Monday, October 22, 2012

Controlling Stink Bugs Safely

They're back. As reported in this recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, our area is seeing an increase in stink bug activity this fall. We are experiencing this increase at my house--a large number of these annoying creatures are turning up inside.

Although stink bugs are completely harmless to people and pets, the article reports that a local pest control company is currently hard at work spraying the outside of houses with pesticides! An employee of the pest control company is quoted in the article: "They don't pose any threat, but still people don't want them . . . They are ugly."

Yes, they're ugly, but it makes absolutely no sense to spray your home, outside or inside, with hazardous pesticides in an attempt to control these harmless bugs. Pesticides are poisonous. The pesticides sprayed on the exterior of homes to control stink bugs, synthetic pyrethroids (click on link to PDF), are toxic to people and the environment. What's more, according to this fact sheet from the Penn State Cooperative Extension, these pesticides offer, at best "minor relief," as they "may not kill the insects much beyond several days or a week."

In addition, the Penn State Department of Entomology advises against the use of pesticides inside the house after stink bugs have entered the structure. Pesticides used indoors, such as insecticidal dust, spray insecticides and aerosol-type foggers, are not effective at controlling stink bugs. They may even cause infestations of carpet beetles (they feed on dead stink bugs) which will then attack woolens, dry goods and other natural products in your home.

So, what is the best way to control these pests? The best way to keep them from entering your home in the first place is to seal all cracks in your home through which stink bugs might enter, and to repair any damaged door and window screens. If bugs are entering your home, try to locate interior openings where they are coming in. Usually these will be openings such as cracks in baseboards, around window and door trim, and around exhaust fans or ceiling lights.  These entry points need to be sealed. Live and dead bugs can be removed with a vacuum cleaner. But, the above fact sheet warns, "the vacuum may acquire the smell of stink bugs for a period of time."

Finally, this video from the University of Maryland Extension provides a lot of information about keeping stink bugs out of your house and getting rid of them if they do get in (although I think I yelled "heck, no" out loud at my computer when the presenter suggests putting stink bugs that you've collected with a vacuum cleaner in your freezer to kill them).

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