Winter brings more than cold weather to Georgia. It also brings stink bugs, the unwelcome houseguests who are eager to set up camp in your home before winter.
As its name implies, the brown marmorated stink bug (affectionately labeled BMSB) gives off a foul odor as a defense mechanism against predators. Although they have piercing, sucking mouthparts — tiny shields about a half-inch long and wide which they curiously tuck between their legs when they’re not piercing and sucking the juice from plants — they can’t bite you. They can’t sting you, and they won’t reproduce. But they will smell really bad if you smash them. A stink bug’s ability to emit an odor through holes in its abdomen is a defense mechanism, meant to prevent it from being eaten by birds and lizards. Simply handling the bug, injuring it, or attempting to move it can trigger an odor release. So don’t!
Found in Georgia and 45 other states, stink bugs are an enemy to fruit growers in particular. They tend to attack seeds, nuts and fruit, including peaches, apples, tomatoes, green peppers, soybeans and pecans. When stink bugs feed on crops, damage can include everything from bruises and blemishes to aborted sweet corn kernels to a change in the sugar levels in some fruits.
Stink bugs damage ornamental trees as well as fruits and vegetables, and they pose such a threat that the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the Stop BMSB strike force. It’s a team of 50 researchers from 18 land-grant universities closely tracking the migration of the invasive, fast-moving pest. The BMSB distribution map shows they cause agricultural and nuisance problems In Georgia.
To prevent them from coming inside your home this winter, be sure to: seal up your home with weather stripping, caulking and tape; and fill gaps and crevices around foundations, doors, windows, chimneys and utility pipes.
The best thing to do if you find them inside is to gently sweep them into a bucket, then fill it with a couple of inches of soapy water. You could vacuum them up, but that will inevitably trigger the stink bugs’ notorious odor and make your vacuum cleaner smell bad. You’ll also want to dispose of the bag or dump the canister far from the house – or buy a dedicated stink bug vacuum made especially for that malodorous chore.
If you can bear the thought of cohabitating with them for the winter, you could just leave them alone and hope no one stirs up a stinky ruckus. They don’t nest or lay eggs. They don’t feed on anything or anyone in your house. They’re just there taking a load off for a few months, resting up. And come spring, they’ll crawl right back outside in time to take feast on your garden.
If living with stink bugs is not what appealing to you and your family, call a professional pest control company for a breath of fresh air.