Stink bugs. Even their name forbodes something unpleasant. These odorous insects are invasive species that made their way to the United States by accident in 1998. Since then, they’ve wreaked havoc on crops, fruits, gardens, and invaded homes for overwintering. In great news, we can keep stink bugs away with simple steps!
Stink bugs are sensitive to smell, which they use to find mates and to signal to other stinkbugs when they find an overwintering spot. You can repel stink bugs by using scents they hate such as clove oil, lemongrass oil, spearmint, dryer sheets, ylang-ylang oil, wintergreen, geranium, and rosemary.
Stink bugs do not harm buildings, and you don’t have to worry about them laying eggs in your house. But still, they’re gross right?! They fly around, hide in boxes, and can swarm inside buildings in the winter. Not to mention the smell!
Why Keep Stink Bugs Away?
There are actually several species of stinkbugs, but the most common one found in the U.S. is the brown marmorated stink bug.
If you’re not the type of person who freaks out over creepy crawly things, what’s the big deal if you have stink bugs around?
Stink bugs can be devastating to plants, crops, fruits, and ornamental trees. If you have a fruit tree or garden vegetables, they are vulnerable to stink bug snacking.
Beans, okra, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, eggplants, green beans, and asparagus are all within the umbrella of a stink bug’s host plants, which includes over 100 species of plants!
Fruits aren’t any safer: Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, and Asian pears are sweet and delicious snacks to a stink bug.
According to the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, damage from the brown marmorated stink bug resulted in a whopping $37 million in losses for apple crops alone in 2010. That’s one expensive pest!
So, stinkbugs do a lot of damage to crops and fruits. But what if you don’t have a garden or a crop farm? What’s so bad about stink bugs in residential areas?
Stinkbugs are designed for warm-weather climates. In the cold months, they’re going to look for a nice cozy spot to sleep away the winter days. The perfect place? Your home, shed, attic, or barn of course.
The big problem with stink bugs overwintering in your home is that, once they find a place to call home for the winter, they release a signature scent that attracts other stink bugs to that location.
This can create a swarming effect and is the reason why you may find a bucket load of stink bugs in one spot of your home.
Not the best holiday gift from mother nature, right?
Another problem with stink bugs is that they have few natural predators here in the U.S. In Asian climates (China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea), stink bugs were largely prayed upon by parasites that would attack their eggs. Unfortunately, those parasites didn’t come over with the stink bugs.
Now that we know why stink bugs need to go, let’s talk about how to repel them from your home, garden, and fruit trees.
But first, what the heck is up with the stink bug scent? Why exactly do they smell, and if you smash them do they really attract other stink bugs?
Why Do Stink Bugs Stink?
Similar to skunks, stink bugs get a bit of a bad wrap for their smell. There’s a very specific odor that comes along with a swarm of stink bugs, and it is NOT pleasant.
So, what’s the deal? Why do stink bugs stink?
Again, similar to a skunk, stink bugs use their smelliness to deter predators. The smell is released from glands located on the bug’s thorax.
The chemicals are released onto their bodies and then the liquid evaporates, spreading it throughout the air, and convincing predators that they taste just awful.
Stink bugs also use these smelly glands to call out to other stink bugs and let them know of cool wintering locations. This can be a cozy spot underneath some bark, under a rock, in a crevice, or, unfortunately, in your home.
Not all stink is the same.
The last thing stink bugs use their namesake scent for is to attract mates. The chemicals released are not the same as those released to deter predators. These are pheromones meant to attract the opposite sex.
Now, the big question: If you vacuum them or happen to step on one and that awful smell permeates the air, will it attract other stink bugs?
Rest easy. This old wives’ tale has been proven a myth! The smell released is either the stink bug defense mechanism or just the liquid releasing after the bug has perished. It will not cause other stink bugs to swarm to that location.
Using Scents to Repel Stink Bugs
We all know that pesticides work well to keep bugs away, but not all of us want to use those types of chemicals to control pests.
When you don’t want to use pesticides, home remedies such as essential oils are an excellent choice!
PLEASE NOTE: scents are not as reliable as other deterrents such as physically sealing your home against stink bugs. Frequent reapplication will be required for the scents to work how they are supposed to.
Additionally, please contact a professional for questions about application. It’s important with these scents, especially when spraying inside, to not overspray. Please contact a professional before using these methods. Use these methods outside unless otherwise stated.
If you have an infestation of stink bugs and aren’t sure how to handle it, leave it to a pro! Check out our nationwide pest control finder to get connected with a professional near you in seconds. Using our partner network helps support pestpointers.com. Thanks!
Clove Oil Keeps Stink Bugs Away
A study published in the Journal of Applied Entomology remarked that clove oil was successful in deterring stink bugs from baited traps.
It’s thought that the main ingredient in clove oil, eugenol, is the specific chemical responsible for repelling stink bugs.
How exactly do you use this wonderful oil to keep stink bugs away?
You can purchase clove essential oil such as the Artizen Clove Essential Oil and dilute it with water to make a spray mixture. For every 1 cup of water, add about 10-15 drops of essential oil. It’s best to use a glass spray bottle.
Spray your mixture OUTSIDE on areas such as doorways and window frames where stink bugs might get inside. If your stink bug problem has migrated into your garden, feel free to spray this mixture directly on your plants!
If you’re not into concocting your own remedies, believe it or not, you can use scented linen sprays such as Clove Essential Oil Linen Spray. This comes ready to spray, but may not be as cost-effective as making your own remedy.
Lemongrass Oil and Spearmint Oil Repel Stink Bugs
Like clove oil, lemongrass oil or spearmint oil can be used similarly to repel stink bugs. These essential oils are made of compounds that stink bugs are NOT a fan of.
This type of repellant is known as semiochemical. What that boils down to is it’s not just a smell that stink bugs don’t like, it actually activates a signal in our creepy crawler that tells it to stay away.
Semiochemicals haven’t been studied as much as other forms of repellants, but they are getting more and more attention as we become more attuned to controlling pests using organic means.
If you really want to turn up the repellent against stink bugs, try using a mixture of clove, lemongrass, and spearmint oil. This is known as a ternary mixture and is incredibly effective at repelling stink bugs.
Ah yes, dryer sheets. One of the most tried and historic homemade pest repellents since their conception. Dryer sheets have been known to be one of the scents that deer absolutely hate.
While this claim isn’t backed with researched like the other scents on this list, dryer sheets can be an effective stink bug deterrent.
Naturally if they
Ylang-Ylang Oil Keeps Stink Bugs Away
Ylang-Ylang oil is less well known than your typical peppermint or lavender oils. It’s been studied extensively in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where the tree is native.
You won’t believe how many hats this oil wears!
Ylang Ylang is a flavoring agent, moisturizing cream, perfume, as well as a treatment for ailments such as malaria, asthma, rheumatism, gout, and stomach illnesses.
With all that going on, it’s hard to believe ylang-ylang oil can ALSO repel stink bugs. Oh, but it can!
A 2013 article published in the Journal of Applied Entomology studied the effects of ylang-ylang on stink bugs and found it nearly 100% effective at blocking stinkbugs from baited traps.
This is an impressive feat for a simple essential oil. The best part is that ylang-ylang oil is used commonly in aromatherapy, so you can spray this lightly indoors!
To use this miracle oil, simply follow the directions for the essential oils listed above. For every 1 cup of water, add 10-15 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil. Mix it into a spray bottle for easier application.
See ya, stink bugs!
Other Essential Oils to Repel Stink Bugs
Most households have some kind of essential oil in their home – so, when stink bugs arrive at the scene, there are a few oils that you can check your cupboards for to keep these pests at bay!
If you’re looking for other essential oils that will repel stink bugs, the following have been shown to reduce the attraction to baited traps by up to 85% for marmorated brown stink bugs (the scents and oils in the first section were shown to reduce attraction up to 100%.)
Again, with any essential oils, make sure you dilute it in a carrier oil or with water before applying around your home.
Wintergreen essential oil, which is produced from soaking the leaves of wintergreen in water, has a strong minty smell that can keep stink bugs away from your home.
It contains a base ingredient of methyl salicylate, which is responsible for wintergreen oil’s minty scent and flavor which, stink bugs wants to keep away from
Geranium essential oil, similar to wintergreen oil, is extracted from the leaves of the Pelargonium graveolens flower.
It has a distinct scent that has notes of rose, with a slightly minty whiff at the back of the palate. Essentially, it gives off a unique floral scent. See a trend with the mint? Stink bugs hate it.
Rosemary essential oil is derived from Rosmarinus officinalis, an evergreen like plant that provides a herbal and woody scent. The herbal tones and slightly minty undertones in rosemary oil help to deter stink bugs.
Plus – rosemary oil is tasty as all get out when cooking a meal!
Does Peppermint Oil Repel Stink Bugs?
A lot of websites list off common essential oils such as peppermint and claim they will repel “any bug.”
Are they right, or will you be wasting your time?
The truth is, peppermint oil is considered a weak repellent against stink bugs. However, it’s great at repelling some of the other creepy crawlers out there such as ticks and gnats.
What Are Stink Bugs Attracted To?
A better question might be: What are stink bugs not attracted to. These six-legged terrors will eat ONIONS for goodness sake.
For a full list of crops at risk by stink bugs, you can check out the Stop Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs website, which gets funding from the USDA to research and control specifically stink bugs.
But if you’re just a typical homeowner wondering why the heck these smelly projectiles are flying around your home and yard, we have some answers for you.
Your Landscape May Be Attracting Stink Bugs
We’ve given you a list of oils that will repel stink bugs, but what about landscape plants and trees? Some of these will actually attract stink bugs to your yard.
Some of the most common trees and shrubs that attract stink bugs include:
It would be strange for a homeowner NOT to have at least one of these trees in their yard. They’re some of the most common species of trees in the U.S.
The good news is that stink bugs will not overwinter in mulch or leaf litter. So no need to worry about your landscape material or lack of landscape clean-up providing stink bugs with a place to live.
Lights aren’t exactly a part of the landscaping, but they are a part of your house’s appearance. Stink bugs are attracted to porch lights and motioned-activated lights, so keep that in mind when installing them around your home.
Your Home Attracts Stink Bugs In The Fall
As soon as the weather gets a bit chilly, we all like to break out the flannels and boots to stay cozy. Stink bugs may not wear sweaters, but they sure do like to stay warm.
Just like most insects, stink bug mortality skyrockets in the wintertime when temperatures drop down into the single digits. To avoid this, they try to find the warmest, safest place possible to wait out the harsh weather.
Unfortunately, this means your home is a stink bug’s safe haven in cold weather. They can find their way into your home via loose door and window frames, exhaust fans, lighting fixtures, chimneys, attics, roof flashing, vents, siding, and fascia.
When the days begin shortening, it triggers stink bugs to find an overwintering spot. You can expect stink bugs to begin moving indoors around September and October.
The worst part about this is that stink bugs have this annoying trait of gossiping to other stink bugs about their favorite overwintering spots. They do this by releasing a pheromone which attracts other stink bugs to the area.
Ladybugs have a similar trait. They release pheromones to attract other ladybugs to their wintering spot.
Both ladybugs and stink bugs use this in an attempt to stay warm by causing a swarming effect.
In the wild, this is an excellent survival trait because the more stink bugs are piled together, the warmer they will be. However, when they’re inside your home it can get pretty annoying to have hundreds of them holed up in your house.
Houses in disrepair are at a higher risk of infestation, so be sure to keep up on household repairs and replace any broken window screens ASAP to avoid invasion.
The only thing you can really do to make your home less attractive to stink bugs is to seal it up tight. Fill any cracks and holes with caulking and avoid keeping your windows and doors open during prime move-in time (September-October).
How To Keep Stink Bugs Away For Good
If you’re just plain sick of stink bugs invading your home year after year, there are methods you can use to keep them out for good!
Scents and smells work great at repelling them from certain locations and from vulnerable plants. However, repelling is temporary, and frequent reapplication of the scent is needed to keep them away.
So, how do you keep these cilantro-smelling bugs away for good?
Seal All Entry Points
We touched on this before, but it really is the best method for deterring stink bugs from entering your home.
To recap, be sure to use caulking to seal up ANY openings that stink bugs could get in through. This may seem like an impossible task, but even sealing just a few cracks and openings will reduce home invasions.
In the wild, stink bugs try to find spots underneath bark or in rock crevices to overwinter. Think like a stink bug and look for similar areas on your house:
- Fascia boards
- Wiring outlets
- Door frames
Seal it all up!
Some areas can’t be sealed with caulking such as chimney openings, attic vents, and damaged window screens.
For these, you’ll want to use mesh netting. Believe it or not, even a ¼-inch diameter screen is not going to stop stink bugs. A size of ⅙-inch or smaller is needed to keep them out, so keep that in mind.
What If Stink Bugs Are Already In Your Home?
So, you’ve sealed everything you can see and put mesh over everything that opens to the outside. Somehow, an especially cunning stink bug made its way into your home.
Or, maybe you haven’t gotten around to sealing your house up and you have a BUNCH of stink bugs in your home.
How do you get them out without feeling the need to wear a gas mask inside your own home?
If you have a FEW stink bugs, the best way to remove them is by hand. Now, I don’t mean literally by hand, unless you’re a brave soul.
NOTE: If you do decide to remove them by hand, it’s recommended to wear gloves or use a paper towel or tissue instead. The chemicals released by the stink bug can be an irritant to the skin and eyes if you are allergic.
Instead, you can easily get a red solo cup or any other plastic cup you don’t mind disposing of afterward. Get a piece of paper, paper towel, or anything that’s a little stiff, and approach your enemy carefully.
Stink bugs tend to drop like a sack of potatoes from the ceiling or wall when disturbed. This is where the cup comes in handy. Simply place it below the bug and nudge it into the cup. It’s likely to fall right in.
What you do with it after that is totally up to you, but now you have a convenient container to carry it in.
If you have A LOT of stink bugs, you may need to fire up the vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, this will likely elicit the unpleasant odor that comes with stink bugs.
To minimize this, try placing a cut-off nylon stocking in the tube of the vacuum. This may limit the odor.
The smell of stink bugs doesn’t stick around too long, but if it’s super offensive you can place your vacuum cleaner outside with the tube and collection case open for about an hour. By this time, the odor should evaporate off the vacuum and the smell will be gone.
That’s All For Now
That’s all we have on stink bugs for now. Hopefully, this article will help you with future (or maybe current!) stink bug problems.
To recap, stink bugs hate the scent of the following oils:
The best way to deter stink bugs from your home is to seal any cracks and crevices up with caulking and repair any broken window screens.
Stink bugs may be annoying to have around, but rest assured they will not destroy your home, bite you, sting you, or lay eggs in your house. They just fly around menacingly and smell a bit when disturbed.
Nonetheless, you can use the tips and tricks discussed in this article to repel them from your plants and deter them from coming inside for good!
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Loh Teng Hern Tan, Learn Han Lee, Wai Fong Yin, Chim Kei Chan, Habsah Abdul Kadir, Kok Gan Chan, Bey Hing Goh, “Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry, and Bioactivities of Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang)”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2015, Article ID 896314, 30 pages, 2015.
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Zhang, Q. H., Schneidmiller, R. G., Hoover, D. R., Zhou, G., Margaryan, A., & Bryant, P. (2013, December 04). Essential oils as spatial repellents for the brown marmorated stink bug. Journal of Applied Entomology, 138(7), 490-499.
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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