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What’s That Smell? The Name Says It: Stink Bugs!

Bugs are all around us, even if you don’t see them all the time. Some of them can be harmful, and most won’t bother you. But then there’s the stink bug. It’s not really harmful, but who wants to be around a bug that smells? You really can’t get too far away from them, though. They’re in 38 states all across the US, and came here from East Asia. They weren’t even talked about until the 1990s, when they started becoming a problem for quite a few people. Before that time, there were so few that there wasn’t any cause to talk about them at all. They don’t stink all the time, but they can really smell bad when they need to.

What Do Stink Bugs Look Like?

According to Pest World for Kids, which offers a lot of facts about stink bugs, these little insects are about 3/4 of an inch in size. They are shaped a lot like a triangle, and they can be grey, dark green, or brown in color. They have six legs, and they also have wings and antenna. Because of their shape and color, stink bugs can be pretty distinctive and easy to spot. They don’t really look too much like other types of bugs, so recognizing them for what they are isn’t usually that difficult. If you’re not sure, though, it’s best not to pick them up or handle them, just in case you’re grabbing a different type of bug.

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The legs of a stink bug are very small and thin, but they can propel the bug a long way if necessary. In the morning, stink bugs are slow moving. That’s the best time to get rid of them if you need to pick them by hand. Some people do that in the garden, when they go outside in the morning and see stink bugs on their plants. Then they carefully remove the bugs, because the insects aren’t fast enough to get away easily during that time. Of course, not everyone wants to touch a stink bug, even if they’re sure what they look like and realizes that they aren’t harmful to people.

Why Do They Stink, and When?

A stink bug stinks for two reasons: trying to protect its home, and if it’s crushed. The odor they produce at that time can be very pungent, which is why a lot of people get upset if someone steps on or otherwise crushes a stink bug. It’s not because they care about the damage to the bug, but because they don’t want that smell to linger in their home or garden. If you find a stink bug in your house, it may be better to catch it and put it outdoors, or vacuum it up and then throw away the vacuum bag. That will reduce the chances of having to smell the bug.

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When a stink bug defends its territory, that’s the second reason for it to produce a smell. Depending on the extent of its defense, you may not smell it at that time. It could be defending its home from other stink bugs or other types of insects or predators. Most other types of animals and insects don’t like the smell a stink bug produces, so they want to get away from that smell as fast as possible. According to Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, the stink bug turns its stench into a great defense, so it can protect its home from other creatures, including humans, that it perceives as a threat to its safety or its family.

What Kind of Diet Does a Stink Bug Have?

Stink bugs live a quiet life. They aren’t predators, and they primarily eat flowers, leaves, fruit, and crops. Soybeans are a popular diet for these creatures, and they will sometimes eat other insects. They particularly like caterpillars, but there are other options for them if they get hungry. It’s not true that stink bugs will eat anything, but they can really do a lot of damage to plant matter if they aren’t controlled. At times they have done significant damage to crops and various types of plants, which is why people really want to keep them out of the garden and away from their homes and farms.

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Orchards and farmlands are popular places for stink bugs, since there is always an abundance of things to eat there. Sometimes they will end up in a house, though, often because there are plenty of things to eat nearby. Their exploration may take them into a home in search of food if they can’t find anything to eat outdoors, as well. If there is plant matter in the home, such as flowers or fruit, stink bugs may take up residence there instead of trying to get back outside. While they are unsightly and smell bad when crushed or threatened, they generally aren’t going to infest a home or business.

Are These Bugs Harmful?

Stink bugs aren’t harmful to humans, but they are harmful to the crops that many people grow. Whether you run a farm with lots of acreage or you have a small garden in your backyard, you’ll need to watch out for stink bugs. Once they get a foothold it can be hard to get rid of them, and you don’t want them destroying your crops and plants. Pay close attention to the leaves and stems of the plants you’re growing, and look for stink bugs during the morning hours. Because they will be moving more slowly then, you may be able to spot them more easily and get an idea of how many of them you’re actually dealing with.

Sibiu, Romania, 2011

Sibiu, Romania, 2011

Stink bugs are good at hiding and blending in, though, so keep in mind that the ones you see may not be all of the insects you really have to deal with. It can be easy to overlook them unless they’re actively moving, and their green, brown, and black shades help them look like the plants and crops they feast upon. When it comes to hurting humans they aren’t a bite or sting risk, but they are a financial risk. That’s especially true for commercial farms, and if they end up with a big stink bug problem they could lose a lot of money in damaged and unusable crops very quickly.

Where Do Stink Bugs Live?

Stink bugs primarily live in gardens, orchards, and farms, says Stinkbugs.org. Those are the best places for these bugs to get what they need in the way of food. Since they like to eat other pests like caterpillars, they can be beneficial in some ways. However, since they also eat plants most or all of that benefit is lost to the plant damage they do. It’s not a good idea to rely on stink bugs to eat other insects and keep them off your plants. You’ll want to get rid of the other pests, of course, but you’ll also want to get rid of the stink bugs so you don’t have them making a meal out of the crops you’re trying to grow for yourself or other people.

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Stink bugs can also live in your house, although that’s less common. They don’t deliberately make their home indoors, so if you find one inside it’s probably not there on purpose. Just don’t crush it, or you’ll end up with a bad stink in your home for a while. Instead, use the vacuum cleaner to suck it up, or catch it and put it outside. If you have a farm or garden, though, you’ll probably want to use the vacuum method instead of relocating the stink bug. You don’t want to encourage it to eat your plants, which is exactly what you’ll be doing if you try the catch and release method.

How Can You Get Rid of Stink Bugs Around Your Home?

Since the removal of stink bugs from inside your home isn’t really an issue, it’s more important to concentrate on getting rid of the ones that are in your garden or getting access to your crops. To reduce the chances of having a problem with stink bugs, keep weeds cut down and away from your plants and your home. When the growing season is over, make sure you clean up your garden and get it ready for the next season, instead of just leaving it until it’s time to start planting again. The neater and cleaner you keep things, the easier it will be to keep stink bugs and other insects away.

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Use approved insecticides to control stink bugs in your garden, too. You’ll want to make sure whatever you use is safe for the crops you’re growing. For example, you’ll need different products if you’re growing food to eat than you will if you’re growing flowers. Edible options are always a little different, because you need to be more careful of the chemicals you’re using to treat any problems. You can also hand pick stink bugs, but that’s only if you have a small garden and some time. It can take a while to find them all and pull them off the plants, but it can also help you get rid of them without chemical intervention.