A brown marmorated stink bug

Brown marmorated stink bugs are crawling on my windows, walls and the houseplants that I have saved from the lower night temperatures of the fall. They are creeping me out.

They could be hanging out on your dishes, doing a balancing act on your toothbrush, resting in your clothing or hair, or be a rather interesting ornament on your Christmas tree.

Brown marmorated stink bugs are a new invader in Illinois homes and an invasive insect that may threaten our gardens. They are a nuisance because they do what stink bugs do best — stink — but only when threatened. The other issue is that they move in to your home without paying any rent.

This invasive insect was first identified in 1998 in Pennsylvania, is considered a stowaway from Asia, and causes most of the northeastern states to dread the autumn invasion.

The bugs have a large host range, feeding on the landscape, and native and agriculturally important produce. The bugs have piercing mouth parts and are capable of damaging a multitude of crops from apples to pears to soybeans and landscape ornamentals.

Most reports so far have come from urban areas during the fall, generally from homeowners and master gardeners detecting these invasive insects in their homes.

The bug's body has the shield-shape characteristic to stink bugs and it is as wide as it is long. The three most identifying characteristics are its black and white banding on the antennae, the alternating dark/light banding on the edge of the wings, and the smooth shoulders.

They are capable of aggregating in manmade structures and recent USDA studies show they prefer large dead trees that are still standing. After overwintering in April, the adult lays 20-30 eggs with nymphs emerging shortly after. There can be multiple generations per year depending on seasonal temperatures.

To control bugs in the home:

  • Use a vacuum to suck up adults or drop them in soapy water
  • Take steps in early fall to caulk cracks and crevices around the house
  • Prevent movement in from the outside by repairing windows and putting on door sweeps
  • Perimeter spray of pyrethroids may be recommended
  • It is not recommended to use sprays in the home because insecticide residues are relatively ineffective in providing control. The USDA currently classifies Illinois as being at low risk for the pest, as large numbers have not been recorded. The only good thing I can say is they will not reproduce in your home but wait until spring.

Kelly Allsup is the University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator in Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties.

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