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Cold brings stink bugs home

Tips to keep them out and ideas for managing ponds in winter

Tips to keep them out and ideas for managing ponds in winter

December 22, 2007|By BOB KESSLER

Winter brings some new challenges, be it keeping critters out of your house or in a pond.

Below are a few tips for both.

The brown marmorated stink bug, more affectionately known as just "stink bug," known to have been in Pennsylvania since 1998, now has a strong presence in Franklin County, Pa., and the Hagerstown area. For those of you with a problem with stink bugs, here are a few things you need to do.

Most people don't have high numbers of stink bugs in their home. If you find an occasional stink bug, don't crush it. You can pick it up with a tissue and throw it outside or you can vacuum it up. Do not spray insecticides because most won't do you much good and it isn't necessary to use a chemical for the few that you have. The chemical won't seep into the wall to kill any bugs hiding there.


You can seal openings that they might use to get into your living space. The stink bug is going to use the south side of your home as its overwintering site. So you only have to seal openings on that side of the house. Since it is now cold, we will only talk about what to do on the inside surfaces. The stink bug can come into a room by crawling under a baseboard or around the window or door frame. You'll need a clear silicone caulk and the tool (caulking gun) to apply it. Use a small bead of caulk and seal this joint created where the bottom of the baseboard meets the floor (not necessary if you have carpet). Also seal the top of the baseboard to the wall. Then seal around the window trim where it meets the wall. Sealing this will also prevent any air getting in.

If there is an outside door on the south side of the house, seal the crack between the door frame and the wall. Also you should seal around any exhaust fan or ceiling lights.

The stink bugs will spend the winter in the side of your home and then next spring in late, early June, they will emerge from overwintering sites and mate. They will lay eggs in June to August, and the new adults might come back and visit you next fall and winter.

Winter pond management

What happens underwater in a pond during the winter? A trip around the shore is much quieter this time of year than the same trip in the summer. Where have all the frogs and turtles gone? Frogs and turtles burrow into the mud at the bottom of the pond and hibernate there. They have adaptive features to accommodate the less friendly, cold environment. Their body temperature falls with the water temperature, decreasing their respiration rate and energy needs. Under these conditions, they are able to get enough oxygen by breathing through their skin.

The under-ice environment is an interesting place. A pond open to the air above it can pick up oxygen from the air. But that can't happen when the pond is ice covered. So how does the oxygen needed by the fish, frogs and turtles get added to the water? The most important summertime route still works in the winter. There is enough sunlight coming through the ice cover to cause photosynthesis by algae and perhaps a few higher plants. Photosynthesis produces oxygen. Enough is produced to meet the reduced requirements of the inhabitants of the pond.

This leads to the first management tip for an ice-covered pond during winter. When the ice is covered by a blanket of snow, less light comes through. In fact winter kill sometimes occurs in snow-covered ponds, especially shallow ones. Winter kill is discovered when the ice melts. All the fish, frogs and turtles will be dead, and many will be floating in the water. Keeping about 30 percent of the ice free of snow can prevent winter kill. Do this by clearing snow from lanes across the pond. Running a diffuser type aerator can also add oxygen and keep a small area free of ice. Both results help provide oxygen for the critters in your pond.

This leads to the second management tip for an ice-covered pond. Be sure the ice is thick enough to be safe before skating or clearing snow. How many inches of ice are needed to be safe? This can be a complex question. The following answer is taken from an Ohio State Extension publication on ice safety.

"Alone" can be a deadly condition. Don't walk on pond ice by yourself. Strong ice is cold, 20 to 25 degrees, and clear or blue in color. This is the strongest ice. Four to five inches of clear, cold ice will support a load of 250 pounds. Six to seven inches of clear ice can support a group of skaters weighing 1,000 pounds. White ice or snow ice is half as strong as clear ice. Eight to 10 inches of white ice are needed for a 250-pound load. Black ice is saturated with water and very weak. Do not walk on black ice. Similarly, warm ice, warmer than 25 degrees, must not be trusted. If air temperatures have reached 32 degrees for 24 hours, the ice should be considered unsafe to walk on. You can find more details on the Web at

A 12-week online course in pond management will be offered by Penn State Cooperative Extension in the spring. Check it out at

Bob Kessler is an extension agent for Penn State University and is based in Franklin County, Pa.

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