With their distinctive shield shape and mottled appearance, the brown marmorated stink bug (“Halyomorpha halys”) frequently pops up in homes and gardens throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. 

This area is their home, after all. This specific type of stink bug was first discovered in nearby Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the mid-90s.

There are over 5,000 stink bug species, or Hemiptera Pentatomidae, in the United States. The brown marmorated stink bug is the species commonly found in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It is an invasive species and will move indoors during the fall to find overwintering sites. Stink bugs do not pose any health risks to people, although some are allergic to the chemicals they release.

Fortunately, they are not breeding inside your home’s walls. They hibernate during the winter and breed in the spring, so rest assured there are no nymphs and adults invading your space during the winter months. 

Nor will these pests damage your home. They do most of their damage outdoors.  Adult stink bugs feed on plants and can be highly destructive to vegetation if not kept in check. Stink bug infestations can cause thousands of dollars in damage to growers’ fruit trees and developing fruit.

Now that we have learned a bit more about these pests, let’s find out why they are called stink bugs and how to prevent an infestation. 

The brown marmorated stink bug releases carbohydrates after feeding that are beneficial to the pollination of plants and natural control of pests.

How did stink bugs get their name?

“Stink bug” is not the most flattering identifier, but it’s certainly appropriate. These insects have glands in their abdomens that produce a chemical with an offensive smell.

What gives stink bugs their smell?

The chemical produced in their glands when these insects feel threatened is what gives stink bugs their smell. Resist the urge to step on or crush a stink bug, as the odor will linger on your shoes or whatever you use to get rid of them.

When a stink bug finds a winter home, they give off a different scent that is undetectable to humans. This scent is intended to entice fellow stink bugs to come and join them in their warm, cozy new habitat.

Why can only some people smell stink bugs?

Despite a stink bug’s offensive smell, not everyone notices it.  Just like humans’ pheromones, or natural scents, the chemicals that make up the stink bug’s odor can vary from one insect to another. Likewise, the intensity of the smell will vary from one person’s nose to another.

What purpose does a stink bug serve?

Less-than-complimentary nickname aside, some stink bug species are helpful.

The brown marmorated stink bug releases carbohydrates after feeding that are beneficial to the pollination of plants and natural control of pests.

Some stink bug species are carnivorous and will eat insects like beetles, caterpillars, or aphids—pests that typically feed on plants. The insect-hungry stink bugs help keep the pest population down and growers’ crops prosperous.

Some stink bug varieties are believed to have medicinal properties.

An old wives’ tale says having a stink bug in your house is good luck. If you are superstitious, think twice about getting rid of any you find in your home!

How do stink bugs get into my home?

Like most insects, stink bugs enter a home through the smallest of openings—ripped or torn window screens, gaps in a window or door frame, or cracks in a wall.

Once inside, stink bugs are skilled at hiding and prefer low-traffic areas of a house. Look for them in folds of curtains or draperies, attics or crawl spaces, or basements.

The most effective way to protect your home against stink bugs is to secure any openings. Walk around your home’s exterior and inspect it closely. Seal any cracks or crevices, close all windows and doors tightly, and fix any gaps in window or door frames.

How can I get rid of stink bugs?

The brown marmorated stink bug has very few, if any, natural predators, so Mother Nature is not much help when it comes to exterminating these pests. One easy way to deter stink bugs from entering your home is to keep your landscaping in check. If any trees or shrubs touch your house’s exterior, that gives stink bugs easier access to doors, windows, cracks, and crevices.

Some people will try to remove stink bugs with the vacuum cleaner. It is effective. Just keep in mind their odor lingers, so it is best to use a hand-held vacuum solely for this purpose.

The best way to remove a stink bug is to gently capture it in a paper towel or paper napkin and release it out an open window.

If your home is overrun with stink bugs in large numbers, it’s best to call in a pest management expert. DIY remedies produce mixed results due to the species’ robust nature. An experienced pest management technician can offer the best solution for ending your stink bug problems for good.

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