WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Seeing a brown marmorated beetle scamper across your wall on a winter day may cause you to ask: “Where did that come from?” or “How do I get rid of it?” The quick answers are: far from Westchester and not that easily.
An invasive species from eastern Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug takes winter refuge in the warmth of your home; a relaxing winter vacation, beetle style.
The brown marmorated stink bug -- Halyomorpha halys -- is relatively new to North America. It was first spotted in Pennsylvania in 1996 and in Westchester in around 2008. But its allegiance is not particular to the region, as stink bugs now take residence in some other 33 states, as well as in virtually every country on the globe.
“The brown marmorated stink bug,” said Chris Maier, entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, “may be one of the most successful invasive insects of all time.”
If you’re paying close attention, Asian brown stink bugs are distinguishable from other stink bugs native to the region by white spots on its antenna.
“The brown marmorated stink bug has become a nuisance pest in human dwellings,” said Maier. When squashed (either accidentally or deliberately) they emit an odorous chemical.
But smell is the least of the stink bug’s qualities.
"The stink bug has been a major crop pest in Maryland and Virginia," said Dr. Lou Magnarelli, director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
The mid-Atlantic region experienced a loss of some $27 million in apple crops in 2010, said Maier
Among its impressive attributes, the knife-thin stink bug can slip through weather stripping and extremely small cracks in your home siding and windows and can live six-to eight months. The warmth of one’s home causes them to rouse from their slumber.
But you can take preemptive action against a stink bug home invasion, said Jim McHale, an entomologist and owner of JP Mchale Pest Management in Cortlandt.
“In this region, there’s a two-week to one-month window -- from approximately Aug. 15 through Sept. 1 -- during which we can prevent stink bugs from entering your home.”
It is during this timeframe, said McHale, that stink bugs make their inexorable journey toward winter slumber.
McHale applies an environmentally safe treatment to low-lying brush and shrubs, as well as the windows and siding of the sun-facing sides of homes. This discourages the insects from choosing your home as its winter destination.
Theories abound on the Internet about preventive pheromones and various traps, but McHale said that once it has invaded your home, short of vacuuming or scooping up the insect with a tissue, there is nothing a homeowner can do to exterminate the insect on a large scale.
The good news is that the marmorated brown beetle -- like other seasonal vacationers -- leaves its winter rental when spring arrives.
For now, keep plenty of tissues on hand and try to avoid squishing your unwanted tenants. Then, mark your calendar for late summer, when you can arrange to foil the stink bugs’ plans for wintering in your home.