Stink bugs are Michigan’s newest invasive species. These smelly pests originally came to the US from Southeast Asia in 1998. Since then, they’ve spread to nearly every state by stowing away on packages. Stink bugs seem particularly prevalent in Michigan because our humid, heavily-forested environments are perfect for them.
Unfortunately, these smelly bugs really are all over Michigan, too. In some eastern parts of the state, over 25,000 stink bugs have been reported in a single home! As much as that may… stink, however, we have some good news, too. These little stinkers aren’t quite as scary as you might suspect they are. Even better, they’re not as hard to prevent as you might suspect, either. Here’s everything you should know about this new, stinky pest, including how to keep them out of your house.
What They Are
The Stink bug that has invaded Michigan is known as the brown marmorated stink bug, or Halyomorpha halys. The brown marmorated stink bug is a marbled-brown colored bug with smooth shoulders, alternating black and white striping along its abdomen, and white bands along its legs and antennae. Their bodies are shaped roughly like a shield, and they’re almost as wide as they are long. Adult stink bugs only measure up to .5 to .75 inches long. Nymphs generally look red and orangish and get darker with age.
The ominous name comes from the fact that, when threatened, stink bugs secrete a foul-smelling odor. They also release that odor when they’re killed, especially if they’re crushed. Stink bug excrement and secretions can also stain surfaces such as walls and flooring.
Where They Came From
As an invasive species, the brown marmorated stink bug doesn’t originally come from Michigan. They’re actually native to Southeastern Asia, including countries like China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The first stink bug in America was discovered in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1998. Since then, the bugs have been discovered in 42 states, including Michigan.
The stink bug was able to proliferate throughout the US for several reasons. First, they’re not native, and so the predators here didn’t evolve to hunt them. Second, stink bugs are notoriously good at hitching rides. They’re known to stowaway on cars, campers, and even luggage, remaining unnoticed by their unwitting chauffeurs. Finally, there’s evidence that these stinkers even resist common pesticides. Pesticides seem to have a limited long term effect on their population’s growth. With immunity to predators and pesticides, these stinky pests were free to spread all over the country!
Why They’re a Problem
Remember when we said stink bugs weren’t as big a deal as you might think they are? Here’s why: these pests might (certainly!) smell bad, but they are not dangerous. For most homeowners, they’re a minor, if smelly nuisance. Stink bugs feed on outdoor and indoor ornamental plants, such as shrubs, hostas, bushes, and gardens. Their secretions and excrement can also stain furniture and other surfaces such as floors and walls. The bugs may move into homes during the winter, but they don’t nest, reproduce, or lay eggs in homes.
The real reason experts consider stink bugs such an issue is because they feed on vegetable, fruit, nut, legume, and vegetable crops. Crop yields in the Eastern United States have been significantly affected by stink bug damage in the past. In other words, stink bugs are definitely a pest (and a significant one), but they aren’t a dangerous or scary pest unless you’re a farmer.
How You Can Stop Them
The best way to deal with stink bugs is to keep them out in the first place. Most home infestations happen in early winter, when the bugs need to find shelter to keep warm. Replace damaged screens and weather stripping, secure window and door framing, and seal gaps in your foundation or walls. Stink bugs crawl into homes through air vents and chimneys, too, so you should consider installing screens over these openings. Pay special attention to problem areas of your home, such as the attic or basement.
If you have bugs in your home already, use a shopvac (not a conventional home vacuum) to dispose of them. After disposing of active the bugs, clean the surfaces you found them on thoroughly, and then look for how they got in. Stink bugs don’t reproduce inside homes, so you don’t need to worry about tracking down eggs. Don’t use pesticides indoors; not only is it dangerous, they’re not necessarily even effective against stink bugs.
If you have a stink bug infestation you just can’t seem to rid yourself of, don’t panic! You still have options. First and foremost, you can always call Griffin Pest Solutions. We guarantee we’ll be able to clear out those literal stinkers out for good.