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.

Stink bugs stinking up your garden? We've got tips and tricks for defeating these greedy pests:

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!

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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.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Doing Battle with Stink Bugs”

  1. 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 on/in blooms so they’re not affected if you don’t spray the blooms. Also you can pick all the veggies before you spray.

    • Hi Jeff! Thanks for reading and commenting. (I’m sorry about the website troubles; I’ll mention it to our webmaster.)
      Interesting about skipping straight to the tough stuff. I suppose depending on where you live and what your plants are plagued by, that might be a pretty smart strategy!

    • 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 of tiny legs moving at the speed of light towards me – as I’m running away from it scared outta my mind. There are a couple more, so I’m also Petrified of those pincher bugs, earwigs. I see them in my garage sometimes at my house. I will flip out and cry with those bugs, that goes along with the ever-so-huge black carpenter ants. If you own an oak tree you’re going to have them. Now THOSE I will wear a net around my whole body to bed if I had to. I haven’t yet. But I would. Seven dust definitely did the job. But if it rains and breaks the dust trail that goes around the outside perimeter of your home, you WILL see them again very soon. So be sure to keep checking for any breaks in the powder/dust. Also use boric acid powder (found in your health/vitamin aisle or in the pest control aisle) with a mixture of sugar 1:2 ratio. (Less sugar, more boric acid) place in pop bottle cap all around your house. This boric acid is not poisonous in small amounts. Read package. But when consumed by the carpenter ant they are supposed to take it back to the nest where the queen is and I guess that kills them.

      Lastly THE STINK BUG. We have one, maybe more living in our home right now. These things I don’t know what to do. They say not to squish them as they smell. (Note: I normally do not kill anything so my way of removing a bug or bugs takes a lot longer than most). Should I just wait until summer and it will find its way out or what?

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