Stink bugs increasing due to optimal environmental conditions

Logan Lutton

Brown marmorated stink bugs, common, shield-shaped pests, are thriving this year due to ideal environmental conditions, which has led to an increase in the Northeast Ohio region.

“This year, they are heavier than they have been in years past,” said Ryan Smith, a pest control specialist from J.C. Ehrlich who works on Kent State grounds. “This is mostly due to the mild winter we’ve had and the early spring, and because of this, they have had the possibility of having an extra generation.”

This “extra generation” means they now have a second population in addition to the one that was already active.

Amplifying the situation, stink bugs do not have any natural predators in North America. They are an invasive species that entered the United States through East Asian shipping containers in the Philadelphia area. 

“They were found in Pennsylvania in 1998,” Smith said. “In 2009, they were found in Ohio, and then in 2011, their population increased by 60 percent.”

When it comes to management, there are some options.

“There have been talks of releasing a wasp species that is parasitic strictly to stink bugs,” Smith said. “Obviously there are some implications, since the wasps also have no natural predators. They could get rid of the stink bug problem, but if they find another food source, they would not naturally die off.”

For everyday treatment on campus, less drastic measures are taken. Smith encourages exclusion first, which keeps the bugs out without using chemicals. Residents are advised to keep their screens closed and their doors shut. If this does not work, pesticides are used. 

“One of the biggest things that I see when I’m going into dorm rooms is open windows,” Smith said. “Just by making sure, at least, the screen is closed would reduce about 50 percent of our calls.”

As the temperature starts to drop, residents could see more appear inside their rooms. 

Ferenc de Szalay, an associate professor of biological sciences, put the arrival of stink bugs into perspective.

“They’re just trying to find a quiet spot to survive the winter months,” de Szalay said. “They’re not going to cause any damage to the structure or the people. They’re really classified as more of a nuisance than a danger.”

Elizabeth Ober, a sophomore visual communication design major, lives in Olson Hall. She has had issues with stink bugs in the past. 

“I’m not afraid of them, I just hate them,” Ober said. “They’re awful. They’re absolutely awful, and I think that they could be completely removed from our environment, and it wouldn’t be affected in any way.” 

One factor that makes them unpleasant is their smell. However, when killed, more will not arrive.

“In fact, that’s kind of counterintuitive,” de Szalay said. “You think if you kill one, they’d release an anti-aggregation pheromone. Certainly by killing one, you’re not going to attract more.”

Logan Lutton is the science reporter. Contact her at [email protected]