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Stink Bugs

stink bug image

Facts, Identification & Control

General Facts

Stink bugs are a group of true bugs that belong to the order Hemiptera and family Pentatomidae. They are referred to as stink bugs because they product a “stinky” odour when crushed or disturbed. There are over 260 species in North America, most of which are harmless. However, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), or halyomorpha halys is an invasive species that is indigenous to Asia and is thought to have been introduced to North America, albeit accidentally, in Pennsylvania in the 1990s. They also hold a presence in many Canadian provinces. Other common stink bugs in Canada, such as the green stink bug (Acrosternum hilare) and the brown stink bug (Euschistus servus), were introduced as recently as 2012. As an agricultural pest, stink bugs cause significant economic loss by spoiling food supplies.

Appearance / Identification

group of stink bugs photo
Adult stink bugs have a carapace which is shaped like a shield. Most Canadian species range in size from 14 to 19 mm in length and are usually about as wide as they are long. As indicated by their name, brown marmorated stink bugs tend to be different shades of brown in colour, with lighter bands on the antennae and darker bands on the body. BMSBs also have distinguishing patches of small, rounded, coppery-blue depressions along the head and pronotum. Green stink bugs, on the other hand, appear bright green in colour with a border of narrow, orange-yellow lines, while brown stink bugs are brownish-yellow.

picture of a stink bug

Habitat

Although stink bugs live throughout the cooler parts of the United States and lower Canada, they thrive in temperatures of 21º C or above. Stink bugs are active during spring and summer, and migrate into homes and buildings around September and October to overwinter. The insects often seek shelter in tree bark, weeds, and similar outdoor environments during the warmer months.

Diet

Stink bugs are plant feeders; they feed on a broad variety of fruits, vegetables, plants, and trees. The typical stink bug diet includes legumes, peppers, tomatoes, corn, snap beans, apples, peaches, figs, mulberries, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, persimmons, berries, grapes, soybeans, elm trees, and oaks.

Life Cycle / Reproduction

Developing by way of gradual metamorphosis, stink bugs hatch from eggs and subsist as nymphs before reaching adulthood. Adult females lay as many as several hundred eggs apiece in mid to late June, usually on the stems or leaves of plants in clusters of about 36. Once the nymphs hatch, they go through five molts before becoming mature adults. The development process takes approximately five weeks, and adults live for an average of eight months. Depending on the temperature and other environmental factors, the pests can produce up to four generations a year.

Problems Caused by Stink Bugs

Stink bugs cause significant problems due to the wide variety of crops and produce which the pests consume. The feeding habits of stink bugs make the affected products unmarketable by creating an undesirable discolouration and distortion known as cat facing. Additionally, some people are sensitive to the odour that stink bugs emit and may experience allergic reactions like rhinitis or conjunctivitis.

Detection / Signs of Infestation

Prior to moving indoors during September and early October, stink bugs frequently congregate on exterior walls that receive ample sunshine. Adult stink bugs are also commonly spotted around light fixtures, on draperies, or crawling along walls. One of the most telling signs of an overwintering stink bug infestation occurs on warmer winter days, when the pests emerge from their hiding places in the home to congregate on indoor walls.

Prevention Tips

The best way to prevent a stink bug infestation is to eliminate access to the home. In order to do this, cracks in the foundation should be sealed with caulk or a similar substance, and damaged screens should be replaced in windows and doors. Homeowners should also check siding, utility pipes and chimneys for cracks and seal off the openings appropriately. Additionally, trimming down outdoor vegetation may discourage stink bugs from inhabiting yards and consequently moving into homes.

Control / Removal

Removing a stink bug infestation from the home can be accomplished with a vacuum cleaner. Crushing the bugs releases their unpleasant odour, but vacuum cleaners eliminate the potency of the smell. Locating and sealing the point of entry is also an important component of stink bug removal. For particularly serious infestations, call a pest management professional who will use appropriate tactics to control the infestation.

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