Stink bugs stink. They really do. Smash one and you’ll be unforgettably stenchified. So how do you annihilate these dastardly insects before they destroy all the fruits and veggies growing in your garden? Grumpy’s donning his camo. It’s time to wage war.
The Hunger Games
The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) isn’t one of our homegrown stinkers. It was accidentally brought to the U.S. from China and Japan in the 1990’s. Because it had no natural enemies here, it multiplied faster than Dustin Hoffmann in “Rain Man.” Ground zero for its invasion was the Mid-Atlantic region. Homeowners there were overrun with these buggers as swarms invaded houses in winter seeking shelter from the cold. Step on just one and a chemical inside would stink up a room.
If that weren’t bad enough, this stink bug reproduces very quickly, is unaffected by most pesticides, and dines on an expansive menu of prized garden plants. Its favorite snacks are fruit crops like apples, peaches, and grapes, as well as warm-weather vegetables, including tomatoes, squash, peppers, beans, cucumbers, okra, and eggplant. Grumpy recently discovered them abusing his prized sweet pepper plants. Oh, the horror!
Brown marmorated stink bugs are grayish-brown, shield-shaped bugs about a half-inch long when mature. You’ll know them by alternating light and dark bands on their long antennae, as well as alternating light and dark bands on the edges of their shields. They feed on plants by using a long proboscis to pierce the skin. Their feeding causes pits, lesions, and dead spots. On peppers, feeding on the fruit stem causes it to shrivel and the pepper to drop. Feeding on the pepper itself produces holes that cause the pepper to rot.
I will not have this! Those are MY peppers. How could I defeat these pillaging hordes of stink bugs in a totally natural, environmentally friendly way? Like this.
Little Drops of Death
Get yourself a wide-mouth glass vase. Fill it with a couple of inches of water and then add 3-4 drops of liquid detergent. When you find a stink bug on your plant, hold the mouth of the vase under it and flick it into the water. The detergent keeps the bug underwater and it drowns.
This is actually pretty easy, because while stink bugs can fly, they seldom do. So you can just use your finger to chase them to a spot on a stem where you want them and then place the vase under them. Flick. Drop. Die.
As with most infestations, truly controlling stink bugs means killing them before their numbers become biblical. I inspect my plants twice a day — before I leave for work in the morning and again when I get home from work in the afternoon. Slowly, the soapy vase fills. After a couple of days, the water gets stinky. Dump the water at the foot of your plants. The stink bug carcasses become food themselves.