How to get rid of stink bugs in your home

Are you lucky enough to live in a place that doesn't have infestation of stink bugs every year? Unfortunately we've been dealing with them for quite some time! As I've struggled with keeping them out of the house I have learned quite a few things that work... and a few that don't!

Stink bug crawling on curtain  indoors

One of the things that helped was getting new siding on the house! No, I don't recommend this for everyone! In our defense the wood siding that was on our house was about 25 years old and badly needed replaced for other reasons! Effective, yes! Practical, no! Only get new siding if you need it.

However by getting new siding we found out that some stink bugs were getting into our house through the attic crawl space so we had to address that.

One of the things I tried that didn't work was sprinkling diatomaceous earth all around the entire outside of the house. Stink bugs don't crawl up to your house and then crawl up the house and get in. They fly and land wherever they want and try to find a crevice to get in. So anything working on the perimeter of the house will not work at all.

I found a mix of keeping them out and getting rid of the ones that were inside the house already was the easiest way to keep the stink bug infestation down to just a random one or two a week. Still annoying, but not so bad!

So let's talk about what you can do to keep a stink bug infestation from driving you crazy!

How to get rid of Stink Bugs indoors!

What are Stink Bugs and why do they want inside? Stink bugs, scientifically known as Halyomorpha halys are small insects that belong to the family Pentatomidae. They are so named because when they are threatened or squashed they.... well, they stink.

It's a defense mechanism to deter predators and quite frankly I think it smells a lot like cilantro. But maybe I just don't like cilantro?

Stink bugs are native to East Asia but have found their way to many parts of North America, Europe, and pretty much everywhere! They were accidentally introduced to the United States in the late 1990s and it's been downhill ever since.

Unfortunately, they can survive in various climates although they particularly like warm environments. I found that while they can survive outside through winter, they can't take sudden cold! If you have them outside in fall you'll have them in spring, but if you have one in your house in the winter and kick it out into the snow it will drop dead immediately. I mean mid flight!

In terms of appearance, stink bugs are relatively easy to identify. They have a distinct shield-shaped body that ranges in color from brown to green. Some species may have mottled or patterned markings as well.

Stink bugs have six legs, a pair of antennae, and long mouthparts called stylets that they use to pierce and drink from plant tissues. If you're familiar with squash bugs, they're kind of similar to stink bugs in appearance.

Stink bug on hydroponic garden

Stink bugs feed on plant matter, mostly. They have a wide range of host plants including fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants and weeds. They are especially fond of tomatoes, apples, peaches, and soybeans.

They also love hydroponic gardens because of the combination of light, water and plants to eat. It's like heaven to them and a main place of congregation in my house!

Because of this varied diet, stink bugs can live in your house all year round even though it seems that there's nothing for them to eat! It's also why you might find them inside an opened bag of apples laying on the kitchen counter. Wash your fruit before you eat it!

During the warmer months, stink bugs reproduce rapidly, laying clusters of barrel-shaped eggs on the underside of leaves. Again, very similar to squash bugs. They're most likely not doing this in your house, but if they are you're just gonna have to toss that plant.

Related reading: How to debug and clean your plants to bring inside for winter.

As the temperatures drop in the fall, stink bugs seek shelter to survive the winter. Because they are trying to survive the winter they are particularly motivated to invade your home and other structures. They can easily squeeze through small crevices and gaps. Once inside, they remain inactive, often congregating in large numbers, until the weather warms up again.

If you've ever opened up your attic in the early spring and got a strong whiff of stink bug stench, you'll know exactly what I mean! They will find their way into boxes, totes and pretty much anything you use for storage.

Now normally you can't smell them unless you squash one or threaten them in some way so they emit the smell, however when there is a large amount of them you actually can smell their presence.

Identifying Stink Bug Infestations

The first sign is often visual: if you notice them in your house, chances are you have stink bugs making themselves at home. Sure a few may have wandered in accidentally, but it's more likely they are intending to make themselves comfortable.

Another telltale sign it's a stink bug is their behavior. Stink bugs are not known for their agility or jumping abilities. In fact they kind of seem confused sometimes, bumping into things and getting stuck in weird places. 

When they fly they make a rather loud buzzing sound for their size and tend to land on people more than other non biting insects! The will hang out on walls or ceilings right in the open. This behavior, combined with their shield-shaped bodies, sets them apart from other common household pests.

While visually identifying them can be helpful in identifying stink bug infestations, they may also leave behind physical evidence. Stink bugs tend to leave small, rust-colored stains on surfaces where they have been. These stains may appear on walls, curtains, or furniture and will indicate a stink bug problem. 

It just looks like a little dried droplet or streak, but there's really no other bug that leaves these behind.

Stink bug residue on wall in house

Inside your home, stink bugs tend to congregate in warm areas, such as attics, ceilings and around traditional light bulbs. Or inside ceiling lights. They are particularly attracted to light sources, so you may find them clustered around lamps or crawling on windows. 

Or even in your Keurig water tank since it has a light under it. THAT was gross!

Methods for getting rid of the stink bugs

Stink bugs are not only a nuisance but can also cause damage to your house plants since they can suck the sap from them, and the icky factor of finding them in your kitchen is enough to want them gone forever!

Vacuum stink bugs up

My favorite way to get rid of them without having to pick them up is to suck them up with the vacuum cleaner. This works particularly well with the hose attachment if they're on the ceiling or in harder to reach areas.

However, make sure to dispose of the vacuum bag or empty the canister outside immediately to prevent the stink bugs from escaping or stinking up your vacuum. Suck up a little bit of carpet fresh or homemade carpet deodorizer first to keep the vacuum from getting stink buggy smelling.

Soapy water to drown stink bugs

Another method is using soapy water. Fill a bucket or large container with water and add a few drops of dish soap. When you come across stink bugs, catch them and drop them into the soapy water solution. The soap creates a surface tension that prevents the bugs from flying or crawling out of the water, ultimately leading to their demise. 

This works best if you're dealing with a lot at once, like if you're cleaning out the garage or attic, or going through boxes of stuff that's been stored awhile. Nobody wants buckets of soap water sitting around all the time, but it does work when faced with a bunch of stink bugs. Pro tip: wear gloves. 

Diatomaceous earth

If you have diatomaceous earth it may help. DE is harmless to humans and pets but deadly to stink bugs. Spread a thin layer of diatomaceous earth around areas where stink bugs are present, such as windowsills and doorways. When the stink bugs come into contact with the powder, it dehydrates their exoskeleton, leading to their slow death by dehydration.

Since stink bugs fly, this is more of a wait for it to maybe work approach.

Soda bottle suction trap

I use what my son calls 'murder bottles'. Any old empty drink bottle will do. Just take the cap off and squeeze some air out. Hold the bottle like that and place it over the stink bug then release the pressure to suck the bug inside. Replace the cap and toss in the trash. 

If you have a glass bottle use the cap to scoop the bug into the bottle, recap and dispose.

Fun fact: when using a soda bottle the stink bugs are often dead within the hour. When using a water bottle they will still be alive the next day. I drink soda so that's not a conversation I'm ready to have yet. LOL Moving on...

Stink bug catcher made from soda bottle

Preventing Stink Bugs From Getting Indoors

Of course we want to prevent them from coming into the house in the first place!

Seal up cracks and crevices in the house where the stinkbugs may be entering. In my case my ridiculously old siding was mostly to blame, but we soon found they were also entering through the roof vents. Once inside your roof/attic they find their way into your living area through the spaces around pipes, wires and even ceiling lights. Seal these up to prevent insects and heat/cool air escaping.

If you're ever looked up into a light fixture that was flush against the ceiling and it has dead bugs in it, your wires have space around them. These are bugs that got into your attic crawl space and came down through the wires into the light. Seal that up and never have to clean inside those light fixtures again!

Seal around utility boxes and anywhere wires or pipes lead into your home. This should be done anyway, but these things can deteriorate over the years so check and make sure they're still sealed and if not replace the caulking or use foam sealant.

Check around windows and doors for drafts and seal. If air can get in, so can pests! I used this window weather stripping.

Always use screens when leaving doors and windows open.

Cover your air conditioner when not in use for long periods and make sure window units have an airtight seal around them. Flex tape for temporarily sealing around the outside, caulk for permanent.

Make sure doors do not have large enough gaps for stink bugs to fit underneath. If you can feel a draft, they can fit through. Install door sweeps or use a draft stopper for all exterior doors.

Stinkbugs are attracted to moisture so run a dehumidifier in damp rooms. That helps prevent mold and other issues too!

If you have exterior storage or use a hard to seal area like a garage for storage, make sure to empty boxes immediately after bringing them in the house to check for stink bugs that are holed up in there!

When bringing plants indoors check thoroughly for stink bugs before bringing them in!

Related reading: 12 Ways to clean the air inside your home naturally.

Making a stink bug trap

I was talking to friends in a homestead group online and many of them said they made this trap and it works for them. Full disclosure, I was less than impressed with results! I am adding it here though because it worked really well for others so maybe my stink bugs are just more annoying than most?

It's easy to make and since you're using stuff like old soda bottles, at least it's recycled!

1. You'll need a two-liter soda bottle. Remove the cap and rinse out the bottle. Don't bother removing the label. You can use a milk jug, just make sure to cut where the pieces can fit together.

2. Cut the top 1/3 of the bottle off, just below where the curve begins to straighten. You're going to flip this top to act as a funnel, guiding the stink bugs into the trap.

3. You'll need to bait the trap. Stink bugs are attracted to light, so you can place a small LED light or a battery-operated LED tea light inside the trap. You could also place the bottle on top of a small light if you have a tiny one.

Apparently, they sell stink bug lures and you can toss one of these bait discs inside if you'd prefer. Or in addition to the light. Depends on how badly you want them gone I suppose.

4. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or cooking oil on the outside of the piece of the bottle you just cut off. This will prevent the stink bugs from climbing back out of the trap.

5. Flip the top and place it inside the bottom section of the bottle, creating the funnel.

6. Secure the top and bottom sections of the bottle together using tape. I used duct tape.

7. Finally, place the trap in areas where stink bugs tend to gather or enter your home, such as windowsills, doorways, near your house plants or in the kitchen. Check and empty the trap regularly to dispose of the captured stink bugs.

As I said, the trap didn't work particularly well for me, it only caught a few but it has worked very well for others so give it a try.

By using all these different methods I have cut down the stink bug population inside my house tremendously! I won't say I never see them anymore, but it's down to like 1 a week from 10 a I'll take it!

Related reading: Got spiders? Check out How to keep spiders out of your house naturally!


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1 comment:

  1. I put about an inch of DE in an empty jar. When you see one, just slide it into the jar, put the lid on and shake. We don't have a large infestation but this is great for the occasional one because you can keep the jar in your night stand or any drawer around the house.