Stink bugs can pose challenge

Stink bugs have become common throughout central Pennsylvania in recent years. Unfortunately, they are becoming common in living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms in the area.

And according to Tom Ford, commercial horticulture educator with the Penn State Cooperative Extension Cambria County Office, this year could be “quite a banner year” for the pests.

“The anticipation is it will be much, much worse,” he said. “The over-wintering population this year is significantly higher than the over-wintering population last year.”

The bugs will enter a house in the fall through cracks and crevices to find a place to hibernate, said Penn State master gardener Cathy Schwartz.

“They start to hibernate in the winter on the side of the house that is warmest,” she said. “As soon as the sun comes out in the spring, it warms the walls and stimulates them. They will then go toward the warmest part of the house, which is inside.”

The bugs will then linger as unwelcome visitors.

The stink bugs – properly known as the brown marmorated stink bug or halyomorpha halys – are not native to Pennsylvania, according to Ed Levri, a biologist at Penn State Altoona.

“They are from East Asia, native to China, Japan, Korea, basically in that area,” Levri said. “We are not sure exactly what the mode of introduction was – whether it was moving plant material from Asia or they could have been in fruit – but they were first found in Pennsylvania around 15 years ago.”

After the bugs emerge in the spring, the adults will mate, and they will start laying eggs, which Levri said happens between May and August.

They feed on fruit, “basically fruits that grow in people’s yards, such as apples,” he said. “They have been known to feed on corn as well, but especially peaches.”

As for the population outbreak, Levri sees the bugs following a pattern that “a lot of invasive species” heed.

“They get really, really bad, then for some reason, they reduce in number and become part of the background,” he said, but “that could take decades.”

Ford, Schwartz and Levri all agree on the best way to prevent the pests from entering your home.

“In reality, sealing up the structure is the best defense,” Ford said. “Seal up the cracks as best as you can. Most people delay this until the fall, but do it as soon as the weather warms.”

“Seal cracks around the windows, doors, in your siding, around chimneys, any possible way to get in,” Schwartz said. “Use a silicone caulking, and also make sure any damage to screen doors is repaired.”

Unfortunately, once the bugs are inside a structure, “there’s not a whole lot you can do,” Levri said.

He recommended sealing up anywhere that the bugs can get from inside the walls into the living space, such as around light fixtures.

Ford and Schwartz both disapproved of using insecticide.

“We don’t like to see insecticides in the house,” Ford said. “A lot of people use a room fogger, but that’s not going to penetrate the areas where the stink bugs are. That will cause more damage than the stink bugs will.”

“They are a unique kind of bug,” Schwartz said. “They are resistant to a lot of things. I think it’s because of that shell.”

Ford believes that traps don’t work well, either.

“Most traps are light traps, using LED or UV lights,” he said. “For the most part, if [the bugs] are in the structure, they may be attracted to the light, but it may bring many more.”

The best way to deal with the brown marmorated stink bug inside the home is “hand-picking them or vacuuming them, depending on how many get in your house,” Schwartz said, though she stressed getting rid of the bag immediately, due to the bug’s namesake smell.

Ford suggested attaching a foot-long length of nylon stocking to the vacuum cleaner.

“You can suck them up into the stocking, tie it up and dispose of them,” so that the smell doesn’t permeate the appliance and linger, he said.

All agreed that the battle against the invasive annoyance must be fought slowly and steadly.

“They can be quite annoying,” Levri said.

For more information on the brown marmorated stink bug, visit ento.psu. edu/extension/factsheets/


Mirror staff writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.