CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every fall, as the leaves start to change, phone calls and questions start to roll in concerning one topic in particular. Almost invariably, I can complete the sentence coming from the other end of the phone before it is finished. "Can you help me get rid of ... stink bugs?"
The brown marmorated stink bug (friends call them BMSBs) is the Johnny-Come-Lately of the insect pestilence world. As the overpopulation of Asian lady beetles is waning, the BMSB is poised to take its place as Enemy No. 1 in the home. What's more frightening is, whereas Asian lady beetles were beneficial to gardeners, the BMSB is an enemy.
Asian lady beetles spend their summers in the garden, munching on aphids and other undesirables, while BMSBs spend their summers in the garden -- eating your garden. Their preferred nourishment involves sucking juice from fruits using their strawlike mouth, but they also will feed on other parts of plants.
They enjoy peaches, apples, tomatoes and a bunch of other things you also enjoy. The damage they leave behind is mottled fruit, often with brown damage spots, making them unmarketable as Grade A produce. Uncontrolled, the BMSB could potentially destroy the fruit industry in the state's Eastern Panhandle.
And the fact remains that there hasn't really been good chemical control measures found for BMSBs in the field. Researchers at both the university and federal level are researching feverishly to find an answer to this pest problem.
Even if there were a good chemical control for the home, I would always recommend that the best offense against the BMSB is a good defense. Keeping them out of the house is the best way to avoid the problem. Of course, this means there will be some work to be done around the house. When I make these suggestions to people, there's a long silence or a blank stare before I hear, "Isn't there some other way?" Short answer: Sure, but my way is the best way.
First, make sure that any cracks around doors and windows are sealed with caulk. You should also check to make sure the weather stripping is in working order. Another common point of entry is through cracks in the soffit or between the soffit and the wall or roof. You should also check utility (wires, cables, pipes etc.) entry areas around your house. You should seal any of these cracks with caulk or foam sealant.