(NEXSTAR) — While you may be enjoying some of the best features of fall — the changing leaves, pumpkin-spiced everything, cooler temperatures — you may also be dealing with an unwelcomed guest. The brown marmorated stink bug.
Aptly named, the invasive stink bug has already been found in much of the U.S., and is now trying to find its way into homes nationwide before winter sets in.
It has been here since first being discovered in Pennsylvania — much like another invasive species officials are asking people to kill — in the mid-1990s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As of 2021, the stink bug had been reported in every state but Alaska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Despite its wide reach, the bug has more severely impacted states along the east and west coasts, as well as into the Midwest. Central states, stretching from Montana and North Dakota south to New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana have “no evidence of established populations,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In addition to harming crops, the stink bug can be especially annoying in fall when it tries to find a place to ride out the winter months, Penn State Extension explains. On a warm fall day, or in areas of your home that face the sun, you may see multiple stink bugs trying to find their way in through windows and doors.
If you’ve ever squished or stomped on one, you’re probably familiar with the odor that gave it its name. While annoying, it can cause allergic reactions like rhinitis or conjunctivitis in some. Beside their stink, the brown bugs won’t cause much harm to your home.
Unfortunately, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, many insecticides haven’t been updated to combat the brown stink bug. Exterior insecticide treatments applied by pest control operators can provide minor relief.
There are other steps you can take to help keep the bugs from getting in your home.
That includes making sure openings in and around your home are sealed off with caulk, Wisconsin-based K&C Pest Control suggests. Additionally, you’ll want to check screens on your windows and doors don’t have any tears or holes big enough for the bugs to enter through.
You can also try to combat the foul-smelling bugs with nicer-smelling products. For example, you can place dryer sheets (other than the unscented variety) in window sills or other entry points to deter the stink bugs. Essential oils like clove, lemongrass, and spearmint have also been known to keep the bugs away.
If the stink bugs do find their way inside, experts recommend using a vacuum to remove them, whether they’re dead or alive (though this may give your vacuum a bad odor for a short period of time). You can also take them outside to squash them, flush them, or put them in a container with soapy water, Ortho explains.
Penn State Extension advises against using an insecticide inside. Though it can kill the bug, it may attract species like carpet beetles that feed on dead stink bugs.
Stink bugs are a little like bears — after eating as much as they could in fall, they live off their stored energy while ‘overwintering.’ So once they’re in your home, they could live even without food well into spring, unless you kill them first. Thankfully, they will not reproduce.
Don’t count on a frost or the winter cold to thwart them, either. Thomas P. Kuhar, Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech told The Washington Post in 2013 that in his lab, they found stink bugs could endure temperatures below -4 degrees F.