We should consider ourselves lucky. My daughter, who lives in Maryland, sent me a rather frantic text message a few days ago. The front of her house and her front door were covered, she wrote, with stink bugs. She doesn't particularly like messes of any kind, so to clean them off of her house, she took a broom and attempted to sweep them away. The bugs, not receptive to the disruption, began swarming and according to her, she was their target.
Two years ago, I wrote about this upcoming nuisance, mainly to make homeowners aware because this insect does feed on a wide range of vegetables, fruits and even some ornamental plants and to make everyone aware that these bugs would be showing up in larger numbers over time. The insect is not native to North America, and it is believed it was brought here accidentally in 1996. Since then, it has been found setting up housekeeping in Pennsylvania, parts of Ohio, and according to my daughter, in Maryland.
After I wrote about this insect the first time in 2010, I sometimes hear from friends who traveled east in the fall and came back to tell me they encountered swarms of stink bugs on cars and buildings.
Although we haven't yet been swarmed, nor have we had to brush hundreds of stink bugs off our front doors, chances are pretty good it could happen in the near future. On the nuisance meter, the stink bug has been compared with the Japanese beetle and the Asian multicolored lady bug, which most people know as those orange lady bugs we find crawling on our ceilings in the fall.
The stink bug is close. Small colonies of the brown marmorated stink bug have been seen locally. Last fall it was noted by Ohio State University Extension that so far the bug is scattered across the state. It's only a matter of time before breeding colonies make themselves at home in our back yards.
Like the Asian lady bugs, brown marmorated stink bugs will try to get inside our homes to spend the winter. The good thing is they don't cause any damage or feed inside over the winter, nor do they breed and repopulate. In the spring they make their way back outside and lay their eggs on our plants. According to OSU Extension, immature stink bugs, called nymphs, hatch and then go through three molting (or instar) stages before maturing into adults.
The best way to keep them from coming in at all is to seal up any openings around doors and windows with caulk and weather stripping. True to their names, the bugs emit an offensive odor as a defense mechanism that is said to be ''skunk-like.'' While the best way to remove the insects is to vacuum them, be sure to empty the canister or change the vacuum bag immediately.
The brown marmorated stink bug is not the only type of insect of its kind. As my previous column about this insect described, it is similar to the squash bug with a shield-shaped body, long antennae and six legs. Like the more familiar squash bug, this insect feeds by way of a piercing-sucking mouthpart, which makes it easy to cause damage to plants and fruit.
To distinguish the brown marmorated stink bug from others, look for the alternating white and dark bands on both the antennae and on the sides of its abdomen. Although it is believed to only have one generation per season in the U.S., because of its mobility, these insects can cause quite a bit of damage from early spring until fall when it meets up with other stink bugs to find a suitable wintering spot. Immature stinkbugs are yellowish brown and can be mistaken for ticks. However, ticks have eight legs to the stink bug's six.