There’s a new bug in Western New York and it might eat plants in your garden

Brown marmorated stink bug
Brown marmorated stink bug. Photo courtesy Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

by Dana Santasiero

There’s a new bug in Western New York and there are two main things you need to know about it.

First, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is called a stink bug because when you step on it, it smells.

Second, it could eat the plants in your garden.

The good news is even though it is big and ugly, it won’t hurt you. You might find it in your house over the winter but it’ll just be a nuisance.

What is the the brown marmorated stink bug?

The full name is Halyomorpha halys (Stål).

It is a large bug that is around the size of your finger nail. The BMSB is shaped liked a shield and is colored in a mix of browns.

If it is in your house, you will notice how loud it is when it’s flying, especially when it bumps into a window.

After being squished or aggravated the bug gives off an odd citrusy scent that gives it its name “stink bug.” It is not the worst smell, but the scent lingers for a couple of hours.

The BMSB just arrived in Western New York in 2010, said Wayne K. Gall, Ph.D, the regional entomologist for the New York State Department of Health.

To distinguish it from other stink bugs, look for the lighter bands around the antennae.

Brown marmorated stink bug cluster
A cluster of brown marmorated stink bugs along with a western conifer seed bug. Photo courtsey Gary Bernon, USDA APHIS, Bugwood.org

What will brown marmorated stink bugs do to your garden?

“Unfortunately they are a general feeder,” said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

They will eat the foliage and fruits on crops such as peaches, apples, pears, grapes, blackberries, strawberries, sweet and field corn, squash, tomatoes, lima beans, green peppers and soybeans.

They are not causing damage to most ornamental plants such as roses and perennials, according to Farfaglia. They are known to feed on the seed pods of some trees but not the ones in your garden. The trees that have been affected are the tree of heaven, which is considered a weed.

Since they are so new to our area it is hard to predict the damage they may cause. As of right now BMSB has not done any significant damage to crops and plants in Western New York, Farfaglia said. Their population is still limited; however if the population grows they may cause an issue for local gardeners and farmers.

“We’re not sure what the extent of damage is going to be,” said Farfgalia. “We are dealing with it for the first time.”

How to protect your plants from the brown marmorated stink bug

There is only one solution known to deal with the BMSB, Farfaglia said. It is pyrethrum, a botanical insecticide. (A botanical insecticide is made up of insect toxins extracted from plants or minerals.)

The time to apply pyrethum is during the early growing season (spring) because that is when BMSB are beginning to mate. The nymph (immature) stage of these bugs is when they are the most susceptible to insecticides.

Once the gardening season comes closer again, Cornell Cooperative Extension may have a list of more insecticides that could potentially work, he said.

If this stink bug is in your house

Besides being a pest in our gardens, the BMSB has found its way into many of our homes for the winter.

At this point it is more noticable in our homes than gardens.

“It’s not crop damage right now, it is a nuisance problem,” said Farfgalia.

While in our homes they do not cause any damage. BMSB mate only outside during the spring and early summer so you don’t have to worry about an infestation.

The BMSB usually enter a home through small cracks and holes along windows and doors. In order to keep these critters out, make sure you tightly seal all the cracks and little holes that lead to the outdoors before the cold makes it way into Western New York.

You may happen to see a BMSB crawling on your window or door since they are attracted to the warmth of sunlight. Squishing it can lead to an unsavory scent to linger for a couple of hours.To get rid of the bug, you can vacuum it up. If the weather outside is freezing, you can simply open the window or door and brush it outside.

See updated information

See this article from May 3, 2016 in Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com for more information on the brown marmorated stink bug.

Save

21 Comments on “There’s a new bug in Western New York and it might eat plants in your garden

  1. yes, i have them in my house. we had them bad last year , this year only a few so far. but, we were going to call and exterminator this year becasue last year was so bad. I read and article that the best way to get rid of them was to flush them.

    do oyu think an exterminaor willwork?

  2. I’ve always wondered…when I vacuum up an insect in the house…can it stay alive in the vacuum cleaner?

  3. People may be confusing the BMSB with the common stick bug which is nati9ve and not a problem for crop damage. If interested go on line ot a “.edu” site to get full descriptions of the 2 varieties.

  4. This bug has been around my area (South Wales) for about 25 years. I took it to the Science Museum to be identified when I first saw it. It comes in with the firewood I stack in my basement even though I try to knock it off before stacking. It looks a lot like the bark and blends in. It is ugly but harmless.

  5. Judith, I suppose the bug might not die immediately, but if it can’t find a way out of the vacuum (and I don’t think it would), it would eventually die.

  6. Eileen, we have them in our house, too, and they were much worse last year. Flushing them down the toilet works. Last year it was cold and snowy out so it was easy to just shoo them out the window; they die in the cold. I wouldn’t bother getting an exterminator. These bugs are big enough that they are easy to see, they’re slow and easy to catch, and I never saw more than two or three a day. I would call an exterminator if I had bugs that were endangering my health or property (carpenter ants can eat the support beams in your house), but why take the risk of having poison sprayed in your house unless you really have to?

  7. There are a lot of bugs that look like the brown marmorated stink bug. You can see comparisons at StopBMSB.org, published by a team of researchers with funding from the US Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

  8. Connie,

    Thank you for answering. I know it’s silly, but I always worried about it. I’m going to check out that website to learn more about these bugs.

  9. I live close to the Zoo by parkside I’ve been seeing them for three years now, but this year is decidedly the worst. The garden in the back yard has suffer’d from the drought this year, so I don’t see it attracting them. However we have one of the taller houses on the block and I think they hang on to it to get warm. Particularly on the East side of the house.
    I find them extremely irritating inside they are clumsy and bumbling. When I read my smartphone at night they crash in to my face as they are attracted to the light. I wish we had more bats… or some kind of predator.
    Im going to buy a few thousand ladybugs next year and release them in the yard in the spring.

  10. Nick, I think clumsy and bumbling is a good way to describe the way the brown marmorated stink bug moves. We have them in our house and find they are most annoying at night, even with the lights out. They tend to hang out in the blinds over the bed. Having them land on your face while you’re trying to fall asleep is very annoying! Let me know if the ladybugs do anything to help with this problem.

  11. I start the camping season at 4-mile creek state park and end the season with a weekend at the park. Two years ago the willow tree on my site was infested with them. Unfortunately they moved into my popup trailer. Even though I clean the camper thoroughly after the camping season I still find them in the camper in the spring. Does anyone know of an insect spray I can use on the outside surface of the camper to keep them out ?

  12. Ken, that’s a question I think a lot of people would like the answer to. If there’s something you could spray that would keep brown marmorated stink bugs out of your camper, that spray could be used to keep the bugs out of our houses. I don’t know of any spray.

    The bugs usually enter a home through small cracks and holes along windows and doors and the advice is to try to seal those up well. You might try that on your camper.

    It’s possible that you’re not bringing the bugs home with you. They might already be in your neighborhood. I’m in Amherst and we have them here. If you look at the other comments, you’ll see that they’ve been in Colden and South Wales for years. They’ve been in Buffalo for a couple years and were seen in Niagara County.

  13. Thanks, my camper is a tent trailer and can’t be sealed up tight when its in use. I
    found a spray to use around the foundation of your house that claims to kill multiple insects including stink bugs. It’s Ortho Home Defense which should be okay for the outside of the camper. I wouldn’t use it on plants especially food plants.

  14. Unfortunately, while lady bugs will eat some insects, they don’t eat stink bugs. The best control is still sealing up the potential openings where they gain entrance to your home. Checking around windows and doors is a good place to start.

  15. Our home was filled with them earlier this year. Bugs don’t bother me(unless they are in my home). I was seeing about 10 to 15 a day in my home. Three worst was when i turned on the hood of my stove whole cooking, and 2 fell into our food. We have terminex come every 2 months due to a previous carpenter ant problem, i haven’t seen 1 since they came and sprayed the outside a few week’s ago! Good riddance! Im hopping to PREVENT them from coming in next year.

  16. Rosie, thanks for your comment. We have them in our house, but just two or three at a time. We don’t usually have them into summer. Please let us know whether it turns out that this prevents marmorated stink bugs from coming into your home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *