I’ve always heard about stink bugs, but I’ve never known much about them. Actually, I don’t know anything about them. But that’s why this blog is so much fun to write; I get to learn about all kinds of creatures!

A map of the spread of brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) in the U.S. Image by PintCanMan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stink bugs belong to the family Pentatomidae, and since there are way too many species in the family for one blog post, I’m just going to focus on a single species, the brown marmorated stink bug. Originally found in east Asia, the brown stink bug has since been introduced to the U.S., Europe, and South America.

Stink bugs are not super large, reaching about 1.7 cm in length. They are shaped a bit like shields, which is why another name for some species of stink bugs is shield bugs. As you probably guessed from their name, brown stink bugs are primarily brown. Figuring out the ‘marmorated’ part is a little bit harder, but it describes the marbled markings on the stink bugs’ bodies. These markings can be grey, white, black and blueish. Distinguishing markings of brown marmorated stink bugs are bands of white on their antennae, and dark bands around the edge of the abdomen.

Stink bugs are, of course, stinky. Stink bugs release their characteristic smell when threatened, to try and dissuade predators from eating them. The smell is similar to that of coriander, so I guess it wouldn’t be that unpleasant if you like coriander. There are some species that prey on stink bugs, particularly the Chinese wasp species Trissolcus japonicus. In their non-native range, however, there are few predators that regularly feed on stink bugs.

An adult stink bug. Image by Hectonichus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you like fruits and vegetables? So do stink bugs! They feed on a variety of plants, including some well-known crops such as soybeans, peaches, apples, beans, cherries, raspberries, and pears. The bugs feed by inserting their proboscises into the plant, and sucking out the juicy insides. Of course, this isn’t super good for the host plants, which means brown marmorated stink bugs are considered quite the pest in some places.

They have been especially problematic in areas where the stink bugs have been introduced, such as in the U.S. Because of the wide range of crops that they feed on, stink bugs are quite difficult to control. If a population in one area is removed, other stink bugs will fly in and replace them. Pesticides are not generally very effective for this reason; in addition, some pesticides do not work as the bugs feed under the surface of the plants.

One of the biggest problems with stink bugs is that they reproduce quite rapidly. They can produce at least one generation per year, and in warmer climates can produce up to six generations in a single year. Stink bugs are able to locate one another through the use of pheromones and vibrations. Females can lay up to 400 eggs in their lifetime, and when conditions are right, these eggs develop quickly, becoming adults in just 35 to 45 days.

Stink bug eggs hatching on a leaf. Image by Gary Bernon, USDA APHIS, Bugwood.org, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stink bugs may be a problem for farmers, but you have to appreciate their tenacity. They’re also kind of pretty for an insect, especially while they’re developing. I’m also quite fond of their name; it’s one of the most accurate names I’ve ever come across. After all, they are brown, they are marmorated, they stink, and they are bugs.

Cover image by Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons