Stink bugs are common U.S. garden pests that are originally from Asia and identifiable by their shield-shaped bodies and the stench they produce when disturbed. These true bugs range from 1/4 to 1 inch long. Each one is about twice as long as it is wide and has a distinctive triangle shape on its back. Most insects in the stink bug family, including the brown marmorated stink bug, also known as the Asian stink bug, are brown or gray, but some are brighter colors. For example, the adult harlequin bug is black with bright red, orange or yellow markings. Damage by stink bugs shows up as white or yellow spots on leaves, black pits on nuts and deformed fruits. Repellents and eradicants can be used to control stink bugs.
Stink Bug Repellents
Install insect-repelling plants around and inside the garden to keep stink bugs away. Those plants include marigold (Tagetes patula), which is an annual, chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflorum), which is perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9,. and mint (Mentha spp.), which is perennial USDA zones 3 through 8, depending on the species. Plant mint in containers instead of in the ground to prevent it from becoming invasive.
Stink Bug Eradicant
Bifenthrin products are an effective chemical control against stink bugs. Those products, however, are not approved for organic use and require a waiting period between applying them and harvesting vegetable crops. Apply 1/10th pound, or 2 ounces, of a granular bifenthrin-based product per 100 square feet of soil surface in the vegetable garden, sprinkling it uniformly on the soil, and then water the soil thoroughly. Apply the product once in spring or summer, or when stink bug damage is visible. Do not apply this product before rain is expected.
Bifenthrin is harmful to humans and animals. When handling and applying the product, wear clothing that covers all of your skin, and wear eye protection. After handling and applying the product, wash your skin and clothing well with soap and water. Avoid skin and eye contact with the product. Keep animals away from the treated area and the product container. Do not let water runoff containing the product go into ponds, ditches, gutters, streams or other waterways because it kills aquatic wildlife.
Integrated Pest Management
Plant a trap crop of mustard (Brassica juncea) away from the rest of the garden to lure stink bugs. Once the stink bugs have converged on the mustard crop, apply 1/10th pound, or 2 ounces, of a granular, bifenthrin-based product per 100 square feet of the mustard’s soil surface, placing it uniformly on the soil and then watering the soil well. Follow the same precautions that you would when handling and applying a bifenthrin product to a vegetable garden.
Use certain plants to attract beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps because they prey on stink bugs. For example, plant small-flowered plants such as yarrow (Achillea spp.), which is perennial in USDA zones 3 through 9. Beneficial insects are attracted to the nectar in yarrow’s blooms and stay to feast on pests such as stink bugs.