A Growing Bug Problem That Really Stinks

The ranks of stink bugs are growing in the DC area

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Michael J. Raupp
    Stinkbug

    They don't bite, sting or cause damage to homes, but their infestations just plain stink, and they're becoming more common.

    "If this was smell-o-vision instead of television, you could tell really fast why they are called stink bugs," said University of Maryland insect expert Michael Raupp. "They stink."

    Increasing Bug Population a Stinky Problem

    [DC] Increasing Bug Population a Stinky Problem
    Stink bugs are expanding their ranks in the D.C. area, driving homeonwers crazy. (Published Friday, Sep 25, 2009)

    A stink bug infestation can run into the thousands and drive homeowners crazy because the pesky little stinkers are like Steven Seagal -- hard to kill.

    The bugs are growing in number in the D.C. area and feasting on trees, Raupp said.

    The brown marmorated stink bug -- the species of stink bug spreading across the mid-Atlantic states of late -- has a shield-shaped body with a triangle on the back. They are a mottled gray and brown in color and about three-quarters of an inch long.

    "Their reproduction rate is enormous," he said. "They can lay dozens and dozens of eggs every year. They seem to have no or very few enemies in this country, so many of them survive and this is why the population explodes."

    Imagine having BO like that and not making enemies while still being able to make babies.

    Sure, we hate 'em, but we can't seem to kill 'em. Pesticides and chemicals don't eradicate the bugs and can actually damage homes if over-mixed or over-applied, according to pest control workers, who are the only people who should handle any pesticides that might help fight the bugs temporarily. No pesticides at all are recommended for indoor use.

    The bugs' population growth is a big, stinky problem in the Hagerstown area. The smelly insects also are starting to emerge in more urban areas like Evergreen Avenue in Columbia, giving homeowners fits.

    Experts are monitoring the bugs in fear that they'll develop a taste for soybeans, Maryland's No. 1 crop.

    The time to fight back is upon us, though. Keeping the bugs out is a key weapon. As temperatures drop, the stink bugs look for cracks and crevices in which to hibernate.

    "Get out your caulk," Raupp said. "Plug every hole you can find to the exterior house. Replace your door sweeps underneath your doors. That's going to help keep them out. And replace that weather stripping. Anything that's good for energy efficiency is going to keep these guys out."

    If they do get in? Fight them with a vacuum, experts advise. Suck them up and get rid of them.