Stink bugs can feast during spring and summer. Fruits and vegetables abound and provide a regular buffet for these pesky insects.
Yet, they choose to invade your home for winter so how do they survive without a regular source of food?
All of the varieties of stink bugs from the brown marmorated stink bug to the Harlequin bug have a type of hibernation, called diapause, during winter.
They feast all spring and summer to store fat, similar to bears and squirrels storing up food in trees, and that lasts them during the cold months.
Here is a quick look at how stink bugs eat:
- The bugs are born in the spring and early summer and feed on fruits and vegetables like apples, peaches, berries, corn, and beans.
- The bugs must go into diapause during the winter because their favorite foods aren’t in season.
- Stink bugs use nutrients stored in their bodies to stay alive during the winter.
- Keeping food properly stored and trash taken out regularly helps prevent stink bugs from thriving.
Stink Bugs Feast
Stink bugs love to eat and can destroy crops in a heartbeat. Spring and summer are like a party. They eat all kinds of fruit from pitted fruits like peaches to berries in early spring.
As the seasons for those fruits end, the bugs move on to in-season fruits and vegetables like corn, beans, apples, and pears.
They have strawlike mouths that suck on agricultural products and the damage is pretty easy to spot once it’s done.
The bugs can eat acres of crops and their feeding causes dark spots to appear on fruits and vegetables, making them look rotten when you cut into them.
Agricultural experts said farming has suffered great losses to the stink bug ever since they were found in Pennsylvania in 1998.
Controlling them is a problem too because most foodservice companies don’t relish the idea of buying vegetables and fruits coated with pesticides. Yet, that is the only way to control this invasive species.
Stink Bugs On The Move
As the weather gets cooler in September and October, these prehistoric-looking creatures start searching for a place to stay warm during the winter.
While this bug is hard to kill, the cold is one thing that gets them. They will freeze to death outside.
The stink bug came from the more tropical areas of Asia, namely Korea, Japan, and China, so it can’t survive the cold of the United States.
They, like so many species, learned to adapt by finding a warm spot in your house to hang until spring.
What Do They Eat During Winter?
The answer to that is virtually nothing. These bugs enter a hibernation-type state named diapause.
Their metabolism slows down and they don’t move, allowing them to go without food all winter.
What Is Diapause?
Diapause isn’t exactly like hibernation as we understand it in bears and other animals. Stink bugs can’t move during diapause but have some awareness of their environment. It is a semi-conscious state.
This means they are highly selective where they choose to diapause. A stink bug will pick an inaccessible, quiet area of your home where you will have trouble finding them.
Areas like under appliances, in furniture, behind walls or floors, and even air vents are some of their favorite hiding spots.
How Do Stink Bugs Get Into A Home?
Stink bugs are just like any other pest and will enter a building or home through crevices and cracks around windows and doors. Sometimes, they find a small crevice around a utility line.
The stink bug can crawl and fly so they can also use roofing damage, chimneys, and vents as an access point.
Fortunately, these bugs don’t cause structural damage to homes. They won’t try to infest your food or eat your wood or other material.
They don’t lay eggs in winter and will never mate and lay eggs in your home.
They mate after they leave your house and lay eggs in foliage and weeds.
Stink bugs don’t have diseases, don’t sting or bite. The biggest issue is their stinkiness when defending themselves.
This makes it hard to kill them because they can cause a foul odor in your home that won’t go away.
How Do They Store Food?
Although stink bugs are pretty small, they can store up nutrients in their bodies that they burn during diapause.
While they don’t look fat as some animals might during winter, these bugs have plenty of resources within their bodies to keep them going for months as long as they are in diapause.
The problem, for the stink bug and for you, could be if the stink bug wakes up too early from diapause. This can happen if it begins to run low on nutrients and is burning up its stored food too quickly.
Waking up early isn’t good for a stink bug because it will affect its lifespan negatively. However, it could also affect your house if they go searching for food in late winter.
Keep Your Food Put Up
Even though stink bugs are pretty much comatose during the winter, it is a good idea to keep food put away and properly sealed. Storing food away will prevent all bugs, including stink bugs, from being able to thrive off indoor food.
Be particularly cognizant of foods that attract stink bugs like fruits and nuts. Be sure to keep these refrigerated or stored in bug-proof containers as some of these things are the bugs’ favorite foods.
After all, you don’t want to provide them with a final meal or two before they take their winter nap!
How Long Do Stink Bugs Live?
There is some good news there. Stink bugs only live between six and eight months. They are eggs, then become small bugs called nymphs.
Then they scatter toward fall to find warm places to stay. They mate the next spring before they die.
A female stink bug is highly reproductive. They have several egg broods over their short lives and can produce up to 500 eggs during that time.
The eggs are orange or red, are barrel-shaped, and can be found on the underside of green leaves of shrubs and outdoor plants. Eggs can be laid on the ground in weedy areas too.
One way to control the population is to keep weeds and foliage cut low in the spring and early summer when they mate.
It is also good to check underneath the leaves of your plants to see if eggs are there. You can dispose of them then and save yourself some trouble in the fall.
How to Protect Your Home From Stink Bugs
Not every home will see a stink bug. Those in many of the central states and towards the west, along with some of the extreme northern states like Maine or Montana don’t have any stink bugs.
However, states surrounding Pennsylvania, where the insects were first collected and part of the South and Midwest are seeing the bugs invade in large numbers.
West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas are some of the worst areas for stink bugs.
By stating the term “in large numbers,” people state they have captured and killed thousands of the bugs in their homes over six months.
Some of the worst invasions come when people leave a window or door open and a light on. Like all bugs, stink bugs are attracted to light. You can probably find some diapausing in your light fixtures.
Fall cleaning isn’t a bad idea and could provide a resolution to stink bugs inside your home.
Doing a deep cleaning of all corners, spaces, furniture and other areas from top to bottom could reveal where stink bugs are hiding.
Most bug experts suggest sucking up the bugs in a vacuum cleaner and depositing them outside away from the home or in a sealed garbage container. This could significantly cut down on the stink bug population over the next year.
The vacuum will become your best friend when it comes to taking on stink bugs. Doing a thorough sweep more often than usual during the fall will keep the bugs at bay.
Experts agree the real answer to a stink bug infestation is prevention. Look for small openings, crevices, and other areas where stink bugs can enter your home and close them up.
You can caulk around windows and doors, inspect your chimney and check your screens to make sure they are in good shape. These are things most homeowners should do anyway as winter approaches.
Bug experts state it isn’t wise to try to fog your home with insecticides or use pesticides to kill stink bugs.
If they die hidden, their decomposing bodies will attract other bugs looking for food. Those bugs will invade to eat the dead stink bugs.
Even though stink bugs are harmful bugs, they are still invaders and can run gardens and fruit trees. It’s best to tackle the problem when stink bugs first show up in the fall.
Winter is the perfect time to attack infestations because they are motionless and defenseless, except for their awful stink.
Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:
What Are Stink Bugs Good For? 7 Things You Didn’t Know
Where Do Ants Live in Winter?
Do Spiders Hibernate? Let’s Find Out
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