Greg Bowman

Greg Bowman is the Gordon County Extension Agent.

I am really surprised that I have not received more calls on this invasive insect pest in 2018. At the Bowman home, we have not seen them in the house as much, but they have been problematic on and in the vehicles.  We actually arrived to my daughter’s high school softball game and our lawn chairs had collected many of the stink bugs from the trunk of the car or garage.  This pest insect can be more of a nuisance issue for homeowners, but they can be an economic problem for growers of certain crops.

Today, I will give some basic background information on this insect pest and on control tips. I will be sharing information from a co-worker, Paul Pugliese from Bartow County, as well as data from a UGA pamphlet on this insect. You may say stink bugs are nothing new. We always have stink bugs in our area. This is true, but this is a new species.

I remember as a young boy helping my parents pick blackberries on the family farm in the 1970s.  I think I was eating more than were going into the bucket. Finally, I received a big surprise when that one last berry had a stink bug wanting it too. Both the berry and the stink bug went in my mouth. I don’t think I consumed anymore blackberries on that trip.

Again, these stink bugs are a different species. In Georgia, they are pretty established in north and central Georgia. The first documented report of the brown marmorated stink bug was in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in 2001, but claims are they had been observed in the area by homeowners since 1996. These stink bugs are native to Asia, the population we have seems to be more closely related to the stinks bugs found in China.

The general idea is this species came to the United States in freight containers. At time of our pamphlet printing, the brown marmorated stink bug has been seen in 42 states and two Canadian provinces mainly due to their ability to hitchhike in vehicles and commerce. To top it off, there are few natural predators of this stink bug.

  What can a homeowner do?  I will remind you that this stink bug can cause crop damage to small fruits, vegetable crops, flower stems, soybeans, field and sweet corn and cotton to name a few. Today, we will just center on what homeowners can do to reduce issues on the property.  If the brown marmorated stink bug is calling your dwelling, storage building or even car home, a vacuum cleaner may be the best way to remove. A shop vacuum is recommended since stink bug odors can absorb into conventional vacuum cleaners. I will add that stink bugs can be easily killed when dumped into a bucket of soapy water.  I don’t want to scare you, but our information states that in some reports, over 25,000 stink bugs have been found in a single home.  I have never heard of that in our area.

Exclusion of this pest from the home in the first place is the best method. I know we are hot now, but as weather cools, stink bugs seem to congregate on the south and west facing sides of homes that receive warm sunlight.  Stink bugs will also enter a dwelling at any place they can find an opening.

The goal can be to weather-proof your home.  By weather-proofing, you not only keep the bugs out, but you can have energy cost savings. Caulk can be your best friend by using the proper silicone or silicone-latex caulk to fix cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys and underneath wood fascia for example. You need to fix any damaged screens on doors, windows and attic vents. Weather stripping can be beneficial and also use of door sweeps can help. Again, the goal is to keep this stink bug on the outside.

If your time is limited in doing this work, you may want to start on the south or west facing sides of the home or building since this is where they seem to congregate in the fall.  Once cold weather arrived, their activity is reduced. Just keep in mind, if you had issues in the fall with home entry, you will see them trying to exit the home when the warm spring weather arrives. 

I will add one more thing on the weather-proofing of the home. Many if not all of these steps will assist in reducing any issues with lady beetle invasion too.  The goal of the insects are to find a nice warm place to spend the winter while your goal is to keep them on the outside.

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email gbowman@uga.edu. Also, follow us on Facebook by going to our Gordon County Extension agriculture and natural resources webpage for latest information and tips of the week.

Greg Bowman is the Gordon County Extension Agent. For more information, contact UGA Extension – Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email gbowman@uga.edu.