Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Not MY Friends.....They Stink!!

My mother asked me the other day about some shield shaped bugs that were on some of her plants. Being that I live in Charleston, SC and she lives in Raleigh, NC, I was kind of guessing. I am pretty sure they are Stink Bugs, possibly Leaffooted Bugs. After I talked to her, I got thinking about them.....Yes, I have no life, so I think about these bugs and what kind of damage they can do.
I actually have a bunch of these things myself in the yard this year. So, I figured others will too, I might better write about them.

The Brown Stink Bug, Euschistus servus

The Green Stink Bug, Acrosternum hilare

The Leaffooted bug, Leptoglossuis phyllopus

All adult stink bugs are shield-shaped. Green stink bugs are bright green with a narrow orange-yellow line bordering the major body regions. They are about one half inch long. Brown stink bugs are dull grayish-yellow in color and also about one half inch long. Leaffooted bugs are about three quarters of an inch long, have dark brown bodies, and flattened, leaf-like hind legs.
Brown and green stink bugs have been reported as far north as Quebec, however, in the United States, they are more often to inflict more damage to plants in the South.
Stink bugs feed on over 50+ plants, including native and ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, weeds, and many cultivated crops. The preferred hosts are nearly all wild plants. Stink bugs build up on these hosts and move to cultivated hosts as their preferred food becomes unavailable. Among vegetable crops, stink bugs attack bean and cowpea seeds, okra pods, ripening tomato fruit, and stems of melons and asparagus.
Bean, cowpea, eggplant, potato, tomato, peach, strawberry, okra, and watermelon are on the Leaffooted menu as well.
Babies and adults of these bugs pierce plants with their needle-like mouthparts and suck sap from pods, buds, blossoms, and seeds. They use their saliva to penetrate their food material, dissolve the contents and then suck up the digesting mixture. Sorry, but I wanted you to know HOW they do it. The degree of damage depends, to some extent, on the developmental stage of the plant when it is pierced. Immature fruits and pods punctured by bugs become deformed as they develop. Seeds are often flattened and shriveled, and germination is reduced.
Stink bugs overwinter as adults in ditch banks, along fence rows, on roadsides, and in other similar places. They become active in Spring when temperatures rise above 70 degrees. Each female deposits up to several hundred eggs, usually in mid- to late June. These eggs are laid in clusters, primarily on leaves and stems, but also on pods. Approximately 5 weeks elapse between hatching and adulthood. The Leaffooted bug has a very similar life cycle.
Stink bugs have some natural enemies,including several common species of birds, but most notably, parasitic flies in the family Tachinidae. These parasites place their eggs directly on the adults. There are also beneficial stink bugs. Stay with me on this. They can be told apart by their mouthparts. The proboscis or "eating probe" of the beneficial species fold back under the body leaving a space between the body and the mouthparts, whereas in the pest species, the proboscis appear attached to the head at the anterior tip of the head. I have tried to look at the different stink bugs I have around here, I guess they are shy and won't show me their proboscis. OKAY, just to show you I am actually keeping this blog clean, I found this picture of a Spiny Stink Bug, using his proboscis to eat.

They are difficult to control with insecticides, Sevin can be used if the infestation is severe. Please make sure you read and follow the directions! They can be removed by hand, but remember, if held too long or crushed, they emit a foul odor (hence their name). I read of one person, not wanting to take any chances, using a vacuum cleaner to suck them up! Thorough weed control may reduce overwintering populations near fields, but infestation by stink bugs and leaffooted bugs that emerge from nearby woods or other areas is inevitable.
I have often wondered what certain insects are useful for. Bees, we understand are used for pollination. Butterflies are pretty. Spiders eat other insects. Stink bugs, I include leaffooted bugs here, I truly believe are a form of a practical joke. I have been on the recipient end of a good old fashioned stink bomb, I guess Mother Nature wanted to get into the act as well!
Happy Growing!


  1. So now I know! I always assumed that people's distaste for them was without good reason and that maybe they played a good role in garden ecology... now I'll smush em.

  2. Thanks! I'm from the Caribbean and I have leaffooted stink bugs dining on my gauva fruits.

    Very informative.

  3. Thanks for the comments folks.
    Dcubed, I actually have some questions for you, but can't find an e-mail.
    Please drop me a line at

  4. at the risk of repeating myself... i am testing the use of diatomaceous earth and catch master sticky pads on my window sills for inhouse infestation control. I also am testing ecomSmart ant and roach killer. None of my victims have looked very perky prior to getting caught on the sticky pads thus far. I am anxiously awaiting warmer weather in easter WV to get good results.

  5. Late this summer I found these in my house. I found them mostly by the doors and windows. They have come into my house some.I just found one now on the table in the den while working on my taxes. I haven't seen one for awhile. I do have some plants in my house. This is the first year I have seen them. I did spray outside around my doors and windows during the summer and fall. I live in SC. In the upstate.
    How do I get rid of them?

  6. If you have already sprayed around the doors and windows, then that should help. They are just trying to get in out of the cold. Once Spring gets here, they will stay outside. In the meantime, if you are only dealing with one or two at a time....Vacuum them up along with some insecticide or flush them down the toilet. Squishing them inside could cause a stink problem...or you could just toss them out the door and let the cold kill them. Hope that helps.