Where Did the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Come From? Unraveling the Mystery

The brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species, has become a nuisance in many parts of the United States.

As you might wonder about its origin, it is native to Eastern Asia, specifically China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

The bug first made its appearance in the U.S. near Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2001, but it is believed to have been in the country for a few years before being officially identified.

Where Did the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Come From

These stink bugs can wreak havoc on various plants, as they are known to feed on fruits, seeds, stems, and leaves.

With their distinct shield shape and brown mottling, adult bugs can grow between 14 and 17 mm long, roughly the size of a U.S. dime.

Understanding where this bug originated can help us address the issues they cause and find effective ways to manage their presence in various environments.

Where Did the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Come From? Origins of the Pest

The brown marmorated stink bug, or Halyomorpha halys, is an invasive species that has become a nuisance and a pest in many parts of the world.

Its origins can be traced back to Asia, specifically countries like China, Japan, and Korea. Their introduction to other countries has caused significant disruptions to native ecosystems and agricultural industries.

These bugs gained international attention when they were accidentally brought to the United States in the late 1990s.

They were first identified near Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2001, but it’s believed they were already present in the area for a few years prior to their discovery (Hoebeke and Carter 2003).

Since then, their presence has spread rapidly across the Eastern and Midwestern United States, as well as Canada.

To give you a better understanding of the brown marmorated stink bug, here are some key characteristics:

  • Shield-shaped body with brown mottling
  • Length between 14 and 17 mm, similar to the size of a U.S. dime
  • Alternating broad light and dark bands on abdominal edges and last two antennal segments
  • Adult females lay clusters of 20-30 light green or yellow elliptical-shaped eggs from May through August .

The brown marmorated stink bug is known to feed on a wide variety of plants, including fruits, seeds, stems, and leaves, causing damage to crops and ornamental plants alike.

If you encounter these bugs in your garden or home, it’s essential to take proper pest control measures to prevent their spread and minimize the damage they can cause.

Entry into United States

The brown marmorated stink bug found its way into the United States in the mid-1990s.

These bugs are believed to have entered the country as hitchhikers in shipping containers, settling in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

It wasn’t until 2001 that they were officially identified by experts1. This insect has now spread throughout various states, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic region2.

The dispersion of brown marmorated stink bugs in the United States has led to significant consequences for agriculture and residential areas.

They feed on and damage a wide range of crops, resulting in significant losses for farmers3. In residential settings, they can be a nuisance, as they enter homes during the fall seeking warm, protected spaces to overwinter4.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Characteristics

Physical Features

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is an invasive species with distinctive characteristics:

  • Shield-shaped body
  • Brown mottling
  • Size: 14-17 mm (about the size of a U.S. dime)
  • Alternating broad light and dark bands on abdominal edges and antennae

These features make it easier for you to identify them in your surroundings.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of the BMSB consists of three stages:

  • Eggs: From May to August, adult females lay clusters of 20-30 light green or yellow, elliptical-shaped eggs on plants.
  • Nymphs: After hatching, the nymphs go through five stages before becoming adults. They vary in color, including red, black, and white, depending on their stage.
  • Adults: Adult brown marmorated stink bugs fully mature during the fall months.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Hatchlings

Common Behavior

The BMSB exhibits nuisance behavior as it searches for wintering sites, invades buildings, and emits a pungent odor when disturbed or crushed.

During the winter months, you might find them:

  • Inside your home, seeking warmth
  • In cracks and crevices
  • Clustered around heat sources

In addition to being a nuisance, these bugs can cause significant damage to plants by feeding on fruits, seeds, stems, and leaves.

While they are destructive to plants and crops, brown marmorated stink bugs are not dangerous to humans; they do not bite or sting.

Effect on Agriculture

Damage to Crops

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is a notorious pest that wreaks havoc on a variety of fruits and vegetables.

In your garden, you may notice the damage to crops like apples, peaches, tomatoes, and peppers.

These pests pierce the surface of fruits and vegetables, which leads to deformities and discoloration.

Some examples of crops affected by BMSB include:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Grapes
  • Soybeans
  • Corn
  • Beans

Impact on Industry

The impact of BMSB on the agriculture industry is significant. Farmers and specialty crop growers face challenges in controlling this pest, particularly because of its broad range of host plants.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Not only does it affect fruit and vegetable production, but it also targets field crops like corn and soybeans.

A comparison of how BMSB affects different aspects of agriculture:

AspectImpact
Fruit ProductionDeformities and discoloration in fruits like apples
Vegetable ProductionDamage to crops like tomatoes and peppers
Field CropsAttacks on corn and soybean crops
IndustryFinancial burden on farmers and specialty crop growers

Management Strategies

Preventive Actions

To protect your home and garden from the invasive brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), it’s crucial to take preventive measures. Examples of such steps are:

  • Seal openings: Inspect doors, windows, pipes, and chimneys for gaps, and use caulk or sealant to close them.
  • Install screens: Place screens over windows, vents, and other access points to keep BMSB out.
  • Inspect plants: Regularly check your plants for signs of infestation and remove any stink bugs you find.

Controls and Solutions

In case of a BMSB infestation, several control methods can be employed, such as:

  • Traps: Use commercially available stink bug traps or DIY solutions to catch them.
  • Insecticides: Apply insecticides like pyrethrin to affected areas, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Soapy water: A mixture of water and soap can be used to kill stink bugs on contact.
  • Vacuum cleaner: Suck up stink bugs using a vacuum cleaner, but remember to dispose of the bag to avoid reinfestation.

Note: Foggers are generally not recommended for long-term management of BMSB infestations.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Current Efforts in States

States like Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Oregon, and Michigan are actively involved in BMSB management and research, collaborating with the EPA to develop effective strategies. Efforts include:

  • Monitoring the spread and impact of BMSB on agriculture.
  • Investigating biological control methods, such as introduction of predator species.
  • Informing the public on ways to prevent and control BMSB infestations.

Effects on Homes and Urban Structures

The brown marmorated stink bug, a pest originally from East Asia, has become a nuisance in homes, buildings, and structures across the United States.

During the fall, these bugs are attracted to the warmth of your home. They seek out protected areas to overwinter, often entering houses in large numbers. Once inside, they can cause several issues for homeowners like you.

  • Odor: When disturbed or crushed, these bugs release a pungent odor that can permeate your living space.
  • Crop damage: If you grow fruits and vegetables near your home, the stink bugs can cause significant damage, as they suck plant juices from fruits, seed pods, and nuts.

Below is a comparison table summarizing pros and cons of a method for controlling stink bugs.

MethodProsCons
Sealing entry pointsSimple approach to prevent bugs from enteringTime-consuming; may not block all entry points

So, while these pesky bugs can create issues in your home and urban structures, there are measures you can take to manage them effectively.

Other Relevant Details

Plant Species Affected

Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) are known to feed on a wide variety of plants. For example, they can cause damage to fruits, seed pods, and nuts, affecting popular plant species like pears, apples, and vegetables.

Furthermore, they can also harm ornamental plants in North America. From May to August, these pests can severely damage host plants by piercing their leaves to extract juices.

Predators and Parasites

Naturally, BMSB have their own predators and parasites, which can help control their populations. 

Here is a small list of such predators:

  • Insects:
    • Spiders
    • Ladybugs
    • Predatory thrips
    • Lacewings
    • Sand wasps
    • Red velvet mite
    • Crickets
    • Katydids
    • Ground beetles
    • Earwigs
    • Assassin bugs
    • Predatory stink bugs
    • Parasitic flies
    • Mantids
    • Jumping spiders
    • Minute pirate bugs
    • Damsel bugs
  • Chickens
  • Bats
  • Rats

You can encourage the presence of these natural predators in your garden to keep it free of the dreaded BMSBs

Stink Bugs and Pets

Although BMSB may seem like a concern for plant life, they are generally not harmful to pets. While the bugs may release a strong odor when disturbed or crushed, this smell is not dangerous to animals.

However, it’s still preferable to keep your pets away from these pests when possible, as the stink bug’s smell can be quite unpleasant.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Conclusion

In conclusion, the brown marmorated stink bug, native to Eastern Asia, has become a significant nuisance in the United States since its accidental introduction in the late 1990s.

Recognizable by its shield shape and brown mottling, this invasive species poses a threat to a variety of plants, including important agricultural crops.

Its rapid spread and impact on both agriculture and residential areas underscore the importance of effective management strategies to control its population and mitigate damage.

Understanding its origin, characteristics, and behavior is crucial in developing and implementing these strategies.

Footnotes

  1. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug | US EPA
  2. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug | Ohioline – Ohio State University
  3. Brown marmorated stink bug | UMN Extension
  4. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug – Penn State Extension

Reader Emails

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 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in the News

Ed. Note: Clipping from the Youngstown Vindicator
A consultant from Ohio mailed us this informative article that documents the search for a natural predator that can help control the invasive exotic Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that we receive so many identification request regarding. Clicking on the image will expand it in a new window.

Letter 2 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in Oregon

Subject: flying bug id
Location: eugene, oregon.
October 4, 2014 2:33 pm
These things are everywhere here in Eugene Oregon. I thought it was a stink bug but they look bigger. I would like to know the name of the bug it is commonly known as.
Signature: jordan mccray

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Dear Jordan,
The reason this insect looks like a Stink Bug to you is that it is a Stink Bug in the family Pentatomidae, however it is not a native species.  This is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug,
Halyomorpha halys, a species from Asia first reported in Pennsylvania in 1998.  According to BugGuide:  “Severe Agricultural and Nuisance Problems: PA-VA (Leskey-USDA 2011)  Native to E. Asia, adventive in N. Amer., detected in 38 states (2) and spreading…” and “Highly polyphagous, reported on ~300 plant spp. in its native range (3);   feeds mostly on fruit, but also on leaves, stems, petioles, flowers, and seeds. Damage typically confined to the fruiting structures.”  Though we do not endorse extermination, we haven’t much tolerance for invasive species and we have no problem crushing invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs that find their way into our garden and office.  In our opinion, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and the African Painted Bug, another Stink Bug, are two of the greatest threats to the agriculture industry that have been recently introduced to North America.  

Letter 3 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug killed after entering home

Subject: Help: flying insect in home
Location: Michigan
January 3, 2016 6:07 pm
Hi bugman,
It is now winter in Michigan and I have killed at least 4 of these flying insects in my home. I live in the suburbs and my family and I cannot fathom what this bug is. We are thinking it is some kind of beetle. Can you help us here?
Signature: Worried homeowner

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug killed after entering home.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug killed after entering home.

The invasive, exotic Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is increasing in numbers and spreading across North America since being discovered in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s.  It enters homes when weather cools so that it can hibernate.  This is a serious threat to many commercial crops as well as plants grown in home gardens.

Letter 4 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in Switzerland

Subject:  Identification Request
Geographic location of the bug:  Basel, Switzerland
Date: 10/05/2017
Time: 08:29 AM EDT
Please identify the bug in the attached photos. Thank you.
How you want your letter signed:  Maya

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Dear Maya,
This is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, a species native to Asia that has been introduced to North America where it quickly spread across the continent because it can feed on so many different plants and because it has no natural enemies.  As the weather begins to cool, Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs frequently seek shelter indoors to hibernate.  According to a Journal Article on PLOS One:  “The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB),
Halyomorpha halys (Stål) (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae), native to Asia, is becoming an invasive species with a rapidly expanding range in North America and Europe. In the US, it is a household pest and also caused unprecedented damage to agriculture crops.”

Letter 5 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is Chemistry Class Mascot

Subject:  Gerald
Geographic location of the bug:  Duxbury, Massachusetts
Date: 01/10/2019
Time: 12:53 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello Mr. Bugman,
My friends and I have enjoyed our chemistry class while watching our friend Gerald, a dead bug, who passed away a week ago. I am truly hurt that he was killed, but he brings us good luck to every class. He was very near and dear to my heart, and I would love to know what bug he is. R.I.P. Gerald <3
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks!

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

We are sorry for the loss of your good luck mascot, but alas, Gerald is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, an invasive, exotic species that was first reported from Pennsylvania at the end of the 20th Century and has now spread across much of the North American continent.  Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs frequently enter homes to hibernate.  Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs pose a significant threat to agriculture, and according to BugGuide:  “Highly polyphagous, reported on ~300 plant spp. in its native range; feeds mostly on fruit, but also on leaves, stems, petioles, flowers, and seeds. Damage typically confined to fruiting structures” and “in the US, reported to damage apples, pears, peaches, cherries, corn, tomatoes, peppers, soybean, ornamentals…”

Reader Emails

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 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in the News

Ed. Note: Clipping from the Youngstown Vindicator
A consultant from Ohio mailed us this informative article that documents the search for a natural predator that can help control the invasive exotic Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that we receive so many identification request regarding. Clicking on the image will expand it in a new window.

Letter 2 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in Oregon

Subject: flying bug id
Location: eugene, oregon.
October 4, 2014 2:33 pm
These things are everywhere here in Eugene Oregon. I thought it was a stink bug but they look bigger. I would like to know the name of the bug it is commonly known as.
Signature: jordan mccray

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Dear Jordan,
The reason this insect looks like a Stink Bug to you is that it is a Stink Bug in the family Pentatomidae, however it is not a native species.  This is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug,
Halyomorpha halys, a species from Asia first reported in Pennsylvania in 1998.  According to BugGuide:  “Severe Agricultural and Nuisance Problems: PA-VA (Leskey-USDA 2011)  Native to E. Asia, adventive in N. Amer., detected in 38 states (2) and spreading…” and “Highly polyphagous, reported on ~300 plant spp. in its native range (3);   feeds mostly on fruit, but also on leaves, stems, petioles, flowers, and seeds. Damage typically confined to the fruiting structures.”  Though we do not endorse extermination, we haven’t much tolerance for invasive species and we have no problem crushing invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs that find their way into our garden and office.  In our opinion, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and the African Painted Bug, another Stink Bug, are two of the greatest threats to the agriculture industry that have been recently introduced to North America.  

Letter 3 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug killed after entering home

Subject: Help: flying insect in home
Location: Michigan
January 3, 2016 6:07 pm
Hi bugman,
It is now winter in Michigan and I have killed at least 4 of these flying insects in my home. I live in the suburbs and my family and I cannot fathom what this bug is. We are thinking it is some kind of beetle. Can you help us here?
Signature: Worried homeowner

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug killed after entering home.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug killed after entering home.

The invasive, exotic Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is increasing in numbers and spreading across North America since being discovered in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s.  It enters homes when weather cools so that it can hibernate.  This is a serious threat to many commercial crops as well as plants grown in home gardens.

Letter 4 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in Switzerland

Subject:  Identification Request
Geographic location of the bug:  Basel, Switzerland
Date: 10/05/2017
Time: 08:29 AM EDT
Please identify the bug in the attached photos. Thank you.
How you want your letter signed:  Maya

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Dear Maya,
This is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, a species native to Asia that has been introduced to North America where it quickly spread across the continent because it can feed on so many different plants and because it has no natural enemies.  As the weather begins to cool, Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs frequently seek shelter indoors to hibernate.  According to a Journal Article on PLOS One:  “The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB),
Halyomorpha halys (Stål) (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae), native to Asia, is becoming an invasive species with a rapidly expanding range in North America and Europe. In the US, it is a household pest and also caused unprecedented damage to agriculture crops.”

Letter 5 – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is Chemistry Class Mascot

Subject:  Gerald
Geographic location of the bug:  Duxbury, Massachusetts
Date: 01/10/2019
Time: 12:53 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello Mr. Bugman,
My friends and I have enjoyed our chemistry class while watching our friend Gerald, a dead bug, who passed away a week ago. I am truly hurt that he was killed, but he brings us good luck to every class. He was very near and dear to my heart, and I would love to know what bug he is. R.I.P. Gerald <3
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks!

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

We are sorry for the loss of your good luck mascot, but alas, Gerald is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, an invasive, exotic species that was first reported from Pennsylvania at the end of the 20th Century and has now spread across much of the North American continent.  Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs frequently enter homes to hibernate.  Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs pose a significant threat to agriculture, and according to BugGuide:  “Highly polyphagous, reported on ~300 plant spp. in its native range; feeds mostly on fruit, but also on leaves, stems, petioles, flowers, and seeds. Damage typically confined to fruiting structures” and “in the US, reported to damage apples, pears, peaches, cherries, corn, tomatoes, peppers, soybean, ornamentals…”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

5 thoughts on “Where Did the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Come From? Unraveling the Mystery”

  1. It sounds very promising, but I hope thorough research is done. There have certainly been cases where species (plants, insects, etc.) have been introduced to help control the population of an invasive species, who ended up becoming an invasive species themselves. They also really need to make sure this wasp will play nice with our native wasps. Is there a picture of this wasp anywhere?

    Reply

Leave a Comment