Stink bugs moving indoors so pest-proof your home

As temperatures drop, many insects will search for shelter for the winter months — often in private residences. This year, people may notice a new insect indoors.

That insect is the brown marmorated stink bug. University of Kentucky entomologists already are receiving calls from homeowners concerning its appearance and offensive odor, said Ric Bessin, Extension entomologist with the UK College of Agriculture.

The first report of the stink bug in Kentucky was in 2010, but it is now confirmed in 50 counties, mostly in the east and central parts of the state and the Louisville area. Hardin County has been added to the list this year.

Once in homes, the stink bug releases, as a defense mechanism, an odor that smells like cilantro. Along the East Coast, where this stink bug is more established, it has been known to invade homes by the tens of thousands.

In addition to being a home invader, the stink bug is a major pest of fruits and vegetables and will feed on corn and soybeans during the growing season.

The best thing homeowners can do to prevent stink bug problems is to pest proof their residences, Bessin said. This includes sealing off openings into the structure such as where wires and pipes enter the building from the outside and any cracks or tears in window or door screens.

Homeowners also might want to spray an insecticide around the perimeter of their home. Those wanting more information can refer to UK Entomology’s ENTFACT 641, at www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/entfactpdf/ef641.pdf.

If stink bugs are found in a residence, homeowners should vacuum them rather than sweep or crush them. Sweeping or crushing may cause them to emit the odor or leave a stain.

What can a homeowner do? Bug proof your house this fall.

Pest proofing your home is the most efficient way to keep these critters out. A swatter, broom or vacuum cleaner and trash container will take care of pests that occasionally wander indoors. It’s best to deal with stink bugs, boxelder bugs and lady beetles outside, before they enter your home.

Following these guidelines will help pest proof your home or place of business and some may even help you conserve energy and increase the comfort level this fall and winter.

Install door sweeps or thresholds at the base of all exterior entry doors, paying particular attention to the bottom corners that are a common entry location. Insects and spiders can enter through a gap of one-sixteenth of an inch or less. Get down on the floor and check for light entering under doors; this indicates possible pest entryways.

To close other potential pest entries, apply caulk on the bottom outside edges and sides of door thresholds; fit garage doors with a rubber bottom seal because vinyl doesn’t seal well in the winter; and line the bottom track of sliding glass doors with foam weather stripping ½ to ¾ inch wide to seal any gaps.

Utility openings where pipes and wires enter the foundation and siding are common entry points for spiders, ants, yellow jackets and rodents. You can use caulk, cement, urethane expandable foam, steel wool and copper mesh to plug openings around outdoor faucets, receptacles, gas meters, clothes dryer vents and telephone or cable television wires.

Apply a quality silicone or acrylic latex caulk to cracks around windows, doors, fascia boards and other openings. Before you apply the caulk, clean existing caulk, and remove any that’s peeling to aid adhesion. Be sure to use a good caulking gun. Desirable features are a back-off trigger to stop caulk when desired, a built-in “slicer” to remove the tip from new caulking tubes, and a nail to puncture the seal within. These guns are available for less than $10.

To reduce the entry of lady beetles, cluster flies and other overwintering pests, repair gaps and tears in window and door screens. Keep windows closed when adults are emerging to prevent entry. Repairing screens also will keep out flies, gnats, mosquitoes and midges next summer.

Another way to pre­vent pest entry is to apply an exterior barrier treatment with insecticides. To gain the most from this effort, apply long-lasting liquid formulations that contain synthetic pyrethroids. These products are available at some hardware, lawn and garden shops.

If you apply the barrier treatment, use a compressed air or hose-end sprayer to treat the base of all exterior doors, garage, crawl space entrances, foundation vents, utility openings and beneath siding. It’s also useful to treat the outside perimeter of the foundation with a two- to six-foot wide band along the ground and two to three feet up the foundation wall.

If you prefer not to tackle these pest-proofing activities, contact a professional pest control firm. Many firms are beginning to offer pest-proofing services.

For more information on the Brown Mar­morated Stink Bug go to http://pest.ca.uky.edu/EXT/BMSB/welcome.html or contact Hardin County Cooperative Extension Service at 765-4121, Amy.Aldenderfer@uky.edu, or on the internet at www.hardinhort.org.

Class notes

• Great Plants for Fall Color, 6 p.m. Oct 3, $10. Fall always is a riot of color. Is your garden lacking that autumn-like spark? Find out which plants can add color to your fall garden.

• Divide and Conquer, 6 p.m. Oct 10, free. Join the Extension Master Gardeners as we divide and conquer the tired, overgrown flower beds around the Extension office. Bring your own shovel. You provide the muscle, extension Master Gardeners provide the know-how about dividing and transplanting plants. Whatever you dig, you can take home.

• Draped Hypertufa Planters, 6 p.m. Oct 12, $10. Draping fabric with a cement mixture to make lovely pots for your flowers. Planters can be made with any fabric, from a simple inexpensive wash rag, hand towel or bath towel to an old crocheted tablecloth or doily. Fabric is dipped in a mixture of builder’s sand, Portland cement, sphagnum and water then draped over a container, i.e., trash can, nursery flower pot, or five-gallon bucket, to dry. All supplies are included in the fee.

• Putting the Gardens to Bed, 6 p.m. Oct 23, $5. Wond­ering how much work to do to clean the garden for the winter? Are there different chores for the veggie garden versus the lawn? What is a gardener to do? We will discuss all these topics and more.

registration information

• Go to http://hardin.ca.uky.edu/content/line-class-registration or call 270-765-4121 to register.

• Registration is on a first-pay basis. All classes have a maximum number of participants. When this number is reached, a waiting list will be started.

• Payment for each of the Gardener’s Toolbox classes is required to be enrolled two weeks prior to the class date.

• Cancellations will be fully refunded two weeks prior to the class date.

• If you would like to attend a class, but do not want supplies, an option of not paying the supply fee exists.

Amy Aldenderfer, a Hardin County Extension agent for horticulture. Reach her at 270-765-4121, Amy.Aldenderfer@uky.edu or on the web at www.hardinhort.org.