Central Ohio is under attack.
The invader: Halyomrpha halys, also known as the stink bug.
Stink Bugs are small, brown bugs with shield-shaped bodies and grey and white dots on their backs. They are around half an inch wide and long and have six legs and two long antennae.
“I think they look really bad, they smell really bad, and when you kill them, they look even worse,” senior Nick Prculokvsi said.
The brown marmorated stink bug originated in Asia. Until recently, they did not terrorize Americans with their smell. However, in the early 1990s they migrated to the states in shipping crates from China or Japan.
In the last 20 years, they have spread to approximately 39 states.
“Their population has been expanding since they were introduced near Allentown, PA. That wave of the expanding population hit us two years ago. The number expands each fall, when they start searching for safe places to over-winter,” said Steve Rissing, a biology professor at The Ohio State University.
Contrary to popular belief, they are not looking for somewhere to lay their eggs. Female stink bugs lay their eggs during the summer, not the fall or winter.
Instead they are seeking warm places for winter. To do this, they usually sneak into houses through cracks or other entrances.
There isn’t much homeowners can do to keep them away.
However, according to Orkin.com, to prevent stink bugs from gaining, people are advised to put caulk over any holes into the home.
The best way to fight a home invasion of stink bugs is prevention.
Once stink bugs are inside, they don’t reproduce, but if they come in during the fall, they will reappear in the spring when they try to leave.
A home that experiences an invasion one year should expect another the next. Because of this, it is recommended that the outside of the home be investigated for holes as a precautionary measure.
“An increase in stink bugs is caused by a warm summer or spring, allowing for another generation to reproduce,” Rissing said.
This happened in 2010 and is predicted to occur again this year.
The record amount of stink bugs this fall shows that stink bugs are plentiful.
Ohio may seem to have it bad, but the problem is all around, and in many cases, it is worse elsewhere. The highest populations are reported in states closer to the coasts, such as California, Oregon, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.
Unlike many common pests, stink bugs cannot just be killed or removed. Stink bugs get their name from the defensive mechanism; they give out a pungent stench when killed, injured or even handled.
The smell, which has been described by some as similar to cilantro, is actually from aldehydes.
While some aldehydes can smell pleasing, others, such as the stink bugs’, are bad smelling to mammals.
It’s not hard to see why people are so frustrated by these walking landmines.
“When I see a Stink Bug, I just grab it with a napkin and throw it outside,” junior Kyle Mondlak said.
Not everybody uses this tactic however.
“Any I find outside, I just knock down and crush. Inside, I press a piece of tape on their back and then take the tape outside after I have several, then I lay the tape sticky/bug side down and crush it,” Rissing said.
Another common method is vacuuming up stink bugs, but this can leave the vacuum smelling bad.
Stink bugs do not bite people, which is another common fallacy. They are mostly herbivores and feed on fruits and leaves.
First, they poke a hole in the fruit with their mouths. Then, they stick their probiscuses or long tongues, down inside of fruits and spit some saliva into it.
The saliva, which is toxic to the fruit, usually leaves a scar on the fruit as it grows. The scar is said by most people to look like a cat’s face. All of this is according to stinkbugcontrol.com.
However, not all stink bugs are plant eaters.
According to Penn State’s entomology website, some garden varieties eat other insects that attack plants. These types of stink bugs are not considered harmful by gardeners or farmers.
The harmful stink bugs are still considered pests.
Fortunately, some types of birds and larger insects have developed the ability to prey on them, despite their odor.
What do they do for humans? “Like most species, probably nothing,” Rissing said.
The USDA is also considering introducing the Trissolcus wasp, a stink bug predator, to help fight the invasion. These wasps are the natural predators of the bugs in Asia.