Do Stink Bugs Really Stink?

Author: Mosquito Squad of Greater Washington DC

When the temperatures drop, people love to snuggle up inside with a warm blanket by a blazing fire. Unfortunately, insects like stink bugs are also interested in escaping the cold – often in your cozy, inviting house! That means homeowners should especially vigilant in fall and winter to keep the pesky critters out of your residence.

The first step to keeping stink bugs at bay is understanding how they operate. There’s a lot that people don’t know about these unwanted houseguests, so we get a lot of questions about them, including “do stink bugs really stink?” and “how can I get rid of brown marmorated stink bugs in my home?”

So, here are the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about stink bugs.

What do stink bugs look like?

The stink bugs most commonly found in this area are the brown marmorated stink bug. They are invasive species. These bugs are typically 5/8” long, and their bodies are shield-shaped. Their backs are dark brown, mottled with spots.

Why are they called stink bugs?

Not surprisingly, they get their name from the odor they emit when they are threatened. This odor, which comes out through glands in the insect’s abdomen, can ward off birds, lizards, and other predators. The release of odor can be triggered by something as minor as handling the bug.

Do stink bugs really stink?

If you’ve ever crushed a stink bug before, you know that the odor they emit is definitely unpleasant. Since it’s a defense mechanism, this odor needs to be strong and very unpleasant.

What do stink bugs smell like?

People describe a stink bug’s odor in many different ways, but a common comparison is cilantro or coriander. It turns out that the odor actually contains chemicals that are commonly used as food additives, and can be found in cilantro.

Do stink bugs bite?

Luckily, stink bugs do not bite, which means they don’t spread diseases to humans and they won’t cause any serious harm to you or your family. They won’t even cause structural damage to your home. The real threat of a stink bug is its ability to spread plant pathogens, which is dangerous for fruit farms across the U.S.

How did they get into my house?

As we mentioned, stink bugs want to escape the cold in the winter, so they try to find any way they can to get inside. Their ideal entry points are small cracks or openings around windows, doors, vents, and chimneys. Once inside, they will remain active because they like the warm temperatures.

How can I keep them out of my home?

Keeping stink bugs out requires securing your perimeter. Start by sealing access points:

  • Check your doors, windows, appliances, and pipe fixtures for cracks or breaks in their seal, and re-caulk them
  • Repair any window or door screens with damage
  • Install weather strips around windows or doors where there are gaps
  • Secure crawlspace entries
  • If you have a fireplace, cap the top of the chimney
  • Check your roof, walls, and siding for any structural gaps or damage that may let insects inside
  • Check for cracks and holes in the attic — most stink bugs that get inside will enter the rest of your home from there

You can also take these additional steps to prevent stink bugs from finding their way into your home.

  • Search for egg masses in your garden and destroy them
  • Clean up any debris and edible vegetation near your home’s foundations
  • Consider strategic use of stink bug traps in the attic and basement, or outside near doors, windows, or other likely points of entry
  • Contact DC Mosquito Squad for professional stink bug treatment in your backyard to keep those pesky bugs at bay

How can I get rid of stink bugs?

Once stink bugs have entered your home, it can be tricky to get rid of them. Keep in mind that they are generally more sluggish and easier to catch on cooler, overcast days. They are strong fliers, and when disturbed they will usually drop down quickly.

Here are a few techniques we recommend for getting rid of them:

  • Vacuum them up (but be aware that the vacuum may retain the smell!)
  • Sweep them up and drop them into a container of soapy water
  • Tidy up cluttered areas in your home where stink bugs would likely hide