Stink Bugs: Bites, Management, and More
The term “stink bug” refers to several species of insects commonly known as stink bugs (Coleoptera). These are small flies with long antennae that produce foul odor when disturbed.
They have been found throughout North America from Canada southward through much of Mexico and into Central America. They are not native to this region but were imported here from Asia over many years ago.
They are most often encountered in summer months but may occur year round. They prefer moist places such as under rocks, logs, grasses and other vegetation.
Their preferred food is earthworms which they feed on the inside of their host’s body where they lay eggs. After hatching these young maggots develop into adults within a few days and begin feeding again. If left unchecked stink bugs will continue to reproduce until all life in an area has been destroyed.
How do I Get Rid of Stink Bugs?
There are two main methods of getting rid of stink bugs: trapping them and killing them. Traps work best if you catch the insects before they reach your home or building. You can use plastic garbage bags, old newspapers, cardboard boxes, even old tires. There are also commercial traps available that consist of a box with holes punched in it so the bugs fall out and onto a sheet or cloth. These are intended to be placed in more open locations. You can also try to catch them inside a container and then spray them with some sort of substance to kill them. One option is to fill the container with ammonia. The stink bugs cannot stand the smell and they will go inside to escape it, however they will eventually succumb to the fumes and die. Alternatively you can fill the container half-way with soapy water. The stink bugs will be unable to swim and eventually drown. If the problem is severe enough you may need to use both methods.
Killing them directly may also be an option. Stink bugs are edible and can be consumed by humans.
You can either cook or fry them in oil before eating. They can also be used as fish bait once they have been killed.
What Should I Do If I’m Bitten By a Stink Bug?
Like most insect bites they can be itchy and painful. Once you’ve been bitten the initial reaction is likely to be small red bumps on the skin. These may form a line across the area of the bite. You can take an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or perhaps something like hydrocortisone cream to reduce swelling and itchiness.
You can also take an over-the-counter pain killer such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to help with pain and reduce any fever. If you feel generally unwell, have trouble breathing or start having a rash then seek emergency medical attention.
How Do I Prevent This from Happening Again?
In some areas stink bugs will be unavoidable, so it may be best to board up windows and doors with the appropriate materials. If you want to prevent them from entering your home in the first place then use screens on windows and doors. You can also seal up any cracks or small spaces where they might be able to enter. When you travel, seal your home just in case you bring any stink bugs inside accidentally.
If you have an outhouse or a shed, it is much easier to board them up as you can be sure that no insects can get inside.
What If I Find A Nest?
Do not try to handle the situation yourself as it can be dangerous to the point of being life-threatening. Stink bugs become increasingly agitated when they are in groups and the smallest injury can lead to a serious risk of infection.
Sources & references used in this article:
Scabies, pediculosis, bedbugs, and stinkbugs: uncommon presentations by TF Cestari, BF Martignago – Clinics in dermatology, 2005 – Elsevier
Essential oils as spatial repellents for the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys (Stål) (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) by QH Zhang, RG Schneidmiller… – Journal of applied …, 2014 – Wiley Online Library
Stink bugs on soybean and other field crops by A Michel, R Bansal, RB Hammond – … Extension Fact Sheet, FC_ENT-x-13 …, 2013 – ocj.com
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) and clinical consequences of their bites by J Goddard, R deshazo – Jama, 2009 – jamanetwork.com
Presence of predatory wasps and stinkbugs alters foraging behavior of cryptic and non-cryptic caterpillars on plantain (Plantago lanceolata) by NE Stamp, MD Bowers – Oecologia, 1993 – Springer