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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 12/07/2010

Stink bug weather & tips for keeping them out

The Washington area had a terrible bout of stink bug weather this past November. One might even say we had at least one episode of severe stink bug weather. If you're lucky enough not to have encountered stink bugs, here's a recent article describing the bugs and the problems they cause.

What exactly is "stink bug weather," you ask? Cold evenings in the early fall send stink bugs scurrying from yards, gardens and wooded lots into our attics and walls for warmth and cover. Later in the season, if the temperature warms significantly, the stink bugs become reinvigorated and emerge from the attics and walls into the living and working areas of our homes and businesses. The warmer the temperatures, the more the stink bugs move, and the better the chance they'll land in your bedroom and living room.

So, warm afternoons in late fall is what I'd consider "stink bug weather." It's essentially the same as Indian summer. It's just, well, a lot more stinky.

Keep reading for more on stink bugs and how to combat them...

On Nov. 30, the high temperatures in our area warmed to the low 60s and suddenly stink bugs were everywhere in my house. It was terrible - we were chasing bugs all evening. The same scenario played out on a few other warm afternoons, while on colder days we didn't have much of a problem, convincing me that my stink bug woes are partially weather-related.

Unfortunately, the overall stink bug problem is not going away, it's only getting worse. I dread the next warm-up and I especially dread next year. So, I decided to go to battle against these bugs. Here's what I've learned in my fight against the stink bug and what may help keep these awful little pests out of your home.

1) House color
I've compared notes with neighbors and contractors and I'm convinced that yellow houses are stink bug magnets. I painted my house yellow this past year and I was swarmed by stink bugs. Another yellow house in my neighborhood was also swarmed. Many of my neighbors with brown houses have no stink bug issues. I'm sure there are exceptions, but from my experience, it seems that dark-colored homes don't get as many stink bugs as lighter-colored homes. They sure do seem to like yellow.

2) Caulking and bug-proofing the outside of your house
The ultimate fix to keep stink bugs out is to caulk the cracks, seams and gaps in your house that allow stink bugs to enter. If you've already succeeded in caulking and bug-proofing the outside of your house - congratulations. It is a monumental task. Stink bugs can squeeze through extremely narrow openings and to caulk every crack and seam in a house is very difficult and time consuming. Caulk also shrinks and cracks, so maintenance is required.

A soffit is the material that constructs the eave (edge of the roof) of a house. Soffits are a major entry point for stink bugs to enter the attic from the outside. Soffits are usually vented and may have openings or cracks large enough to allow entry by the bugs. Cracks or gaps between the soffits, the siding and the roof can be caulked. Some soffits can be replaced, or screened, if they have very large vented openings, or slots. In addition, make sure your attic vents are screened.

3) Bug-proofing the inside of your house
It's easier to bug-proof the inside of your home than the outside. Your walls and ceilings are the second line of defense to keep stink bugs from entering your living area. The old style of open recessed lighting and open-to-the-attic bathroom fans are portals for stink bugs to enter from the ceiling. It's a costly project to replace recessed lights and bathroom fans; screening the openings in the attic may be a less expensive option. In addition, look to caulk cracks or openings around light fixtures, windows and doors. Weather stripping windows and doors will also help keep out the bugs. Bonus: Many of these efforts to bug-proof the inside of your house will also reduce your winter heating bill.

4) Check your window screens
Windows are a prime target for stink bugs. Make sure you mend or replace screens that are torn. Also, check if your screens fit tightly into your window frame. Stink bugs can often squeeze between the frame of the window and the screen.

5) Spraying insecticide on the outside walls of your house
So far, spraying the outside of my house with insecticide has met with complete failure. I've tried different types of insecticide, for all kinds of bugs. I'm amazed how resilient stink bugs are to being sprayed with insecticide. They'll continue to crawl or fly after being sprayed. I've also watched stink bugs land and walk on the outside of my house after the siding was drenched with insecticide. For now, I've stopped spraying. If someone has found an effective spray, let us know.

6) Poison baits in your house
I accidentally discovered that liquid ant baits kill stink bugs if you place them near where they enter your house. They will feed on the bait and drop dead in small piles next to the bait. Overall, the baits haven't been as effective in ridding my house of stink bugs as I would've liked. But, perhaps there's hope that someone in the near future will devise a powerful stink bug bait for attics or outdoors.

7) Gardens attract stink bugs
This past summer, I had a tomato and pepper garden in my backyard that was continually plagued by stink bugs. When it was time to pick a pepper or tomato, I had to flick the stink bugs away. In hindsight, I think I may have been feeding and attracting the bugs, leading them directly to my backyard. Once the stink bugs were in my garden, it was a short flight to my house when the weather turned cold. In addition, I had plenty of challenges with deer eating my garden plants. I may just skip the garden next summer.

8) Removing the stink bugs from your house
Once the bugs are in your house, walking on your wall or buzzing around a light, they need to be removed. I've found that quickly grabbing them with a small piece of toilet paper and then wrapping the paper around them is an effective way to keep the bug from emitting their stink. If you crunch them or mishandle them, you'll probably suffer their smell. Once wrapped in toilet paper, the bug can be flushed down the toilet or placed into a Ziplock bag and thrown into the trash. A vacuum cleaner is also an option. I've heard that some people release the bugs outdoors, but I figure they'd just find their way back into the house. At least stink bugs are slow and easy to catch. If they were nimble and quick like house flies, many of us would go crazy chasing them.

Let us know if you have any stink bug stories, particularly any success stories about combating the pests.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 12/07/2010

Categories:  Education, Education, Education

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