Web Site Name

Barbara Pleasant

 
Brown marmorated stink bug on wood

Native to rocky forests of China, marmorated stink bug colors provide great camouflage against weathered wood and tree bark. In the house, stink bugs seem to feel especially at home among electronics.

 

marmorated stink bugs

BMSB do not have body parts capable of biting or stinging. They exist on a liquid diet obtained by puncturing leaves and fruits and sucking up nutritious juices. Stink bugs in the house do not eat because it's their hibernation season.

Here is a list of known host plants for marmorated stink bugs. Invasive empress trees (Pawlonia) are very attractive to these pests, as are cherries, apples and other fruit trees. In vegetable gardens, peppers and tomatoes often are the first species to face serious challenges.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs In My House

March 2014

I grow a number of houseplants, and have watched closely to see if brown marmorated stink bugs seemed attracted to them. The poinsettia I bought in December has turned out to be a stink bug killer. The bugs feed on the poinsettia petioles, and the next thing you know they are dangling there dead.

I'd be interested to know if others have made similar observations. As shown in these photos, feeding prior to death is indicated by the stylet (feeding tubes) stuck into the poinsettia petioles.


Update 1/30/13


Last fall I was away caring for my sick mother when the brown marmorated stink bugs invaded my house, and they were bad roommates all winter. Never again! This year I have aggressively collected them in jars of soapy water, sometimes catching several hundred a day. By accident, I also have discovered several passive traps that temporarily detain stink bugs in the house until I can collect them:


~Fabric curtains and wall hangings seem to offer a comfortable way-station for the stink bugs. If I wait until the bugs quiet down in the evening, I can scour the curtains with my death jar (canning jar one third full of slightly soapy water) and easily gather several dozen.


~Folded cloth placed near doors and windows where the stink bugs enter seems to be an irresistible passive habitat trap. From two loosely folded old pillowcases I have collected as many as a hundred BMSBs, herded into a broad bowl of soapy water with a gloved hand.


~Pieces of cardboard with spaces between the layers are another good way to collect large numbers of stink bugs at once. And, although it's gross, a piece of cardboard under the sofa becomes a stink bug resort.


~Unwanted books with a couple of chapters cut out make excellent habitat traps, too. Last year, I was horrified to find dead and dormant stink bugs throughout my cookbook shelf. This year I gave them their own books, and cut out pages to make spaces for them. The book method is a great way to collect them because you can fan the pages into a bucket of soapy water to get them out.


These and other passive habitat traps are the best way to deal with brown marmorated stink bugs in your house. None of the currently-available stink bug traps are effective, so don’t waste your money. As you make your own habitat traps, keep in mind that you are trying to mimic the sheltered space under the bark of dead trees. West Virginia researchers have found that in the wild, brown marmorated stink bugs spend the winter beneath the peeling bark of dead oak and locust trees.


Scientists are hopeful that a tiny Asian wasp that parasitizes BMSB eggs will be ready for trial release by 2015; specimens are now in quarantine at Oregon State University, with research proceeding as quickly as possible. See the second video below if you feel the need for encouragement.

Above: So far my garden has been spared, but this Virginia Tech video of BMSB feeding on grapes gave me the creeps! I now consider my house a trap for these obnoxious invaders.

 

Below: Oregon State University graduate research assistant Chris Hedstrom created this video of the life cycle of Trissolcus halyomorphae, an egg parasitoid of the brown marmorated stink bug.

News from the 

Stink Bug Survey

In 2013 I helped launch the

Mother Earth News Stink Bug Survey,

an ongoing citizen science project.

Please participate! My first report is

ready to read at Mother at MotherEarthNews.com (Jan2014). More

to come.  

Be Careful With Stink Bug Traps
New pheromone-baited stink bug traps
may catch a lot of bugs, but it may be
at the expense of your veggies. A new
study from the  University of Maryland
found that stink bug traps placed at the
ends of tomato rows increased damage
to the fruits. To use traps wisely, place
them near flowers that are attractive to
brown marmorated stink bugs such as
sunflowers and cleome, and consider the
flowers to be part of the trap. Locate the
flower/trap as far as possible from your
food crops. 

Great New Resource!

The USDA and a dozen cooperating

universities have created the
web page, with a live feed on research
stories of interest.

Yes, you can feed stink bugs to your

chickens and it won’t make the eggs

taste funny. Instead, blind tastes tests

from the University of Maryland

showed a preference for eggs from

chickens that had dined on stink bugs.

The chickens like them live and

moving, so I’ve started putting my

captives in a dry quart jar instead of

drowning them. Once a day, my

chickens get a dozen or so stink bugs,

and they snap up every one. 

marmorated stink bugs on bottle

They get excited! One day I spritzed

with a bottle of Meyer’s Clean Day

room freshener, and the frenzy of

activity it set off among the stink bugs

 was remarkable. A few seemed drawn

 to the source, while others stayed

stock still, waving their antennae

excitedly as if to pick up every last

molecule. Subsequent attempts to

draw their attention with the Meyer’s

gave mixed results. For all I know, I

fried their brains with the stuff.

Living with Stink Bugs in the House

 
My upstairs office is the warmest, sunniest room in the house on winter days, so they are still

with me despite aggressive trapping. I keep a collection jar on my desk, and all winter I've collected between five and twenty a day.

 

Stink bugs in the house won't bite you, but if they singe you with their chemical spray on

the same skin over and over, you can get a chemical burn, as I learned first-hand last year.

When picking up stink bugs in the house, always grab them by the head end. That way, if

they spray the compounds won't get on your skin.   

 

Dogs have been trained to sniff out BMSBs, which may help stop their spread. As of 2012,

people thirty-six states including Oregon and Utah are dealing with brown marmorated stink bugs

in the house this fall, and possibly in the garden next year.

 

Text and photos copyright 2011-2014 by Barbara Pleasant