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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Stink bug weather & tips for keeping them out

By Kevin Ambrose

stinkbug_lowres.jpg

The Washington area had a terrible bout of stink bug weather this past November. One might even say we had at least one episode of severe stink bug weather. If you're lucky enough not to have encountered stink bugs, here's a recent article describing the bugs and the problems they cause.

What exactly is "stink bug weather," you ask? Cold evenings in the early fall send stink bugs scurrying from yards, gardens and wooded lots into our attics and walls for warmth and cover. Later in the season, if the temperature warms significantly, the stink bugs become reinvigorated and emerge from the attics and walls into the living and working areas of our homes and businesses. The warmer the temperatures, the more the stink bugs move, and the better the chance they'll land in your bedroom and living room.

So, warm afternoons in late fall is what I'd consider "stink bug weather." It's essentially the same as Indian summer. It's just, well, a lot more stinky.

Keep reading for more on stink bugs and how to combat them...

stinkbug2-lowres.jpg
Oh gross! While I was photographing the stink bug for this post it flew up and landed on my lap. I managed one quick photo before I removed the little stinker.

On Nov. 30, the high temperatures in our area warmed to the low 60s and suddenly stink bugs were everywhere in my house. It was terrible - we were chasing bugs all evening. The same scenario played out on a few other warm afternoons, while on colder days we didn't have much of a problem, convincing me that my stink bug woes are partially weather-related.

Unfortunately, the overall stink bug problem is not going away, it's only getting worse. I dread the next warm-up and I especially dread next year. So, I decided to go to battle against these bugs. Here's what I've learned in my fight against the stink bug and what may help keep these awful little pests out of your home.

1) House color
I've compared notes with neighbors and contractors and I'm convinced that yellow houses are stink bug magnets. I painted my house yellow this past year and I was swarmed by stink bugs. Another yellow house in my neighborhood was also swarmed. Many of my neighbors with brown houses have no stink bug issues. I'm sure there are exceptions, but from my experience, it seems that dark-colored homes don't get as many stink bugs as lighter-colored homes. They sure do seem to like yellow.

2) Caulking and bug-proofing the outside of your house
The ultimate fix to keep stink bugs out is to caulk the cracks, seams and gaps in your house that allow stink bugs to enter. If you've already succeeded in caulking and bug-proofing the outside of your house - congratulations. It is a monumental task. Stink bugs can squeeze through extremely narrow openings and to caulk every crack and seam in a house is very difficult and time consuming. Caulk also shrinks and cracks, so maintenance is required.

A soffit is the material that constructs the eave (edge of the roof) of a house. Soffits are a major entry point for stink bugs to enter the attic from the outside. Soffits are usually vented and may have openings or cracks large enough to allow entry by the bugs. Cracks or gaps between the soffits, the siding and the roof can be caulked. Some soffits can be replaced, or screened, if they have very large vented openings, or slots. In addition, make sure your attic vents are screened.

3) Bug-proofing the inside of your house
It's easier to bug-proof the inside of your home than the outside. Your walls and ceilings are the second line of defense to keep stink bugs from entering your living area. The old style of open recessed lighting and open-to-the-attic bathroom fans are portals for stink bugs to enter from the ceiling. It's a costly project to replace recessed lights and bathroom fans; screening the openings in the attic may be a less expensive option. In addition, look to caulk cracks or openings around light fixtures, windows and doors. Weather stripping windows and doors will also help keep out the bugs. Bonus: Many of these efforts to bug-proof the inside of your house will also reduce your winter heating bill.

4) Check your window screens
Windows are a prime target for stink bugs. Make sure you mend or replace screens that are torn. Also, check if your screens fit tightly into your window frame. Stink bugs can often squeeze between the frame of the window and the screen.

5) Spraying insecticide on the outside walls of your house
So far, spraying the outside of my house with insecticide has met with complete failure. I've tried different types of insecticide, for all kinds of bugs. I'm amazed how resilient stink bugs are to being sprayed with insecticide. They'll continue to crawl or fly after being sprayed. I've also watched stink bugs land and walk on the outside of my house after the siding was drenched with insecticide. For now, I've stopped spraying. If someone has found an effective spray, let us know.

6) Poison baits in your house
I accidentally discovered that liquid ant baits kill stink bugs if you place them near where they enter your house. They will feed on the bait and drop dead in small piles next to the bait. Overall, the baits haven't been as effective in ridding my house of stink bugs as I would've liked. But, perhaps there's hope that someone in the near future will devise a powerful stink bug bait for attics or outdoors.

7) Gardens attract stink bugs
This past summer, I had a tomato and pepper garden in my backyard that was continually plagued by stink bugs. When it was time to pick a pepper or tomato, I had to flick the stink bugs away. In hindsight, I think I may have been feeding and attracting the bugs, leading them directly to my backyard. Once the stink bugs were in my garden, it was a short flight to my house when the weather turned cold. In addition, I had plenty of challenges with deer eating my garden plants. I may just skip the garden next summer.

8) Removing the stink bugs from your house
Once the bugs are in your house, walking on your wall or buzzing around a light, they need to be removed. I've found that quickly grabbing them with a small piece of toilet paper and then wrapping the paper around them is an effective way to keep the bug from emitting their stink. If you crunch them or mishandle them, you'll probably suffer their smell. Once wrapped in toilet paper, the bug can be flushed down the toilet or placed into a Ziplock bag and thrown into the trash. A vacuum cleaner is also an option. I've heard that some people release the bugs outdoors, but I figure they'd just find their way back into the house. At least stink bugs are slow and easy to catch. If they were nimble and quick like house flies, many of us would go crazy chasing them.

Let us know if you have any stink bug stories, particularly any success stories about combating the pests.

By Kevin Ambrose  | December 7, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Education, Latest, Photography  
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Comments

Aww come on now. Stink bugs are a nuisance but they don't sting or bite, they just smell funny. Just sweep them away/outside. Please, don't use insecticides, further polluting our environment. We've got millions at the horse barn, hiding in the tack room, under horse blankets, etc. They seem to make people scream, which is kind of amusing...

Posted by: bluestilton | December 7, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Our brown house attracted them in large numbers. Thanks for sharing the ant trap idea.

Posted by: spgass1 | December 7, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I've had a few stink bugs around, but the biggest swarm was during the dry September weather. After the big rain at the end of the month the stink bug population went down. I suspect that a good percentage of stink bugs either drowned in the rain or were killed by fungal infection from the moist weather.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | December 7, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Ditto on thanks for the ant trap idea. I'll try it.

My house is yellow! But I'm not convinced. Next year I'll ask my pest tech if he has a theory about house color. That guy knows everybody's secrets--incl. which houses have worst infestations of which pests (termites! ants! mice!), and he loves to gossip.

Posted by: tinkerbelle | December 7, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks. I was wondering what those bugs were and I thought they might be a boring bettle. I have smushed a ton of them and not gotten any smell.

Posted by: buckeye96 | December 7, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

During the warm weather they entered through and hid in the gap at the top of our sliding doors.

I put diatomaceous earth in all the gaps (made it into a paste and painted it on. Messy, but easy clean up). It's harmless to mammals but cuts the exoskeletons of invertebrates so they dehydrate and quickly die. It seemed to work.

We also stomped hundreds of stink bugs each day, indoors and out.

So far, we see less in the house than last year, but don't dare check the attic!

Posted by: cbfmail | December 7, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The mother of a friend told me that a dishwashing liquid mixed with a little water kills them within seconds. It actually works.

Posted by: ksimms1 | December 7, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

This is our second year of heavy infestation. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way about how to keep them out of the house. Our lessons learned:

Inside: Keep a used plastic jug w/lid (milk, etcetera), add some Oxiclean and water to around half an inch depth. Simply flick the nasty suckers into the jug as you find them and replace lid. They die almost instantly and as an added bonus, the oxiclean mixture keeps down the odor of the deceased so you can keep using the same jug for a week or more.

Outside: Sealing around screens as recommeded in the article is your best defense. We used Ortho Home Defense Max around the permiter of our windows and doors (not pratical, or wise, to spray the whole house). It does kill them almost on contact. However, nothing seems to repel them, but others that travled through the sprayed area later did keep showing up dead for several weeks.

As a final note, unless you really hate your vacumn, don't use it to suck up the bugs! That stench stays with the vacumn even after you replace the bag.

Posted by: PrehistoricTimes | December 7, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Catching them in a kleenex takes too long and there's too much chance that they'll sneak out before you get them to the toilet. Plus flushing all day wastes a bunch of water. We put a couple of inches of water into a big Costco pretzel container with a squirt of dish soap in it. Once it got a couple of stink bugs it really started to stink in there, however after it started to stink they would just jump into the container as soon as it got near them. Pretty amazing. Eventually they drown. We got 50 of them in an afternoon easily with the container and since the lid screws on tight we didn't have to smell them at all. Then we'd just dump them all in the toilet once per day.

Posted by: munter | December 7, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

So I've learned that painting my house brown will not deter stink bugs in the future; there are various solutions that can be used to drown the bugs once they are collected; Ortho Home Defense Max works around windows to kill stink bugs; and vacuum cleaners are not a good idea to suck up the bugs.

I want to try to devise a stink bug attic trap with liquid ant bait and a pocket flashlight. I think the flash light will attract the bugs to the ant bait. Of course, batteries would have to be replaced. I may give that a try, I hate these bugs.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | December 7, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

munter: Interesting how the stink bugs would fly into your jar full of drowned stink bugs after they caught the smell of the dead bugs. I wonder if a jar full of drowned bugs would attract a lot of other bugs if it was placed into an attic without the lid. That might be a way to make an effective stink bug trap to rid attics of these pests before they enter the living space? Or, it might just make a stinky mess. I'm willing to try almost anything now.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | December 7, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I hadn't seen a single one in a month or more and then suddenly I've had a dozen of them show up around the house in the past week. I grab them with the vacuum cleaner. The only ones that have really stunk were the couple I smacked with books or shoes. I always get crickets in the house this time of year also. I really don't know how they get in. There's no obvious place. The crickets are a nuisance for a few weeks and then I stop seeing them. Hopefully the stink bugs do the same, and at least they're easier to catch.

Posted by: Chip_M | December 7, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Their attraction to yellow houses.....or cars......is easily explainable. That is a common color for wildflowers, which insects, by instinct, are drawn to for pollination. I had a bright yellow car, and it, too, was a magnet for a number of insects.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | December 7, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

My StinkBug story:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-HT-tJiquE
The Daily Greg

Posted by: greg2010 | December 7, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

greg2010: Thanks for the video. Keep in mind those stink bug flushes can add up and increase the water bill.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | December 8, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Oddly enough, we've experienced far fewer stinkbugs this year compared to last, in our yellow Rockville house.

Interesting comment about the jar trap. I've noticed that tossing a stinkbug into a toilet without flushing doesn't work that well. They're able to flop around on the water for a couple of hours before drowning. They can actually be fully submerged for quite some time before suffering any effects. More often than not, an unflushed stinkbug will successfully pull itself out along the edge of the toilet.

Posted by: buckeye293 | December 8, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

buckeye293: Yes, I've seen an unflushed stink bug work it's way across the surface of the water and pull itself out. Adding soap to a jar of water will weaken the surface tension of the water so the stink bugs sink. I'm thinking about adding soap to buckets of water combined with a few squished stink bugs and then placing the buckets outside in the early fall. That might make a good stink bug trap?

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | December 8, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

My favorite way to get rid of them is with diatomaceous earth. It is some amazing stuff. I get mine from http://www.gardenharvestsupply.com/ProductCart/pc/Food-Grade-Diatomaceous-Earth-c11.htm

Posted by: wakechick | December 9, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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