Stink Bugs

I've been finding all these little bugs in the garden all summer long that I couldn’t identify at first.

by Jessica Walliser

Stink bug nymph
Photo by Jessica Walliser
Stink bug nymphs are taking over my garden.

I’ve been finding all these little bugs in the garden all summer long that I couldn’t identify at first. They didn’t seem to be doing any damage, so I wasn’t in a hurry to ID them. But after spending some time in front of my entomology books and on the internet searching through lots of images, I discovered their unfortunate identification. Baby stink bugs. Ack!

We have had a major problem with adult stink bugs coming into the house over the past few winters. Apparently this is happening across the country—and especially on the East Coast. It’s kind of like a horror story:

They came from Asia.  Introduced in packing material and, now, they are causing homeowners across the country to scream with fear! Who are these smelly beasts?  Big, bad, brown marmorated stink bugs!

Stink bug adult
Photo by Jessica Walliser
Adult stink bugs have been overwintering in our house for many winters.

According to our local cooperative extension agent, they aren’t an agricultural pest yet.  I’m thinking that’s going to change.  We have found them in the house for four winters now, but I have never seen them in the garden.  This year, there have been hundreds of them out there.  Which probably means there will be thousands in our house this winter.  

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Apparently, stink bugs overwinter in the house as adults, emerge in late spring, feed and breed.  They lay eggs that hatch into nymphs that pass through several different instars (development stages) before morphing into a mature adult.  It’s hard to describe the nymphs I’ve found, because they change several times before maturing. Basically, they start out very small and reddish in color, and then they get about 1/4 inch long and are black with white splotches and spindly, spiderlike legs.  Then they flatten out a bit before turning into their shield-shaped, brown adult selves. 

Regardless, we’ve got some work to do. According to our extension service website, the best way to keep them out of the house is to seal them out. Caulk all the doors and windows, light fixtures, baseboards, ceiling fans and entry doors from the attic into the house.  And use that expandable foam stuff to seal cracks and holes where wires or pipes come into the house.  Off to the hardware store I go.      

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