While stink bugs live primarily in wooded areas outside, they enjoy warm, dry places during the winter. This means on cold winter days, you may find them in the back of a snuggly linen closet, or in a dry pantry. In the spring they are drawn to water and can be found under leaky sinks.
When you find stink bugs in your house, you should remove the bug with toilet paper or a vacuum and prevent it from returning by checking outside for stink bug habitats, repairing broken entryways, checking the dryer vent, eliminating food sources, changing light sources, or setting up an essential oil barrier.
In this article, we will dive a little deeper into why you want to remove stink bugs in the first place and the best ways to do it. Let’s get started!
What’s All The Stink About?
Although they smell like steaming garbage at times, stinkbugs are not harmful to humans or pets. They don’t damage structures, ruin the food in your pantry, or take over your furniture the way some other home pests do. Most of the time their presence in your home is so subtle you may not notice!
So why not keep this harmless houseguest? They are a favorite snack to a few mammal predators that you don’t want to live your walls and, well, they stink!
Stink bugs have a distinct scent. Most people smell the scent before they see them. This makes sense since they only release the foul smell if they have felt threatened and to them, you are a giant. If you squish them the smell is even worse.
So, to avoid the whole unpleasantness that has been described as dirty socks sprinkled with cilantro (yum!) you need to remove the bugs you see when you see them. Then take some preventative steps in and around your house because the odiferous smell that the stink bug is so famous for also functions as a pheromone.
If you have more than one stink bug in your home, you could have a bigger problem than what you are aware of. Check in the back of your pantry/closets and look for groups of these smelly bugs.
So without further ado, lets get into the nitty gritty of WHAT to do if you find stink bugs inside your home!
1. Check for Large Groups Of Stink Bugs In Your House
When this little critter finds a warm place to stay it will secrete, or spray, its stink to let other stink bugs in the area know there has been a safe location found to huddle down in diapause for the winter. Diapause is a state similar to hibernation where the stink bugs occupy a space in slow motion. During this stage, they may group together.
When it gets warm outside again, the stink bugs will mate and leave until winter again. If more than one arrives, they will likely be ready to mate once things warm up outside. So, when you find more than one bug in the same area you’ll want to act.
How do you check for signs of a large problem if all you’ve seen is one stink bug? The pheromone spray leaves a mark. Often a thin yellow film on the windowsills is reported to homeowners by their pest control professional.
This residue is the pheromone. It might not look like much, but you will likely notice a difference in smell when you are done cleaning. The substance can easily be wiped clean off of hard surfaces with warm soapy water.
2. Remove Any Stink Bugs You Find Inside Your House
There are several ways you can handle a stink bug in your house. You do not need to use chemicals; however, those are available, but best used with caution. Remember, stink bugs will not harm you they just smell really bad.
Remove Stink Bugs One By One
Some people will recommend capturing the bugs in a piece of toilet paper and flushing them down the toilet. The toilet paper acts as a barrier when the bug releases its stink and disposing of it down the toilet is simply convenient. However, the bug will perish.
If you are one of those folks that do not mind the smell of nature, in this case, a little stink bug odor, then the My Critter Catcher will work too. Unlike using a paper towel or toilet paper you do not have to overextend yourself by reaching or crouching and the bug gets to live.
Use a vacuum
You can also use a vacuum to remove stink bugs from your house. Use a long attachment and it is really that simple. However, you must empty the bag, or container, immediately after capturing the stink bugs.
Otherwise, your vacuum will smell like a skunk wearing dirty socks every time you turn it on for a while. If that’s not motivation to empty the bag right away, I don’t know what is!
3. Take Action To Prevent Stink Bugs From Getting Inside
Stink bugs are typically a harmless insect for most homeowners, but no one wants an insect around that is smelly and invasive. If you have found at least one stink bug in your home, there is a good chance there are more and more will come.
Preventing them from entering your home is a lot simpler than trying to catch them as they slowly migrate inside.
Check Outside For Stink Bug Habitats
Do you have any shrubs near your home? Stink bugs congregate in woodsy shrubbery outside.
Trim bushes and shrubs away from the house so they are not touching the structure of your home. Clean up any debris on your porch or around your home. Stink bugs love cardboard.
Finally, firewood should be stored away from the house on a dry platform protected against harsh elements. Just by taking these steps you will have done a good job at preventing stink bugs from entering you house.
Repair broken entryways
Stink bugs are tiny, and their little shielded shell is sturdy. They can slip though many types of small spaces into your home. To prevent them from marching through the front door, start by replacing torn or loose weatherstripping around your main entry doors. Then do a perimeter walk of your home to look for stink bug entryways.
Broken vinyl, ripped screens, faulty windowsills, and cracks to the outside of your home can allow stink bugs and others like them inside.
Check the dryer vent
Your home dryer connects to the outside and it is a snuggly place for a stink bug to get cozy! This little-known point of entry is just one of many you may have.
These openings include chimneys, air ventilation systems, and other gaps. Install a fine-mesh screen over any outside vents you come across. Without a fine-mesh screen, stink bugs can easily slip through those types of gaps.
Eliminate Stink Bug food sources
Stink bugs do not go after food the way other home pests do. Stink bugs are not like mice, raccoons, or ants. They do not devour your rations or contaminate exposed food.
But they do not mind helping themselves to any produce you have got on the counter, and they are attracted to the smell of food. Edible landscapes signal an ideal habitat for any bug.
Keep food preparation and dining areas clean to help prevent stink bugs from entering your home.
Inspect the items coming out of winter storage
If you keep winter clothes, décor, or gear in your garage, shed, or attic take a moment to look around for any stink bug evidence. Winter storage bins are a great place for stink bugs to hide then be chauffeured inside. Remember, you will most likely smell them first before you see them.
So, while you’re shuffling through boxes, and before you take them in, open up the container and do a sniff test. If it smells like the rotten heel of a banana or car tires, you have probably got a stink bug hitchhiker.
Eliminate or change outside light sources
The term phototaxis describes how an insect responds to light, either positively or negatively. Light will attract stink bugs; stink bugs are positive phototaxis. This means stink bugs are attracted to light.
Many other bugs are positively phototaxis as well and they are all most attracted by bright white or bluish lights. However, that does not mean you must plunge yourself into darkness. In fact, you can keep your porch light on, simply change the color and the stink bug will no longer be attracted to the light.
Here are some light colors that won’t attract stink bugs:
Spray Neem Oil on your plants
Products like Bonide Ready To Use Neem Oil have been reported to work at preventing a stink bug infestation for decades. Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide that you can spray on your shrubs, bushes, edible plants, and flowers.
It gets deep into the plant’s tissue and is passed onto the stink bug. It works by hindering the bug’s hormone system and makes it difficult to grow and lay eggs. This will lead to a stunt in their reproductive growth cycle. Neem oil can be used on flowers and crops and it is recommended to use the oil on mature plants.
Create an Essential oil barrier
Other oils with pungent aromas like clove, tea tree, and peppermint have been reported to work at repelling them in your home. You can drench a cotton ball with the oil and leave it in the back of your closet or create a spray with the essential oils.
Stink bug essential oil spray mixture:
- Spray bottle
- One cup of water
- 15-20 drops of essential oil
Spray around stink bug entryways like windowsills, garage doors, and anywhere you suspect there may be stink bug visitors. Reapply when the essential oil smell dissipates or as often as you’d like. Peppermint, tea tree, and clove oils are not harmful.
Finally, can also check for signs of stink bugs in your edible garden if you have one. By taking notice of what happens to plants in your yard, including many crops, you can give yourself time to prepare your home and prevent a possible stink bug visitation.
If you’d like some more information on this one, take a look at our in-depth guide for a full list of scents that stink bugs hate which talks about even more essential oils!
4. Check for Signs of a Stink Bug Infestation in Your Garden
Stink bugs are an “edge” species. This means they feed on the edge of crop fields, or backyard gardens, and don’t typically spread to the interior of the field.
If you have an edible garden, you may see tell-tale signs of stink bugs there before they enter your home. Although they will happily eat produce left on the kitchen counter, they love fresh food straight from the source.
Evidence of their buffet can be presented as small brown spots on fruiting crops a stink bug smorgasbord on tomatoes presents as white corky areas just below the skin. You’ll find this evidence of their presence often right before they locate someplace to diapause for the winter.
Because stink bugs do not travel to the center of a field both intensive and extensive growers can often treat the area quickly. Frequently the problem is resolved by spraying pesticides around the affected area’s perimeter instead of treating an entire field or vegetable garden.
This isn’t a major struggle for your backyard hobbyist crop grower, entomophile, and those not solely relying on farming income. Many of them have come to enjoy and manage their presence easily and in separate homes, of course.
However, stink bugs are a struggle for intensive farmers and entomologists. Farmers because of what they do to large-scale crops and entomologists for their resistance to traditional pesticides. After stink bugs are eliminated, the plants that suffered from heavy feeding damage will become stunted and remain green longer than usual, delaying large harvests.
5. Call a Professional!
Sometimes stink bugs overstay their welcome and become a crowd capable of nausea-inducing stink. If you find yourself greatly outnumbered by stink bugs in your house or wish to eliminate the bug for good you can always use a traditional pesticide like this Harris Stink Bug Liquid Spray.
These types of chemicals are not safe to use around children or pets. You should wear protective gear like masks, gloves, and eyewear when handling chemical pesticides. However, there are always professionals that will do that for you.
There should be plenty of friendly pest control professionals in your area that can help you with all your stink bug problems. If you’d like, you can connect to thousands of exterminators and wildlife pros across the country by using our pest control finder service!
Are stink bugs helpful in any way?
Stink bugs in general have big personalities. Besides that, many farmers are looking for new ways to live with this invasive species because they aren’t going anywhere any time soon. The mindset is that perhaps they can be used for something good. It turns out, stink bugs can be helpful.
The research found there are predatory stink bugs that can be beneficial to your kitchen garden. Some of these stink bugs eat aphids, while others dine on beetles. Out of the thousands of different types of stink bug species, there are three known stink bug predators, and the rest are herbivores.
Stink bugs that eat aphids and soft-bodied insects include:
- The two-spotted stink bug preys on the larvae of the Colorado Beetle.
- The stink bug is named the anchor bug which preys on the Mexican Bean Beetle.
- The spined solider bug preys on arthropods and caterpillars.
Though some would like to look on the bright side, the overwhelming consensus remains that they are still more of a nuisance than a help. They do not provide any help with indoor pests, and they can only help maintain a garden with population control in small specific ways in some areas.
But as cute or possibly lucky as they can be you don’t want them to overstay their welcome, even bug lovers have their limits.
The stink bug was native to only eastern continents until the mid-1990’s. Today it is found in nearly every American state! It is tough against traditional pest control management and has an extremely unique design. So unique that ornate bug lovers everywhere often study their patterns and try to discern greater meanings from the swirls of color and shine.
These little bugs have been the topic of much discussion and aggravation between entomologists and large-scale crop owners. However, they cause little problems for most average homeowners.
Stink bugs are relatively easy to control and eliminate which is good news. They are slow, predictable, and harmless. Due to their nature and the topics of discussion by entomologists, many universities around the country have been known to collect stink bugs for study.
I hope you find the information provided above helpful in eliminating stink bugs from your home once and for all!
Hoffmann, M., Wilson, L., & Zalom, F. (1987). Control of stink bugs in tomatoes. California Agriculture, 41(5), 4-6.
Shimoda, M., & Honda, K. I. (2013). Insect reactions to light and its applications to pest management. Applied Entomology and Zoology, 48(4), 413-421.
Tooker, J. (2012). Brown marmorated stink bug as a pest of corn and soybeans. Entomological notes. Fact sheets. Department of Entomology, College of Agricultural Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University.[online access].
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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