published Saturday, October 20th, 2012

5 tips for outsmarting stinkbugs

  • photo
    The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), a winged invader from Asia that is eating crops and infesting U.S. homes, is spreading and is expected to continue to do so. Adult (top) and fifth-instar nymph (bottom). Photo by Stephen Ausmus/U.S. Department of Agriculture -

Whatever you do, don't stomp.

Stinkbugs, the gray-brown shield-shaped bugs, emit a foul stench when crushed or disturbed.

Native to East Asia, they were first collected in 1998 in Allentown, Pa., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Adam Vannest, director of pest services for Jody Millard Pest Control, said he's seen an increase of stinkbugs in the Southern states over the last few years, because they've been migrating South.

"Now they're going wherever they can find food sources."

Stinkbugs feed on fruit trees and garden vegetables, but as the cold weather comes on, they seek warmer shelter -- indoors.

"The biggest thing is that in the summertime, they want to be outside," Vannest said, "but now that we're getting cold, they want to find places they can be protected over winter."

The bugs will burrow into the cracks and crevices in the home, particularly around pipes.

To fight them off, Vannest recommends first attempting what he called "exclusion," or bug-proofing. That means sealing off cracks, caulking thresholds and reinforcing screens.

Still, sometimes, they get in. Stinkbugs tend to live in the walls, but they will occasionally emerge. When they do, don't stomp.

When the bugs die, they emit a stench Vannest described as a sweet sulphur-type smell. They can also stain fabrics. You should sweep them up and deposit them outdoors, or vacuum them.

"But then get rid of the bag or canister right away," he said. "You don't want them dying in there."

If stinkbugs are a problem outside the house, an exterminator can apply an insecticide around the perimeter of the home, but an indoor insecticide is not effective as it will cause the bugs to die and release the stink.

Five Tips

1 Protect against them: Seal up cracks, reinforce screens and thresholds.

2 Do not kill the bugs. They emit a foul odor when they die.

3 One way to remove them is to sweep them up and take them outside.

4 Another is to vacuum them up, but remove them from the vacuum before they die.

5 An insecticide can be applied for outdoor problems or to prevent problems if there are food sources.

Contact Holly Leber at or 423-757-6391.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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