They’re ugly, they’re creepy, and they’re breaking into your house any way they can.
As October’s nighttime temperatures fall off their summer highs, the pre-historic-looking pest that was first discovered in the U.S. in the late 1990s is on the move, looking for warm places to spend the winter.
And unfortunately, sometimes, that’s inside your house.
“They’re just so gross,’’ said horticulturalist Diane Larson, of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Monmouth County. “They’re ugly, but they’re harmless.’’
Larson said this is the time of year that the brown marmorated stink bug looks for warmer places for the winter. They are one of the few insects that spend the winter as adults, not larvae, and they’re particularly good at finding ways inside your house, Larsen said.
“They will find any little crack that’s available,’’ Larson said.
Once inside, they really don’t do much, however. Larson said the stink bug causes no harm, does not nest or reproduce once inside, and eats nothing. If crushed, however, the bug emits a foul odor, hence its name.
“They just kind of shut down,” Larson said. “They slow down and they don’t really move and they don’t eat. They get moving again in the heat.”
While a nuisance to homeowners, the stink bug is becoming an economic pest to farmers. The bugs eat a wide variety of crops.
“No other pest we know of has that broad a range of what it will feed on,” Dean Polk, coordinator of Rutgers’ fruit Integrated Pest Management program, has said.
Reports of stink bug infestation this year are lower than they have been in three years. Researchers, however, don’t know why, Larson said.
In the U.S., stink bugs are concentrated mostly in the Mid-Atlantic states, including New Jersey, according to a recent national survey. But the invasive species has now spread to 38 states, including California and Oregon, according to USDA-funded research.
The brown marmorated stink bug is native to Asia and was first discovered in the U.S. in 1996 and in New Jersey three years later.
The best homeowner’s defense against stink bugs is a good offense, according to literature from the Rutgers Cooperative extension. A little caulk around windows and doors can go a long way to keeping out the little critters. Removing window air conditioning units is a must, Larson said.
The bugs don’t sting, so removal by hand is an option, once sighted inside the house. The business end of a vacuum also is effective, Larson said.