To get rid of stink bugs, try vacuuming or installing a bug zapper. By preventing the bug from releasing its signature scent, you’ll keep numbers low.
The stink bug is one of nature’s freakiest little creatures. Flat, brown, and unassuming, these mild-mannered bugs won’t bite, won’t sting, and won’t damage your house. When they die, though, they pack an olfactory punch that can make your life miserable—and it actually summons more bugs!
How to tell if you’ve got a stink bug problem
The stink bug you’re most likely to see in your home is called the brown marmorated stink bug. This little shield-shaped beast came to the US from Asia in the 1990s—and it’s been a little smellier ever since.
What do stink bugs look like?
If you’re not sure what you’re looking at is a stink bug, here’s what you need to look out for: a flat brown body about the size of a dime, with marbled markings on its back (that’s where the “marmorated” came from in its official name). Stink bugs are generally shaped like a spade or a shield, with a broad back that reaches a pointed end.
The average stink bug shouldn’t grow to more than just over half an inch long. If you see a bug with the same general shape and vibes that’s a little longer, you might be looking at a Western conifer seed bug, which also emits a bad odor when threatened.
What attracts stink bugs to your home?
Stink bugs might look and smell nasty, but in reality, they’re a lot like us: they like warmth, light, fruit, and beautiful gardens.
Unlike some humans, these pests follow a reliable schedule. They’ll enter a home during the winter months to hibernate, creeping into dark, small places like the space behind baseboards or the nooks and crannies in your basement. When spring comes—or when a thaw tricks them into thinking winter’s over—they’ll come out of hiding to soak up the sun.
In general, stink bugs are attracted to:
- Food, especially fruit
- The smell of other stink bugs
With those wants and needs in mind, let’s take a look at a few all-natural ways to banish these pests from your home.
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10 natural ways to get rid of stink bugs
When that first warm day of spring arrives, the stink bug makes its debut. As with most household pests, if you see one, it’s a good bet that there’s a whole chorus line waiting in the wings—so act fast with these methods for extermination.
- Vacuum them up. This might seem like an odd way to deal with bugs, but it’s actually brilliant—vacuuming removes and contains the stink bug so it can’t spread its scent and bring more bugs running. Just be sure to use a vacuum cleaner with a bag, and dispose of the bag promptly when you’re done.
- Essential oils: they’re not just for meditation. Several drops of peppermint oil in a bottle of water makes an effective deterrent spray. It won’t kill stink bugs, but when applied to their points of entry it will drive them away—and it makes your whole house smell minty fresh!
- Spray or drown them with detergent. Start by making a half-water, half-detergent solution. Then pick your approach: you can either spritz the bugs with death using a spray bottle, or knock them into an open jar of the stuff. Either way, work fast to avoid that deadly stink.
- Go electric. If it’s good enough for Bob Dylan, it’s good enough for a stink bug. An electric bug zapper is an ideal way to manage a stink bug infestation, since the swiftness of the death machine means there’s no chance for bugs to put up a stink.
- Give stink bugs the vampire treatment. Grind up a few garlic cloves in water and spray your window sills, door frames, and other likely points of entry. Stink bugs hate the smell, and they’ll steer clear of you.
- Go old-school with fly tape. Stink bugs can fly, so a few well-placed strips of sticky fly tape should do the trick (but you’ll have to dispose of the tape once it’s collected all the corpses).
- Rub dryer sheets on your home. Who knew—stink bugs hate the fresh, heady scent of dryer sheets! Take a few sheets and rub them vigorously on your window sills and other entry points to keep the bugs at bay.
- Diatomaceous earth. Yeah, we don’t know how to say it either. But this all-natural material, made out of the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic creatures, can easily kill stink bugs without posing any danger to the rest of your household. Just sprinkle it in key areas and wait.
- Set a night light trap. This one’s diabolical: because stink bugs love light as much as moths, you can easily lure them to their deaths by setting up a light over a big dish of soapy water. Leave it out overnight and let the bugs’ doomed love of the lamp do the rest.
Why you should never use insecticide on a stink bug
There’s a good reason why we’re advocating for natural methods of stink bug removal—and it’s not just because of the environment! Many traditional insecticides won’t work effectively on stink bugs. They may end up emitting that telltale stench and calling their brethren, or they might just pass out for a few days and then come back to life, buzzing and bumping around your house like miniature reeking zombies.
Don’t take the risk. Stick to natural methods for the best chance of banishing the bugs once and for all.
How an exterminator gets rid of stink bugs—and when to call them
In most cases, you should be able to handle your stink bug roommates on your own. But in some cases, an infestation can get extreme—and we mean extreme.
We’re talking thousands of bugs in a space the size of a bread box. Tens of thousands in a half bath. Although super-infestations like this are rare, you’ll need to call in professional help if you’re dealing with one.
What can a professional exterminator do to eliminate a large-scale stink bug invasion? They may use a pesticide containing deltamethrin, a substance known to kill stink bugs. By resorting to chemical means, an exterminator can put down a major infestation quickly and with minimal risk to yourself and your household.
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How to keep stink bugs out of your house
For many homeowners, stink bugs are just a part of life. If you’re okay seeing a few ugly faces every spring, you may not need to worry much about these little creepy-crawlies.
But if sharing your house with a bunch of tiny stink bombs primed to blow isn’t your idea of a beautiful spring, these are a few strategies you can use to keep the bugs out before they have a chance to settle in.
- Seal off any openings before winter sets in. Take a look at your home in autumn and search for any gaps, crevices, or openings where a stink bug could get in. Damaged window screens are a major culprit.
- Eliminate sources of moisture. If you’re delaying dealing with a leaky faucet or a damaged pipe, don’t. Like many bugs, stink bugs love moist, dark areas—so get a plumber down to the basement before the clammy walls become the hottest spot in Stink Bug City.
- Switch out exterior lights for sodium vapor. Sodium vapor is what gives street lamps that soft orange glow, and it’s less attractive to bugs than traditional white lights.
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Sealing off entry points and keeping your home dry is an insurance policy against insect infestations—but what about your actual home insurance?
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Does killing stink bugs attract more?
Unfortunately, yes. When threatened or killed, stink bugs emit a foul odor from a gland in their abdomens. It’s been described as a combination of cilantro and dirty socks, and it sends a message to other stink bugs in the area that says “come find me!”