Like most other pests, the brown-marmorated stink bug may be coming into your warm, cozy Washington home this winter. And you’ll know when they arrive! Like the name implies, the stink bug has a distinctively foul odor – if you squash them. So don’t. But you don’t have to live with them either.

To date, brown marmorated stink bug (affectionately called BMSB) has been recorded in 29 counties in Washington, with the majority of finds occurring in western Washington, along the Columbia River east to Walla Walla, and in Yakima. Of the 200 species of stink bugs in the US, 51 can be found right here in Washington.

Before you cry foul, you should know that BMSB won’t hurt you. Despite having piercing, sucking mouthparts — tiny shields about a half-inch long and wide, which they curiously tuck between their legs when they’re not piercing and sucking the juice from plants — they can’t bite you. They can’t sting you, and they won’t reproduce. Just remember not to crush them! But they can be destructive in other ways.

They will wreak havoc on fruit, vegetable and nut crops – so much so that there is a website developed, with funding from USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative, called “Stop BMSB” dedicated just to them.  This website represents a project that involves more than 50 researchers at 18 institutions across the United States working to develop a sustainable, long-term management program for the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) for specialty crop growers. The goal of StopBMSB.org is to deliver science-based information about BMSB to the public, free of charge and without advertising.

BMSB look like native stink bugs, but there are key differences.  The most distinguishing characteristic of BMSB are white bands that are visible on each antenna. They are serious pests in apple and peach orchards, and a variety of other crops including soybeans, vegetables, and ornamental plants. When the growing season ends BMSB have the potential to enter homes in large numbers.

There have been reports in the northeastern U.S. of thousands of BMSB entering homes at one time. The numbers reported in Pontotoc County have been less dramatic to this point. There have been near one hundred stink bugs reported in homes in our area though. That is more than enough to constitute a problem!

The best control method for BMSB is to prevent them from entering your home. Early fall is an ideal time to work on making buildings more bug-proof—before cool weather invaders start moving in by late fall.  This can be done by using typical bug-proofing techniques, such as sealing all cracks and crevices larger than the width of a quarter, with special attention given around doors, windows, siding, utility pipes and behind chimneys.  These areas can be sealed by using screens, weather-striping, wood molding, door sweeps, caulking and foam sealant.

If you find these pests, don’t put up a stink – call your professional pest control company to give you a quote.