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Spring awakening stink bugs: you can build a better trap

A desk light shined on a large pan filled with soapy water will work well to trap stink bugs at night. (Kevin Ambrose)

As temperatures climb, those hearty stink bugs that managed to withstand the polar vortex, are crawling out of their holes and pestering homeowners throughout the D.C. area.

Some encouraging news: you can beat the bugs without spending a cent. Virginia Tech researchers have recently found that homemade stink bug traps work better than the more sophisticated, commercial-made traps.

The homemade trap design is quite simple.  Fill a large pan with soapy water and shine a desk lamp into the water.  The light attracts the stink bugs at night and they fall into the soapy water and drown.  Here’s a video just in case you need some help with the trap design.

Back in 2011, I wrote an article about commercial and homemade stink bug traps.  The commercial traps actually worked quite well.  I also tested out another type of homemade trap with soda bottles, battery-powered lights, and water that seemed to work OK.

The bottom line is that most light-based traps catch stink bugs at night.

Here’s the problem:  Stink bugs often emerge in houses and dwellings during the day.  Because the traps work at night, the bugs are free to buzz around the house during the day, often landing on walls, furniture, counter tops, and even people.  Once it becomes dark, the light-based traps will attract the bugs.

So, during the day, you have to catch the stink bugs by hand.   The leftover bugs will find the traps at night and any bugs that emerge into the house at night will also be attracted to the traps.

The presence of stink bugs in the Washington, D.C. area was confirmed in 2007.  From 2007 to 2009, the bugs reproduced rapidly.  The stink bugs became a problem in this area in 2010.  The bug problem has continued to increase throughout the greater D.C. area in recent years.

Stink bugs prefer to spend the winter under shingles, in attics, or in the walls of houses and office buildings.   As the temperature falls, the stink bugs change their physiology by increasing their cryoprotectants (antifreeze proteins) to prevent their body fluids from crystallizing.  This helps the bugs survive the winter’s sub-freezing temperatures.

During spring, when the weather warms, stink bugs emerge from their overwintering locations.  Unfortunately, they often don’t find their way back outside.  Instead, they enter our homes and offices.  The traps discussed above can help catch the bugs that enter the home.

If the bugs that enter the home are not trapped or caught, however, they usually die within a week or two.  Many stink bug suffering families have found the dried, dead bugs on their floor.  At least the dead bugs don’t stink.

After our cold winter of 2013-14, some people have noticed a decline in the number of stink bugs entering their homes this spring.  Have you noticed a decline in the numbers of stink bugs entering your home this spring?  Do you have other trap ideas that work?


Polar vortex chill eliminates stink bugs

Washington area stink bug poll

Traps for fighting stink bugs

Stink bug prevention tips

Stink bug season 2011-12

There are some natural traps for stink bugs that work well.  (Kevin Ambrose)