Stink Bugs Come Calling for a Nice Warm House

As the weather starts to cool down, stink bugs are looking for warm places to hibernate — and they just might move in with you. While they haven't invoked fear they way bedbugs have, they do live up to their name.

"Since stink bugs hibernate in the fall, they may collect in large quantities in people's houses," said Brett C. Ratcliffe, professor of entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "They aren't harmful to people and are simply a nuisance."

The insects sneak in through small cracks and openings in chimneys, door and window frames, air conditioning units, attic vents and holes in a home's foundation. They hide out in toasty, dark spots during the winter, and emerge from hibernation in May or June.

However, the arrival of warm, springtime weather is not a guarantee that stink bugs will move back out.

"Sometimes stink bugs are unable to leave a house because they can't find a way out, and they'll just stay locked in," Ratcliffe told Life's Little Mysteries.

Ideally, cracks in wall corners should be calked before stink bugs have a chance to move in.

To those who aren't farmers, stink bugs pose no threat. Unlike bedbugs, stink bugs do not feed on humans. They don't damage houses and are not known to transmit diseases to people or pets.

But stink bugs feed on — and damage — a wide variety of crops, including soybeans, tomatoes, peppers, apples, cherries, apricots, citrus fruits, peaches, pears, grapes, raspberries, figs and certain flowers, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The pests are currently causing extreme damage to apple crops and vineyards in western Maryland. They have also been spotted in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Virginia, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., according to news reports.

They get their name from the foul-smelling fluids released from pores on the sides of their bodies. These secretions help to protect stink bugs from predators, according to the University of Kentucky's department of entomology.

While there are thousands of stink bug species worldwide, the most common types in the United States are the green stink bug (Acrosternum hilare) and the brown stink bug  (Halyomorpha halys), according to the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri.

Stink bugs are believed to have hitched a ride to the United States aboard cargo from Asia, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. They were first discovered in U.S. cornfields in 1985, wreaking havoc on the crops by sucking plant fluids through their needle-like mouthparts, according to the University of Kentucky.

However, not everyone despises stink bugs, the university says. In some parts of Mexico (Oaxaca, Guerrero, Morelos and Veracruz), stink bugs are considered a delicacy and are frequently added to salsa and taco recipes, as some stink bug species provide a minty or cinnamon-like flavor.

Also called soldier bugs and shield bugs because of the crest-shaped, shell-like plate on their backs, stink bugs are usually camouflaged in forest green, light brown, muddy gray or dull yellow colors. A female stink bug lays up to 400 eggs on the lower surfaces of leaves throughout her lifetime, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources.

This article was provided by Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.