‘Dem Stinkin’ Bugs

With Thursday marking the first day of autumn, Mother Nature has began sending messages to all of her charges that, once again, it is time to prepare for Winter; Tree leaves are beginning to change color, flocks of geese are beginning to head south, and millions of stink bugs are attempting to invade your home to avoid the increasingly colder temperatures.

Everyone has them these days; Stink bugs and stink bug stories that is. The smelly, ugly and annoying pests, formally known as the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), are massing around doors and windows in Clarke County because, well, that’s what stink bugs do in the fall.

“When the weather turns cool each fall, the bugs look for wintering sites and make their way into houses and buildings,” according to USDA Entomologist Jeffrey Aldrich. “They don’t harm humans, but if they’re squashed or pulled into a vacuum cleaner, they emit an unpleasant odor.”

“Emit an unpleasant odor”?! Really? How about “They STINK!”

As many Clarke County residents this week will attest, BMSB’s have suddenly become a huge nuisance both indoors and out. The bugs have begun to collect against the outside of houses over the past few warm fall days in search of protected, over-wintering sites. And, as if this autumnal appearance isn’t enough, BMSB’s occasionally reappear during warm, sunny periods throughout the winter before re-emerging in spring.

Stink bugs mass by the thousands looking for places to spend the Winter - Photo Edward Leonard

BMSB’s were accidentally introduced into eastern Pennsylvania sometime in the 1990’s. It was first collected in September, 1998 in Allentown. By 2010, Halyomorpha halys had recorded in California, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and of course, Clarke County, Virginia.

And their range and destruction is continuing to spread.

“Crops that can be particularly hard hit include tree fruit, peppers, tomatoes, and sweet corn” according to Tom Kuhar, Virginia Tech Entomologist. “Nymphs of this exotic pest were feeding on yellow squash in our research plots in Painter, Virginia. As far as I know, this is the first documented occurrence of BMSB on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.”

So far the major problem caused by BMSB’s is home infestation and personal irritation to people. The big, slow-flying bugs are just plain creepy. As the nights in Clarke County have become cooler the bugs have begun to mass by the thousands in search of a cozy place to spend the Winter.

Ask just about anyone these days and it seems that you’ll get a stink bug story.

One Clarke County family returned home this week after several days away only to notice that a screen-less window had been left slightly open. Upon entering the home they found the walls literally covered with stink bugs. The home’s owner reported spending several hours with a Shop-Vac attempting to remove the smelly pests.

Stink bugs in home near Senseny Road in Berryville, Virginia - Photo Michael Leonard

Another area resident has resorted to flicking the BMSB’s into a jar filled with water and bleach as an effective method for collecting bugs that have gotten into her house. The bleach solution is used not so much to kill the bugs but, rather, to mask the horrendous odor that the BMSB releases whenever it is the slightest bit agitated.

But there must be something (please, ANYTHING) that can be done to deal with the bugs, right?

Well, truth be told, not so much.

For many American’s, the first reaction to the sight of a bug indoors is to reach for a pesticide. The most popular professional product for BMSB control is Talstar Pro. However, a quick trip to the Berryville Feed Supply Store on Thursday afternoon revealed that the local supply of Talstar is selling so quickly that customers are being asked to purchase the product in advance of shipments arriving at the store.

Berryville’s Talstar shortage may have a silver lining. Many experts say that it is not advisable to use an insecticide inside after the BMSB’s have gained access to the wall voids or attic areas of a home. Although applying insecticides to voids and crevices may kill hundreds of bugs, there is the possibility that carpet beetles will feed on the dead BMSB’s and later attack woolens, stored dry goods or other natural products in the home. Additionally, insecticides sprayed into cracks and crevices will not prevent the bugs from emerging.

The real key to dealing with BMSB’s is “exclusion” more than “extermination”. If tons of bugs are entering your home, the most effective solution is to locate the openings where the insects are gaining access. Often, stink bugs emerge from cracks behind baseboards, around windows and door trim, or from around exhaust fans or ceiling lights. Sealing the access points with caulk will prevent the bugs from crawling out and into your living space.

Once your living space is invaded, both live and dead BMSB’s bugs can be removed with a vacuum cleaner – however beware – the vacuum cleaner, as well as the air from its exhaust, will smell of stink bug stink for a period of time.

Stink bugs collect around doors and windows - Photo Edward Leonard

One last tip that may be the cruelest blow of all; Stink bugs are attracted to light. That means that nighttime lighting, both inside and outside, makes your home look warm and inviting to both you and every stink bug in your neighborhood. But if installing WWII-style blackout shutters feels like it may be going just a little too far, pulling your shades and turning off outside lights will help.

But, as we all know, all of this stinks anyway.


  1. Allan "Bugs" McWilliams says:

    Another cheap import from China

  2. Sandra Stickovitch says:

    Oh they’re awful! I would love to find some sort of an organic deterrent that we might be able to spray on and around our home. If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to post ’cause they are driving me bonkers!

  3. I have vacuumed about 200 in the last two days. As soon as I “Cleaned” one room, and went into the bathroom and was done there, They were back in the other room as if I never touched it! The outside of our house on Thursday was covered with them. They also hide behind pictures or artwork on the wall. I removed a painting on the wall and about 50 were on the back. INSANE to say the least!!!Check all wall hung photos and artwork.

  4. This is starting to sound like a horror movie. Think Wes Craven would like to come to town?

  5. River Watcher says:

    Greeting stink bug haters!

    I HAD thousands on my house for the past week. These bugs are disgusting creepy lil stinkers..

    I heard about Dawn dish liquid, so I gave it a try. It WORKS!

    I used Dawn advanced power mixed 1 1/2 cups in my 2 gallon garden sprayer. It needs to be strong to work!!

    They need to be soaked not just misted or it will not work. Start from the bottom and go up knowing that they have an instinct to drop. They will attack you, I was running and spraying.
    When I looked up into my patio umbrella my hair stood on end, HOLY! A few hundred it was nasty, anyway open your umbrellas. lol

    Also these nasty creatures come in waves so it may seem endless, Im figuring on spraying everyday for a week. I want to be able to open my windows!

    So all said and done you will create a huge mess with the dawn but when ya see them dead all over the place, you will over look the soap dripping down your windows…

    Today I have about hundred not thousands!

    Good luck everyone.

  6. To catch bugs in your house and avoid the stink, build something like this:


    The funnel is about 3″ tall and about 1″ wide at the top. A layer of duct tape around the base of the funnel lets it fit snug in the mouth of the bottle. The funnel fits about an inch into the bottle and is made of paper (card stock works better). Make sure the funnel is steep so that the bugs bounce off the sides of the funnel when they try to fly after you scoop them.

    Put about 1″ of bleach/pine sol/rubbing alcohol/etc in the bottle. This both kills the bugs and masks their odor. Pine sol is a good choice as it kills the bugs quickly and its strong smell covers the stink bug musk well. Remember to remove the funnel and put on the bottle’s top on when its not in use so pets and kids don’t get into the chemicals.

    Also, spraying the bugs with rubbing alcohol kills them fairly quickly. Make sure to get it on their undersides. The higher the alcohol percentage the better.

  7. Sandra Stickovitch says:

    Thanks for the posts and ideas everyone. I know there are a lot of us that want to put a stop to these horrid little creatures. It’s been fun reading your posts. I laughed at River Watcher’s: running and spraying! You have to laugh at this otherwise we’d all go a little bonkers with this infestation.

    I am off to the store to get some Dawn and cover the house-wish me luck!

  8. Talstar Works says:

    Picked up a bottle of Talstar from the Berryville feed store (had to preorder it the night before), mixed 1 oz Talstar per gallon of of water and used a pump sprayer to spray all over the outside of the house, the doors and windows. That was this morning. Where there were hundreds (if not thousands) of stink bugs, there are now probably 10.

    I guess Talstar works!

  9. River Watcher says:

    TALSTAR® PROFESSIONAL INSECTICIDE (82657-04-3-149) Date: 01/16/2008

    ï‚· Highly toxic to fish and aquatic organisms. Keep out of drains and water courses.
    POTENTIAL HEALTH EFFECTS: Effects from overexposure may result from either swallowing, inhaling or coming into contact with the skin or eyes. Symptoms of overexposure include bleeding from the nose, tremors and convulsions. Contact with bifenthrin may occasionally produce skin sensations such as rashes, numbing, burning or tingling. These skin sensations are reversible and usually subside within 12 hours.

    PLEASE dont use this product! Its expensive and harmful to us our pets and any other living creature in its way. Lets not forget most of us our on a well!
    PLEASE please dont use TALSTAR!!!

    The Dawn really works at 3 pm yesterday there was maybe 20, Im not kidding I had thousands!
    Plus it smells good and after a good rinse my windows are sparkling..

  10. River Watcher says:


    EC Risk Phrases: R25 (Toxic if swallowed.)
    R20 (Harmful by inhalation.)
    R43 (May cause sensitization by skin contact.)
    R50/53 (Very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.)
    EC Safety Phrases: S1/2 (Keep locked up and out of reach of children.)
    S23 (Do not breathe gas, fumes, vapor, or spray)
    S24 (Avoid contact with skin.)
    S37 (Wear suitable gloves.)
    S38 (In case of insufficient ventilation, wear suitable respiratory equipment.)
    S45 (In case of accident or if you feel unwell, seek medical advice immediately – show the label where possible.)
    S29 (Do not empty into drains.)

    This stuff is bad news! Please do not use this poison..

    • This is exactly why we won’t use anything like that! I don’t want that stuff near my child or our animals (indoor and outdoor)…guess we’re stuck using Dawn and garlic oil. 🙂

  11. this needs to be bookmarked at the top of the home page – permanently!! All of your comments and the article are so necessary and needed. Thank you, everyone!

  12. Hmmm, if you dont want Talstar used, why not write a story saying the school board has approved its use for the new school. I guarantee you that before you know it, there will be a petition, outrage, TV crews and a court order. Or, we can just use it anyway, since it gets rid of those pesky bugs and thats what is most important, right, only what happens in our back yards