What to Know About Stink Bugs

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 20, 2022
5 min read

Stink bugs are invasive, six-legged insects. They are almost two centimeters long with a shield-like shape, and a grayish speckled coating. As the name suggests, these insects will produce a stinky odor when you crush them. Other than the unpleasant smell, stink bugs are only dangerous to certain plants.

Stink bugs can be classified into two broad categories: 

  1. Herbivorous stink bugs. Most stink bugs feed on plants for survival. Herbivore stink bugs can injure and suck a plant’s juices using their mouthparts.
  2. Predatory stink bugs. There are several predatory stink bugs that thrive by feeding on other bugs. For instance, the spined soldier bug drains fluid from other bugs.

Stink bugs don’t bite, and therefore, they are not typically dangerous to humans.

Although harmless, these bugs can be a nuisance. Stink bugs thrive in warm temperatures and will mostly invade your house during the winter.  If you find these bugs inside your house, try not to squash them. Stink bugs produce an unpleasant smell. Try to vacuum or pick them by hand and then dispose of them.

Originally, the brown marmorated stink bugs are from East Asia. The insects have become more common in the United States. It’s assumed that these invasive insects got to the United States through shipping.

During the nymph stage, brown marmorated stink bugs have a characteristic dark head with an orange and red abdomen with black stripes. Later on, when they become adults, the bugs turn brown-gray. You may also identify them by their legs, spines, and antennae, which have white bands and a white underside. Their spines are in front of their red eyes and on their shoulder edges.

Brown marmorated stink bugs mostly prefer to feed on crops such as: 

  1. Tree fruits like peaches, hazelnuts, and apples.
  2. Garden vegetables like tomatoes.
  3. Raw crops like soybeans, corn, and beans

When brown marmorated stink bugs feed on produce, they may discolor or leave spots on them. Damaged produce is rendered unsuitable for the global market.

If you suspect your crops are under attack, consider checking under the plant leaves for eggs. The brown marmorated stink bug eggs are light blue or light green in color and about 1 millimeter in diameter. 

Like many other pests, brown marmorated stink bugs cause million-dollar losses in the agricultural industry. These pests have also interfered with pesticide regulation programs which have led to increased use of broad-spectrum pesticides that negatively affect the environment.

Brown marmorated stink bugs might invade your house in large clusters. This is because they release pheromones (chemicals) that attract other bugs when they find a good place to reproduce. These pheromones do not produce a bad odor, they are only responsible for attracting other stink bugs. 

Despite being a nuisance to homeowners, brown marmorated stink bugs do not cause any structural damage to the house.

Other common types of stink bugs include:

Green stink bug. During their early stage of development, green stink bugs have a green and orange look. As they develop into full-grown adults, their bodies turn green and antennae black. Green stink bugs can grow up to two centimeters long. You might find these types of bugs feeding on soybeans.

Brown stink bug. In a brown stink bug’s nymph stage, they are light brown. As they develop, they turn yellow-brown. Adult stink bugs do not have an abdominal spine. This causes them to have round-shaped shoulders. Brown stink bugs are only half an inch long and mostly feed on young corn. 

Red-shouldered stink bug. The red-shouldered stink bug has a pink striped triangular-shaped back. Also, adults are green and do not have a spine.    

Spined soldier bug. The spined soldier bug is the most distinct of all stink bugs. It is a predatory bug. During its first stage of growth, it has a dark red body that later develops white strips on the abdomen. It has a distinct abdominal spine between its legs. 

Rough stink bug. They are also known as arboreal stink bugs or tree stink bugs. These pests are dark-brown and are larger compared to other types of stink bugs. Their hard exoskeleton helps them to camouflage on trees.

Kudzu bug. The kudzu bug is also a common bug closely related to stink bugs. While most stink bugs feed on seeds and pods, the kudzu bug often feeds on the stem and leaf stalks. This makes it as destructive as other herbivorous stink bugs.

Here’s what you can do to get rid of stink bugs: 

  1. Seal cracks. Stink bugs reproduce during winter. Before this period, consider sealing any potential entry points into your house. These entry points can be on windows, doors, pipes, or unsealed foundations. Consider using silicone to seal any cracks and lock the stink bugs out.  
  2. Use a vacuum cleaner. To avoid the stinky odor from the bugs, consider vacuuming them. Seal the trash bag properly and dispose of it in a trash can. 
  3. Hire an exterminator. Consider hiring a professional exterminator to fumigate your house. In most cases, pesticides may be useless in managing stink bugs inside the house. A skilled exterminator might help you find the best way to effectively get rid of stink bugs using pesticides. Also, applying pesticides outdoors might prove helpful.   
  4. Unsettle them. Stink bugs will mostly hang around in the high points of your house such as ceilings, or high windows. If you notice them, try to unsettle them as soon as possible before they set up camp and invite more friends. Most stink bugs drop to the floor when unsettled, making it easier for you to sweep them off the ground. 
  5. Biological control. Stink bugs have few natural enemies, mostly because the smell repels predators. The samurai wasp is a widely known stink bug predator that might help to reduce the high number of bugs. Biological pest control methods are considered a safer alternative to pesticides.
  6. Set traps. Stink bugs are naturally attracted to light and reflective surfaces. Consider making a simple working home light trap to catch and kill the insects.