Year of the Stink Bug

Noticed any new visitors lately? If you live in Howard County (or much of the Mideast Atlantic region) the bug pictured above is probably no stranger. Nonetheless, an introduction is in order.

It's a brown marmorated stink bug, AKA Halyomorpha halys. But you probably just know it as a stink bug. They got the name because, well, stink bugs stink. The name comes from its ability to produce a noxious odor from a gland between the first and second pairs of legs. So don't lick them there. Oh, and don't squish them. That'll get you a full shot, too.


Native to Asia, they long have been regarded as agricultural pests in their homeland -- and they are quickly gaining the same reputation here. Fortunately, they prefer plant sap to human flesh. So they won't bite you.

Nonetheless, you are probably wondering how to exterminate stink bugs. The bad news: they have no natural predators (update April 2013: they do now) in their new home. So if you are coming here to find out how to kill stink bugs, the news is not great. Indoors, don't even bother with Raid. Better to use a piece of paper and scrape them into a bowl of soapy water. That will kill them within a few seconds -- and with no smell. And that is probably the best idea for how to get rid of stink bugs.

So, what eats stink bugs? Well, it sure helps to have a healthy local bat population. Bats eat them wholesale. And in far lesser numbers, praying mantis also eat stink bugs.

The good news: YOU can eat stink bugs. Not kidding about that, either. Stink bugs are considered a delicacy in Laos(1), where the odor is the big culinary draw. They are ground up with chiles and spices and served with glutinous rice.

UPDATE: And for the more gastronomically traditional readers, here's a recipe for stink bug paté. (You're welcome, internet.)


This particular non-native bug has been spreading throughout the region since arriving in 1998. And 2010 is shaping up to be a banner year in Howard County.

If you'd like to learn more, the Penn State Entomology Dept. has put together a great page on them, here.

Tags: World Influence, Miscellaneous

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