A stink bug is a small insect that can damage your garden and become a nuisance inside the house. This bug gets its name due to its ability to emit an odor that, well… stinks, when threatened.
Let's take a closer look at these bugs and what you can do to help get rid of them. In this article, we'll answer for you some of the most common questions we hear about stink bugs, including:
- What are stink bugs?
- Do stink bugs actually stink?
- What do stink bugs look like?
- Stink bug reproduction and life cycle
- Stink bug habits and behaviors
- What do stink bugs eat?
- What do stink bugs eat when inside homes?
- What eats stink bugs?
- Common types of stink bugs
- Beneficial stink bugs
- Do stink bugs have wings?
- When is stink bug season?
- Are stink bugs harmful to humans or pets?
- Do stink bugs bite?
- Why are stink bugs a problem?
- What causes stink bugs in your house?
- What are the signs of stink bug infestation?
- How do you get rid of stink bugs in your home and yard?
What are stink bugs?
Stink bugs, sometimes known by their Latin name of Halyomorpha halys, are small bugs that can release a foul smell to protect themselves from predators. There are more than 5,000 different types of stink bugs found around the world.
While harmless to humans, they can damage plants both inside the house and in the garden. Stink bugs have been known to decimate such crops as apples, peaches, and soybeans every year. These bugs are commonly found throughout most of the US, and are fairly prevalent throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area of Georgia.
Do stink bugs actually stink?
Yes, to scare off predators who don't want to eat smelly prey, stink bugs release foul-smelling chemicals from a gland in their abdomen. These pests have full control over the way they release odors, so they don't stink all the time. Stink bugs will only emit their particular stench as a defense mechanism or if you crush one.
What do stink bugs look like?
Stink bugs have oval-shaped bodies that resemble a shield, hence their other name – shield bug. Depending on the species, adults are about 2 cm (4/5 of an inch) long.
Stink bugs have six legs, two antennae, and two wings that are neatly folded on their backs. Depending on the species, the color varies from more neutral tones ranging from brown to grey, to more colorful hues like green or orange-red with dark markings.
Stink bug reproduction and life cycle
Stink bugs typically mate in the spring and lay eggs in clusters (also called masses) on the undersides of leaves and on stems of plants. These bugs go through three different stages throughout their life cycle.
A female stink bug can lay between 30 and 100 eggs at a time. During a single lifetime, this pest can lay up to 500 eggs. It takes eggs four to seven days to hatch. A stink bug egg varies depending on the species, but all stink bug eggs are roughly the size of a pistachio nut – and even look similar to one!
Newly-hatched nymphs are smaller versions of adult stink bugs. When stink bug nymphs emerge from their eggs, they are yellowish and wingless. Before turning into an adult, nymphs shed their skin (molt) up to five times. This stage lasts between 40 and 60 days.
Depending on the environment and species, adult stink bugs can live between 50 days and eight months.
Thankfully, stink bugs don't reproduce indoors, which makes it somewhat easier to get rid of them if you happen to find one in your home.
Stink bug habitats and behaviors
Stink bugs live outdoors near plants and fruits that they feed on. They are active between May and October. During the winter months, these bugs go into diapause, which is a hibernation-like state in which they don't move or eat. In warmer climates, stink bugs are active all year round.
What do stink bugs eat?
Stink bugs feed on plants, fruits, berries, beans, and nuts. While most will eat plants, some stink bugs will eat other insects. Stink bugs have been known to lay waste to crops, as they will consume all parts of a plant, including flowers, leaves, stems, buds, and seeds.
Some of the most common plants and crops that attract stink bugs include holly, corn, soybeans, peanuts, and fruit trees such as peach, apple, and pear. They also will eat beans, eggplant, and other common garden vegetables.
What do stink bugs eat when inside homes?
When stink bugs take up residence in your home, they can feed on indoor plants. However, these pests rarely eat inside houses since they usually enter homes in search of a place to hibernate.
What eats stink bugs?
Stink bugs often find themselves as prey for a variety of creatures in the animal kingdom. Birds, bats, reptiles, spiders, and predator insects – including beetles, lacewings, and wasps – feed on stink bugs.
Common types of stink bugs
While there are over 200 stink bug species in North America, homeowners commonly meet just a few types. These bugs range in color and size – often looking very different from one another despite being grouped together as stink bugs. Here are some of the most common stink bugs you'll find throughout the U.S.:
Brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys Stål)
If you've encountered a stink bug, there's a good chance it's this one. The brown marmorated stink bug is the most common stink bug in the United States, although it originally hails from Asia. It will often seek shelter indoors and spend winters in human structures. You can recognize the brown marmorated stink bug by its brown, triangle-shaped body.
Harlequin bugs (Murgantia histrionica)
The colorful harlequin bug is a type of stink bug most commonly found in the southern half of the U.S. They have flat, black, shield-shaped bodies with orange-red markings. They slightly resemble a lady bug, but have more distinctive markings compared to the small black-on-red dots of a lady bug.
Sometimes known as the cabbage bug or calico bug, when the harlequin bug feeds on plants, these pests leave white blotches that make crops unsightly and unmarketable. They also suck the juices out of plants, causing them to wilt and wither.
Southern green stink bugs (Nezara viridula)
These green-colored stink bugs originated in Ethiopia, but they can be found throughout the world. In the U.S., southern green stink bugs can be found in warmer and more humid states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, California, and Hawaii. These colorful bugs are green with black dots on the sides of their abdomen. These pests also spread a plant disease that causes cotton and bean crops to rot.
Rice stink bugs (Oebalus pugnax)
These light brown stink bugs feed on the developing grains of rice and other plants, causing the crop to lose quality. While plants are their preferred food source, rice stink bugs will also eat sorghum and plant grasses. You can find rice stink bugs throughout the Southeastern part of the U.S., as well as in states that experience harsher winters like Minnesota and New York.
Forest bugs or red-egged shield bugs (Pentatoma rufipes)
These stink bugs live in the forest, but also settle in gardens and orchids. They usually feed on the sap of oak trees. They are triangular in shape with orange legs and red-orange markings on their brown bodies. These forest bugs not only consume nuts and fruits straight from trees, but will also feed on other insects.
Beneficial stink bugs
Not all stink bugs are pests that can do significant damage to crops. Rather, some stink bugs are beneficial in terms of balancing out the ecosystem.
For instance, rough stink bugs (Brochymena Arborea) are beneficial predator bugs. They don't feed on plants, but instead prey on caterpillars, beetles, aphids, and other pests known to destroy plant life and vegetation. Similarly, the two-spotted stink bug will eat the Colorado potato weevil, preventing the weevil from ruining potato crops. Additionally, the spined soldier bug is another type of stink bug that will prey on insects that destroy crops.
Do stink bugs have wings?
Stink bugs have two powerful wings that fold up on their backs. They readily use their wings for traveling, searching for food and shelter, as well as finding mates. A stink bug can fly between one to three miles per day if they have to.
When is stink bug season?
Stink bugs are usually active between May and October. When the weather gets cold, they find a hidden place to overwinter, emerging when temperatures are right.
Are stink bugs harmful to humans or pets?
Stink bugs don't bite or transmit disease-causing pathogens. However, some people may be allergic to the compounds that these pests release when trying to scare predators. Symptoms of such an allergic reaction usually include a runny nose and conjunctivitis (pink eye).
Do stink bugs bite?
Stink bugs do not sting or bite. They don't have fangs or stingers, and while their mouthparts are designed for sucking, they do not drink blood or pierce human skin. Rather, a stink bug will use its mouthparts to drain juices from various parts of a plant, fruits, and vegetables.
Why are stink bugs a problem?
Stink bugs can ruin your garden plants. Besides munching on your greenery and crops, these pests can transfer plant diseases. Large infestations could cause young plants to wither and die.
Even though stink bugs don't hurt humans, the chemicals they release to scare off predators can sometimes cause allergies. These pests can also take up residence in your home in wintertime.
What causes stink bugs in your house?
Stink bugs aren't active during winter. These pests need a warm place to stay while they overwinter. Once a stink bug finds a suitable crevice in your house to settle it, the pest releases a specific odor, inviting others to join it.
How to get rid of stink bugs
The only effective way to prevent bugs from entering your house is to remove all opportunities for them to enter. This involves sealing crevices, cracks, fractures, and other similar nooks and crannies in your home's structure.
What are the signs of stink bug infestation?
While stink bugs aren't often found indoors, there are some telltale signs that these creatures may have made their way into your home, or taken up residence in your backyard or garden. Some of the most common signs of a stink bug infestation include:
- Live stink bugs roaming around your house or yard
- Finding dead bugs
- Trail of excrements (dark yellow or brownish liquid that leaves stains)
- An unpleasant odor
- Damaged and/or dying plants
How do you get rid of stink bugs in your home and yard?
Some common DIY methods homeowners use when trying to get rid of stink bugs include manually disposing of them with a broom and a dust pan, taking care not to crush them. While you can vacuum stink bugs, that is not advised. Using a vacuum can crush a stink bug, releasing its foul odor. As a result, that smell may not go away and permeate your home if you use it elsewhere.
If stink bugs have managed to find their way into your home, it can be tough to control an infestation without the aid of a professional.
How Terminix® helps you with stink bug control
Stink bugs in your home or yard can become a serious problem. Besides ruining your plants and gardens, these pests are unsightly and give off an unpleasant odor.
Unfortunately, DIY stink bugs extermination methods rarely work. But don't worry! Terminix leverages expert technicians well-versed in professional techniques to remove pesky stink bugs from your property. Call us to schedule a free inspection today!