Invaders- The Marmorated Stink Bug

By Jim White, Associate Director, Land and Biodiversity

I like insects as much as the next guy — some might even say a bit more.  However, there is one insect that I am getting a little tired of – the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.  I guess at first it was fun to see the little bugs scurrying purposely across my computer’s keyboard, when winter’s cold had forced the vast majority of other insects into an inactive state.  But lately it has become a bit much.  At least a hundred of these small triangular-shaped insects have invaded my office – crawling, and in some cases flying, around my work space.  Finding them swimming in my coffee was disturbing but the last straw was when two of them looked to feeding on a Hershey’s Kiss that I left on my desk. 

Marmorated Stink Bugs are swarming in my office!
Marmorated Stink Bugs are swarming in my office!

I decided to do a little research to find out more about these small, robotic intruders and to see if they can be controlled.  Answers to the former were easy to find.  However, answering the “how to get rid of” question remains the mostly unanswered. 

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha shalys) is in the insect order Hemiptera, or “true bugs”, and in family Pentatomidea.  It is native to China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan and has only recently been observed in the United States.  The first record seems to have been in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1996.  Remarkably, in such a short time it has spread throughout the East and even has reported in Oregon.  Although this insect does not bite of sting, it is considered a pest in its native range because it feeds on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  The stink bug feeds by inserting its proboscis into a plant’s stem or fruit and then sucking out it’s meal.  This typically does not kill the plant but does leave a scar, making the produce less desirable for sale.  Therefor, the economic impact to Asian farmers can be considerable.  Although this is a nuisance, they are not known to substantially harm our crops — yet.  I have received reports from local gardeners that these insects have been found on squash and other home-grown vegetables and leave behind blemishes where they have fed. 

Enough was enough when I found Marmorated Stink Bugs in my coffee cup and on a Hershey's Kiss.
Enough was enough when I found Marmorated Stink Bugs in my coffee cup and on a Hershey's Kiss.

Here in the U.S. it seems that the biggest problem is that the adult Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs seek out warm places in which to overwinter, resulting in their habit of invading homes and other buildings.  They can be quite numerous in older structures and if sufficiently harrassed (squeezed or stepped on), will, like their name suggests, give off a strong, foul odor.  The smell is a result of concentrated chemicals called aldehydes that are produced and expelled by the insect to ward off predators.  Although not dangerous to humans, the chemicals can be toxic to some birds and other potential predators.

Back to the question of how to control these pests.  It seems that the only effective way to keep the over-wintering adults out of buildings is to seal all openings to the outside; but that’s a lot easier said than done.  And using chemical insecticides inside of buildings should always be limited (for human health reasons).  So, collecting and disposing of the bug carcasses may be the only option.  Time will tell if these invading creatures casue havoc in the U.S. other than just strealing a meal from my sweets supply.

 

Have you seen the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in your house this winter?

11 thoughts on “Invaders- The Marmorated Stink Bug”

  1. Jim: I picked one up in my house to throw outside and it emmitted the foul odor. I smelled my fingers afterwards and it REALLY STUNK! It took a couple of handwashings to get the smell off. Joe

  2. Lorraine Fleming

    Jim:
    We’ve had them too this winter, although apparently not in the quantities you’ve experienced in your office. I haven’t seen one lately, but during January and February there were quite a few around out house plants. I collected them one at a time and put them outside (undoubtedly to die); but others died on their own inside, probably from drying out.
    Lorraine

  3. Jim. Up here in Maine we are currently being invaded by assassin bugs, which have a much better office pet value than stink bugs b/c they are fun to watch as they stalk and eat the other, less aggressive pests. Maybe you just to need cultivate an infestation of a more blood thirsty insect or arachnid. And though it doesn’t solve the issue, you can always gather up your little herd of stink bugs and relocate them into the desk drawer of an unsuspecting co-worker (I nominate Joe). That would at least be making the stink bugs work for you.
    Cheers
    Branden

  4. Yes, they’re all over our house and driving us crazy! We find them everywhere – hanging out on sunny kitchen windowsills, crawling across the carpet, and even yesterday in the shower. I’m sorry to hear there’s no good way to get rid of them. I guess they’ll head back outside if it ever warms up here.

    Great photos, Jim – better hide the chocolate!

    Sue

  5. They have been occasional but constant in my house. I found that when vacuuming them, the smell permeates the vacuum and I could smell it the rest of the time I was vacuuming. I had no idea they have only been around for 10 years or so. Amazing how quickly something like that becomes ‘normal’. sal

  6. In my preschool classroom, we call them “Christmas bugs” because one year a group of them crawled across the artwork drying on the windowsill. They picked up green and red glitter that decorated their wings.

  7. I stumbled across your site while looking for a remedy to rid my home and back deck of of a particular type of pest I have never seen in this area before. (Mid-Hudson Valley area in NY). I googled “triangular shaped bug”, thinking that it was a huge shot in the dark – trying to find an image of what I was looking for with such a broad description. Thanks to your photo of the bug on your keyboard — it pointed me to your site right away. I have noticed these bugs on my pack deck over the past month. There are MANY of them. Unfortunately, every time we enter and exit our back deck door, more and more enter the house. Unknowingly, I allowed several into the house when I carried my folded unbrella inside. The umbrella was left on the deck folded up, and apparently they liked to ‘hide’ in the folds of the umbrella. After bringing the umbrella in, I noticed the bugs falling out of the folds. I hope they don’t hang around too long. they are quite a nuissance. I don’t really think their smell is terribly offensive — but I did notice a very strong ‘citrus’ type smell that was on my hands after squishing them with a tissue.

  8. I have seen them landing on my screen door and finding that small little hole I thought I patched up. My friend screamed and the bug flew and landed on my hand. I walked outside and blew him off my hand. No odor or problem. The other day I was about 60 miles away in another state and there were two in my car, I just brused them away with a piece of paper. No odor. I have seen many of these bugs so I guess they are going to be everywhere this year. Just don’t step on them!

  9. I live in Carroll County, Maryland. Yesterday, I came home to find my front door completely covered in these critters. Normally, if a few are in the house, I will catch them and throw them out. However, today was a completely different story! When I went into my living room, my drapes and bay window looked as though someone sprinkled them with pepper… upon close examination, the pepper was stink bugs. Too many to catch, I reached for my vacuum cleaner. 1, 2, 3, … I kept counting as I vacuumed, 78, 79, 80… still not done… in the end, I vaccumed 158 out of my livingroom! The odor afterwards wasn’t horrid, but certainly not one of Glade’s new scents for a candle! I’m fed up with these critters! Hopefully they all die once we get the first frost!

Leave a Reply