Stink bugs, also known as shield bugs, are an insect family belonging to the suborder Heteroptera. There are thousands of species of stink bugs, but the most common are the brown stink bug, known as Halyomorpha halys, and the green stink bug, known as Acrosternum hilare.
The scientific name of Pentatomidae derives from the fact that stink bugs have antenna which are divided into five distinctive sections. The nickname “shield bug” comes from their broad, triangular bodies which are used like a shield to defend themselves from predators. They get their common name of “stink bug” from another defensive tactic. When disturbed or attacked by predators, stink bugs secrete an offensive-smelling liquid from their thorax glands. Individually, stink bugs are not usually considered as pests. When in groups, however, they may cause serious damage to plants and crops.
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are found in Asian countries and in the southern United States. They can become agricultural pests as they have the potential to cause widespread damage to fruit and vegetable plants. They commonly invade maple trees, birch trees, apple trees, orange trees and pecan trees. They also target plants such as tomatoes, grapes, cucumbers and sunflowers. They feed on the plants by sucking from the fruits, causing crop necrosis, seed loss and introduction of plant pathogens. During winter, brown stink bugs invade warmer homes, hiding in windows and door frames.
Green stink bugs originate from countries such as China and Japan, earning them the name “Asian Stink Bug.” They feed on soybeans, corn, apple trees and cherry trees. Because of their color, they often go unnoticed by blending in with the surrounding foliage. Their natural camouflage provides an additional benefit during mating season. They are able to discreetly lay eggs on plants and increase the population.
Stink bugs are generally not a health concern, and in some countries they are considered as food. They may bite people or pets, causing itching or burning at the site. Biting anything other than plants is usually a form of defense by the bugs, which do not transmit disease. The bite can be treated by rubbing it with aloe vera or lavender oil.