Stink bugs are a group of insects known for their distinct shield-shaped bodies and the unpleasant odor they emit when disturbed. They can be commonly found in gardens and agricultural fields, but many people might wonder what these insects actually eat.
In general, stink bugs feed on a variety of fruits, vegetables, and host plants. They have a needle-like mouthpart which allows them to pierce plant tissues and suck out the juices. This feeding habit can cause significant damage to crops, especially when stink bug populations are high.
However, it is important to note that not all stink bugs are considered pests. There are certain species, like predatory stink bugs, that actually feed on other harmful insects, making them helpful allies in maintaining a balanced ecosystem in your garden. So, knowing the difference between these species can be quite beneficial.
Understanding Stink Bugs
Stink bugs are generally oval or shield-shaped, and their head is small with 5-segmented antennae. The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is an invasive species native to Asia, whereas the green stink bug is a common species found in the United States. Here’s a quick comparison of their physical features:
|Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
|Green Stink Bug
|Brown or grayish brown
|Oval or shield-shaped
|Oval or shield-shaped
There are several species of stink bugs, including brown marmorated, green, and southern green stink bugs. BMSBs have an invasive nature and disrupt agricultural systems. Green stink bugs, on the other hand, are native to the United States and cause damage to crops like cotton, rice, and soybean.
Southern green stink bugs are another species that you might encounter. They are similar in appearance to green stink bugs, but they have a more aggressive impact on agricultural production.
Lifecycle and Reproduction
Stink bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis, which includes three stages: eggs, nymphs, and adults. The eggs are typically laid in clusters on the underside of leaves, while nymphs resemble smaller versions of adult stink bugs.
- Brown marmorated stink bug eggs are light green and laid in clusters of about 20-30 eggs.
- Green stink bug eggs are larger and deposited in clusters of 20-50. They are pure white and turn darker when ready to hatch.
As nymphs develop, their skin color varies, sometimes changing from black and red to brown or green before reaching adulthood. Once adults, stink bugs become reproductive and can produce several generations in one year, depending on the climate and location.
Stink Bugs’ Diet
Stink bugs can cause significant damage to a wide range of crops due to their feeding habits. They pierce plant tissues with their needle-like mouthparts and suck nutrients from the plants. This weakens the plants and leads to stunted growth, distorted fruits, and even crop losses. Some of the crops targets by stink bugs include corn, soybeans, sunflower, berries, peaches, pears, and even ornamental plants in your garden.
Here’s a comparison table of crops commonly affected by stink bugs:
|Level of Damage
Preference for Plants
Stink bugs are not picky eaters, but they do show some preferences when it comes to plant types. Tomatoes, beans, eggplants, sweet corn, cabbage, and various fruit trees are all potential food sources for these pests. Additionally, they like to feed on plant leaves, leaving puncture marks and sometimes damaging the vegetables in your backyard garden.
Some of the plant types stink bugs prefer:
- Tree fruits (apple, peach, pear)
- Vegetables (cabbage, eggplant, sweet corn)
- Leaves of ornamental plants
Be sure to monitor your garden and crops for signs of stink bug infestations, and take appropriate action if you notice their presence. A well-managed garden will help you enjoy your produce without the unpleasant surprises brought by stink bugs.
Stink Bugs and Home Invasion
Signs of Infestation
Stink bugs can invade your home during fall and winter in search of warmth and protection. Signs of an infestation include seeing stink bugs inside your home, as well as noticing damage to your garden, such as small holes in fruits and vegetables.
Getting Rid of Stink Bugs
There are various methods to get rid of stink bugs:
- Traps: You can use store-bought traps to catch stink bugs. Some traps use light or pheromones to attract stink bugs into sticky surfaces.
- Vacuuming: You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove stink bugs from your home. However, be aware that vacuuming may cause a temporary unpleasant smell.
- Diatomaceous Earth: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around areas where stink bugs congregate; this natural powder can kill stink bugs without using harsh chemicals.
- Essential Oils: Some essential oils like garlic spray, neem oil, and other natural sprays can help deter stink bugs. Apply it to your home perimeter or directly onto the stink bugs.
Pros and Cons of Methods
|May not attract all stink bug types
|May cause smell in vacuum cleaner
|Natural, safe for pets and children
|May take time to work
|Natural, smells better than pesticides
|Needs regular reapplication
Prevention and Control
Here are some tips to help prevent stink bug infestations:
- Seal Cracks: Check for cracks and crevices around your home and seal them with caulk. This will prevent stink bugs from entering your home.
- Garden Maintenance: Regularly tend to your garden, removing pests and keeping plants healthy. This will reduce the stink bugs’ food supply.
- Insecticides: For severe infestations, consider using pesticides or kaolin clay. However, keep in mind that insecticides can also harm beneficial insects, and it’s essential to use them as directed.
By following these methods, you can protect your home from stink bugs and keep them at bay during winter and spring seasons.
Stink Bugs in the Ecosystem
Predators of Stink Bugs
Stink bugs have several natural predators in the ecosystem. Some common predators include birds, such as swallows and sparrows, which feed on these insects. Spiders also prey on stink bugs by trapping them in their webs. Additionally, certain species of ladybugs consume stink bug eggs, helping to control their population.
- Birds: Swallows, Sparrows
- Spiders: Trap stink bugs in webs
- Ladybugs: Eat stink bug eggs
Beneficial or Harmful?
Stink bugs can be both beneficial and harmful, depending on their species. For instance, predatory stink bugs are beneficial as they feed on various insect pests, protecting your plants and garden. They attack over 100 species of insect pests and are considered a gardener’s friend.
However, some stink bugs like the brown marmorated stink bug can cause harm by feeding on a variety of plants, including weeds and grass, leading to significant crop damage. Therefore, it’s important to identify the type of stink bug you encounter to determine its impact on your ecosystem.
Here is a comparison table of beneficial and harmful stink bugs:
|Beneficial Stink Bugs
|Harmful Stink Bugs
|Predatory stink bugs
|Brown marmorated stink bug
|Feed on insect pests
|Feed on plants
|Protect plants & garden
|Cause crop damage
In conclusion, stink bugs play a crucial role in the ecosystem, either by being predators of harmful insects or as part of the food chain for their own predators. Ensuring a balanced ecosystem in your garden or surroundings can help maintain the balance between beneficial and harmful stink bug populations.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Stink Bug Nymph
Pretty black insect
Location: Port Coquitlam, BC, CA
August 29, 2011 12:49 am
These frisky black beauties were scampering around on raspberry bushes in Port Coquitlam, BC, Ca.
They weren’t very numerous, and have been hard to find since these photos were taken.
They move like lady bugs (less cute factor), and were active in full August sun in early afternoon.
You guys run a terrific site. Thanks in advance for any help help. Or, just enjoy the photos:-)
cheers, Storm Vos-Browning
This is an immature Stink Bug in the family Pentatomidae. Immature insects can often be difficult to properly identify to the species level. We found a matching image on BugGuide that indicates it is most likely a member of the genus Chlorochroa.
Letter 2 – Stink Bug likes Bathrooms in Germany
Toilet bug from Germany
Fri, Mar 6, 2009 at 4:58 AM
I’ve got a problem with my bathroom and the area around it. For a few weeks now these kind of flying bugs are hanging around here all the time. I keep throwing them out of my house but they must nest somewhere in the house.
They are winged and they can fly, but only for a short period. They get exhausted quite fast. Once you annoy them, like with throwing them out, they spit at you in a last attempt of telling me to back off. And since I don’t want to end up in the unneccessary carnage section, I ask you to tell me what kind of bug that is and what I should do, to get rid of it.
It is with great amusement that we post your letter with an image of a Stink Bug that is fond of the toilet. While we are not prepared to comment on why the toilet is the area of the home where you are most frequently finding the intruders, we can tell you that Stink Bugs in the family Pentatomidae, and other True Bugs often enter homes when cold weather sets in so they can escape the winter cold. The Stink Bugs are not breeding in your home and they will not do any damage. They are merely waiting out the winter so they can return to the great outdoors in the spring.
Update: January 26, 2016
A new comment brought this old posting to our attention. Because of the banded antennae, this appears to be a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, a species native to East Asia including China that according to BugGuide was “First collected in 1998 in Allentown, PA, but probably arrived several years earlier.” It has now spread coast to coast.
Correction: February 25, 2017
This appears to be a Mottled Shield Bug, Rhaphigaster nebulosa.
Letter 3 – Stink Bug Halloween Costume
found (bar)hopping and (pub)crawling
Location: Richmond, VA
June 18, 2011 12:36 am
One evening, late last October, we found this specimen scurrying around downtown Richmond, VA. Appears to be a female of the species, any ideas? Thanks in advance!
What a masterful homage to a Stink Bug in the family Pentatomidae. The scutellum and structure of the wings makes identification quite easy. We suspect it is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. We also suspect it was trying to gain access to a warm interior so it could hibernate until spring. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is an invasive exotic species believed to have been introduced from China into the state of Maryland and it has since spread to other parts of North America. Homemakers are often dismayed at the large numbers of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs that enter homes as the weather begins to cool. Interestingly, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was our Bug of the Month in October 2010 when these photos were taken. Thanks for entertaining us and providing a nice final posting for this morning. Now we can attend to some much needed gardening.
Thank you for the response; you’ve resolved our fear that we were sharing drinks with a roach.
Letter 4 – Stink Bug Hatchlings
Location: south charlotte, nc
May 2, 2011 10:07 pm
i have find this set of eggs and babies on the leaf of honeysuckle and don’t what there are?
These are immature Hemipterans, and they sure look like newly hatched Stink Bugs in the family Pentatomidae to us. You can compare their appearance to examples on bugGuide, though we could not find an exact match.
Letter 5 – Stink Bug Hatchlings
Subject: bug hatchlings on fern leaf
Location: SE Ohio
July 4, 2014 5:35 am
A friend posted this and asked what these little critters may be. I haven’t found them anywhere yet. Can you help? Thank you.
These Stink Bug hatchlings look similar to, but distinctly different from the hatchlings of the invasive, exotic Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. We would deduce they are likely a native species of Stink Bug. Immature True Bugs in the suborder Heteroptera can be very difficult to identify to the species level because many nymphs resemble one another and many nymphs change drastically as they transform into adults.
I told my friend they look like Duracell batteries—copper on one end and gray on the other, so they must be Duracell Fern Bugs. J
It’s a bit disappointing that they are stink bugs. Anything born that pretty should stay that way!
Thank you so much. I’ll send him your answer.
Letter 6 – Stink Bug Hatchlings
Subject: Bug on tomato leaves
Location: San Antonio texas
October 14, 2016 8:14 am
What is this??
Signature: Ms. Garza’s first grade class
Dear Ms. Garza’s first grade class,
These are hatchling Stink Bugs, probably Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs.
Letter 7 – Stink Bug Hatchlings
Subject: What is this?
Location: East Florida
June 28, 2017 11:53 am
I found these bugs under a leaf in my garden. Are they good bugs? Do they kill bad bugs?
These are Stink Bug hatchlings in the family Pentatomidae. Most Stink Bugs feed on plants, but there are some predatory species, though these do not look like a predatory species. They might be hatchlings of the invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, but many Stink Bug hatchlings look similar. Based on this BugGuide image, your individuals might be in the genus Podisus.
Letter 8 – Stink Bug Hatchlings from South Africa
Subject: Identifying a bug request
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
November 20, 2014 1:08 am
I found these bug eggs that hatched yesterday and would like to know what they are?
These appear to be hatchling Stink Bugs in the family Pentatomidae.
Letter 9 – Stink Bug Hatchlings from South Africa
Subject: Small round bug – South Africa
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
December 8, 2014 3:52 am
Hi, I took this photo of these insects and what looks like eggs, on an outside panel of my door. It is tiny – the whole lot measures probably just under 1cm in diameter. I took the photo on Sunday, 7 December, which is in the middle of our rainy, hot summer season. I am in Johannesburg, South Africa. It looks like they are protecting the eggs or something, but what kind of bug is that? Hope you can assist! Thanks! 🙂
Signature: Erna Pieterse
These are newly hatched Stink Bugs in the family Pentatomidae. We know they are most likely not the same species, but you can compare your image to this North American sighting of newly hatched Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs.
Letter 10 – Stink Bug Home Invasion: But What Species???
The Answer is: BROWN MARMORATED STINK BUG
what’s up what’s that bug?
I enjoy the site which I stumbled upon in trying to help my nephew learn more about his favorite past time, looking at bugs. Nonetheless I know think I have an appropriate question with which I need help. A few weeks ago, as the night temperatures began to dip into the 30’s (Fahrenheit), I removed the air-conditioner from my apartment window. Falling from the unit’s crevasses were tens of these bugs, which I have never seen before. This specific window faces the NNW and gets no direct sunlight as well there a number of tress about 30 feet away from my 4 th story, multi-dwelling apartment building in the heart of Georgetown, Washington DC. The pictures a crude, but can you identify these creatures? To be honest I am not typically ‘grossed-out’ by a bug or two, however the quantity here (as shown in one photo) and the proximity of my hands, arms and bare feet to tens of falling, semi-lifeless bugs was odd… Hope all is well. Thanks!
Your home is being invaded by Stink Bugs in the family Pentatomidae. Many True Bugs, including Stink Bugs, Western Conifer Seed Bugs and Boxelder Bugs, invade homes to excape the cold of winter. Your photo does not have enough detail to get an exact species identification, but there are individuals in several genera pictured on BugGuide that look very close. These include Apateticus, Banasa, Euschistus, Menecles, and the predatory Spined Soldier Bug in the genus Podisus.
Update: from Eric Eaton (11/28/2007)
I have the unfortunate answer to the “stink bug home invasion.” The species in the image is the recently introduced “brown marmorated stink bug,” Halyomorpha halys. It is well known for its habit of congregating on, or in, homes to overwinter, in contrast to our native stink bug species. So far, Halyomorpha halys is known mostly from Pennsylvania and adjacent states (and District of Columbia, obviously), but other populations have turned up in Oregon and elsewhere. It is a good idea for anyone with invading stink bugs to alert their state department of agriculture to positively identify the offending insects.
Letter 11 – Stink Bug lays Eggs
Found this laying eggs on my aluminum fence pole
Location: North shore suburbs of Chicago
August 15, 2011 8:25 am
I saw this colorful insect laying eggs on a pole in our backyard. It moved slowly and left a pod of about 10-15 tightly stuck together eggs in about 4 rows. Any idea what this insect is?
Signature: Bill Marcus
This is a Stink Bug and eggs laid in that manner are very typical of Stink Bugs. This sure looks to us like Banasa dimiata, a species BugGuide reports “from the entire United States, southern Canada and northern Mexico.” BugGuide also indicates: “Many different possible host plants are listed for this species, including birch (Betula spp.), bearberry (Arctostaphylos spp.) and chokeberry (Photinia spp.).”
Daniel, wow I had no idea that stink bugs were that colorful or relatively (to my preconceived vision) large. Thank you for the quick info
Letter 12 – Stink Bug Nymph
Location: Maine, USA
February 14, 2011 9:05 pm
I don’t know very much about insects but I found this bug with what looks like an A on it’s back (mostly from a distance) and am just curious to know what it is.
Right now I think it’s a superbug…
Signature: Sarah Harris
This is an immature Stink Bug in the family Pentatomidae, but we are uncertain of the species.
Letter 13 – Stink Bug Nymph
Subject: Blue and pink (Beetle?) in Vancouver, BC
Location: Vancouver BC – garden insect
October 8, 2016 5:09 pm
Hi This is a small beetle (about 1/3 inch long). It is sitting on my house fence in Vancouver BC. I am curious to know what it is as I’ve not seen one before.
Based on this BugGuide image, this Stink Bug nymph is in the genus Chlorochroa. According to BugGuide: “19 spp. in 2 subgenera in our area [10 spp. reach Canada]” and “most species broadly oval, green to brownish or almost black, with pale whitish or yellow margin on pronotum and elytra; scutellum long & triangular, sometimes with 3 callosities (bumps) along base, and the tip usually pale or contrasting in color; membrane at apex of forewing often clear or translucent.” We believe they may be Conchuela Bug nymphs, Chlorochroa ligata.