Stink bugs are a pest that both gardeners and homeowners know all too well. These pests can be found causing trouble in the walls of your home, in gardens sucking the sap from plants, or releasing an odd stench that is true to their name.
While there are many species of the stink bug, it is the ones that damage garden plants that are the most concerning because they will feed on all forms of fruit and vegetable plants.
The Pentatomidae stink bug species is one of the most common garden pests known to man. Other common types include brown, green, and rice. Stink bugs have a shield-like body and are brown, black, or bright green with reddish-orange trim and a long needle-like mouth that is used for sucking sap.
The Conchuela stink bug is often black in southern states and green in northern states and is known for feeding on fruits and crops. In dryer climates, they will feed on prickly pear, sage, and yucca.
The odor of a stink bug has been described by many as a rotting smell, which comes from glands that can be found on their thorax. The scent is released when they feel threatened and often bothersome to gardeners.
Adults hibernate under brush, tree bark, piles of wood, and on the corners of buildings. Some species will even nest inside window sills and walls if given the opportunity.
During early spring the bugs will emerge and hunt for food and if conditions are ideal, they will mate. Similar to the cricket mating call, stink bugs rub their legs together to attract a mate. The bugs also give off an arousing scent that is different than the offensive aroma they are known by.
Once they reproduce, females lay a cluster of as many as 150 eggs on plant leaves, tree branches, or on houses that have clapboard siding. Eggs can be brown, pink, white, or yellow and deepen in color as the nymphs grow. Nymphs are wingless but similar In looks to adult stink bugs, except for their color and size.
The damage done by a stink bug is extensive since they are not particular about their feeding selection and will often leave decay and rot on plants they have fed from. These insects also produce a digestive enzyme that they inject into the plants which can cause discoloration.
The noticeable discoloration can be seen on damaged cabbage, lettuce, spinach, and other leafy vegetables, which are gray and beige. They can also appear on corn crops as dark spots on stalks and tomatoes as a dark bruise.
The best defense against these pests is always a natural approach since chemicals harm enemy predators which can lead to a stink bug infestation.
Keeping your yard trimmed and neat will reduce access to places they will hide in during the winter.
Invest in row covers which can be used to keep stink bugs from feeding on garden plants. If you discover the bugs on top of the covers, simply pick the pests off and dispose of them in a container of warm soapy water.
Beneficial predators like the parasitic wasp will destroy the eggs of a stink bug by inserting their eggs into them. These wasps have been known to be highly effective in the western and southern regions of the United States.
Lady beetles, green lacewing, and pirate bugs are also beneficial predators of some species like the Pentatomidae since they will feed on different stages of the pest.
If stink bugs have invaded your home, place a pan of water with a small amount of dish soap in it under a lamp left on overnight. The light attracts the pests while the soapy water traps them into the pan for easy disposal.