Doing Battle with Stink Bugs


More than 200 species of stink bugs call North America home, and you may very well think most of them have taken up residence in your garden.

Macro shot of a brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) on a green veggie leaf.

These shield-shaped munchers are known for the odor they produce when disturbed or squished, which is said to be similar to skunk, powerful cilantro, or coriander.

Personally, I don’t find coriander to be stinky at all, but I suppose that’s a to-each-her-own kind of thing.

Get tips and tricks for ridding your garden of voracious stink bug invaders |

Anyway, these greedy critters eat through a wide variety of homegrown fruits and vegetables, including cucumbers, berries, squash, tomatoes, apples, and peaches.

How do you protect your crops from these voracious vermin? Let’s look at some tried and true techniques.

Rule No. 1: Cleanliness

The first step to control stink bug populations is to keep your gardens clean and free of debris.

Check out our numerous methods of killing stink bug invaders |

These pests like to hide in decomposing logs or under decaying plant matter, so keep areas clear of potential homes and breeding grounds.

Remove dead leaves, weeds, and overgrown plantings.

About Those Brown Home Invaders

We know many of you in the Midwest and Northeast suffer each fall from an invasion of brown marmorated stink bugs into your homes, where they seek shelter from chilly weather.

This “gift” from Asia is not native to the United States, but has made itself quite at home here, wreaking havoc on crops and in homes along the way.

Get tips and tricks to repel and kill plant-hungry stink bugs |

This article deals primarily with ridding your garden of any of a wide variety of stink bugs, but some of these techniques will also be applicable to getting rid of the dreaded home invader.

Oh, the Irony

Try repelling these odiferous arthropods by planting — get this — smelly plants. Garlic, catnip, lavender, and thyme are examples.

Radishes, marigold, and chrysanthemum are also known to repel these pests.

Also consider planting plants that attract enemies of the stink bug.

Get tips and tricks for banishing stink bugs from your garden |

A study conducted by Lauren G. Hunt, Armando Rosario-Lebron, and Cerruti R. Hooks found that French marigold, buckwheat, and purple tansy were effective at attracting parasitic wasps.

These wasps lay their eggs in stink bug eggs, destroying the developing insect. The wasps are tiny and don’t pose a problem for humans.

Birds are a tool you can employ to keep stink bugs from destroying your crops |

Cardinals, bluebirds, and wrens are partial to a stink bug snack, so work to attract these birds to your garden.

Some gardeners will plant a sacrificial “trap plant” such as tomato or sunflower away from the main gardens, and hope the pests settle on that plant, leaving the main crops alone.

When the bait plant is covered in the insects, pull it up, bugs and all, and carefully contain it in a plastic bag. Leave it in the sun to kill the insects, and then dispose of the whole mess.

How About a Nice, Warm Bath?

You can also try trapping the little buggers by rigging up a battery-powered light over a pan filled with soapy water. At night they’ll be attracted to the light, fall into the water, and… game over.

Get tips and tricks for keeping stink bugs out of your garden |

Commercially available pheromone traps emit a scent that the creepy crawlers supposedly find irresistible, but many gardeners seem to find the effectiveness of these negligible at best.

A Stream of Misery

Going back to our stinky-beats-stinky theory, you might want to try a garlic spray. Here’s how to make your own at home:

Chop 5-6 garlic cloves finely and boil in a gallon of water. Let it cool, then strain the mixture and spray it on susceptible plants. Simple, right?

Neem oil is often effective against these smelly invaders, and it’s available on Amazon.

Garden Safe Neem Oil Extract Concentrate

Insecticidal soap tends to work better against soft-bodied insects, but some gardeners report success using it against the stinkies.

Safer Brand Insecticidal Soap

You can purchase commercial insecticidal soaps, such as this one available on Amazon.

Or, make your own by combining five tablespoons of liquid soap with one gallon of water.

Bonide Pyrethrin Spray Concentrate

Pyrethrin is another organic insecticide that can be effective against stink bugs. Find it at Amazon.

Clean Out the Fireplace

Some gardeners have found wood ash to be a good stink bug repellent, while others say it works better against slugs and snails.

If you want to give it a try, simply spread a thin layer around your vulnerable plants after a rain.

Last Resort

When all else fails, you can try a chemical-based product such as Sevin.

Get expert tips and ideas for banishing stink bugs from your gardens |

Sevin is quite effective against stink bugs, but keep in mind that it is toxic to humans and classified as a likely human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so you’ll want to thoroughly wash food treated with this product.

Also note that this chemical will also kill beneficial insects such as bees and ladybugs.

Ready to do Battle?

We’ve described a number of techniques you can try to rid your garden of these fruit- and veggie-loving bugs. Are you ready to do battle?

These pests may have a shield, but now you’ve got a number of arrows in your quiver.

Stink bugs are damaging invaders; learn how to banish them from your garden |

Whether it’s giving them a dose of their own medicine by planting smelly plants that repel them or taking a more aggressive stance with lethal sprays, it’s time to find a way to spare your plants from the stress of the stink. (And speaking of stress… gardening is excellent for stress relief.)

Do you have any tried-and-true methods for vanquishing these bugs? Share in the comments section below!

Don’t forget to Pin It!

Is your garden bugged by stink bugs? Learn how to banish these malodorous, produce-eating pests from your garden once and for all with tips and hints from the experts at Gardener’s Path.

Product photos via Bonide, Garden Safe, and Safer Brand. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

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Jeff (@guest_686)
2 years ago

I’ve tried to type a comment three times and it disappears before I get it posted. So I’m going to make it short and direct. When it comes to killing insects in the garden I recommend skipping all the way down to pyrethrins or stronger. I’ve wasted countless amounts of money on organic stuff. They either don’t work or take too long to work. You can lose a crop waiting for something to happen. Sevin is safe and does a good job. You don’t have to spray it on the actual fruit or blooms for it to work. Bees land… Read more »

Jennifer C
Jennifer C (@guest_1532)
Reply to  Jeff
2 years ago

SO… Last year was it for me with ALL the bugs PERIOD! I’ve had about enough!! I live in Michigan (lower-thumb area), a small inner city that used to be all farm land, now little by little it’s growing. I love the country, so living here still has the country feel. So I can’t complain to much except for the what seems like BIGGER bugs. I’ve encountered big spiders that I believe should of been someone’s pet, I’ve encountered the ever-so freak-me-the-bleep-out millipedes, where their size don’t make a bit of difference to me, it’s their what looks like hundreds… Read more »

Dani Chasyah
Dani Chasyah (@danidiscovers)
1 year ago

I was finding stink bugs in my apartment since the spring came. A few weeks later I noticed they were all under the leaves of my money tree on my windowsill, munching away. Gross. I have potted plants outside and several inside, but I also have a pet chinchilla, so I have to be especially careful. I ordered the product with neem oil that you recommend. I hope it helps. Any tips on grain weevils? My kitchen is over-run. I have the worst luck. I moved to the south shore of Long Island near a big state park and I’ve… Read more »

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
Noble Member
Reply to  Dani Chasyah
1 year ago

Oh no! I can certainly sympathize, Dani- an apartment where I once lived was infested with silverfish and pantry moths, and I was absolutely miserable until I found a solution. But I think I can offer a little help- grain weevils are similar to pantry moths in some ways, at least in terms of eradication. The bad news is, if you haven’t already, you will need to clean out your kitchen cabinets entirely, and get rid of everything from your pantry that might be infested. If you’re reluctant to toss unopened products, some experts recommend storing them in the freezer… Read more »

Lauren (@guest_4478)
10 months ago

Oh thank you so so much!! I just moved into this apartment in Kansas and our entryway is OVERRUN by stink bugs. They dive bomb worse than freaking June bugs. I was also looking at planting flowers on our balcony. So marigolds are a win-win!

Gretchen Heber
Gretchen Heber (@guest_4485)
Reply to  Lauren
10 months ago

Ugh! Sorry to hear about the bug party. Glad to hear you’ve settled on a good solution, though!

Jim in Washington State
Jim in Washington State (@guest_5188)
7 months ago

Stink bugs appear to be intelligent too. Last week, I spotted two on my pepper plants. One I flicked off a leaf immediately (and have done so before). The other, on the main stem, saw me and reacted to my movements. It was literally playing hide and seek with me. As I would move left, it would stay behind the stem from my position and move right. I would then move right and it would move left to stay opposite of me on the plant stem. I’ve never seen an insect do anything like it before. Luckily, I don’t see… Read more »

Gretchen Heber
Gretchen Heber (@guest_5194)
Reply to  Jim in Washington State
7 months ago

Funny story, Jim! Stink bugs are truly stinkers! Let us know if you end up having to go with the garlic spray next summer.

Sherry (@guest_7539)
Reply to  Jim in Washington State
5 days ago

I just have to reply to your smart bug comment. I had a little black spider at my mailbox. When he would see me, he would hide, like you said, and as I moved, he would hide to keep me from seeing him. I couldn’t kill him. As the summer went on, he became used to me coming to the mailbox and would crawl out and on top and look at me as though we were friends. I would say hi and get my mail. I thought my neighbors would find me odd, so I stopped actually talking to the… Read more »

Patricia Barwick
Patricia Barwick (@guest_5408)
6 months ago

Diatomaceous earth should kill any insect with a shell for its outer body, also known as an exoskeleton. Also, I keep a mixture of Murphy’s Oil and water handy for mopping. I accidentally left it open once and later found two stink bugs had been attracted to it and drowned. I ALWAYS leave it open now!

Gretchen Heber
Gretchen Heber (@guest_5413)
Reply to  Patricia Barwick
6 months ago

Love the Murphy’s Oil tip, Patricia! And yes, diatomaceous earth is a great way to get rid of garden pests.

gomerpylesva (@guest_5475)
5 months ago

I will take a mason jar of soapy water out with me and pick the stink bugs off the tomato plants. I surround my garden with marigolds whose seeds I save each year to replant. I also discovered that a sunflower with a full head will attract stink bugs like a lure at night.

Gretchen Heber
Gretchen Heber (@guest_5479)
Reply to  gomerpylesva
5 months ago

Wonderful tips, gomerpylesva! Thanks so much for sharing!

Dar Swiler
Dar Swiler (@guest_5746)
3 months ago

How can I get rid of the stink bugs in my house? I hate them so bad! We do have a fireplace which we heat our house with so we have to keep it going. How can I get rid of these nasty critters?

SEAN BENNETT (@guest_5916)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
2 months ago

What’s a good ratio mix of soap to water?

Gretchen Heber
Gretchen Heber (@guest_5925)
2 months ago

Sean, I know it seems like a lot of soap, but common wisdom is 1:1 dish soap to water to get rid of these pests. Hope this works for you!

E Tan
E Tan (@guest_5807)
3 months ago

I use a blend of dish detergent, white vinegar and hot water (and optional crushed garlic extract/hot chilly) and found it effective when spraying the stink bugs directly. It took a few direct quirts to kill the adult insects and less for smaller ones. These bugs are amazingly intelligent and will hide on opposite side of stem to evade detection!

Gretchen Heber
Gretchen Heber (@guest_5819)
Reply to  E Tan
3 months ago

Thanks for sharing your tips, E Tan. Nothing worse than a smart bug!

Leah (@guest_7074)
15 days ago

I have found that cinnamon powder is repelling bugs but after it gets wet you do need to reapply it…

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-schultz)
Noble Member
Reply to  Leah
14 days ago

Most dry, powdered ingredients meant to repel pests should be reapplied after watering or after it rains. Instead of applying powdered cinnamon, you might also try spraying your plants with diluted cinnamon essential oil in water.

Lisa (@guest_7611)
3 days ago

What about food grade diatomaceous earth? Can you use that in the garden? I have had these bugs try getting in my windows. We have crank out. So we put the diatomaceous earth on the tops of my windows and it keeps them away.

Clare Groom
Clare Groom (@claregroom)
Reply to  Lisa
3 days ago

Great tip, Lisa! Yes, food grade diatomaceous earth is good way to rid your garden of unwanted pests. You can read more about using DE in the garden here.

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