Stink bugs have made a name for themselves — literally — with their alleged tendency to cause a stink. The claim goes that if you crush a stink bug, it will emit a foul stench.

do stink bugs stink

But is this claim rooted in fact? Do stink bugs really stink? Here are some key facts about this unfortunately named insect.

What is a stink bug?

Stink bugs are invasive pests common throughout much of the United States. Stink bugs are flat, shield-shaped and vary in size from three-eighths to five-eighths inches in length. They have a life cycle of around six weeks.

There are several different species of stink bug, including the brown stink bug, the green stink bug and the southern green stink bug. Since the 1990s when it was first thought to be introduced, the brown marmorated stink bug has become a major issue in the U.S.

Are stink bugs really stinky?

Stink bugs get their name from a substance they produce from their scent glands. And yes, it really does stink.

The suspected purpose of the foul-smelling substance is threefold:

  1. To repel predators
  2. To act as a warning signal to other stink bugs
  3. To attract mates

As it turns out, the claim about the smell that's emitted when stink bugs are crushed is true. When disturbed or squashed, stink bugs do release an unpleasant odor.

What problems do stink bugs cause?

Present in 42 U.S. states, stink bugs are a nuisance for a range of reasons.

They're problematic for farmers because they can feed on a range of high-value crops. In Texas, several species of stink bug feed on cotton. Stink bugs can also cause major damage to fruit, vegetables and field crops, especially in the mid-Atlantic region, where they are considered a significant agricultural pest.

In addition to causing agricultural damage, stink bugs can also become a household pest. In winter, stink bugs often seek shelter and warmth inside houses and other buildings. Once inside, stink bugs will gather almost anywhere, including under beds and sofas, in cracks or under baseboards and in attics. They can enter structures by the hundreds or even thousands. 

While they may be a nuisance and can reproduce in homes, stink bugs are not known to cause structural damage nor sting or bite. They also are not known to carry pathogens that cause disease, though they can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

What steps can you take to help avoid a stink bug infestation?

Once inside walls, stink bugs can be difficult, if not impossible, to completely remove. That's why prevention is the best strategy. 

Like most insects, stink bugs enter homes and buildings through cracks and crevices. Simple steps you can take to help exclude stink bugs from your home include:

  • Properly seal window frames with caulk.
  • Seal up cracks in your foundation.
  • Add weather stripping to entry doors.
  • Have appropriate vents properly equipped with tight-fitting insect screens.
  • Sweep any stink bugs that you find into a dustpan and throw away.