Protecting your garden against uninvited guests can be a challenge. Stink bugs are no doubt unwelcome visitors in anyone’s garden. They subsist on fruit and foliage, both of which you no doubt are most likely harvesting in your garden. Ever since these critters first made landfall on US soil, having been brought over here as stowaways from southeast Asia aboard a cargo vessel sometime in the late 1990s, they have proven to be a nuisance for American households and have proven to be a huge economic threat to American farmers, whose crops are increasingly coming under attack from these bugs.
Stink bugs are harmless to humans but are wreaking havoc on the American agricultural industry. So if you are growing a garden in your backyard, it would be wise for you to acknowledge that the threat to any fruits that you grow is very real. These bugs will flock to wherever they can find fruit. They will pierce the skin of the fruit and start sucking the juice out of it from the inside, thus destroying it, rendering it inedible by humans. You can tell if a stink bug has partaken of a particular piece of fruit by examining the surface of the skin for any piercings and any discoloration around those piercings.
So what can you do to protect your garden against an infestation of stink bugs (or to get rid of those bugs who have already managed to invade your garden)?
Here are 10 tips:
Tip #1. Use row covers to protect your fruit-bearing plants. They are essentially a type of blanket or net that you encase your plants in. These nets are impermeable to stink bugs yet still allow rain and sunlight to get through. They also offer benefits to your plants, in that they help to trap heat, similar to the manner in which a typical greenhouse might. This is a relatively inexpensive and is no doubt the least toxic form of pest control. You can always pull the row covers back as needed, when you need to get to your plants, whether to harvest their fruits, to extricate them, or to plant new ones in the same area.
Tip #2: Identify, locate, and kill any stink bug eggs that you can find in your garden. Stink bugs lay their eggs and attach them to the underside of plant or tree leaves, where they are considered to be safe and camouflaged from view. If you have seen one too many stink bugs in the vicinity of your garden, you may want to do a thorough inspection of your planets to ensure that there aren’t any eggs there, waiting to hatch. Now, turning leaves upside down, one by one, in order to find their eggs can be extremely tedious, time consuming, and impractical, as would be getting down on the ground and trying to look up at the leaves. What you can do, however, is attach a large mirror to the end of a broom stick and hold it underneath the leaves, and look at the mirror to see if you can find any of their eggs anywhere. They are usually in clusters of about 20 green or white eggs. If you do find them, then you can proceed to dispose of them, by carefully discarding the leaves on which they were found.
Tip #3: Prevent weeds from growing in your garden. It has been observed that stink bugs will oftentimes use weeds and other forms of wild foliage as a means of cover when they wish to remain hidden. So it is important, not only for the aesthetics of your garden and for the health of your other plants, but it is also an easy way to “smoke them out” of their hiding places. Buy removing weeds from your lawn, they will have fewer places to hide, and will be more likely to move on to another yard in search of shelter or cover. Be sure to mow weeds with a lawn mower or pull them out by hand on a regular basis. Don’t wait until the weeds get too big before you do so, as stink bugs could very well take advantage of even smaller, less mature weeds.
Tip #4: Lay a trap for stink bugs by growing flowering herbs in your garden. Herbs such as dill and fennel generally tend to attract assassin bugs, big-eyed bugs, damsel bugs, and tachnid flies, each of which are known to prey upon their larvae. So if there are stink bugs in your garden that are laying eggs, you can sic these predator bugs on them by luring them into your garden with the presence of flowering herbs. (Of course, this then begs the question as to whether you are merely trading in one problem for another: you get rid of stink bugs in your garden but now you are stuck with other types of bugs. But the reality is that these other bugs are harmless to your garden. They are a “lesser evil”, if you will.)
Tip #5: You can purchase (or attract) parasitic wasps into your garden to achieve the same purpose as tip #4 above. Wasps are known to feed on stink bug eggs. Again, the same caveat exists, with respect to the speculative “lesser evil” outcome that might ensue. You want to release these bugs in a controlled fashion, so you minimize their spread.
Tip #6: If you encounter any stink bugs perched on any plants in your garden, you can spray them with various non-toxic soaps and cooking oils. (Canola oil works quite efficiently.) It has been observed that something as seemingly innocuous as dish soap can be extremely lethal to these bugs. Therefore light usage of these soaps by spraying them directly at the bellies of these bugs can be an extremely effective way how to kill stink bugs. The good thing about this method is that you are using completely non-toxic, harmless liquids, as opposed to potentially harmful pesticides. You need only give your plants and fruits a good rinse with the garden hose to wash off any soap or oil that they may have come in contact. One important tip: When spraying the stink bugs, be sure to aim for their bellies. This will literally cause the bugs to fall off the leaves onto the ground and become paralyzed within seconds. Spraying them on the exoskeleton on the upper side of their body seems to have no effect and is impervious to these chemicals.
Tip #7: Light traps are a tried and tested, and extremely reliable means of how to kill stink bugs. Like most bugs, stink bugs are attracted to bright sources of light. Once they make contact with the light trap, they will get zapped and will die instantly on contact. Place one or more of these at various locations within your garden, depending on the size of the area, and you should be able to draw most stink bugs out of their hiding places and kill them. Plus, it can be used as a trap to ensnare any new stink bugs that happen to be flying in the vicinity of your garden. This is a clean way to kill them. No squashing. No coming into contact with the foul stench that they emit.
Tip #8: Pheromone traps also work very well with stink bugs. You can buy a special type of candle that releases aggregation pheromones into the air. This candle sits inside a box with an open lid. When stink bugs detect the pheromones, they will attempt to hone in on the source where it is coming from. When they approach and enter the box, you simply close the lid. This trap can also be covered wall-to-wall with fly paper that will immobilize the bug on contact.
Tip #9: Another variation of stink bug traps is to lure them into the trap using fruits as bait. The objective is to divert these bugs away from your flowers, plants, and fruits and into a trap that can either kill them on contact or simply entrap them so that you can dispose of them into an appropriate trash receptacle from whence they cannot escape.
Tip #10: Keep your portable hand vacuum charged and ready. If you see any of these bugs that you think you can easily manage to reach, you can always vacuum them up. That is the simplest way to trap them and avoid having them release that foul stench into the air. You can then either choose to let it die of starvation / dehydration in the vacuum over the next several days or you can empty out the vacuum into an appropriate trash bag at a later time.
Keeping your garden safe from pest infestations should be a priority, especially if you are living in a part of the United States where there is a higher concentration of stink bugs, particularly in the northeast.
Now that you know a few tips on how to get rid of stink bugs and prevent them from wreaking havoc on your garden, it also pays to understand that there is a right way and there is also a wrong way how to kill stink bugs.