Did you experience invasion of brown marmorated stinkbugs?

brown marmorated stink bug in Western New York
A brown marmorated stink bug hangs on a window screen looking for a place to settle down for the winter. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

When the weather was hot last week, you might have been one of the many Western New York gardeners who experienced what seemed to be an invasion of brown marmorated stink bugs.

The bugs hung outside on window screens, trying to get into the house. And when they did get into the house, they crawled up walls and curtains, looking for a place to settle down for the winter.

My husband and I killed two dozen in one day!

But that’s nothing. In some rural areas, people have seen hundreds of brown marmorated stink bugs, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

“We are seeing an increase in calls about brown marmorated stink bugs, which can suggest an increasing presence in Western New York,” Farfaglia said. He suspects the relatively warm summer helped them increase their numbers, and that summer-like weather lasted into October.

I never noticed so many brown marmorated stink bugs during autumn before. In the past, we didn’t notice them until  winter when they’re already in the house.

Southern states have been experiencing worse problems with brown marmorated stink bugs. Here’s a glimpse of what may be in store for us as the number of stink bugs increases in Western New York: Doug Inkley, senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, had thousands of brown marmorated stink bugs in his attic in Knoxville, Maryland back in 2011. See photos here.

Background on brown marmorated stink bugs

brown marmorated stink bug Buffalo area
Here’s a closeup of a brown marmorated stink bug on my porch. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The brown marmorated stink bug is called a stink bug because when you step on it or it gets aggravated, it gives off a smell. The smell from just one bug can be strong, and it’s unpleasant. The bug is shaped like a shield and is big– about the size of your fingernail. It’s an invasive species from Asia.

Brown marmorated stink bugs don’t hurt people.

They spend the winter inside buildings, such as your house. You don’t have to worry about the population of brown marmorated stink bugs inside your house increasing over the winter; they mate outside in the spring.

While they’re not harmful inside your house, these ugly bugs are annoying and kind of icky. I’ve opened boxes of clothes I had stored in the closet and found one or two brown marmorated stink bugs in the box. Worse, I’ve had the bugs crawl out of the pocket of a sweatshirt–while I was wearing it. Ew! At night, we can hear them buzzing loudly around the bedroom and thumping into walls. They have landed on my poor husband’s face while he’s trying to fall asleep.

As bad as that is, brown marmorated stink bugs can be even more of a problem in your garden because they feed on a wide range of plants. See a list of plants here that they can feed on.

Compared to other places in the United States, the number of brown marmorated stink bugs in Western New York has been low since it arrived in 2010, so we haven’t been experiencing problems in gardens or farms. However, this year Farfaglia did notice damage in his garden.

“It’s not the type of damage most gardeners would notice,” Farfaglia said. There was a little blotchy discoloration on the skin of some peppers, and he recognized it as damage from brown marmorated stink bugs because he knew those bugs were there. See photos of damage to fruit and vegetables caused by the brown marmorated stink bug here.

As the number of brown marmorated stink bugs (also referred to as BMSB) increases, the amount of damage will likely increase. According to Stop BMSB, a group looking to understand and control the bug, the brown marmorated stink bug poses an unprecedented threat to U.S. farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $5.7 million grant to ten institutions across the country to develop a coordinated defense. Read updates on research on their homepage or see scientific reports here.

Dealing with brown marmorated stink bugs

In your garden

There’s nothing to do right now about brown marmorated stink bugs outside, Farfaglia said. It’s too late in the year to spray any kind of pesticide; that would be done in July or August. Besides, the bugs haven’t been enough of a problem yet to require spraying in our area.

Next year you might spray a pesticide if you see damage to a plant and/or there is a significant population of brown marmorated stink bugs in your garden, he said.

“I have not seen that yet,” Farfaglia added.

If there is a concern next year, we’ll keep you posted.

If you consider using a pesticide next year, you must choose a pesticide that is specifically labeled for brown marmorated stink bugs and labeled for use on plants.

“I stress that you should read the label of the product you’re using,” Farfaglia said.

Inside your home

The best way to deal with brown marmorated stink bugs is to prevent them from entering your home in the first place, Farfaglia said. You have to seal gaps and cracks so they can’t get in, and now is the time to do that.

Get more details on how to build them out here. Do a thorough job, but since caulk can shrink and you might miss an opening here or there, you should go back and check yearly.

There are also pesticides that can be used to keep brown marmorated stink bugs out of your house, Farfaglia said. They can be sprayed on the foundation of your house, the area where the foundation meets the siding, around vents and other small spaces and cracks where the bugs might get in. Make sure that the product is labeled for brown marmorated stink bugs and that it is labeled for use indoors as well as outdoors.

Farfaglia also mentioned that newer traps for box elder bugs sound promising for use with brown marmorated stink bugs.

If you already have brown marmorated stink bugs in your house, don’t try to kill them with pesticide, Farfaglia said. People may think that using a fogger will get rid of all the brown marmorated stink bugs in the house, but it doesn’t because the bugs can live inside your walls where the fogger doesn’t reach. You’ll still find the bugs emerging during the winter.

Even worse, the bugs that pesticides do kill will remain indoors. If there are a lot of dead stink bugs, the smell can be terrible, according to this guide on dealing with brown marmorated stink bugs from the Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University.

And if that’s not bad enough, all those carcasses of brown marmorated stink bugs could attract scavengers, resulting in an infestation of carpet beetles or other scavengers.

If you see a few brown marmorated stink bugs around your house, just squish them. They move slowly, so it’s easy.

Use a tissue or piece of scrap paper or cardboard and try to squish the bug between the paper or whatever it is you’re using. Try not to squish the bug against the wall. These are big bugs and you’ll have to wipe away the residue. (You may have to wash the smell off your fingers after squishing one of these bugs. If that bothers you, choose cardboard rather than tissues or paper.)

Lots of people also recommend vacuuming up the bugs. I tried this, but if you have just a few bugs, hauling the vacuum cleaner around from room to room is a lot of extra work. Plus, these bugs can have a tight grip on a screen, so you have to maneuver the nozzle under their legs in order to vacuum them up. Besides, the blowing air from the vacuum cleaner spreads the smell around.

If you have a whole crowd of brown marmorated stink bugs in one spot, I can see where using a vacuum cleaner can be useful

What are your experiences with the brown marmorated stink bug? Please leave a comment below.

32 Comments on “Did you experience invasion of brown marmorated stinkbugs?

  1. I cannot understand how we can send people to the moon, but we cannot find something to kill these incredibly horrible bugs. They hit our home in Nebraska about three years ago… and now I am literally losing sleep. Twice this week, one was crawling on me during the night. In my hair. I screamed… woke the whole house up…. could not go back to bed. For the love of all things in life…. we have to find a way to kill these suckers. NASTY.. nasty.
    I have tried every thing on the planet…

  2. Helen, thanks for your comment. Hearing from readers like you, I think brown marmorated stink bugs are going to become an even bigger problem.

  3. I’ve made concoctions with mint, with garlic, with dawn liquid soap. Nothing worked. Even sprayed them with clorax bleach, and they still live..like the zombie apocalypse. These things are like dinosaur tanks. We took out the windows and just sucked them all out with the vacuum cleaner. There were sooo many in the windows. It helped a lot but there are still coming through, so I just flush them down the toilet.

  4. Laura, whatever brown marmorated stink bugs you see in your house now came in during the fall. When it gets warm in your house, especially if the sun is shining in and warming up the windows and walls, they will come out of hiding.

  5. I keep getting them in my bedroom at night. Recently I was laying in bed in the dark looking at my phone screen and one flew into my far, attracted to the light I guess. I screamed and started shaking out my hair, thinking it was in there. I found it later and got rid of it.
    I never put the screen back in my window after taking out the a/c, which is probably how they’re getting in, but it’s convenient too since I just throw them back out the window. It’s the second story but they fly so I don’t feel bad. I’m not a bug killer, no matter how much they annoy me.

  6. Greg, brown marmorated stinkbugs are really spreading in Western New York. I hope researchers find a way to deal with them before they become a real problem here.

  7. We have had them here in Pendleton for the past several years . No real big quantity but none the less they are hear .

  8. Stink bugs have been eating my tomatoes all summer. And my raspberries and blackberries. Last year, they also seemed to be eating my green beans, though I did not not plant any this year. I saw them on my squash vines, but did not notice any damage. I may skip the tomatoes next year as well, just to cut down on whatever may be attracting them.

  9. Ugh I saw one on my screen, but since I had never seen them before and it was outside I ignored it! I just moved to Tonawanda from South Buffalo so everything is new to me here!

  10. Town of Tonawanda here – I killed probably a dozen a day last week during the warmer weather. The numbers have been increasing for the last few years. I’ve never been one to get the willies from bugs but when one of these dive-bombed me and landed on my neck that was it! I have no problem smashing every last bit of life out of these pests!

  11. Didn’t realize stink bugs had a pedigree, just know we’ve had them in my house for a while! I like the idea of mint as a deterrant- though I prefer to keep it for mojitos! Thanks for the info!

  12. Laura, having the bugs crawl on your face at night is so icky! If we hear one buzzing around, we don’t go to sleep until we find it.

  13. Celeste, my husband thought we might have gotten one in our car today. But dozens? Yuck! What a nasty chore that must have been.

  14. Meredith, some people say you can keep brown marmorated stink bugs out of your house by spraying around windows and doors with mint water. I guess you make mint tea or put mint oil in water and spray it. The smell is supposed to keep them away. It might make your house smell good, so even if it doesn’t work, there’s no harm done. I also saw recommendations to make a spray out of garlic or even set out cloves of garlic. I personally wouldn’t try that, but if you do try any of these methods, please let us know how it works.

  15. Sandy, wow, that’s a lot of bugs! The brown marmorated stink bugs enter houses at this time of year, usually without people noticing. They emerge from their hiding places inside your house during winter or spring. If it was spring and you saw them by the windows, they probably had been in the house all winter and were heading out. They might come out of their hiding places when the sun is shining on the window and the window is warm. They don’t lay eggs inside or hatch inside. Yes, you can flush them down the toilet. Also, if you see them in the winter, you can throw them out the window and they will die.

  16. Nothing in MY yard in Elma this year although my neighbor across the street has an invasion.
    He uses a 2 liter bottle cut up to make a funnel and put together. They fall in and cannot get out . He places the bottle over an electric tealight to attract them.

  17. Susan has none in the Parkside area and Meredith has had them for 25 years. Meredith, the brown marmorated stink bugs have only been in Western New York (officially, anyways) since 2010. I wonder if maybe you are seeing something different. There are bugs that look very similar to brown marmorated stink bugs. See more here. By the way, our dog used to eat grubs, and I let her do it.

  18. So I have had them in Lockport for a few years inside and outside. This year I tried to keep windows and doors closed. Not too difficult this summer considering the high heat. But the worst was when I opened my car door and they were dozens nested in the rubber door stripping on all four doors. Ugh that was gross. Had to scrape them out of the crevices. WTH !!!

  19. I had them in North Tonawanda last winter. One even crawled across my face in the middle of the night. This year I only saw a few clinging to the screens, none inside yet.

  20. Unfortunately my Parkside house has had the “little stinkers” for at least twenty five years, and the population is very slowly increasing; I only noticed some outside — on my porch, very recently, and my dog has been trying to eat them. I’d love to know of an organic deterrent to these nasty things; meanwhile we flush them in the toilet!?

  21. Yes, we had them in our house in Youngstown, NY for the first time this spring. The house had been closed up for the winter They seemed to be coming in by the windows, through the storm windows that have tiny air vents, and cling to the screens. Somehow they got past the screens, maybe they hatch in side. There were about 50 -60 in one particular bedroom. I picked them up carefully using a tissue and flushed them down the toilet. I was afraid to squash them. I knew they were stink bugs of some sort. It was a week before I got them all. Very unnerving as they seem to come out at night and move around. My neighbor said he had a 100 of them and vacuumed them up. I did not see them again until late summer and early fall when they were clinging to the screens on several windows. A very educational article. Thank you.

  22. None of the nasty little beasts in my garden or house here in the Parkside neighborhood – yet.

  23. What a scary Halloween story! But it’s not Halloween yet, the bugs are real and the list of host plants is huge so the story is even scarier. Thanks for the comprehensive overview, Connie. I won’t panic yet; probably because we saw only a few this summer.

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