The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

October 23, 2013

A big, stinkin’ problem

Annoying bugs may already have settled in for the winter

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY AREA — Tired of stink bugs?

Join the club.

“I don’t like them either,” Jan Hurlbert, owner of Hurlbert’s Hardware store in Greenville, said. “Is there anything they’re good for?”

Properly called Halyomorpha halys, the brown marmorated stink bug is the latest pest to plague the region thanks to the good folks in Asia, who last brought us the Asian ladybird beetle, which is unlike its more ladylike cousin, the common ladybug native to these parts.

Those “bugs,” which have plagued the area for about a decade, are more of a nuisance than a problem.

But the stink bug’s another creature entirely, mainly because “if you squish them, they smell,” Hurlbert said.

It’s a stench that some find barely noticeable and others find intolerable.

Stink bugs are native to Asia and were first spotted in the U.S. in 1998 in Allentown, Pa. Since then they’ve taken the northeast by storm, or more accurately by plague.

It’s unclear how they were introduced to Penn’s Woods, but they’ve made their way westward across the Alleghenys and now are a problem here.

“I don’t see how we get rid of this,” said Steve Jacobs, an insect specialist with the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office that advises farmers in the commonwealth.

“It’s a real problem for farmers, particularly orchard (growers),” Jacobs said.

They can also be a pest for everyone else, and there’s little that can be done to control them, Jacobs said.

There are insecticides on the market that will kill some of them, and folk remedies like shining a light on a bottle filled with soapy water to attract them, but there’s no kill-all way to eradicate them from the landscape.

If you’ve got an indoor stink bug problem now, you’re likely stuck with them, Jacobs said.

“At this point in time (in the season) the barn door is open,” he said. “They’re already inside the walls and in the attic.”

Trying to kill them with chemicals inside is “a waste of time, money and chemicals,” he said.

“Once they’re inside, there’s not much you can do,” he said.

They can be killed, and the carcasses can be vacuumed away, but if you do that be sure to change the vacuum cleaner bag or make sure the canister is emptied because they can survive the whirlwind of the sweeper, Hurlbert noted.

“They are annoying,” she said. “They’ll come out after you put the vacuum away.”

The carcasses also become fodder for another creepy, crawly creature: the carpet beetle, according to a fact sheet Jacobs authored.

“That’s the sticky wicket,” he said. “If they die in the walls they create another problem.”

“The best thing is to try to make the house as tight as possible,” Jacobs said, meaning that the area around windows, walls and doors is sealed so they can’t seek refuge inside.

Once inside, they can thrive, he said.

“They’ll live all winter” in an attic.

In essence the bugs live up to their name: They stink.