Aah, spring. As the world awakens from its winter slumber, there are so many exciting new smells to enjoy! Blooming flowers, fresh rainfall, fresh grass… bug stink. Wait. Yes, unfortunately spring brings all kinds of smells–good and bad.
Chief among these bad smells is the notorious stench of the stink bug. Come spring, the pests stir from their winter slumber and rise to stink up the world once more. Here’s everything you need to know about the stink bug’s untimely return, and what you can do about it.
What they are
The stink bug that has plagued Michigan since turning up here in the ‘90s is the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). The brown marmorated stink bug is a species of “true bug” (Hemiptera order). They’re a marbled-brown color with dappled white and dark brown, spot-like markings. They also have black-and-white striping along their abdomens, and white banding along their legs and antennae. Adult stink bugs only measure around .5 to .75 inches long. They look about as wide as they are long, and their abdomens look shield-shaped.
Stink bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they use to feed on fruits and vegetables. Brown marmorated damage the crops they feed on, making them a serious agricultural pest. When threatened or crushed, stink bugs release a foul-smelling odor from a special scent gland. This odor smells like rotten vegetables or coriander. Distressingly, stink bugs tend to congregate in large groups, especially around sources of warmth.
Why they’re back
During fall, stink bugs start looking for places where they can survive the cold in a hibernation-like state called diapause. They stay in their warm places until outdoor temperature begin to rise again in spring. As soon as they can survive outside, stink bugs wake up and begin looking for food and mates. Unfortunately, the warm places where stink bugs wait out the winter often happen to be located inside our homes.
When stink bugs wake up, they’re eager to make up for lost time by eating and finding a mate. Luckily, they’re not interested in doing those things inside your home. Stink bugs don’t eat, reproduce, or lay eggs indoors. The only real problem stink bugs pose in spring is making a nuisance of themselves. Many stink bugs could get lost or stuck inside your home. While they struggle to get out, they could stink up your home and stain surfaces with their secretions.
Where they’re coming from
The ideal stink bug hideaway has several distinctive features. First and foremost, it needs to be warm. Stink bugs can’t survive freezing temperatures for long periods of time, even in diapause. Next, it needs to be quiet and inaccessible. Stink bugs are completely defenseless while they’re in diapause, so they need a place where they won’t be in danger. The darkest, tighter, and more secluded the crack, gap, or alcove, the better.
As you might imagine, stink bugs most often take shelter in attics, basements, crawl spaces, and other out-of-the-way locations. They’re especially fond of small, tight cracks they can slip through to stay hidden and safe from would-be predators. When spring comes, the stink bugs simply crawl out from where they got in. Almost all the stink bugs you see in your home in spring were probably there all winter. In spring, stink bugs already got in, and now they’re trying to get out.
What to do about them
We know it’s tempting, but don’t crush the stink bugs you run into in your home. When stink bugs are crushed, they automatically excrete their foul-smelling liquid odor. Not only does this stink and stain surfaces, it even attracts other stink bugs! Instead of crushing them, we recommend vacuuming up the stink bugs you find. After you’re finished, throw out the vacuum bag in your outdoor dumpster. Wipe down surfaces where you found stink bugs with soapy water.
Look for places where stink bugs could have hidden around where they were congregated. They’re fond of entering buildings through cracks in window sills, door frames, and baseboard. Wash these cracks and crevices with soapy water and seal them with caulk. Stink bugs hate the smell of soap (natural enemies, we suppose), so washing their usual entrances will help keep them away. Remember, stink bugs are surprisingly flat, so they can fit through cracks smaller than you’d think.
Yes, dealing with stink bugs as soon as winter is over is inconvenient. You’ll get no argument from us. But what would really stink is letting some bug ruin your enjoyment of spring.
If you need help to keep that from happening, give Griffin a call today. We’ll take care of the stink so you can get back to the flowers.