How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs, the Pests You Might Spot at Home in Fall

updated Aug 31, 2023
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Pretty much no one wants to deal with bugs in their home, even when they don’t mind them outside on the patio or in the garden. Sure, they’re part of nature and serve a purpose, but you probably would prefer it if that purpose happened somewhere other than a quiet living room or a relaxing bedroom. But bugs are a part of life, and figuring out how to deal with them is akin to doing laundry regularly or occasionally mopping the floors — annoying, but necessary. 

Now that summer is winding down, there’s one bug that may be more noticeable by sight and smell than the others: stink bugs. “Stink bugs are common insects that produce a strong smell when threatened,” says Mallory Micetich, Home Expert at Angi. “They originated in Asia but are now common throughout North America.”

If you’ve started to spot these pests inside your home, don’t worry — this is an easy fix. Read on for how to get rid of stink bugs safely and relatively calmly.

Quick Overview

How do you get rid of stink bugs?

Stink bugs give off a foul odor when squished or scared (hence the name), so the best course of action if you see one is to treat it gently. Use a handheld vacuum to suck it up, then empty the canister outside or straight into a garbage bag.

What are stink bugs? 

Stink bugs are Asian insects that likely arrived in North America about 30 years ago. They’re herbivores, so they eat plants and produce.

Stink bugs are also known as shield bugs due to their shape. They’re brown in color, with six legs.

While stink bugs do have wings and can fly, you’re most likely to spot them climbing (usually up a stem or leaf).

Stink bugs get their not-so-appealing name because of the odor they emit when they feel threatened. This odor their main line of defense since they don’t bite or sting.

You’ll probably smell the wrath of a stink bug if you try and fail to squash one (or if you squash one and it leaves you with a parting gift). The odor is sometimes described as being similar to cilantro, but is described other times as having a skunk or burnt tire smell. In any case, it stinks!

“However, if they aren’t being threatened, they usually don’t smell bad,” Micetich says. “They are fairly harmless insects and can’t harm most pets or humans. But some people have allergic reactions to stink bugs.”

Stink bugs usually appear from May to September in gardens, which is their mating season. When it gets colder, though, they move inside to stay warm.

What Attracts Stink Bugs?

Stink bugs are herbivores, so in summer, you’re most likely to spot them on your tomato vines and herb pots. If you have an infestation in your garden, you’ll see signs of damage to your plants.

Inside, stink bugs seek out warmth and are often found in sunny areas. Unlike cockroaches, which prefer the dark, stink bugs are attracted to light.

Do Stink Bugs Sting or Bite?

No, stink bugs don’t sting and they’re very unlikely to bite. The biggest risk to these bugs is that they’ll release their scent.

While they don’t harm people, they do harm produce — their mouths are made to pierce the leaves, stems, and roots of plants, which lets them suck out the juices from inside. You might see evidence of their snacking in browned fruits and veggies.

How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs

Given that stink bugs are reproducing in your garden during the summer, your first line of defense should take place out there.

“If you’re trying to get rid of stink bugs in your garden, simply knock them into a bucket of soapy water,” Micetich says. Work gently but confidently, and they likely won’t see you coming (and won’t, ahem, cause a stink because of it). 

As soon as the weather has cooled and you’re wearing sweaters again, you may notice that stink bugs are also taking shelter in your warm and cozy home.

If you spot a stink bug, don’t squish it. That will only cause the dreaded smell for which they’re named.

Instead, use a handheld vacuum or a vacuum with an extension hose to get rid of stink bugs. 

“If you want to avoid the unpleasant smell stink bugs produce, don’t squash them when you see them,” Micetich says. “Instead, I recommend vacuuming up the bugs and emptying the vacuum outside.” Make sure to do it immediately so as not to cause the foul odor you’re trying to prevent.

How to Prevent Stink Bugs in Your Home

It’s also a good idea to not build a garden close to your home, or to leave plants on a windowsill that usually stays open. Instead, with enough space between your garden beds and living room, and the aforementioned so-long-suckers strategies, you should be in the clear. 

If the only smell you want to pick up on this fall is cinnamon, then follow this advice for preventing stink bugs from entering your home. “They usually come in through cracks, so consider sealing gaps near your doors, windows, and foundation,” Micetich says.

Make sure to check any produce you may have out on your countertops. After it’s been cleared by an inspection, place it either in your refrigerator or an airtight container, Micetich says.

Here are other maintenance tasks you should take on to prevent stink bugs.

  • Keep screens on all your windows and doors, and repair any tears.
  • Make sure you don’t have any gaps underneath your exterior doors.
  • Check for — and then repair — leaking pipes, clogged drains, and other moisture sources.

Can’t get enough of household bugs? Here’s more info on common pests you might encounter at home: