Oh, the joys of stink bugs. They creepily crawl across your bathroom tile, they fly around your kitchen, and they release a pungent smell that’s not unlike the scent of rotten cilantro. What do these smelly, pesky critters want to do with us, anyway?
Houses are attractive to stink bugs because they offer a warm space to spend the winter months. They are especially drawn to unheated attics and will enter your home through attic vents and other small openings. From there, they release a pheromone that attracts other stink bugs to the area.
We know you’re sick and tired of seeing these six-legged pests in every nook and cranny of your home. Keep on reading to uncover the six reasons that stink bugs are attracted to your home, and then stick around to learn how to eradicate these smelly house guests.
What’s So Bad About Stink Bugs (Besides Their Smell)?
Among all the household pests that we have to deal with every so often, stink bugs are some of the most unpleasant. While there are hundreds of stink bug species in North America alone, the most common species found in the home is called the brown marmorated stink bug.
You’re probably already familiar with this little pest. Brown marmorated stink bugs are brown-colored (obviously), have a shield-like shape, are about a half-inch long, and have alternating black and white stripes on their legs, antennae, and around their abdomen.
If you feel like you’ve seen a lot more of these pests lately, it’s because they’re a fairly recent invasive species in the U.S. Brown marmorated stink bugs are native to Asia, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. They did a little hitchhiking in shipping containers and other vehicles to end up in our country in the 1990s, and they have been wreaking havoc in our country ever since.
Fun fact: Stink bugs get their name from the odor they release when startled, which smells like a mix of cilantro, coriander, and other strong spices. But, like, not in a good way.
Farmers Hate Stink Bugs
Certain Asian species, like the Asian Lady Beetle, are friends to gardeners and farmers because they feed on pests that destroy crops and plants.
Brown marmorated stink bugs, however, are a major nuisance to growers because they cause devastating damage to fruits, vegetables, and plants.
Stink bugs feed on many common crops, including:
Not only do stink bugs feed on and destroy these crops, but they also spread ailments to other plants. Farmers often use insecticides to manage these destructive critters.
Stink Bugs Are A Nuisance to Homeowners
Stink bugs may not be as detrimental in the home as they are in the fields, but they are still quite an indoor nuisance.
Other than their unsightly appearance, stink bugs are an annoyance because of the icky, pungent odor they release when they’re startled or disturbed.
Speaking of things that stink, their you-know-what can also stain walls, curtains, and other surfaces around your home. How rude!
They also have a habit of buzzing around light fixtures in your home, and their presence in the home may also cause allergies for some.
Now for the good news! Fortunately, brown marmorated stick bugs won’t damage your home or construction, don’t breed and reproduce indoors, and will not bite humans or pets.
What Attracts Stink Bugs To Your Home?
Now that we’ve learned about the impact of the brown marmorated stink bug in the home and agriculture, let’s find out why our cozy dwellings are so inviting to these creepy crawlies.
Homes Provide Shelter For The Winter
Brown marmorated stink bugs are an overwintering species, meaning that they seek out warm, protected places where they can ride out the winter months in comfort. Unfortunately for us, our homes are the perfect place for them to do so.
Beginning in September or October, decreasing temperatures and shorter daylight hours “trigger” stink bugs to begin looking for winter shelter.
They huddle up with all their friends on their favorite plants as they ponder possible spots to overwinter. If these plants happen to be close to a home or building, they simply invite themselves inside!
As stink bugs flock to homes, sometimes by the thousands, they look for small openings that can serve as entry points. They easily gain access if your home has cracks, gaps, or openings in these areas:
- Windows and doors
- Window air conditioners
- Roof flashing
- Utility pipes
Your home is especially vulnerable to a stink bug infestation if it’s in poor repair, as it will offer many easy entry points. Once the insects move inside, they huddle in walls, on ceilings, or in attics.
Unheated attics are the most popular overwintering spot for stink bugs. According to the IPM Practitioner, about 60% of invading stink bugs can be found in attics.
Stink bugs tend to prefer the upper areas of your home, so they often enter through attics or chimneys. This is likely mirroring their preference for trees over fallen logs or other shelters that are lower to the ground.
Although it may sound weird, there are a few noises that stink bugs make. If you hear these, especially during the winter, you may have an infestation on your hands!
Stink Bugs Are Drawn to Dark-Colored Homes
While this may seem odd, stink bugs are picky about a home’s exterior color and construction!
According to a study published by Virginia Tech, stink bugs were found more often on brown- and tan-colored homes than on white-colored homes. The bugs were also more likely to flock to homes made of wood, cement, or stone.
Rural Homes Are A Stink Bug Heaven
A country home offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it also, unfortunately, attracts a lot of stink bugs.
Since stink bugs feed on a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other plants, homes near these food sources are the most vulnerable to infestations. This includes dwellings in rural, agricultural areas or those near woods or fields.
Pheromones Draw in More Stink Bugs
From their cozy little nooks in our homes, stink bugs can yell to their friends and family, “Hey, I found a great spot! Come on over!” Okay, maybe not like that, but they do communicate with each other by releasing an aggregation pheromone.
An aggregation pheromone is a chemical scent that stink bugs release to communicate with other stink bugs. Once they find an overwintering spot, the bugs release this pheromone to attract their kind to the site.
Lights Are A Stink Bug Beacon
Like many other insects, brown marmorated stink bugs are attracted to sources of light.
On late summer or early fall evenings, the bugs flock to porch lights or other exterior lights around your home.
Opening a door or window around these light sources offers them super easy entry into your home!
Stink Bugs Are Heat Seekers
A final aspect that attracts stink bugs to your home is heat. Brown marmorated stink bugs are heat-seekers, which explains their desire to escape the cold air in the winter.
Their love of heat draws the bugs towards sources of heat in your home, such as hot steam in your bathroom, heat from your stove, or your fireplace.
You’ll typically find stink bugs crawling around your home in late winter or early spring when they become active and emerge from their hibernation spots.
How to Prevent Stink Bugs From Entering Your Home
Now that you know all the many ways that stink bugs are attracted to your home, you may be concerned about an infestation this fall.
Don’t worry! The three following tips serve as your first line of defense against these stinky critters.
During the day, stink bugs usually will live outside, however at night, and when it gets cold, they may find their way inside.
After all, the best way to manage an infestation is to prevent it from happening in the first place!
Seal all Gaps, Cracks, and Crevices
Exclusion, or sealing all small openings in your home, is a very effective way to prevent a stink bug invasion.
Before you start to go crazy with a caulking, it’s important to know the common areas around the home that serve as entry points for stink bugs and to target those areas first.
The two most common entry points for stink bugs are the gaps around window-mounted air conditioners and the area behind attic vents. You should either remove your window-mounted air conditioner or pay special attention to sealing around the air conditioner.
You should also install screening behind attic vents, and repair any damaged window screens while you’re at it.
According to a study conducted by the University of Kentucky, mesh screens that are ⅙ of an inch in size, or smaller, are the most effective at keeping out the stink bugs.
Stink bugs can also find their way into your home in other areas, and, despite their large bodies, can squeeze into very tight spaces.
We know it sounds like a daunting task to scour your home for tiny cracks and gaps, so we’ve created a list of tips and tricks to guide you in this task.
Here are some simple tips for stink bug-proofing your home:
- When looking for gaps and cracks, pay attention to the side of your house that faces the sunset
- Ensure all window screens fit tightly
- Cover all vents with screens (⅙ of an inch or smaller)
- Cover your chimney with a screen
- Install weatherstrips around doors
- Install door sweeps under all doors
- Seal cracks around windows, doors, soffits, fascia boards, pipes, and wires
It’s best to complete these tasks during the summer, as stink bugs begin to flock to homes in the fall.
If you’d like to learn more, take a look at our full guide on how stink bugs get into your house here!
Use A Caulking Tool
You might be wondering at this point, “What tools should I use to seal gaps and cracks?” The University of Kentucky recommends that you use a caulking tool, but not just any caulking tool.
Get a good quality one with a back-off trigger that controls the flow of the caulk. Also, silicone or silicone latex caulk is preferable because it dries clear and hides any mistakes.
If you need a recommendation, check out this Newborn Drip-Free Smooth Hex Rod Cradle. The rod retracts after you pull the trigger, which helps prevent dripping!
Use Essential Oils
If you’re interested in a more natural way to ward off invading stink bugs, try essential oils! Stink bugs are repelled by many different types of essential oils because of their potent smell.
Types of essential oils that are nearly 100% effective at repelling stink bugs (according to the IPM Practitioner):
Types of essential oils that are 60-85% repellant (according to the IPM Practitioner):
It’s important to note that essential oils evaporate quickly, which limits the length of time that they’re an effective repellent. It’s best to use an oil distribution method that is covered and slow-release, such as a diffuser.
If you’re looking for a great essential oil option, check out this NOW Essential Oils, Clove Oil. The brand also carries other essential oils that act as stink bug repellants.
Use Pesticides (Sparingly!)
While pesticides may be a top-of-mind solution when it comes to infestation management, these chemicals are an ineffective method of stink bug control.
Stink bugs often hide in hard-to-reach places in your home, which makes it almost impossible to expose them to the insecticide. Dead stink bugs in your home can also risk future insect infestations, as bugs like carpet beetles feed on dead stink bugs in the home.
However, pesticides can be used outside the home as a prevention method, especially if stink bug infestations are an annual problem. Most pest control firms or professionals can spray your home in the late summer or early fall to prevent stink bug entry.
Pest control professionals may use one of the following insecticides, which are especially effective (according to the University of Kentucky):
- Demand (lambda cyhalothrin)
- Suspend (deltamethrin)
- Talstar (bifenthrin)
- Tempo (cyfluthrin)
Over-the-counter variations include:
- Ortho Home Defense
- Spectracide Bug Stop/Triazicide
Consult a pest control professional, and make sure to follow all label instructions, when using these insecticides.
What To Do if You Find a Stink Bug in Your Home
Okay, so you’ve done all you can to prevent the little stinkers from getting into your home, but there are STILL some crawling around! What do you do? As it turns out, trapping and removing stink bugs is easier than you think!
Additionally, if you successfully are able to get stinkbugs out, what steps can you take to keep them out?
If a winter day is particularly warm, or if you’re turning up your thermostat on a particularly cold day, stink bugs are likely to awake from their hibernation and become active around your home.
You’ll likely find them slowly crawling around (they’re quite clumsy), which makes them easy to catch. You’re also likely to find them near sources of heat, like the heat from your shower, stove, or fireplace.
Remove Them Manually
Even if you’ve stink bug-proofed your home by sealing up cracks or using repellants or insecticides, there’s a good chance that a few might still sneak through.
Stink bugs emerge from hibernation anywhere from March to May, and they will likely crawl around your home as they search for an exit.
Finding a stink bug in your bathroom, kitchen, or living room might be startling, but don’t panic and squish the bug! Squishing a stink bug will cause it to release its pungent odor, which tends to linger in your home.
You can remove stink bugs from your home by vacuuming up the stink bugs or sweeping them into a dust pan. Keep in mind that vacuuming or sweeping the bugs may cause them to release their odor, so try to do so without quick motions.
To prevent odors from getting trapped in your vacuum, place a cut-off nylon stocking in the suction tube of the vacuum to prevent them from entering the bag or dust collection area.
Simply empty them outside when you’re done. If your broom catches some stink bug odors, let it air-dry outside.
You can also remove stink bugs manually by picking them up with a glove or tissue and placing them back outside. Just make sure to protect your hands when doing so, and wash them after, because secretions released by the bugs can irritate your skin.
Startle and Collect Them
Another method to remove stink bugs from your home is to startle them and then collect them in a bag or container. This method works especially well for stink bug clusters in hard-to-reach places.
Stink bugs like to congregate in the upper areas of your home, such as ceilings or the upper areas of walls or windows. The bugs can be especially hard to remove from these areas, so the best thing to do is scare them off!
When startled, stink bugs immediately drop from overhead surfaces.
You can use this to your advantage by prodding them with a broom handle or other long object and collecting them in a container as they fall. Once you collect them, place the bugs outside (far away from your home) or seal them in a plastic bag and dispose of them in an outdoor trash can.
This method may cause the bugs to release their odor, so be prepared for that!
If you’d rather not get up close and personal with stink bugs when removing them, try using a homemade trap!
Researchers from Virginia Tech found that a simple homemade trap worked better than a store-bought stink bug trap.
They developed a trap that uses items that are likely already in your home, including a foil roasting pan, water, and dish soap, to attract and catch the stinky pests.
How to make a homeade stink bug trap:
- Grab a foil roasting pan (a turkey pan works great!)
- Pour a half-gallon of water into the pan
- Add in a few drops of dish soap (such as Dawn Dish Soap)
- Swirl the water around in the pan so it forms bubbles
- Take a desk lamp (like this Simple Designs Desk Lamp), turn it on, and point it toward the pan
- Leave it overnight to catch the stink bugs!
This trap is so effective that it eliminates 14 times more stink bugs than commercial traps while saving on cost!
There you have it! Now that we’ve listed the six things that attract stink bugs to your home and taught you how to eradicate these smelly creatures, we hope you have the confidence and knowledge to handle your next stink bug invasion.
Remember that even if you are facing some unwelcome, stinky house guests, they won’t damage your home, lay eggs, or bite you.
By simply sealing off your home to prevent a large infestation and manually removing any stray stink bugs that manage to work their way in, you can keep your home pest, and smell, free.
Hancock, T. J., Lee, D. H., Bergh, J. C., Morrison, W. R., & Leskey, T. C. (2019). Presence of the invasive brown marmorated stink bug halyomorpha halys (Stål) (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) on home exteriors during the autumn dispersal period: Results generated by Citizen scientists. Agricultural and Forest Entomology, 21(1), 99–108. https://doi.org/10.1111/afe.12312
Quarles, W. (2014). IPM for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. The IPM Practitioner , 34(3), 4–6.
Rice, K. (2014). Biology, Ecology, and Management of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae). Journal of Integrated Pest Management, 5(3), 1–13.