Stink bugs return

September 25, 2009|By Annette Ipsan/Special to The Herald-Mail

They're baaaack.

Stink bugs - the scourge of Washington County - have returned. And they've brought friends. They are gathering in great clumps on our screen doors, houses, porches and anything standing still, to frustrate us and give us the creeps.

What can you do? First, recognize that they can't harm you. They don't bite, sting or damage our homes. That's small consolation, I know. But they really aren't harmful in any way, just irritating.

Stink bugs don't belong here. They came from China, Korea or Japan a dozen years ago by mistake, probably in packing material. (How many things do you own that say, "Made in China?") They have no natural predators: apparently they taste as bad as they smell.


Because they come from a tropical climate, stink bugs can't handle our cold winters. So, they tuck into cracks and crevices to weather the winter, going into a state of semi-hibernation.

In the spring they fly away to feed, mostly gently, on plants. Peach and apple growers do get some damage from these insects.

How do you manage stink bugs? Keep them outside. Seal up your home with silicone caulk and weather stripping, paying special attention to doors and windows, baseboards, ceiling lights, exhaust fans and baseboards. Replace torn screens and cover vents with screening. Remove window air conditioners.

No chemicals control stink bugs well. Rumors fly about this spray and that, but the bottom line is that few things kill stink bugs and the rumored fixes come with serious health risks. Even if you zap a few, many more are waiting to move in. Researchers haven't yet come up with an effective treatment.

Certified pesticide applicators can apply a series of perimeter sprays around your home with synthetic pyrethroids, but they break down quickly. So, repeat applications are necessary with a price tag of several hundred dollars. These pyrethroids have significant health risks for both people and pets and some stink bugs still sneak through.

If stink bugs do come in your home, pop them into a plastic bag and toss them in your trash or vacuum them up. To avoid the notorious stink, tuck the toe of a stocking or a thin sock into the end of a vacuum hose end and use a rubber band to tie it to the hoses. Vacuum up the stink bugs, then tie and toss the sock. When cold weather hits, toss them outside. They can't survive.

Stink bugs are an unfortunate fact of life, proof that there aren't always easy answers. We can take comfort in the fact that insect populations rise and fall, researchers are working on a fix, and that all sieges eventually end.

Annette Ipsan is an extension educator for horticulture, University of Maryland Extension, Washington County.

To learn more

Visit the University of Maryland Home & Garden Information Center Web site at Visit and click on the "horticulture," then "gardening articles" to find two articles on managing stink bugs.

Managing stink bugs

  • Seal with caulk or weather stripping:


    · windows

    · baseboards

    · ceiling lights

    · exhaust fans

    · baseboards

  • Replace torn screens

  • Cover vents with screening

  • Remove window air conditioners

  • Bag and toss or vacuum stink bugs

  • Don't spray insecticides in your home

  • Hire a certified pesticide applicator to spray around your home several times (cost: $300 to $500 with incomplete control.)

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