Invading stink bugs are back. Here's what to do

Stink bugs spotted across most of lower Michigan

If you see a bug on your ceiling that looks like a dark brown cornflake with legs and long antennas, here's a friendly piece of advice:

Don't squish it. It's going to smell bad.

The insects likely are brown marmorated stink bugs, Asian invaders confirmed in Michigan in 2010, which now have been spotted in most of the Lower Peninsula.

They're lurking on door frames, windows, kitchen counters and coffee shop patios as fall temperatures sink.

"They've been showing up at people's homes now for two weeks," said Howard Russell, an entomologist at Michigan State University. "They're coming in from the outside looking for a nice, cozy place to spend the winter."

There's also a local lookalike, the brown stink bug. It has solid dark antennae, while the Asian bug has white stripes on its antennae.

"The other one is really not interested in spending the winter in homes," Russell said.

Besides being a nuisance, the bugs don't pose much of a threat in your closet or attic. They don't bite people or reproduce during the winter months.

They could eventually pose a real threat to Michigan fruit and vegetable crops, Russell said. They pierce fruit and suck out the juice, and a large number can cause real damage to crops.

"Home gardeners will have problems with them, too, because they feed on tomatoes and any number of above-ground fruits in home gardens," he said.

Russell said he expects the insects' numbers to increase in coming years, which could lead to infestations of hundreds or thousands of bugs.

"If you look at what's going on in Virginia, where the bug has been for a long time, they use shovels to take these things out," Russell said. "We have yet to see damage in tree fruit and other vegetable crops, and eventually we're going to see that, too."

Keeping the bugs out of your house can be a challenge, Russell said. One piece of advice: Keep your doors and windows as weather-tight as possible.

"Try caulking and sealing, but for a lot of people that might not be possible because of the way our homes are built," Russell said.

You can also spray them with pesticides or hire someone to spray them. If you find a few, you can drown them in a bucket of soapy water so you won't have to squish them and endure the smell.

If you must squish, be ready for a smelly, albeit brief, moment.

"It's not like it's a skunk," Russell said. "It's a tiny bit of odor because they're kind of small bugs."

Here are tips from Michigan State University and Pennsylvania State University experts on dealing with the bugs:

  • Keep them out. Seal cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys, and underneath wood fascia with silicone or silicone-latex caulk. Repair damaged screens on doors and windows.
  • Look for where they came in. Stink bugs will emerge from cracks under or behind baseboards, around window and door trim, and around exhaust fans or lights in ceilings. Seal these openings with caulk or other materials.
  • Use a pesticide outdoors as bugs gather.
  • Suck them up: Use a vacuum to remove live and dead stink bugs from interior areas with the aid of a vacuum cleaner. The downside: This might make your vacuum smell bad.
  • Drown them in a bucket or pan partly filled with soapy water.
  • Using pesticides indoors isn't recommended because it won't prevent more bugs from coming in, and carpet beetles may be attracted to feed on carcasses of dead insects.

(2016 © Lansing State Journal)


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