What Are Stink Bugs Good For? 7 Things You Didn’t Know

Stink bugs get a pretty bad rep. From their name to their widely-recognized pest-esque activities, people around the globe can’t stand these critters.

But with 5000 species, they can’t be all bad, can they? Let’s dive into the beneficial aspects of these often overlooked and killed garden bugs. You might be surprised by what you learn.

  • The plant-eating varieties are feeding wasps and ants across the country.
  • The carnivorous species help protect crops, not hinder.
  • Some stink bugs varieties might have medicinal properties, and despite what you may think, they aren’t breeding in your home.
  • You might have more in common with these critters than you thought. They’re incredibly devoted parents.
  • People in South Asia eat them for their supposed medicinal benefits. 

#1 They Feed Ants and Wasps

Whether you’re a commercial farmer or an at-home vegetable patch tender, you don’t want your crops tainted by pesky bugs — stink or otherwise.  However, they might be saving more ecosystems than you realize. Specifically, those in which ants and wasps exist.

In 2013, Mike Raupp and his team studied the bugs and published an article called “Invasive Stink Bug Wounds Trees, Liberates Sugars, and Facilitates Native Hymenoptera” in the “Annals of the Entomological Society of America” scientific journal. 

The researchers observed stink bugs feeding through tree bark, releasing sap as they went. Once they finished eating, the article authors noticed a variety of wasp and ant species feed on the leaking sap, such as:

  • Bald-faced hornets (Dolichiovespula maculata)
  • European hornets (Vespa crabro)
  • Yellow jackets (Vespula species)
  • Sand wasps (Bembix americana)
  • Great golden digger wasps (Sphex ichneumonea)
  • Carpenter ants (Camponotus)
  • Pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum)
  • Odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile)

Thus, the conclusion that stink bugs are helpful for at least one job was born.

While Mike Raupp et al. still acknowledged that the brown marmorated stink bug species (Halyomorpha halys) are invasive, their research showed the carbohydrates released after feeding provide incredibly vital ecological services, including:

  • The pollination of plants
  • The natural control of pests

The study increased the cruciality of thinking twice before exterminating these critters.

Bonus fact: Ironically, stink bug eggs are known to be vulnerable to parasitic wasps. The same species the adults feed can kill their young! However, after the egg stage, the wasps can’t kill them. Although some birds, reptiles, and other insects may try. 

#2 They Help Protect Crops

As we briefly mentioned, some stink bug species help pollinate plants across the country. However, other species protect the plants differently, namely by stalking, killing, and eating destructive pets. Yes, a few types are carnivorous.

Typically, the predatory stink bugs eat beetles, caterpillars, and sometimes the plant-feeding stink bug species. Unfortunately, it’s not widely talked about — or indeed, known.

But understanding how to identify the pest-eating stink bugs from the plant-eating species might just be the act that saves your crops this year. 

Take a look at the table below to ensure you don’t mistakenly annihilate predatory stink bug species:

Stink Bug Species Life Cycle Identification Benefit
Dallas (Alcaeorrhynchus grandis)
Egg to adult = 59 to 60 days
Male: 16 to 21 mm
Female: 18 to 25 mm
Color: Variegated brown, dark bands on legs, dark maculations around the abdomen
Often eats soybean pests
Florida predatory stink bug (Euthyrhynchus floridanus) Egg to adult = 89 days Male: 12 mm
Female: 17 mm
Color: Blue-black or purple-brown, red spots on the sides and rear, spine on the back
Eats many types of pest insects
Rough stink bug (Brochymena sulcata) Egg to adult = 80 days 12 to 19 mm
Color: Flat, mottled grey and black, blends well with tree bark
Eats leaf beetle larvae and caterpillars
Spined soldier bug (Podisus maculiventris) Egg to adult = 27 to 38 days Male: 11 mm
Female: Typically a touch larger
Color: Similar in color to the Dallas
Eats all types of pests, including Pentatomids (the most invasive agricultural pests on the planet)
Dallas ( Alcaeorrhynchus grandis) John P. Friel, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

#3 They Don’t Bite or Sting

There are as many sizes of stink bugs as there are species. Some types grow up to 2 cm long and can be the same width as well. Understandably, many people are afraid these critters could do some damage.

But despite the stink bug’s iconic needle mouth, they aren’t built for piercing, biting, or stinging human skin. As a result, they can’t break through the surface.

The critter’s mouthparts are structured to puncture the flesh of soft fruit and other plants enough to reach their proboscis inside to feed. The “needle” hides between their legs when they aren’t using it.

With that said, it’s worth noting that you might experience irritated, itchy, red skin if you come into contact with these bugs.

Why? Because their exoskeleton contains incredibly share edges that human skin doesn’t take too kindly to. But don’t worry too much; this irritation will subside after a few hours — especially with the help of soothing topical creams.

#4 They Aren’t Breeding in Your Home

If you have stink bugs in your home, the most common time to spot them is in the fall.

As soon as October rolls around, clusters of stink bugs come into your home to seek refuge.

Any cracks around your windows, chimneys, baseboards, door frames and other crevices are perfect for the bugs to sneak into and make your house their home for the winter. 

They can’t tolerate cold weather. So, they hide out inside your house throughout the chilly months, entering a stage of hibernation called diapause.

During this part of their life cycle, they don’t eat, and they indeed don’t reproduce.

Stink bugs won’t be making an egg-filled nest in your abode anytime soon, that’s for sure! They’re incapable of laying until the warmth kicks in around the springtime.

Thankfully, when spring comes, the stink bugs will say goodbye to your home. If they can, they’ll leave the same way they came.

Chances are if you spot any inside your home during spring, they’re making their way out since living with you for the entirety of winter! 

#5 They Are Devoted Parents

You don’t often see much empathy or parental tender loving care in the insect kingdom. But the stink bug is different. They are the epitome of what it means to be a great mother, father, or guardian, protecting both their eggs and young.

Once they find a safe place to lay their eggs, the adult stink bugs will stay around them. Often, they will squat over them to fight off nasty predators

As the eggs begin to hatch, the babies will huddle together like a gang of elementary school children on their very first field trip. Again, the parents will still keep a watchful eye over their young until they’re ready to face the world alone.

We are by no means suggesting you tolerate a stink bug home invasion because they care for their children. However, anthropomorphizing can give a bit of perspective to otherwise beleaguered homeowners.

#6 They Have Medicinal Benefits

The seemingly lowly stink bug (the marmorated stink bug variety, in this case) has astonishing medicinal benefits and is used as an alternative medication in South Asia (predominantly).

People harvest the stink bug and keep them in jars or hot water until they’re ready to eat them. Sadly, the actual harvesting of the bugs isn’t completely safe.

Sometimes, the insects will release contaminated water, which, if it finds its way into your eye, can cause blindness.

Despite this, the potential medicinal benefits outweigh the risks, according to some people in the south. These benefits of eating the bugs are as follows:

  • Pain relief for people with ulcers
  • Reduction in gastrointestinal problems
  • Curing urinary tract infections
  • Unblock the urinary tract in people suffering from urinary obstruction

Of course, it’s probably not wise to go and pick up random bugs and eat them! After all, there are so many species of stink bug, some of which might not be so beneficial. 

#7 They Don’t Attract More Stink Bugs When They Die

Finally, regardless of popular belief, stink bugs don’t automatically attract others when they’re killed or die of natural causes.

The critters can release multiple smells that do the following:

  • Warn off predators
  • Attract nearby stink bugs

The foul smell associated with the name is used to avoid birds and reptiles who want to eat them.

But they use an entirely different chemical secretion to attract their friends. More often than not, they do this when they’ve found a nice spot to enter diapause (potentially your house!).

If you squish one or if they die in your home, they’re physically unable to release the latter stink. Usually, they’ll emit their foul warning smell.

The Bottom Line

It’s true — stink bugs are primarily crop-eating pests. So, while you still don’t want them nesting in your home for the winter (despite the fact they do zero structural damage), maybe think twice before eradicating all of them.

Our advice? Try to identify the specific species present in your garden/farm before calling an exterminator. They might be the carnivorous type who will safeguard your crops against common pests (caterpillars, etc.). 

Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:

When do stink bugs go away – The Answer Surprised Me

11 Plants That Repel Stink Bugs

What Attracts Stink Bugs in Your House? 5 Common Mistakes

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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