How Can I Tell If I Have Stink Bugs?

Stink Bug close-up

Even more than most nuisance pests, stink bugs can be surprisingly subtle. They don’t attack people, damage structures, eat your food, or even infest your furniture. In fact, many homeowners may have a stink bug infestation all winter and not even notice! Unfortunately, just because you can’t notice stink bugs doesn’t always mean they aren’t there.

You want to figure out whether you have stink bugs right away, even if you don’t notice them. The sooner you figure out you have stink bugs, the sooner you can do something to get them out. Here are four signs that you may be playing host to a stink bug infestation this winter.

The stink!

You knew this was coming. It turns out stink bugs are aptly-named. When stink bugs are startled, crushed, or bunched together, they secrete a foul-smelling liquid from a specialized gland. This liquid is where the actual distinctive “stink” associated with stink bugs comes from. The scent smells like skunk spray, cilantro, coriander, or rotting vegetables, depending on who you ask. The more stink bugs you have and the longer they stay, the stronger the smell will become.

A stink bug’s unpleasant smell lingers for as long as the secretion does–not the bug itself. In other words, a stink bug’s scent isn’t tied to the bug itself, but only to their continued presence. Over time, the areas stink bugs frequent will become stinkier and stinkier–even if the bugs aren’t there. Stink bugs use their flat bodies to hide in nooks and crannies, especially near windows and other warm surfaces. If areas like that start to smell around you home, then you’re likely dealing with an infestation.


Unfortunately, stink bug secretions do more than just stink. They also function as pheromone homing beacons. When a stink bug finds a nice, warm place to sun themselves, they start secreting their stink. This stink tells other stink bugs in the area that there’s a good place to meet nearby. Soon, more and more stink bugs begin gathering in the same space to soak up the warmth. Then, those bugs start secreting… and the cycle continues.

Stink bugs are very temperature sensitive, so they’re attracted to warm, reflective surfaces. You’ll often see them on light surfaces, homes with eastern exposure, and windows. Gathering together in tight bunches also helps stink bugs stay warm. Most stink bugs find their way into homes during these mass congregations, when they inadvertently spread into cracks. If you’ve noticed stink bugs gathering around your home this fall, then some have probably found their way inside.

Damaged fruits and vegetables

This will be most noticeable if you grow your own garden, but it could affect anyone. Stink bugs are actually a highly-destructive crop pests. They feed on important fruit and vegetable farming crops in spring and fall, causing significant and costly damage. Stink bugs will feed on virtually any fruit or vegetable, including fruit trees in your yard or garden vegetables. The bugs won’t usually feed on fruit indoors, but if they find it early and it’s easily-accessible, they can.

Stink bugs feed by using their mouthparts to pierce the skin of the fruit and suck out sap. This feeding leaves behind small “scars” in the form of discolored, sunken areas. Look for several small, circular “scars” on nearby fruits and vegetables. The chemicals stink bugs inject into fruit to aid with digestion and sap removal can also affect plant growth. If your garden isn’t growing properly or appears damaged, there’s a chance stink bugs are the culprit.

stink bug stains


When it comes to stink bugs, it always seems to come back to the stink itself. Remember how that stink actually comes from a liquid that stink bugs secrete? Well, unfortunately, that liquid tends to stain the surfaces it comes into contact with. Stink bug secretions are a thin, murky yellow liquid. Left alone on a surface, this liquid will soak into whatever it’s on and create a dirty yellow or brown stain.

To find these stains, you have to look where stink bugs secrete their liquids. Inside, stink bugs generally find secluded hiding places. They use their flat bodies to sneak under furniture, boxes, or other low items. Eventually, they’ll enter a hibernation-like state called diapause. Until then, however, they may secrete at any time, especially if they’re accidentally crushed. Look for stains around hiding places and on window sills and carpeting. If you find any, you may want to look for the bugs themselves.

Stink bugs can be tricky. They’ll hide in your home all winter, and then burst out next spring ready to eat and mate. Fortunately, however, you don’t have to let that happen. If you can figure out you have stink bugs over winter, you can keep them from repopulating in spring.

If you want some help either finding or wiping out your stink bugs, give Griffin a call anytime. We’re always happy to stop the stink and keep your home smelling good.