The stink bugs are coming! The stink bugs are coming! (Oh, wait. They’re already here.)
Well, just don’t you panic — it’s that time of year (you know, like shedding season for Fluffy and Fido), when the little buggers look for a warm place to hibernate for winter — in your home. Can you blame them?
Wait! Who? What?
Specifically, it’s the brown marmorated stink bugs that are raising such a stink in lower Michigan. Remember last fall, when we were asked to report any sightings of these guys in our homes? Yeah, me neither, but apparently Michigan residents were asked to report sightings, and apparently there were enough sightings to warrant an official decree: marmorated stink bugs are well-established as a nuisance pest in homes in the southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
It makes sense when you think about it. The little guys want to stay warm during the cold months and don’t worry, they promise to leave in the spring if they can find their way back out. If they do make it back out, they’ll look for plants to eat and lay their eggs outside.
Seriously, there is no cause for worry. They are not nesting, laying eggs or feeding on you, your pets or anything in your house. I repeat: They are harmless to pets and humans. They just want a warm place to rest their sweet little mandibles.
Who ARE these guys, anyway?
The brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys (Hempitera: Pentatomidae), is an invasive insect native to Japan and Asia. It was first discovered in Michigan in 2011. Since then they have been slowly spreading throughout the state. In addition to causing damage to plants and fruit, the little stinkers are a major nuisance because adult stink bugs often seek shelter inside houses and other buildings in the fall. Once inside, they congregate almost anywhere. Although they will not cause structural damage or reproduce in homes or bite people or pets, and although they are not known to transmit disease or cause physical harm, the insect produces a pungent, malodorous chemical and when handling the bug, the odor is transferred readily.
Oh, my! What should I do?
- Don’t panic. We said that upfront, but it bears repeating.
- Look for gaps around window air conditioners or holes in window screens and block them off — these little stinkers love these easy access points.
- The easiest, non-toxic way to dispose of them is with a couple inches of soapy water in a bucket — the soap prevents them from escaping the water. Yup, just sweep ’em into the bucket and they will drown in the soapy water, which you can then dump outside. Or you can do the same with a Shop-Vac — add the soapy water to the canister before vacuuming them up with the Shop-Vac. (You may want to use an old, junker vacuum for this purpose because the bugs may live up to their name and “stink up” your vacuum.)
- Report how many you’ve seen at a given location using the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network. If you have trouble entering the information on the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network website, leave a message for Julianna Wilson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 517.432.4766 with your name, address (or nearest crossroads), the date you saw them, and how many you have seen.
The map above shows where reports have been made to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network of brown marmorated stink bugs in the Lower Peninsula since Sept. 25, 2015.
(Call me crazy, but I posit that if these guys didn’t go around stinking things up, nobody would have been the wiser.)