Fall’s arrival means different things for many people, but perhaps one of the most unwelcome for homeowners and gardeners alike is the congregation of the brown marmorated stink bug, now one of West Virginia’s more prevalent late-season pests.

According to Daniel Frank, West Virginia University Extension Service’s entomology specialist, the stink bug is letting its presence be known.

“During the growing season the stink bug feeds preferentially on fruits and vegetables which can result in pitting, deformation and discoloration— that can add up to significant losses for commercial producers and serves as an annoyance for home gardeners,” Frank said.

He added that since the insects pierce the fruit with their mouthparts, it can create a site for plant pathogens to enter which cause rotting.

Typically, the stink bug lives one to two generations in West Virginia depending on temperatures. Adults overwinter in protected sites, sometimes including homes. It’s here where most of the state’s residents encounter the pest.

“While they may frighten some people by loudly flying around and emitting a strong odor when crushed, they’re only a nuisance,” Frank said. “They don’t pose any health risk to humans, do not cause structural or cosmetic damage to homes and don’t further reproduce in that environment.”

Frank notes that peak stink bug visibility occurs in fall since they begin to look for overwintering sites before the first frost and are drawn to the outside surfaces of homes during warm fall days.

He also added that homeowners who are looking to keep the pests at bay are best served when they prevent stink bugs from entering the home in the first place.

Cracks as small as 1/16 of an inch are large enough for stink bugs to enter. To prevent this, caulk with silicone or a silicone-latex blend around window and outside door frames and ensure that window screens aren’t damaged. Ensure that any weather stripping around windows and doors is in good condition, and remove window air conditioners after summer use.

“Exterior insecticides can also be used, but if used alone, they only provide limited control. Making sure that every measure is taken to seal up the gaps and cracks on the structure is key,” said Frank.

Once a stink bug is in the home, the best control method is to vacuum the pest up in a handheld or bagless vacuum that allows the container to be emptied each time. However, Frank noted that emptying the container outdoors will likely cause the insects to find their way back in the home, so they should be released into a bucket of soapy water or disposed of some other way instead.

It’s not recommended to use insecticides indoors as the bugs can escape it and the insecticide itself may be hazardous to humans and pets.

Farmers and producers who wish to protect their fall-bearing crops can use a wide range of insecticides that can provide control. Common chemical classes used for stink bug control include pyrethroids (e.g., bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, permethrin), carbamates (e.g., carbaryl) and neonicotinoids (e.g., acetamiprid). What can be used will depend on the crop as well as harvest intervals. Check with your local WVU Extension agent if you have questions about using those.

The WVU Extension Service serves as an outreach division of West Virginia University. Extension has offices in all 55 counties, which provide citizens with knowledge in areas such as 4-H and youth development, agriculture, family and consumer sciences, health, leadership development and community and economic development.

To learn more about WVU Extension programs, visit www.ext.wvu.edu, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.



CONTACT: Zane Lacko, WVU Extension Service,
304.293.8986; zlacko@mail.wvu.edu

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