Have you recently encountered the smelly bugs with the five-sided shield shaped body in your home or office? Then you probably have stink bugs. This aptly named pest has pores on it sides that will emit a bad smelling and bad tasting fluid when handled or disturbed. This odor is a self-defense mechanism that protects them from being eaten by hungry birds, lizards and spiders.
Populations of this pest have been growing rapidly in recent years and Virginia pest management professionals have been busy handling service requests from concerned homeowners. “Stink bugs will not damage your home but they can be a smelly nuisance if they pick your home as a place to overwinter” says Jeff Johnson, President of the Virginia Pest Management Association.
Stink bugs are good fliers and are attracted to lights. In late summer they are often found around outdoor lights. They then enter though windows and doors during the early morning hours. The odor left by the bugs is then an attractant to other stink bugs the following fall. Homeowners should consider keeping exterior lights off for the next few weeks if they can safely do so. Stink bugs are also attracted to the color yellow so the so called “bug lights” are not a good idea.
Although stink bugs are primarily pests of crop fields, suburban populations are increasing. They are most active from spring through fall, but they usually become home invaders at the beginning of fall when temperatures start to drop. They sometimes hibernate on the outside of some south-facing buildings for warmth, but usually over winter in protected areas under dead weeds, stones, in the bark of trees or in your house.
Wear gloves if you need to handle stink bugs because their unique beaks are fully capable of biting humans. Although their bites are not harmful, you will feel something similar to a sharp pinprick if you are bitten. Not fun!
A recent report from Virginia Tech recommends that any home or structure with a history of having stink bugs over-wintering inside, needs to have preventative measures taken during the summer to prevent re-infestation in the fall.
Homeowners have found that it is helpful to exclude stink bugs from their house by sealing up cracks around windows, doors, utility access points, chimneys, siding, trim, and fascia. Caulk can be used to seal many cracks, but attic and foundation vents, and weep holes will require wire mesh or screening. Do not seal cracks if the insects are already inside because they will be trapped and die indoors.
To control stink bugs before they get inside treatments by a pest management professional can be applied in the early fall around windows, doors, attic vents and other locations on the south and west walls of the structure. They will be certain that all insecticide applications will be carefully timed. Applying too early will allow the insecticide to degrade before the stink bugs begin to come in. Applying after the stink bugs have arrived will allow many stink bugs to still enter the interior of the buildings.
If stink bugs have already invaded your home, be sure to caulk around baseboards and exhaust fans, light fixtures, and trim to prevent stink bugs from accessing interior rooms from basements, drop ceilings and attics. Vacuuming best controls individual insects. Spraying stink bugs with insecticide after they get inside still obligates you to vacuum up their dead bodies, so skip the insecticide and go straight to the vacuum.