Meet The Beetles: Stink Bugs Invade Fairfield County

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Chances are you've seen the brown marmorated beetle -- or stink bug -- in your home this winter.
Chances are you've seen the brown marmorated beetle -- or stink bug -- in your home this winter. Photo Credit: Flickr user DendaCerulea

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. --  Seeing a brown marmorated beetle scamper across your wall on a winter day may cause you to ask: “Where did that come from?” or “How do I get rid of it?” The quick answers are: far from Fairfield County and not that easily.

An invasive species from eastern Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug takes winter refuge in the warmth of your home; a relaxing winter vacation, beetle style.

The brown marmorated stink bug -- Halyomorpha halys -- is relatively new to North America. It was first spotted in Pennsylvania in 1996 and in Fairfield Count in around 2008. But its allegiance is not particular to the region, as stink bugs now take residence in some other 33 states, as well as in virtually every country on the globe.

“The brown marmorated stink bug,” said Chris Maier, entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, “may be one of the most successful invasive insects of all time.”

If you’re paying close attention, Asian brown stink bugs are distinguishable from other stink bugs native to the region by white spots on its antenna.

“The brown marmorated stink bug has become a nuisance pest in human dwellings,” said Maier. When squashed (either accidentally or deliberately) they emit an odorous chemical.

But smell is the least of the stink bug’s qualities.

"The stink bug has been a major crop pest in Maryland and Virginia," said Dr. Lou Magnarelli, director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

The mid-Atlantic region experienced a loss of some $27 million in apple crops in 2010, said Maier.

Among its impressive attributes, the knife-thin stink bug can slip through weather stripping and extremely small cracks in your home siding and windows and can live six-to eight months. The warmth of one’s home causes them to rouse from their slumber.

But you can take preemptive action against a stink bug home invasion, said Jim McHale, an entomologist and owner of JP Mchale Pest Management in Cortlandt.

“In this region, there’s a two-week to one-month window -- from approximately Aug. 15 through Sept. 1 -- during which we can prevent stink bugs from entering your home.”

It is during this timeframe, said McHale, that stink bugs make their inexorable journey toward winter slumber.

McHale applies an environmentally safe treatment to low-lying brush and shrubs, as well as the windows and siding of the sun-facing sides of homes. This discourages the insects from choosing your home as its winter destination.

Theories abound on the Internet about preventive pheromones and various traps, but McHale said that once it has invaded your home, short of vacuuming or scooping up the insect with a tissue, there is nothing a homeowner can do to exterminate the insect on a large scale.

The good news is that the marmorated brown beetle -- like other seasonal vacationers -- leaves its winter rental when spring arrives.
For now, keep plenty of tissues on hand and try to avoid squishing your unwanted tenants. Then, mark your calendar for late summer, when you can arrange to foil the stink bugs’ plans for wintering in your home.

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Comments (9)

Regarding the various management questions, I don't research or work directly with brown marmorated stink bugs, so I refer you to the experts. University extension web sites are best. I pasted a couple of CT resources below.

But, the basics for the home are to do your best to seal your home in the late summer/early fall. They do not cause structural damage, they feed on plants, but in large numbers, they can be a nuisance. Cracks around window air conditioners make great entrances for stink bugs. Holes in window screens work well, too. Once they are in the home, insecticides are not recommended. Vacuuming them up and using a tissue to pick them up are good options. You can pick them up with your bare hand and flush them down the toilet, but the odor they emit can stay on your hand for a while, even after washing with soap. They are not directly dangerous to humans.

For management regarding crops, lots of research is underway. Insecticides are available, but there are already reports of some insecticide resistance. In apples, 3 stink bugs would not kill a tree, they feed on the fruit and cause damage to the harvested product. There are tiny wasps that attack stink bug eggs and more is being done to research there potential for management.

Blabbermouth68: Sounds like you have a leaffooted bug. They are often confused with stink bugs (they can even emit an odor when handled, like stink bugs). Google "leaffooted" bug and check out some of the images. There are a few predaceous species, but most of them feed on plants and rarely occur in large enough numbers (in these parts) to be considered pests. They are safe to handle (although perhaps a bit stinky).

I googled it; and the bug in question looks like our periodic visitor--a dockbug, I think. I'll check him out upon his unscheduled return. Thanks.

I picked one up w/ a tissue, as the article suggested and flushed it. Had no idea what it was until now, but am glad I didn't squash it. I don't usually. Interesting to know that it's a bug and not a beetle. I'd like to know what the preventatives are, even though it's the only one I've seen. Also, does it only go after fruit trees, or does it go after other plants/trees? Thanks.

Just a minor note, the brown marmorated stink bug is not a beetle, it is, as the name suggests, a bug. The word "bug" is often used as a general term for insects, but in this instance, it is also the name of a specific group of insects (Hemiptera). Beetles are in a different group (Coleoptera). Who cares? It can make a difference in management tactics or products applied. Also, I think given the lack of basic science literacy in our country, we need to do our best to be accurate when possible. AND last, I'm an entomologist, so I feel a professional, and nerdy, obligation to make note of the error.

rkrell: Since you're our consulting bugologist on this board, perhaps you might be able to identify our periodic visitor (2-3 times a year) who hangs out at our house, on the kitchen wall or near the front door in the foyer. Never more than one bug. I thought it was the stinkbug pictured here, but my wife says no. What we have is longer and elongated, almost like a tiny cricket. It is the closest thing to a friendly bug I have ever encountered; and allows itself to be picked up and moved so we don't step on it. Moves very little. No fear whatever of humans or dogs. And then it is gone. Any ideas? Same basic color as the stinkbug. Perhaps I should consider getting a life...

So maybe that's why I have had to invite 3 to my dust-buster. In autumn a storm made a neighbors oak lose a limb to my dwarf apple tree and these 3 decided to move to the house.I thnk my apple tree is a goner it had to be so heavily pruned. All 3 were found sitting still on the south wall of the kitchen where the sun shines all day. I haven't seen any since about Valentine's Day. I hope I didn't bring them home in a bag of apples,. I buy one a week.

Our cats cornered one on my desk last week. They were hissing at it. It wasn't too disturbed by them. Thankfully, I got it before they did and flushed it.

I identified two of these in our home with three invading the neighbors' bedroom. What is unclear is, other than being a bug, does this little guy cause any structural damage to a home? What exactly does it do to apple trees and how can that be prevented? Any other plants for which this bug should be removed from the out of doors?