6 Reasons Stink Bugs Are So Attracted to Your House, According to Pest Experts
Photo credit: MassanPH - Getty Images
If you've spotted more stink bugs in and around your home, you are definitely not alone, especially if you live on parts of the east coast of the Midwest. These animals are most active in early fall - and they look for a place where they can congregate in annoyingly large numbers (often with an unusual smell).
There are several types of stink bug species, but brown marbled stink bugs are one of the most common in the United States and are found in about half the states. They are known for their distinctive shield shape and have a marble pattern on their backs (as in the picture above).
While they won't harm your or your pets, they can be a major annoyance if you have a home garden or are growing plants. Stink bugs are herbivores and cause significant damage to plants.
As for that smell? They contain glands that give off a foul odor as a defense measure when they feel threatened, says Macy Ruiz, certified entomologist and technical service director at Ehrlich Pest Control. (So ... not ideal if you're trying to get them out of your house!)
But what is it that draws you to your home anyway? Read on to find out what you can do to get rid of these pests for good.
Why are smelly bugs attracted to your home?
Photo credit: Matthias Matscher - Getty Images
1. They seek protection.
When temperatures drop, smelly bugs like to come inside to seek shelter for something known as diapause, a time in their life cycle when they're inactive, says Michael J. Raupp, Ph.D., professor of Entomology at the University of Maryland and creator of the Bug of the Week. "You're not looking for warmth," he says. "If it's warm, don't take a diapause."
A stink bug goes into diapause because there is no food in nature during this time. During this time, a stink bug's metabolism can slow down and become inactive, says Judy Black, vice president of quality assurance and technical services at Orkin, LLC.
2. A scent trail gives them a clue.
When a stink bug finds a good place to shelter, Schwarz says they release a pheromone that attracts other stink bugs to their location. Cue the massive stink bug party that you didn't approve of.
3. Your home has lots of lights.
Stink bugs are attracted to bright lights, explains Ruiz. If you tend to keep the outside lights on at night and you're dealing with a stink bug problem, turning off the outside lights and pulling the blinds before you go to bed isn't a bad idea.
4. Loose entry points allow them easy access.
Stink bugs usually sneak in through cracks, crevices, gaps, and holes in foundations and roofs, Ruiz says. You also come in through windows and door frames. "If there are many entry points into your home, smelly bugs can get in," says Ruiz.
5. You live near a rural green area.
Stink bugs like to congregate in agricultural fields, orchards, shrubs, trees, and large gardens because they are herbivores. So if you live near one of these areas, they may simply move from their usual location to your (warmer) home.
"They prefer rural locations," says Raupp. "They feed on corn and soybeans all summer and your home is in their way."
6. Your home is made of natural materials.
When smelly bugs go into diapause in nature, they prefer to relax under the bark of a dead tree or hang out under a large, rocky crevice. So if your home is a dark color with natural siding, stink bugs could mistake it for their typical hangout and cause them to cluster around your home, says Raupp.
How to get rid of smelly bugs
There are a few things you can do to get rid of smelly bugs, and it involves a combination of prevention and removal efforts.
Seal your home first.
Look for cracks on vents, windows, door frames, power boxes, and baseboards and seal them with sealant, foam sealant, weather strip, street sweepers, mesh screens, or any other material that makes sense for that particular area, says Raupp. It is also helpful to make sure siding and pipes are secure. If you have a fireplace, closing the chimney when you're not using it can help prevent stink bugs from getting into your home that way, too.
Then pick them up and discard them.
If you spot smelly bugs hanging around, the easiest (and cleanest) thing to do is to vacuum them up with your vacuum cleaner. “The vacuum can smell like stinking insects for a period of time. Always empty the vacuum afterwards, ”says Ruiz.
You can also flip the lid of a plastic water bottle, put soapy water in it, pick up the bugs, and drop them in and drown, says Raupp. Then you can put them back in the environment, throw them in a sealed bag in the trash, or put them on your compost heap.
Tried to reach for pesticides? It is best to skip them as there is no area where the chemicals can be sprayed. This can be potentially harmful with children or pets running around.
In general, you should be able to deal with stink bugs yourself. (Read our in-depth guide on how to get rid of Smelly Bugs here.) However, if you have encountered a lot of them and you feel like you can't handle the swarm on your own, it's time to call a pest control service for help.
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