It’s that time of the year when stink bugs — particularly the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) — will be seeking shelter in homes in the Greater Cincinnati area. Instead of snow-birding in Florida for the winter, the bugs are attracted their home-away-from-home: your home!
As temperatures drop, the BMSB will be seeking a place to overwinter. After gaining entry, they will remain inside until next spring when the warm temperatures return. While it is always a good idea to properly seal the home regardless of the time of the year, sealing the home before the colder weather sets in will help keep out more pests before the colder weather sets in. This is best done by mechanical exclusion: properly sealing the home, preventing them from entering in the first place.
The BMSB can flatten it body and fit through small cracks and crevices around the house or structure. The stink bugs are attracted to the warm areas around the house, where they are most likely to enter in. The colder the weather outside, the warmer — and more attractive — the house is to the BMSB. Areas such as around the chimney and air vents provide warmth. Cracks around windows and doors emit heat as well.
How and where do you seal your home to prevent the BMSB?
Chimney and Fireplace: There are several areas around the chimney that can be conducive to stink bug entry. If the chimney is in disrepair, it could bring on additional problems as well, such as water/moisture issues as well as rodent and bird entry.
Problems can result from a damaged chimney crown, deteriorating mortar joints, and bad flashing. Properly repairing and sealing these areas can help exclude the BMSB as well as other insects and rodents.
If you have a gas-fueled chimney, installing a fine wire mesh on the cap will help exclude the BMSB. This method is not recommended with wood-burning fireplaces, as a fine mesh has the potential of clogging because wood-burning fireplaces do not burn as clean as gas fireplaces/chimneys. Seal any cracks around the chimney with the appropriate material.
Many chimney caps are developed to help keep out rodents, but not insects, since a typical cap will have screening with ⅝ inch openings, for example. This will keep out rodents and birds, but not insects. Therefore, some homeowners consider and install a chimney damper that fits tightly on the top of the chimney. The damper is designed to provide a tight seal that also keeps out cold air.
Use the fireplace to help control the stink bugs. By starting a fire, it will help run out the stink bugs altogether, and the heat may even kill them. This may be even more necessary for wood-burning fireplaces that do not have chimney caps sufficient enough to exclude the BMSB.
Additionally, flue covers can be purchased to help prevent the stink bugs from entering living areas as well. If the stink bugs make their way into the chimney itself, the flue cover may prevent them from further advancing into the home.
Screens: Inspect and repair all screens. Stink bugs can enter through small holes in the screens. Check all window and vent screens. Check the spacing on the screening. Some screens are designed to keep out insects, while others may be designed to keep out rodents. Screening designed to exclude rodents typically have opening large enough to allow insects to pass through.
Be careful not to add screen material to any vent, pipe, etc. that might cause any clogging or obstruction from material that needs to escape from the structure.
Windows and Doors: Check for tiny cracks and crevices around the windows and doors and seal them with caulk or other appropriate material. Sweeps and weather stripping can be used around doors.
Weather Stripping: Check all areas where weather stripping is present and make sure the material is still in effective, working condition. Add or replace the stripping as needed.
Cracks in Mortar and Foundation: Check around the foundation of the house and anywhere mortar is found contacting another material. Look for cracks and other entry points and seal them with quality silicone or other suitable material.
Window Air Conditioners: Because window air conditioners provide entry points for the BMSB, consider removing the window unit when you no longer need it for the season.
Utility Pipes: Cracks around utility pipes are also common entry points for all types of pests. Seal with a caulk or other suitable material.
Exclusion is Great, But May Not Solve the Problem
Mechanical exclusion is a great way to help prevent stink bugs as well as many other pests and rodents from entering the home. Some exclusionary methods will also help keep out water, moisture, inclement weather and other structurally-damaging issues. However, insects may still find their way into your home.
Simply leaving doors and windows open — for a short amount of time, even — may be enough to allow insects into the home. Overlooking entry points when practicing exclusionary methods may leave open an entry point. Insects can also enter the home by hitchhiking on furniture, luggage, groceries, on a person, etc.
If you find stink bugs in the home, there are a few simple things you can do to cut down on the population. As simple, but often overlooked method is simply removing them by hand. Using a tissue to physically remove them is an option. Simply remove them with a tissue and flush them down the toilet. Be careful not to crush them, however. After all, there’s a reason why they’re called stink bugs!
Vacuuming stink bugs will help reduce the population as well. Use the vacuum cleaner extensions to reach the bugs in hard-to-reach places. Discard the contents of the vacuum cleaner.
Traps can be used as well. A common stink bug trap involves an LED light to attract them and trap them. Some homeowners carefully place the trap away from the house to lure them away from the structure.
Hire a Professional
Exclusion methods and physical removal may be enough to control and/or prevent the BMSB. Such methods may be enough for some homeowners as the infestation may be kept to a minimal and tolerable amount. For others, a more aggressive approach may be needed.
In this case, a professional pest management company may be needed. The professional has the experience needed to control the BMSB, as well as access to superior materials needed to help control the stink bug.
A qualified pest management professional will employ integrated pest management practices catered to the needs of the structure, and will educate the homeowner on proper exclusion and removal methods as well. The professional will most likely provide an exterior treatment when the stink bugs are present. Dusting the attic and other methods inside may be necessary as well.
An Integrated Approach
Should the BMSB problem require an aggressive approach, an integrated approach may be necessary. The homeowner may need to practice the exclusion methods outlined in this article, or hire a handyman to properly seal the structure. An integrated approach may involve the hiring of a pest management professional in addition to the exclusion methods.
However, if the homeowner takes the time to practice the mechanical exclusion methods before the BMSBs invade, it may go a long way to preventing the stink bugs from overwintering.
Related: BMSB: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug