The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is an introduced Asian species that should not be confused with our many native stink bug species, which do not commonly invade homes and other structures. The BMSB was first reported in Pennsylvania in the late nineties. They began showing up in North Carolina in small numbers in 2011 and went mostly unnoticed, but that quickly changed within just a few years.
The adult BMSB has the typical shield shape, is dark mottled brown and are over half an inch long. They can be distinguished from our native species by the alternating light and dark bands on the antennae and light and dark banding on the edges of the abdomen. Aside from invading homes and buildings, they feed on many ornamental plants, fruit trees and vegetables.
As with other nuisance pests that invade homes, prevention is key. It is not practical for homeowners to treat indoors or inside of homes with pesticides to control these pests. They can fly and go anywhere in the home, and they are still moving in and will be for weeks, which would require multiple pesticide applications. Foggers do provide a large coverage area, but they only kill bugs that are present at the time of applications, so again multiple applications would be necessary. When using any pesticide always thoroughly read and follow the label. Fatal accidents have occurred in homes with foggers that are misapplied.
Since these pests are here to stay, long-term control measures should be taken. This means sealing up any possible entry points. Check weather stripping and replace as needed around doors and windows. Check for cracks or gaps in siding, around windows or doors, outlets, air conditioner units and other places on the exterior of homes, and seal with caulk or expanding foam. Check screens and replace, as needed, using window grade screening, especially around attic entry points.
Pesticides can be used outside the home or structure targeting critical entry points, but this only provides a temporary solution and may not prove to be very effective. There are commercial stink bug traps available for the BMSB, but again, mechanical exclusion is the best long-term solution.
Once the insects make it into the home, they can be captured and removed. The top can be cut off of a plastic bottle and inverted into the bottle to make a simple funnel trap to catch the invaders. If they are present in large numbers a vacuum works well, but should be immediately emptied, because the insects will leave an odor in the vacuum.
To kill the insects, they can be sealed in a plastic bag and frozen in the freezer or dumped into a bucket of soapy water. Once dead, discard them outside.
For more information or questions about the BMSB or other pests in and around the home, garden or landscape, contact North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Yadkin County Center, at 336.849.7908.
Colleen Church is an agent with the Yadkin office of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.