Brown marmorated stink bug
They were supposed to be gone by now.
But, like an unwanted house guests, the stink bugs that invaded Fauquier homes last fall just won’t go away. Experts on the little stinkers say adults hide out in “protected places” like houses while it is cold, although they don’t “lay eggs or multiply” inside.
They’re supposed to leave in the spring. The only problem is, some of the local pests can’t seem to find an exit.
Timothy Mize, a unit coordinator with the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Fauquier office, still has some in his house, and said they are simply “trapped.”
“Stink bugs are very good at finding their way in, but not so good at finding the way out,” Mize said.
By now, those that escaped have likely found a place to eat, mate and lay eggs. Some of their favorite “host plants” include flowering trees like peaches, redbud and Paulowina.
According to the VCE, stink bugs are sap suckers that like to feast on buds and seed pods. Since they were accidentally introduced in the United States 15 years ago, their voracious appetite has damaged tomato, pepper, bean, okra, pecan and fruit crops.
In Virginia, where the brown marmorated stink bug was first spotted in 2004, they have caused the most damage to apple and peach trees.
In fact, the stink bug damage has been so extensive in some areas that Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, has held a town hall meeting on the subject.
He has also co-sponsored new laws that “direct the four research agencies of the USDA to identify and develop effective stink bug control methods.”
“I have seen first-hand the damage that stink bugs are causing to local fruit and vegetable growers and we have to do something to mitigate economic damage caused by these pests,” Wolf said.
The damage includes discoloration, sunken areas or the appearance of pimple or wart-like growths on some fruits or vegetables. Evidence of stink bug infestations on plants is typically visible in late July and August.
The VCE has a list of insecticides that have proven to be somewhat effective in combating stink bugs, and recommends spot-spraying plants “when and where” the stink bugs are causing damage.
Since different plants can tolerate different insecticides, the VCE reminded growers to research and use the appropriate type, however.
The organization also recommends sealing any exterior cracks around houses to prevent stink bugs from getting back inside in the fall.
According to information on its website, “caulk can be used to seal many cracks, but attic and foundation vents, and weep holes will wire mesh or screening.”
The critters — which earned their name because of the stench they emit when they are hurt or threatened — like to hang out on the south or west side of buildings.
As a result, the VCE recommends spot treatments with “microencapsulated or wettable powder insecticides” on those areas in the early fall. Specifically, the organization suggests applying the insecticide around windows, doors and attic vents on south and west-facing walls.
All applications must be “carefully timed,” the VCE stresses.
“Applying too early will allow the insecticide to degrade before the stink bugs begin to come in. Applying after the stink bugs have arrived will allow many stink bugs to still enter the interior of the buildings.”
Once they do get in, a vacuum cleaner is the best way to get rid of them, experts say. For those who’ve still got a house full of the pests, that’s still the case, Mize said.
“You should see less and less of them as you vacuum them out,” he said.