Identify, Remove, and Control Stink Bugs

How to Identify and Control Stink Bugs

Named for its smelly-foot-like odor when crushed, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is relatively new to the U.S. This stinky bug has become a big problem in homes, especially, it seems, in North Carolina. The bug is believed to have been brought into the eastern U.S. from China, Japan, Korea, and/or Taiwan in the later 1990s.

Stink bugs are becoming more than just a nuisance pest in agricultural areas of the eastern U.S. Like squash bugs and boxelder bugs, they are not known to breed indoors, cause interior damage, or harm humans. But stink bugs can be a real nuisance and cause alarm when they appear on draperies, blinds, lights, or even buzzing around one’s head in the home. The bugs enter the home’s structure through cracks and gaps, then come into our living areas when they feel the warmth of the interior.


Use this guide to help identify the stink bug:

  • Color: Although the brown marmorated is the most common stink bug in the U.S., a green variety of stink bug can also be found in the Southeastern and South Central states.
  • Shape: Stink bugs are shaped like shields and are 1/2 to 3/4 inches long. Young stink bugs are similarly shaped, but are more rounded and may be black or light green.
  • Behavior: Similar to boxelder bugs, stink bugs will congregate on exterior building walls in the fall, seeking hidden areas in which to overwinter. They can also be a nuisance in the spring as they move further into the home and during summer when they feed on vegetation and crops.


In the home, stink bugs are little more than a nuisance pest to people because they do not sting or bite and they don’t cause structural damage to homes or buildings. They can cause significant damage to trees, shrubs, and vines, as well as tree fruits, blackberries, corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, soybeans, and other crops. Although they prefer wild plants, stink bugs will eat more than 50 different vegetation varieties.

The stink bug’s needle-like mouthpart pierces seeds to feed on their nutrients. The amount of damage to the plant is dependent on the developmental stage at which the bug fed. The stink bug can also transmit yeast-spot disease to plants while it feeds.


The stink bug’s odor repels many potential predators, but a number of common bird species prey on the insect for food. With so few natural predators, the stink bug can become quite obnoxious to humans.

Unfortunately, according to Rutgers University Extension Service, «there are no viable strategies for control of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. The use of insecticides has a very short-lived effect and there is evidence of resistance development. Even where insecticide is effective, repopulation occurs through migration from non-treated areas.»

For this reason, the best defense against the stink bug is a good offense:

Stink Bugs

General Information, Prevention, & Control

Latin Name

This article focuses on the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys).

What do stink bugs look like?

The immature bug, called a nymph, is yellow and red with red eyes. As it grows, the yellow lightens to off-white.

How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs?

Stink bugs have an uncanny ability to slip into homes through torn screens and door cracks thanks to their flat body shape. When the weather turns cold, these pests overwinter indoors in hopes of surviving until the spring.

The pests gravitate towards light and often gather on sunny exterior walls. At night, porch lights attract them to houses, where they use gaps in the siding to head towards warmth indoors.

How Serious Are Stink Bugs?

Stink bugs can damage ornamental plants, fruit trees, and gardens, but they are more of a nuisance than a threat to people. They do not cause structural damage or spread disease, but they do cause a few issues.

Glands between the legs of stink bugs emit an odor that gets much stronger when the pests are smashed. They frequently die in light fixtures, filling rooms with a bad smell and forcing homeowners into frequently clean-up. They also fly around rooms and crawl on walls and ceilings in large numbers.

How Can I Get Rid of Stink Bugs?

The Orkin Man™ is trained to help manage stink bugs and other pests. Since every yard or home is different, the Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

For homes and businesses, stink bug treatments generally focus on two species that are very bothersome: the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) and the kudzu bug. Both of these insects create troubles for home and business owners when the pests fly to structures looking for overwintering sites. Therefore, pest management professionals focus on treatment methods that will control the bugs or help prevent them from getting inside.

Exterior Treatments

  • In most situations, the best treatment for stink bugs is preventing them from getting inside to their overwintering sites. Your Orkin technician will probably recommend sealing all cracks that are more than 1/8 inch wide, screening or repairing existing screens over roof vents, gable vents, windows and doors and installing door sweeps.
  • Chemical products can be applied around possible stink bug entry points. Based on your inspection, initial application and reapplications of products may be required to treat other stink bugs that fly to the property and attempt to get inside.
See also:  How Many Species Of Ants Are There

Signs of a Stink Bug Infestation

  • Large numbers — Homeowners often first detect stink bugs by their mass invasions in the fall.
  • Sunny walls — They turn up on sunny sides of homes where they warm themselves.
  • Crops — Growers often detect them by the damage they cause to their crops.

What Do They Eat?

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Blackberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Soybeans
  • Lima beans
  • Green peppers

Where do they live?

  • Inside homes — Besides being an agricultural pest, the brown marmorated stink bug is often a pest in homes. In late summer, the adult bugs gather on homes. The bugs are seeking sheltered places to spend the winter.
  • In walls — They spend the winter hiding inside the walls or in the attic or crawl space. When spring comes, the stink bugs become active. As they begin to move around, some of them emerge into the living space.


Females typically lay 20 to 30 eggs which she secures on the underside of the host plant in the summer. Eggs hatch four to five days later and the nymphs will begin to feed. They undergo a series of molts until they become adults by fall. More info on the stink bug life cycle

More Information

The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is native to Asia. It has been an agricultural pest in China, Japan and Korea.

It was first collected in the United States in 1998. It is now found in many parts of the country from Maine to Mississippi and from Oregon to Florida.

Stink Bugs Guide

learn how to prevent, control and exterminate stink bugs

What Are Stink Bugs?

Pentatomoidea, commonly known as stink bugs or shield bugs, is referred to a super family of insects belonging to the Heteroptera suborder. In this suborder, the insects share common characteristics such as piercing mouthparts as well as a particular kind of wings, which are toughened at the base and membranous at the tips.

The scientific name of stink bugs, Pentatomoidea, has been derived from the fact that they have an antenna which is divided into five segments. Stink bugs have broad bodies that are either in triangular or semi-elliptical shape. Their bodies serve the purpose of defensive shield against predators; this is why they are sometimes referred to as «shield bugs».

Stink bugs excrete offensive smelling liquid from their thorax glands that are placed in between the first and second pair of legs. When they are molested or attacked by predators, they produce this liquid defensively in order to put off potential threat to their lives. Usually, they are not considered to be pests for they do not render significant loss to plants; however, when they make a larger group, they may become considerable pests.

It is worth mentioning here that all stink bugs have sucking mouthparts and broad bodies, but still there are variations in their body colorings. On account of this distinction they are further divided into fifteen different species. Among them brown stink bugs and green stink bugs are the most famous types.

Brown Stink Bugs

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, scientifically known as Halyomorpha halys, are insects in Pentatomoidea family found in Asian counties like China and Japan. The size of adult brown stink bugs varies from individual to individual ranging from 1.5 cm long to 2 cm. When they are nymphs, they are red in color that becomes black and ultimately brown as soon as they become adults. Although their underside remains white even after reaching adulthood, it is their brown legs with faint white banding that make them distinct from other similar bugs.

The brown marmorated stink bugs are regarded as agricultural pests for they render widespread harm to fruits and vegetable crops. Their major hosts include maple, birch, serviceberry, catalpa, butterfly bush, pecan, redbud, hackberry, pepper, dogwood, citrus, cucumber, tomato, sunflower, apple, pear, plum, and grape. Brown stink bugs use their proboscis to suck the host plants and resultantly they not only create necrotic areas on the surface of fruits but also even cause seed loss and transfer of plant pathogens.

Another distinct characteristic of brown bugs is that they go into the state of hibernation in winter seasons and invade homes or structures where temperature does not fall critically. Their hideouts include under siding, windows and door frames. However, in spring they remain active in feeding on plants and vegetables.

Green Stink Bugs

The green stink bugs, scientifically known as Acrosternum hilare, are the species of stink bugs that belong to Pentatomoidea family. Since it originates from Asian countries particularly Japan and China, they are also called as «Asian Stink Bugs». It is similar to Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in terms of certain characteristics like stink glands, broad bodies and sucking trait. Both green and brown stink bugs are pest species targeting mostly the southern parts of the USA.

However, the difference between green and brown stink bugs is the color variation. As the name itself implies, the green stink bug has bright green color. Their adult bugs have also an orange line that separates their heads from bodies. On the other hand, the nymphs are generally black in color with underdeveloped wings; on reaching adulthood, they also turn green and get defensive shield on their broad bodies.

As far as their host plants are concerned, these include mainly orange trees, cherry trees, soybean, and apple trees. They cause significant damage to gardens and farms for they mostly remain unnoticed by the farmers on account of their green color. Furthermore, they use green plant not only as a food but also as a safe haven during their breeding period. Here they lay eggs on host plants in an excessive number and increase their race.

Look-Alike Insects

Below are some of the more common insects that are often mistaken for BMSB.

Distinguishing characteristics of brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB)

Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). Photo by Steve Schoof.

Euschistus spp.

The genus Euschistus includes several species of stink bugs that are similar in appearance and biology to H. halys. They are all brownish in color, and have a wide host range that includes field crops, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Some of the more common include:

Brown stink bug (Euschistus servus) occurs throughout much of North America, but is most abundant in southeastern United States. Its shoulders are more pointed as opposed to rounded, and its bands on the antennae are yellowish and less apparent. Photo by Mike Quinn,

Dusky stink bug (Euschistus tristigmus) also occurs throughout much of eastern North America, but is generally less abundant than either E. servus or E. variolarius. Sides of pronotum (shoulders) are sharply pointed, without orange tip. Photo by Mike Quinn,

Onespotted stink bug (Euschistus variolarius) occurs throughout eastern North America and the Pacific Northwest, and in Canada from Quebec west to British Columbia. Pronotum (shoulder) is sharply pointed on the sides and often orange tipped. Males have a dark spot on the underside of the abdomen. Photo by roar,

Consperse stink bug (Euschistus conspersus) is common in the western United States and British Columbia, Canada. A gray brown to green body with yellow to orange legs, and the antennae have darkened tips. Photo by J. Moore.

Photos by Brent Short, USDA ARS AFRS.

Spined Soldier Bug

The spined soldier bug (Podisus maculiventris) is a common predatory stink bug that occurs throughout North America. Sides of pronotum pointed. The first segment of the proboscis (nose-like extension from the bug’s head) is shorter and thicker on the spined soldier bug versus BMSB. Antennae are often reddish.

Photos by Brent Short, USDA ARS AFRS.

Rough stink bug (Brochymena quadripustulata). Photo by Mike Quinn,

Rough Stink Bug

Stink bugs in the genus Brochymena are commonly referred to as rough stink bugs, and are known to feed on both plants and other insects. Two of the more common species are B. quadripustulata and affinis. These species are relatively uniform brownish gray in color, and have a roughened, somewhat flattened appearance. The rough stink bug differs from the BMSB by the presence of a “tooth” on each side of the face and a row of spines on the shoulder area.

Photos by Brent Short, USDA ARS AFRS.

Other Insects Sometimes Confused with BMSB

Squash Bug (Anasa tristis). Photo: Stan Gilliam, CC license.
Western Conifer-Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis). Photo: Kenneth Frank, CC license.
Leaffooted Bug (Leptoglossus phyllopus). Photo: Iustin Cret, CC license.
Boxelder Bug (Boisea trivittata). Photo: Graham Montgomery.

Additional Resources

Field Guide to Stink Bugs (PDF): This full-color guide provides identification information for stink bugs of agricultural importance in the upper southern region and mid-Atlantic states. Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension.

How to get rid of stink bugs

Cornell University entomologist Peter Jentsch holds a brown marmorated stink bug at the Hudson Valley Research Laboratory in Highland. Jentsch and other entomologists are studying and monitoring the invasive insect because it poses a serious threat to area state orchard crops. (Photo: file TJN)

INDIANAPOLIS — Just like most of the rest of us these days, stink bugs are waking up from a long, nasty winter — perhaps in your attic or behind walls near the top of your house — and beginning to move around.

If you live in a drafty old house, you’re probably seeing them everywhere, now that sunlight is brighter, stronger and warmer.

From a homeowner’s perspective, stink bugs «are active in March and April and very active in September when they’re trying to get into your house,» says Cornell University entomologist Peter Jentsch, the resident Hudson Valley expert on all things stink bug.

The good news is that now that they’re awake and active again, they’re looking for a way to get back outside. «They will find their way out or die,» says Jentsch, who is based at the Hudson Valley Research Laboratory in Highland.

«The majority of the population lives in the tree canopy year-round, or in the fall they head for man-made sites like commercial buildings or your house,» he says.

Once they find their way in, in the fall, stink bugs tend to head toward the attic. They may settle in stacks of newspapers or piles of clothes.

Stink bugs are a nuisance indoors, but otherwise harmless to humans, Jentsch emphasizes. «They eat nothing, they don’t bite, they’re just trying to survive.»

According to North Dakota State University, there are 4,700 species of stink bugs in the world, with about 250 in the U.S. and Canada. Our pest is known as the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). It gets its name from the brown marbling pattern on its back.

To identify them, look for striping on its antennae, a striped pattern along the abdomen and smooth shoulders. It has a five-sided, shield-shaped body and is about 3/4 of an inch long.

Why are they stinky?

When squashed, frightened or disturbed, stink bugs secrete a foul-smelling, bad-tasting substance.

Be careful about vacuuming them up in a household vacuum cleaner because the strong odor will remain. Use a shop vac, and take it outside right away, if you go that route.

How did they get here?

Native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, brown marmorated stink bugs have been in the Hudson Valley since 2007. In the United States, they were first documented in Allentown, Pa., in the mid-1990s. They probably hitched a ride in shipping containers, just like the Asian longhorn beetle that has killed millions of trees nationwide. Stink bugs are now in more than 30 states.

What do they eat?

Stink bugs are a serious pest, feeding on a long list of host plants, including fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and legumes. They also feed on weeds and tree leaves, and are comparatively impervious to insecticides.

To feed, the bug punctures agricultural products with a straw-like appendage and withdraws sap containing water, protein and carbohydrates.

In agriculture, stink bugs have been more of a problem in Mid-Atlantic states like Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The U.S. Apple Association estimated that stink bugs caused $37 million in damage to apple growers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia in 2010.

They have also been a real headache for home gardeners in these states.

If you have an indoor problem with stink bugs, it may because of the types of trees surrounding your house. They tend to like to eat the foliage and seeds of black locust, maple, ash, Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven) and catalpa trees.

How do I kill them?

For homeowners, Jentsch suggests a simple, nontoxic brew of soapy water (1% to 2% soap to water) in a household spray bottle. «That will probably work as well as anything.»

«This time of year, if you blow at them the wrong way they’ll die,» he says, partly in jest, explaining that they haven’t eaten anything in six months.

In the field, «the insecticides that tend to work are the older chemistries,» Jentsch says. In agricultural settings in the Hudson Valley, an effective way to control them has been with trap and kill stations, using pheromone traps as a lure. That way, farmers and orchard growers don’t need to spray insecticides on the crops as frequently.

How do I keep them out of my house?

Prevention in the fall is key. «Once established in your house, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them,» Jentsch says.

Seal all cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys and underneath the wood fascia and other openings with high quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk.

Remove wall and window air conditioners; weather stripping around doors and windows may help. Repair broken screens and windows.

«You have to think like an insect,» Jentsch says.

Stink Bug Prevention: 10 Tips to Keep This Smelly Pest at Bay

We know that fall has arrived when the leaves begin to change, the air becomes crisp and the smell of pumpkin pie fills the house. But, another not-so-favorable sign that the cooler months are upon us is the arrival of stink bugs.

Notorious for their «smelly» reputation, stink bugs frequently enter homes during the cooler months in search of a warm place to overwinter. While stink bugs do not pose a health or property risk to homeowners, this pest can quickly become an odoriferous nuisance around the home.

Like other pests, including ants and termites, stink bugs often enter structures in larger numbers, making stink bugs difficult pests to control once inside. As a result, homeowners are often looking for simple ways to ward off these invaders before an infestation develops.

Best Advice for Stink Bug Control

As the temperatures continue to drop and people begin preparing for the winter months, consider pest proofing the home, both inside and out, to prevent stink bugs and other pests from becoming unwelcome houseguests this fall. For those wondering how to get rid of stink bugs, here are 10 simple steps that homeowners can take right now to keep this smelly pest at bay:

1. Seal off entry points.

For proper stink bug control, spend some time inspecting the outside of your home for easy access points. Pay close attention to areas including around siding and utility pipes, behind chimneys, and underneath the wood fascia or other openings. Seal any cracks and holes that are found using a good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk.

2. Replace and repair.

Stink bugs can enter the home through the smallest openings, so it’s important to repair or replace damaged screens on windows or doors. Don’t forget to check for torn weather-stripping and loose mortar. You can also install door sweeps if necessary.

3. Turn off the lights.

Stink bugs are attracted to lights, so it’s recommended to keep outdoor lighting to a minimum. During the evenings, turn off porch lights and pull down window blinds to prevent light from spilling outside.

4. Reduce moisture sites.

Eliminating all moisture build up around your home can go a long way to help prevent many pest infestations. Check for leaking pipes and clogged drains.

5. Eliminate food sources.

Another method for how to get rid of stink bugs is to remove their access of food. Store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles. Also, make sure you wipe down counters and sweep floors to eliminate crumbs and residue from spills.

6. Ventilate.

Properly ventilate basements, attics, garages and crawl spaces to eliminate harborage points. Consider using a dehumidifier in these areas. Also, make sure to install screens over your chimney and attic vents.

7. Check your belongings.

Inspect items such as boxes containing holiday decorations and grocery bags before bringing them indoors. Stink bugs can travel on these items and make themselves cozy once inside the home.

8. Properly landscape.

Keep branches and shrubbery well trimmed. In addition, make sure to store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and five inches off the ground.

9. Think before squishing.

When many people find a stink bug, their first instinct is to squish them. However, when disturbed or crushed, stink bugs have a tendency to release a bad-smelling, bad-tasting odor from pores on the sides of their bodies. This is how the pest earned its name.

10. Use a vacuum.

How do you get rid of stink bugs once they have already entered your home? Use a vacuum cleaner for their removal. Dispose of the vacuum bag immediately to prevent odor from permeating the area, as dead stink bugs leave a residue inside the bag that can stink up your home.

Having trouble keeping stink bugs out of the house?

Remember that homes can be pre-treated for stink bugs before they become a problem. But, if you suspect an infestation has already developed, contact a licensed pest professional to assess the severity problem and evaluate the best course of stink bug control.

To learn more about where stink bugs came from, click here.

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Copyright ©2020 National Pest Management Association

Copyright ©2020
National Pest Management Association

  • Simone Chèrie says:

    In the fall they appear like clockwork and by winter (like literally mid December) they disappear like clockwork as well. They don’t seem to harm anything, or roam much — in fact had I not approved my window idk how long it would’ve taken me to discover them. They are loud and unacceptable, I don’t notice any smells when I crus them so I did, often. However I’ve moved to repair all my entry spots this year — all windows and doors repaired/replaced, and where that couldn’t be done I’m using wintering tape. Wish me luck.

  • Donovan says:

    The excessive spraying will not work at all. Any sort of bug spray is made to eliminate and prevent insects that groom and touch their mouth and face. Stink bugs, unlike many other insects like flies, do not groom their face and mouth after walking on any surface. While spraying around and in your house will eliminate and prevent all grooming insects, it will not even slow down the amount of stink bugs that get into your home.

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