How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs in Your Garden and Home
While there are over 4,000 different species of stink bugs, two that most commonly plague cities are the brown Halyomorpha halys and the green Chinavia halaris, both displaying a distinctive shield-shaped body and incredibly foul smell. Stink bugs are an invasive species native to countries in Asia and are one of the biggest threats to vegetables and fruits grown in the mid-Atlantic states. Stink bugs will puncture tasty fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants, sucking the nutrients out of them and decimating your local crops.
Recently, scientists have had some success battling these invaders with another invasive species–tiny wasps, but before you consider starting biological warfare in your own backyard, you may want to try these proven tricks and tips:
Be Careful What You Plant
Stink bugs’ favorite plants are tomatoes, peaches, raspberries, pears, okra, and some different kinds of beans. You can first try experimenting with different varieties. We’ve found in our garden that stink bugs will leave cherry tomatoes alone, while they’ll voraciously devour Beefsteak and Brandywine tomatoes. Some heritage breeds might also be less tempting to the bugs. If you have a serious stink bug problem and you’re not tied to their favorites, you can also consider simply avoiding planting certain plants.
Companion planting can be a good way to keep stink bugs out of your garden. It creates a virtual barrier to repel any unwanted guests. There’s numerous plants whose scent can help repel stink bugs, such as marigolds, chrysanthemums, tansy, catnip, lavender, thyme, garlic, radishes, and mints. Plant a border of one of these around any plants that are particularly attractive to stink bugs. Some of these plants will also help repel other garden pests.
How Do I Set Traps for Stink Bugs?
Trap planting involves luring the stink bugs away from your main garden to other plants and into traps. Some plants that stink bugs particularly like are sunflowers and grains like sorghum, buckwheat, and millet. You can then get lightweight nets tightly woven enough that the stink bugs can’t escape from them. Make sure the nets have a drawstring opening. Place the net over the sunflower or grain, wait for the stink bugs to crawl up the stalk and into the net, and pull the drawstring closed. Submerge the net entirely into a bucket containing warm soapy water until the stink bugs are dead.
You can also set up an artificial version of the above trap by putting a bit of fruit (like a raspberry, a beefsteak tomato, or a peach) on a pole or fiberboard tripod stand, with the net suspended over it and open at the bottom so the stinkbugs can get in.
In the spring, you can set up a light trap for stink bugs in your house using an aluminum turkey roasting pan filled with water mixed with a bit of dish detergent. Get a low-wattage CFL bulb – around 13 watts tends to work perfectly – and a desk lamp. Set the desk lamp so that the bulb is shining only on the pan. Turn it on roughly between the hours of seven P.M. and seven A.M. Make sure the lamp can’t get knocked into the water.
Once a week, you can simply knock the stink bugs off your plants and anywhere else they tend to settle with a jet of cold water from your garden hose. If you live in a climate that gets cold enough at night, like at higher elevations, you may wake up on a cool fall morning to find your stink bugs have fallen off the side of your house overnight, and are lined up 4-8” from the side of your house. If you are so inclined, you can just sweep them up before the sun hits them to warm them up and drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
If your local ordinances allow it, you might consider looking into getting chickens. Many chickens love nothing better than fresh stink bugs in the morning, and these voracious insectivores will quickly pick your land over. However, some places ban keeping chickens. Chickens are high maintenance (about as much as getting a dog), and chickens will eat many types of garden or ornamental plants, so they’re not suited for every garden. If you have trouble getting your chickens interested in stink bugs, try introducing them to just one at a time. If one chicken starts actively seeking out the bugs, the other chickens will often follow as well so they won’t miss out on a tasty treat!
In Your House
Try and figure out where the stink bugs are entering from, then seal all cracks in brickwork and around doors, windows, and ledges with caulk.
For any other stink bugs in the house, instead of squishing them, knock them into a plastic water bottle filled with soapy water, so they don’t spray you.