As the temperature drops, many insects will search for shelter for the winter months — many times in private residences. This year, people may notice a new insect coming indoors.
This insect is the brown marmorated stink bug, and 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 now is 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 it gets in homes, the stink bug releases an odor that smells like cilantro as a defensive mechanism. 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 fruit 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 may also want to spray an insecticide around the perimeter of their home. For more information, refer to UK Entomology’s ENTFACT 641, which can be found at 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.
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.
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 good-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 offering pest-proofing services.
For information on the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, go to pest.ca.uky.edu/EXT/BMSB/welcome.html or contact Hardin County Cooperative Extension Service at 270-765-4121, Amy.Aldenderfer@uky.edu or at hardin.ca.uky.edu.
Amy Aldenderfer is a Hardin County Extension agent for horticulture. She can be reached at 270-765-4121, Ext. 114, email@example.com.