Web Site Name

Barbara Pleasant


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

Where I live in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSBs) start coming into the house around September 15, and they don’t leave until the following April. In between they drive me nuts crawling around my upstairs office, so I try every possible way to manage stink bugs in my house. This has been going on since 2009.

This year we’ve done a good job of getting ready. The window air conditioners came out before the first stink bugs arrived, and we’ve been keeping the doors and windows closed tight during the afternoon swarm hours, noon to 4 PM. Keeping the bugs from coming inside is key to managing stink bugs in my house.

Still, they get in. Intrigued by a couple of recent studies, this year I’m trying a new deterrent to herd them away from their favorite points of entry -- spraying a mixture of essential oils on window screens.

Essential Oils on Window Screens 

Several herbal essential oils have been found to repel BMSBs, including clove oil, lemongrass oil, spearmint oil, or a mixture of the three. Wintergreen oil, geranium oil, pennyroyal oil and rosemary oil were less effective.

To test the effectiveness of essential oils on window screens, I used 30 drops of Thieves Oil (a potent mixture of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary oils) with 2 cups of warm water and 10 drops of liquid dish soap. I sprayed the mixture on one window screen and left the one next to it unsprayed. Every 30 minutes during the afternoon swarm hours, I counted bugs on each screen.

The final count on day one was 17 stink bugs on the essential oil-treated screen, with 42 on the adjoining untreated one, but the differences were less dramatic for the next few days. I repeated the experiment on a different set of windows favored by incoming stink bugs, and again saw a noticeable difference in stink bug counts using essential oils on window screens. I have decided to add this method to my tool box for managing stink bugs in my house, because it smells nice and is easy to do. When the day warms up in mid-morning, I spritz the screens with the essential oil mixture before closing the windows up tight.

Outside in the woods, scientists are finding that native predators including katydids and spiders -- but not ladybeetles -- have taken to eating egg masses of brown marmorated stink bugs. This explains in part why we have stink bugs in the house every winter, but hardly ever see them in the garden. It is elegantly simple but time-consuming research, well worth reading. 


A Stink Bug Haiku

A thousand stink bugs

Were hiding in my raincoat.

It's that kind of day.

 - Will Bason

In past years when we did not do a good job of holding off the incoming hordes, I 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 jars 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, which can be brushed 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 placed under the sofa becomes a stink bug resort.

~Unwanted books with a couple of chapters cut out make excellent habitat traps, too. One 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 good ways to manage brown marmorated stink bugs in your house. None of the currently-available stink bug traps are effective indoors, 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.

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. 

Still, some do get in. I collect and drown dozens in square-shaped drinking glasses, which work better than round containers because the flat side makes it easier to collect bugs on walls or curtains. I fill the container with an inch or so of water and a squirt of hand soap or liquid dish detergent, place it right beneath the stink bug, and most pop right in. The soap makes it impossible for the stink bugs to swim, and they drown within a minute. On bad swarm days I will kill a couple dozen. 

Text and photos copyright 2011-2017 by Barbara Pleasant