Pest Management

How to: Manage Stinkbugs in Your Garden

Stinkbug blog post

Adult stink bugs are green or brown and grow up to ¾” long; they have distinctive shield-shaped bodies.  Young stink bugs are smaller, rounder, and more colorful, with highly patterned black, red, white, and green colored bodies.

When held or squished they emit a foul-smelling fluid from glands located on the thorax. It’s released as a defensive mechanism and can be a nuisance, especially, if found in clusters.  Populations peak in late summer and early fall.

Not all stink bugs are harmful.

  1. The vegetation feeding type have a long, needle-like proboscis that they use to retrieve plant sap from buds, flowers, fruits, and seeds, which causes fruits and seeds to be misshapen or shriveled, and leaves behind a small pinprick injury on the fruit or seed skin.
  2. Predatory stink bugs, which feed voraciously on sap-sucking insects, have a shorter, bulkier proboscis.
Treatment OptionsMinimize pesticide use and plant a diverse variety of flowers, herbs, trees, and shrubs to provide habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators.
  • Natural enemies: Birds, spiders, wheel bugs, assassin bugs, parasitic insects, ladybugs, lacewing, minute pirate bug, and predatory stink bugs.
    • The parasitic wasp, Trissolcus basalis.  A California release on tomato crops found that 80% of all target egg masses had been visited by the wasp and that 87% of the eggs in each mass had been impregnated.
  •  To help reduce populations of stink bugs, control weeds around vegetable gardens and orchards, where stink bugs overwinter.
  • In small gardens, these large bugs can be controlled by hand picking them from plants and either squishing them or drowning them in a bucket of soapy water.
    • Stink bugs do not bite or sting, but they will live up to their name when handled or squished!
  • Use sticky traps and tape to detect the presence of pests.
  • Use row covers as crops approach harvest. Collect bugs that land on the covers and drown them in a can with water and some soap.
  • One effective deterrent is coating leaves and fruit with kaolin clay (sold as Surround WP), which keeps the pests from feeding by attaching to their bodies, agitating them and causing them to flee–in some cases, the clay increases photosynthesis for the plants.
  • Throw a bed sheet over large areas of infestation, shake the plants underneath the sheet, wait for the dislodged stinkbugs to latch onto the sheet, gather it quickly, take it to a flat surface, and stomp on them!

Plants to Watch for:  Damaged fruits and vegetables can still be eaten, though feeding damage also leads to early decay and spoilage because the insects also inject a digestive enzyme that causes discoloration as it spreads through the plant’s vascular system.

  • beans
  • okra
  • tomato – darkened bruise with cloudy areas of hard yellow spots to form just under the skin
  • pecan –  will have hard, dark, bitter tasting spots within the kernel
  • peaches- browning
  • eggplant
  • blueberries
  • cabbage – gray and beige blotches.
  • corn – dark spots on stalks and deformed ears with missing kernels.

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