What's That Smell? Don't Let D.C. Stink Bugs Call Your House Home

Jason Hargraves
Written by Jason Hargraves
Updated September 26, 2014
Stink bugs make their presence known this time of year in the Washington area. (Photo courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture)

Fall in the Washington, D.C., area is when stink bugs start eyeing your house as a place to spend the winter. Find out what you can do to keep them out.

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Washington-area residents should get ready for a rather unwelcome visitor this fall as stink bugs, literally, come out to find your woodwork.

Cool weather sends a signal to these creatures to find winter shelter, which is naturally under the bark of dead trees, University of Maryland etymologist Mike Raupp tells WTOP radio.

Your house, though, can make a nice substitute.

"Make sure all entry points, doors and walk-outs where utilities go in and out are sealed, and improve your caulk," Raupp tells WTOP.

Also, he suggests installing window screens behind ventilation points.

If not, things could turn ugly — and stinky.

Stink Bugs Live Up to Their Name

Orkin exterminators say stink bugs get their name from the unpleasant odor they emit when threatened. Scientists suspect this odor helps protect the bugs against predators.

The smelly chemical is produced in a gland on the bugs' abdomen. Some species can actually spray the chemical several inches.

“Thousands of stink bugs in a house is not uncommon,” says Ricky Foster, professor of pest management at Purdue University in Indiana. Foster says the pests start entering homes in September and keep it up through November in some warmer cities.

They spend the winter inside walls, attics or crawl spaces.

Sprays or Traps? How Best to Battle the Bug

Pest control companies will spray a pesticide on the outside perimeter of your home. Of course, there's a catch. Stink bugs can fly over a sprayed area, so that's why sealing the house to prevent them from entering is so important. Be sure to check windows, doors and dryer vents.

If the bugs already have made it inside, it's probably best to contact a local exterminator. Most hardware stores do, however, carry sticky traps.

Scooping up the bugs with a vacuum is an option. Be sure to empty the vacuum bag outside because the bugs can crawl back out if left inside and may release their signature scent if scared. The smell can remain in the vacuum for some time.

Aside from the nuisance, there’s no known serious danger to your home itself. Allergic reactions, though, can cause eye watering, congestion and coughing.

In the end, thought, it's really just about that smell.

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