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Stink bugs: what are they and how do you get rid of them?

a brown stink bug

Featured image:Brown marmorated stink bug (Wikipedia)

Stink bugs, you don’t even have to know exactly what they are to know that you don’t want them around you in your home, just the very name is off-putting! The insect’s title comes from its tendency to release an unpleasant odour when it is disturbed or crushed. The chemical is contained in a gland in their abdomen and has a strong, spicy smell which has been likened to coriander.

The stink bug is easy to identify as it has a distinctive triangular or shield shape and a grey/brown colour. Stink bugs can grow up to 2cm in length and are as wide as they are long.

stink bugs in the home attic
Brown marmorated stink bugs in the attic (image source)

Why do stink bugs seek shelter in homes?

Stink bugs in common with other insects are driven in during the colder months looking for shelter.  Stink bugs go through a diapause period during the winter months which is a type of hibernation before re-emerging in the spring again when they become active and head outdoors. 

Once stink bugs have found a way in, they release a chemical to attract other stink bugs and you can soon find yourself facing an invasion. They are generally not solitary insects so if you find a couple, their friends will soon be joining them so its time to act quickly.

How to keep stink bugs out of your home

Check all entry points so doors and windows and deal with any obvious cracks or openings – window frames which face directly into the sun are a popular entry point as are door frames, electrical outlets and light fixtures. Stink bugs are attracted to light so for exterior lighting consider yellow bulbs or sodium bulbs which many insects dislike, not just stink bugs.

You may want to rid your garden of stink bugs as the presence in your house is probably because they are happily living in your garden. Whilst a few stink bugs won’t bother anyone, a lot of stink bugs can cause real damage to plants and flowers. To avoid the use of chemical sprays, here are some steps you can take to keep stink bugs at bay in your garden and this should reduce the number heading indoors when the weather turns colder:

  • Keep the garden free from debris and the areas surrounding the garden and house as well
  • Keep your garden weed free as this is a common place for stink bugs to hide and seek shelter
  • Remove old logs and pieces of wood
  • As stink bugs feed and lay eggs on garden plants, you can spray the plants with a mineral clay or kaolin clay solution as this prevents the stink bugs from laying eggs and reproducing – this treatment is safe for the plants and can be washed off quite harmlessly if these are vegetables for the kitchen

Treating and removing any stink bugs within the home

If your defensive precautions are not enough and you are being invaded in the autumnal months then it may be time to take action. There are home remedies you can use to get rid of an infestation of stink bugs which avoid the need for toxic chemicals which are not only bad for your health but also seriously harmful to the environment. Stink bugs are becoming remarkably resistant to many pesticides as some people have found after paying for pest control to come in and still finding they are not free of the problem. Killing stink bugs releases their odour and this can even occur if you vacuum them up. The key is getting rid of them without them living up to their name.

A natural home remedy for stink bugs

Make up a combo of hot water, dish soap and white vinegar to trap the stink bugs. The proportions are two cups of hot water, one cup of white vinegar and half a cup of dish soap. Put the hot water in the spray bottle first then add the vinegar and finally the dish soap. If you follow this order it will help you avoid suds and froth. 

Add the nozzle to the bottle and swirl the contents gently around, don’t shake. This concoction will kill stink bugs pretty quickly and it won’t leave a residue of nasty chemicals or mess but you might just have to do some drying up once you have finished.

Prevention is always better than cure and if you take time to make your home and garden less attractive to stink bugs then you will have less of them as well as other unwanted visitors. Any that do make it into the house will be easier to deal with as their numbers will be lower. Stink bugs don’t bite, they don’t reproduce indoors so you don’t have to deal with larvae and they don’t transmit diseases but they are sufficiently big and persistent to be a nuisance to most householders.