The stinky truth about a common pest

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2012

(ARA) – Warmer, longer days, flowers blooming, birds chirping and the onset of the garden season are all glorious signs that cold weather is behind us. And, while taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Mother Nature at work is refreshing, the good does bring a few, less-than-ideal issues – a major one being stink bugs. Unfortunately, this year may see the largest population of stink bugs across the U.S. to date thanks to the very mild winter weather pattern most of the country experienced.

Stink bug origin

Stink bugs have not always been a familiar sight to those of us in North America. Originally from Southeast Asia, they are thought to have taken refuge on a container ship that traveled to the U.S. The first population of stink bugs was spotted in Allentown, Pa., in 1998, and the bugs have since spread feverishly with a reported presence in at least 33 states. The majority of states infested with these smelly insects are coastal, but that is quickly changing.

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Stink bugs earned their name from the foul odor they omit when they are disturbed, frightened or squashed. Their glands, which are located on the underside of their thorax, create a strong fragrance that repels predators. The most common stink bug is the brown marmorated stink bug, but it is only one of 250 species that can be found in the U.S., and one of 4,700 species worldwide.

Although stink bugs are problematic for various reasons, people primarily find them a nuisance in their homes. Adult stink bugs are mainly interested in mating, so they enter your home looking for a warm place to reproduce. While taking refuge, they can be heard running into things as they fly around clumsily hitting walls, lamps, etc. Simply squishing them will not solve the issue, because their smell acts as a pheromone, and causes others to flock to your home.

Their diet

Stink bugs enjoy feasting on all sorts of foods, from apples to carrots and leaves to cabbage; their diets are hardly picky. Farmers find these insects to be an enemy to their crops, and rightfully so. Some trade groups hold stink bugs responsible for a reported $37 million of damage to apple crops in 2010. According to the USDA, an estimated value of $21 billion of crops are at risk where stink bugs have been recorded.

Control options

Some people believe they’re unable to control stink bug populations without the use of chemicals and harmful substances. Most chemicals are increasingly ineffective against stink bugs and some traps may not always work. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lower the risk of stink bugs entering your home, as well as organic methods to treat the stink bug population in your home. Make sure all windows and entryways are sealed tightly and check that fireplaces are closed. It is also beneficial to rake away any debris or edible vegetation from your home’s foundation to avoid attracting unwanted bugs.

Further indoor control of stink bugs can be handled using a trap, like the Victor Ultimate Stink Bug Trap. This more advanced trap uses heat, light and a powerful lure to attract stink bugs without using harmful chemicals. The benefits of a trap like this include a budget friendly price point as well as safety around pets and children.

There are also traps that help control outdoor populations like the Safer Brand Stink Bug Magnet. Through years of engineering and testing, proper pheromones have been discovered to create a powerful and effective lure that attracts and traps stink bugs without exposing gardens to destructive substances. This reusable trap can be hung from a tree to attract adults or set in a garden to attract nymphs.

Using chemicals to control stink bug populations is increasingly frowned upon because it can disrupt your home and can be dangerous to your health. Increasing demand for advanced technology has sparked innovation for products to trap these bugs and diminish their reproductive possibilities. This season, try using an organic approach to your stink bug control and help keep the environment, and your home, safe.