invade homes in order to overwinter, as well.

Quick Facts

  • Does not like the cold weather therefore will enter the home through cracks and crevices
  • Will not survive in your home, needs to feed on trees
  • These Bugs are completely harmless to people and their possessions
  • Not a destructive bug they feed on green pine cones
  • They return in the Springtime

Habits/Habitat

The green stink bug prefers a broad range of different host plants, including the flowering dogwood, basswoods, and pine trees.

Host plants of the brown marmorated stink bug include various maples, elms, and sycamores, while both species may feed on tree fruits, vegetables, and various farmed crops.

Typically mating early in the season, the insects may be found indoors as the weather cools, preparing to overwinter and emerge the following spring. Neither species has been known to mate or lay eggs indoors, preferring to find suitable places between the walls or insulation in which to rest for the colder months.

Diet

What Do Stink Bugs Eat?

Possessing both piercing and sucking mouthparts to feed on plants and plant fluids, the stink bug has been known to eat a variety of different foods.

Aside from eating native plants, the insect may also feed on developing crops such as:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Cherries
  • Soybeans
  • Tomatoes
  • Tobacco
Stink bugs inject digestive enzymes into the food in order to liquefy the content and feed.

The insects may leave cosmetic damage and scarring, called "cat facing," to certain fruits and may also render some foodstuffs permanently damaged.

Reproduction & Life Cycle

The reproductive cycle and lifespan tends to depend on the species of the insect.

The brown marmorated stink bug typically emerges from its overwintering state in early May and mates through August. The eggs are elliptical in shape, typically light yellow in color, harbor tiny spines, and are usually attached side by side to the underside of host leaves in masses of up to 30.

Hatching into nymphs, the species goes through five instars before becoming an adult.

The green stink bug remains similar in most ways, with the entire life cycle taking up to 45 days to complete and eggs hatching within a week of oviposition.

Nymphs pass through five instars, with each passing molt bringing the young to look more like adults.

Typical lifespans may reach up to one year, depending on the overwintering patterns of each species, with weather patterns and predation playing a significant role in how many insects survive to the next spring.

As spring approaches and temperatures begin to rise, overwintering stink bugs emerge from hiding to begin the reproduction process. The insects typically mate and produce eggs from May to August. Female stink bugs lay batches of 20 to 30 barrel-shaped eggs on the undersides of leaves.

Eggs hatch into tiny black and red nymphs that measure less than an eighth of an inch. Nymphs progress through five instars before reaching adulthood.

Fully grown stink bugs measure about one inch in length. Stink bugs usually produce one or two generations per year. However, temperatures influence reproduction rates, and warm spring and summer seasons can result in three to four generations in a year.

Sub-tropical regions can see as many as six generations of stink bugs in one year. New England's temperate climate usually limits stink bugs to one generation per year.

Stink bug populations spike as summers progress. During the fall, typically between September and October, the insects begin searching for overwintering sites.

Outdoor stink bugs overwinter in piles of leaf litter and become active again when temperatures increase. Stink bugs may also enter homes to overwinter, often invading in large numbers. Warm temperatures inside the home keep stink bugs active, making them winter-long nuisances.

Problems Caused by Stink Bugs

Stink bugs feed on crops consumed by humans. When injecting the enzyme to feed on the fruit, the quality of the fruit or seed may be reduced. The puncture wound also leads to the possibility of pathogens entering the fruit, which in turn could lead to it being not fit for human consumption.

At times, eggs may be laid in developing fruits like grapes, which severely damages the growth of seed fruits by nymphs. Most damage is caused by adults, as feeding on some crops leaves a dimpling of the skin, called cat facing, while in other vegetation, small, dark lesions appear on the leaves and fruit, making the produce unmarketable.

As nuisance pests, stink bugs may enter the home but are not known dangers to home or business owners. Stink bugs cause no structural damage and do not bite humans.

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Prevention

The best way to prevent stink bugs from entering a structure remains sealing all points of entry. Fix cracks in the foundation and around windows and doors while blocking areas of access around pipes, wiring, and cables with mesh screening and netting, if possible.

For outdoor issues, pesticides may be utilized to keep crops clear of stink bugs, though most do not recommend pesticides or foggers for indoor use, as safety and total elimination remain problematic.

For infestations that appear severe, contacting a trained pest control specialist may deem necessary to completely eradicate the stink bug from the home or workplace.

For the control of these Bugs we recommend vacuuming up the insects for disposal or release them to the outside. To ensure this insect does not enter your home, make sure all the cracks and crevices are filled and sealed. An outside perimeter treatment will cut down the number of insects invading.

If you have questions or would like to arrange for a barrier treatment contact your local Waltham Pest Services Branch. Scheduling a home inspection may help to get rid of Stink Bugs.

Signs of Infestation

The most common sign of infestation by stink bugs remains visual observation of adults.

The brown marmorated stink bug especially may congregate in large numbers on the sunny side of structures and may enter the home through cracks and crevices. Farmers and agriculturalists alike may notice the bug by the amount of damage that may occur in planted and harvested crops. Scarring and dark marks on fruit may remain the most obvious sign of infestation (under agricultural settings).

Species