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Growing up, you probably didn’t hear much about stink bugs. In fact, unless you grew up in Southeastern Asia or you’re basically still a kid, we’re sure you didn’t hear about them. Stink bugs came to the US midwest recently. Seriously recently, in fact: before 1996, the bugs had never set creepy-skinny-bug-leg on US soil. We’d forgive you for thinking something about our story stinks (forgive the pun) at this point. After all, how could new insect life make itself so abundant so quickly?! How did a bug from subtropical regions the world away decide, “yeah, the midwest sounds cool”. Why are we so unlucky? We can answer… well, some of some of these questions. Here’s where stink bugs came from, why they’re still here, and what to do about them.  

Why They Came

why stink bugs came to the midwestStink bugs are originally native to the humid, subtropical climates of Korea, Japan, and China. The pest uses specialized piercing-sucking mouthparts to puncture fruits, leaves, vegetables, and other plant life. Experts believe the stinkers first came to the US by inadvertently stowing away inside a fruit crate. Somewhere in Southeastern Asia, these pests found their way inside a fruit crate that had yet to be exported. Without realizing the bugs were inside, the crates would have been shipped off to the US as per usual. The stinky stowaways wouldn’t have had any trouble surviving the journey to the US. After all, they had all the food they needed! When the crate arrived in Pennsylvania and unwitting grocers began unpacking it, the bugs escaped into the US. A couple stink bugs stopped eating long enough to procreate and lay eggs, and the rest is unfortunate history.

Why They Stayed

why would stink bugs stay here?Stink bugs actually reproduce relatively slowly compared to most insects--but that’s still compared to insects. A single female can lay up to 400 eggs in her lifetime. These eggs hatch in only 4 to 5 days. Nymphs reach maturity in a matter of weeks. In other words, depending on aspects of their environment like temperature and food availability, stink bugs can reproduce rapidly. Making matters worse, stink bugs didn’t bring their natural predators with them when they came to the US. In a normal ecosystem, countermeasures such as predators, parasites, and diseases naturally develop and keep pest populations in check. When the bugs came overseas, however, they entered an ecosystem that had not adjusted to them. Without these countermeasures to slow them down, stink bugs proliferated throughout the country very successfully. At this point, stink bugs are entrenched enough that there’s virtually no way to remove them from the US.

Why They’re a Problem

why are stink bugs a problem?We’ve finally got a little good news for you: stink bugs aren’t really a big deal for homeowners. They don’t reproduce or lay eggs indoors, they don’t eat human food (except fruit), and they don’t damage property. If you have stink bugs in your home, it’s probably just because they’re trying to survive the cold. Stink bugs are a bigger problem for farmers, as they can inflict significant damage on important crops. That being said, we realize it’s not exactly pleasant to have hordes of stink bugs around. Stink bugs need heat and humidity to survive, so they tend to congregate around sunny areas. Too many stinkers in a confined location can… well, stink. Stink bugs secrete a chemical that smells similar to rotting vegetables, coriander, or cilantro when they’re threatened or crushed. In concentrated doses, these liquid secretions can stain carpeting or furniture.

What You Can Do About Them

What can you do about stink bugs?Start by looking for congregations of the stinkers around sunny areas. Vacuum them up into a bag and then dispose of the bag into your outdoor dumpster. After vacuuming, wash off the areas where you found them using soapy water. Washing removes the gross pheromone that groups of stink bugs secrete to attract their unwelcome stink bug comrades. As a bonus, stink bugs even hate the smell of soap. Regular washing helps keep the stinkers from coming back after you’ve driven them off. Once you’ve removed the stink bugs in your home, your next step should be figuring out how they got in to begin with. Unfortunately, this is can be tricky. The small, surprisingly flat pest can squeeze through much tinier openings than you might think. Look for drafts, cracks in window and door frames, or openings in your siding. Make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed. Check basements, attics, crawl spaces, and storage areas especially carefully. Seal openings you find with caulk, and clear the clutter around them to deprive stink bugs of attractive cover.   Just because it looks like we’re stuck tolerating our new neighbors the stink bugs doesn’t mean you have to throw them a housewarming party. Follow the steps above and keep an eye out, and you’ll be well on your way to a stink-free home. If you end up with some unwelcome, stinky guests, however, remember that you can call Plunkett’s anytime. Our experts have everything they need to drive those stinkers out quickly and permanently.

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