DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) – You aren’t the only one who’s trying to escape the cold this winter.
A relatively recent invasion is happening in Illinois, and it’s a stinky one.
"I've literally seen one walking across the threshold of my house as I’ve opened the door,” said Doug Gucker, UI Extension educator.
The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) – the weather-resistant, indoor-loving, military grade pest sneaking around our homes lately – is making its slow, but persistent march across the Midwest.
Many in central Illinois have reported seeing them for the first time in the past few months. And they’re unmistakable, shaped like a shield, clumsily creeping toward any warm space.
Other varieties of the stink bug have been in Illinois. The green stink bug has enjoyed the state’s fruit crops for years.
Right now, the BMSB seems more interested in our homes, hibernating under siding, then fleeing inside when it gets too cold. Entomologists have noticed their resilience, as neither extreme cold nor months without food can kill them off.
And they’ll never stop looking for ways inside.
"Just an eighth of an inch, they can get in there and spend the wintertime,” said Gucker.
Native to China, Japan, and Korea, experts believe this species largely found its way to the U.S. on some Pennsylvania imports in the late 1990s, with the first record of the BMSB in 2001.
It soon became a real problem, when farmers noted the bug’s sweet tooth.
By 2010, agriculture experts there were assessing damages in the tens of millions to the state’s fruit crops.
By 2013, ten states reported an impact on crops, and just last year that grew to 18, reaching as far west as Indiana.
"From and ag standpoint, we have them on our radar,” said Pam Smith, writer for DTN and The Progressive Farmer.”
Corn and soybeans have been included as crops affected by the BMSB, and that’s caught the attention of local growers, and some have even met – as recently as this week – to talk about the problem.
"Definitely anything that’s like that and doesn’t get a lot of predators, we get concerned about and keep an eye on,” said Smith.
According to Gucker, the main predator of the BSMB is a species of wasp, but they are always behind the problem. As are mitigation techniques, particularly for organic farmers who are trying to lure the bugs away with pheromones, or even introduce other insects which might have a taste for stink bugs, and not their crops.
Ultimately, they’re quite harmless in the home, even if they do sound like menacing little helicopters in flight.
They are, however, called “stink” bugs for a reason. If squishing is your preferred mitigation technique, prepare for a smell.
“It’s just an odor that’s not one of the most agreeable odors you want to have in the house,” said Gucker.
He added the best ways to take care of them are to suck them up in your vacuum or send them down the toilet.
The discouraging news for many: We may have to get used to our new insect roommates, while fighting the battle to stave them off one flush at a time.