Stink Bug Control: How to Identify, Prevent and Get Rid of Stink Bugs

Stink bugs can be present indoors and outdoors. They can cause negative effects not only on plants, but also for humans. All over the world, there are more than 4,500 species of stink bugs. Although they may have different names, they share same characteristics, such as in terms of their physical appearance. As the name implies, they release an unpleasant odor, which is their defense mechanism. In gardens and even commercial plantations, they can cause significant plant damage. To manage their population and infestation, you need to be familiar about how to get rid of stink bugs.

Most of the adult stink bugs look almost the same as each other regardless of the species. The color can vary from inky black to lime green. They are excellent fliers and they have wings that they fold on the top of their body when they land. On average, they have a length of two centimeters, which is also their width. Their legs extend on their sides, which make them look bigger than their true size. They have two antennae, each with five segments.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

A Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Stink Bug’s Habitat

The adults lay their egg in clusters, which you can find on the underside of the leaves or stems of their host plants. Its nymph undergoes five instars and it takes about five weeks before they fully mature as an adult. Adult stink bugs overwinter under barks or leaf litter. As common agricultural pests, stink bugs often survive in orchards, gardens, and farms. They favor tropical climate, which allows them to reproduce throughout the year. They can also live on the sides of the house, and when they find holes, they take the opportunity to go indoors.

Identifying Stink Bug’s Damage

Plants Affected

Flowers, fruits, vegetables, and crops are some of the most common hosts of stink bugs. Different species may prefer a variety of plants. In general, however, some of their common hosts include soybeans, alfalfa, cotton, beans, mustard, raspberry, peach, apple, pear, hazelnut, grape, pepper, sweet corn, okra, hemp, and tomato, among others.

Symptoms

Watch out for the following signs, which will be indicative of the possible presence and infestation of stink bug:

  • A developing fruit is one of the most common targets for stink bugs. They use their sharp mouthparts to pierce the fruit. With this, they leave scars on the surface of the fruit, which becomes more noticeable as it matures. The fruit may look like a cat, which is also the reason why many people aptly call stink bugs as a cat-facing insect.
  • Aside from scars, there will also be dimples and distortion on the shape of the fruit. Using the mouthparts of the stink bugs, they take out juices from the plant. This affects their overall health. This could encourage rotting in some parts.
  • Plant stunting is another common symptom of their presence. Sucking the nutrients out of the host makes it impossible for the plant to survive since it is deprived of the nutrients it needs. This makes them grow shorter than the normal.

Results of Infestation

The feeding patterns of stink bugs make them cause cosmetic damage to their host plants, especially on the fruits. They take out the nutrients from the plant and inhibit the flow of water, which negatively affects the overall health of the host. In the case of massive infestation, this will make the crops unmarketable and will lead to a loss of profit. Economic loss is common for commercial growers who did not act immediately to remedy the situation when it was still far from the worst.

Stink Bugs Damage

Tomato Damaged by Stink Bugs

How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs

Natural and Organic Solutions

To prevent and eliminate stink bugs in a way that is safe but effective, the following are the best solutions that you might want to consider:

  • Among others, garden sanitation is perhaps one of the best. This is effective both as a preventive and elimination measure. Because they like to overwinter in leaf litter and wood bark, among others, be sure to keep the dirt away from the garden. This will remove any suitable habitat during the winter.
  • When it comes to the natural pesticides that can help in the control of stink bugs, one of the most popular is diatomaceous earth. It is a powder-like material that is derived from natural sedimentary rock. It breaks down the protective layer of the bugs exoskeleton, causing it to suffer from dehydration. Sprinkle it directly around the surface of the host plant and replenish after rain or after several days.
  • As an alternative to pesticides that contain toxic chemicals, you can use a home-made spray with natural ingredients that are readily available in the kitchen. One of the best is garlic spray. All that you have to do is to mix two cups of water with four teaspoons of garlic powder. Spray the solution directly on the leaves or stems of the host plants to keep the pesky pests away. Soap and water, as well as neem oil, will also be effective.
  • Physical removal will also work, especially if you find the stink bugs indoors. You can vacuum them out of the area where they are present. Be sure to throw them in a bucket of soapy water, which will kill the bugs. This will prevent them from going back to where they have been picked.
  • An electrocution system or a bug zapper will also help to get rid of stink bugs. They have a bright light, which is basically the one that is responsible for attracting not only bugs, but even other annoying insects.
  • You will also benefit from encouraging the presence of natural enemies of stink bugs in the garden. You can also purchase these predators from a commercial seller. Among others, one of the most effective is Trissolcus basalis, which is a parasitic wasp. It works by ingesting its eggs on the eggs of the stink bugs and eventually killing them. You can also attract beneficial insects, such as lacewing and lady beetles.

Chemical Solutions

As usual, chemical controls are not ideal for managing the infestation of stink bugs. They can do more harm than good, especially because they can be toxic to beneficial insects. If you will use chemicals, on the other hand, pay attention to the instructions from the manufacturer. Be sure to apply a liberal amount and to wear protective gear. Proper timing of the application of the chemicals will also be necessary for its effectiveness.

Some of the most common chemical and trade names that are often used for stink bugs include the following: lambda-cyhalothrin (Warrior II with Zeon), methomyl (Lannate SP), and beta-cyfluthrin (Baythroid XL).

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