The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Be on the lookout for new uninvited house guest.

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Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

This fall we've had an extended warm period. In fact, the statewide average temperature for October was 59.8 degrees, 5.4 degrees above normal, and the 7th warmest October on record, according to Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel, Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois.

As much as we may enjoy the warmth we know eventually it will get colder. We tuck in our plants and make sure the storm windows are secured. Insects also get ready for cold weather. A few such as multicolored Asian lady beetles and boxelder bugs are known to look at our homes and garages as the perfect winter retreat.

As of 2010 a new uninvited house guest, brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), started showing up in Illinois and has continued its march across the state. As reported in a September 30, 2016 news release, BMSB had been found in five newly invaded Illinois counties this year, according to Kelly Estes, Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey coordinator in the Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.

With the arrival of cooler weather, brown marmorated stink bugs can become obvious as they congregate on house siding, windowsills, and garages looking for cracks and crevices in buildings and other dry places to spend the winter.

BMSB was first found in northeast Illinois (Cook County) and in the East St. Louis area in 2010. It was detected in Champaign County in 2011, Vermilion in 2012 and Piatt in 2013. In 2016 BMSB has been confirmed for the first time in Macon, Winnebago, Clinton, Effingham, and Stephenson Counties. Since BMSB is an invasive species, it has few known natural enemies and populations can grow quickly.

Adult BMSB have the shield-shaped body of all stink bugs. In summer and fall we see all kinds of stink bugs from bright green to brown. This species has a marmorated or mottled brown color with distinct white bands on dark antennae and alternating black and white bands border the abdomen. White bands are distinctly triangular shaped. BSMB's shoulders are smooth as opposed to the saw-toothed edge of common brown stink bug or the obvious spines of spined soldier bug.

Other than being a nuisance around are homes is this stink bug worth the stink of accurate identification and detection? The answer is a resounding yes. The Mid-Atlantic states already know the crop losses from this pest. In the spring, the stink bugs emerge from their hiding places to lay eggs on the underside of leaves. BMSB has a long list of host plants, including many woody ornamental trees as well as several agricultural crops including fruit trees, grapes, tomatoes, corn, and soybeans. Since they feed all season long on plants and fruit, they can cause considerable crop damage. Also, like many other invasive insects, we inadvertently move them around as they hitchhike on vehicles, shipping materials, and plants. Estes reported no known economic losses thus far in agricultural crops in Illinois.

To keep stink bugs out of homes, make sure windows are sealed and caulk cracks and crevices. As with our other house invaders spraying insecticides indoors doesn't really help much. These invaders are not breeding indoors, just looking for a warm place to spend the winter. The best option is to vacuum them up and dispose of them. Live stink bugs can also be dropped into soapy water.

Here's where you can help, homeowners are the best source of information on the whereabouts of BSMB in Illinois. If you believe you have seen this species, Estes would be interested in looking at a sample, especially in counties not previously reported as having BMSB. Stink bugs may be sent in a crush-proof container, such as a pill bottle to Kelly Estes, 1816 S. Oak St., Champaign, IL 61820. Photos can be sent to

**Pictures shown were taken by Susan Ellis of

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