September is stink bug season in western North Carolina. Specifically, it’s the time of year when it seems you can’t throw a brick without hitting a Brown Marmorated Stink bug.
Brown Marmorated Stink bugs are an agricultural pest native to China and Japan; a foreign eco-invader introduced to the Americas through the shipment of food products from Asia. And while they do enjoy laying waste to orchards and crops, they don’t seem to care for limiting themselves to farmland. In fact, they seem to be much more fond of infesting people’s houses.
If you live in an older, drafty home, or keep your windows open to take advantage of this lovely, early fall breeze, chances are you are playing host to an army of stink bugs. As infestations go, it’s not that bad. Stink bugs do not bite. They don’t get into your stored food, and they aren’t particularly destructive. They just kind of sit there—on the floor, the wall, the ceiling fan blades, the arms of the couch, the kitchen counter, the bathtub, and inside of your shoes, in an unassuming way. But if you step on them or disturb them, they are likely to emit a foul-smelling odor (hence the name). And even the stink part of the stinkbug isn’t that bad, as far as bad smells go. It’s pretty mild and dissipates quickly. But still annoying!
At this point in the blog post, you can probably tell that I am somewhat of a stink bug veteran. It’s true. They move into my home every fall, without fail. Armies of them. So I’ve learned a few tips and tricks for evicting them—all without the use of insecticide, which as you probably know, is extremely toxic to humans and pets, and not something I want to keep around the house.
Prevention is, of course, the best way to keep the stink bugs at bay, and there are ways to prevent them from getting into your house in the first place. However, I’ve found that, at least in my neighborhood, prevention doesn’t completely eliminate the problem. So you’ll need secondary procedures for those few errant stink bugs that still find a way to sneak in past all of your preventative barriers.
1. Seal up access points. If you keep windows open during the fall, make sure that all of your windows have screens and that the screens are without holes or tears large enough for a stink bug to slip through. Then go around your house with a tube of sealer and fill up any cracks and gaps around door frames, windows, exhaust fans, and plumbing pipes.
2. Use stink bug deterrents. A spray made from 16 oz of water and 10 drops of peppermint oil will repel these wily pests. Spray it around doors and windows, and anywhere you find a proliferation of stink bugs.
3. Try pheromone traps. These traps do not contain chemical insecticides, and are not harmful for people or pets. They work by attracting stink bugs with a synthetic version of their own naturally-occurring pheromones. Once the stink bug is trapped, it eventually dies of dehydration.
4. The vacuum is your friend. Probably the most effective method of fighting a stink-bug infestation in progress is just to vacuum up the stink bugs. You’ll probably find them on predictable places like the floor and walls, but don’t forget to target their other favorite hiding places: in the folds of drapes and curtains, behind furniture, and on the ceiling. You will have to do this frequently, though, as they seem to have some sort of magical repopulation properties. The other problem with vacuuming is that if you are using a bagless vacuum cleaner, it can make your vacuum stink. This is why I purchased a small, cheap, bag-style vacuum just for combatting stink bugs.
5. Use neem oil for eliminating stink bugs from your garden. If stink bugs have invaded your home, they’re most likely making themselves comfortable in your garden, as well, and snacking on your vegetables. For this, you can use a solution of neem oil and water. Neem oil is non-toxic to plants, but stink bugs hate it. In a spray bottle, combine two tablespoons of neem oil with a half cup of water. Spray the solution on your garden plants and the soil around them.
Good luck with your stink bug elimination efforts!