With around 260 species of stink bugs found in the United States and Canada, it is easy to wonder if the bug in your garden is a dangerous one. There is a lot of misinformation out there about stink bugs. Dangerous, however, they are not for most people. If you are still asking yourself questions such as "can stink bugs hurt you" and "are stink bugs poisonous," keep reading to find out the truth.

A question of species

Most species of stink bugs cannot bite or sting; their only method of defense is to give off the bad smell so often associated with them. There are, however, some predatory species of stink bugs that can bite, and a few of the plant-eating stink bugs may also bite if handled. While their bite may hurt, it is not poisonous.

In some cases, people may experience a burning sensation if their skin comes into contact with the liquid stink bugs emit when disturbed or threatened. If a severe reaction occurs, contact a medical professional.

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), an invasive species that came to the U.S. from Asia, can also provoke allergic reactions in some people. The smell emitted by BMSBs is an aeroallergen that can cause both rhinitis and conjunctivitis.

A case of mistaken identity

So, are stink bugs dangerous? They can be, but there is another type of garden insect that sometimes leads to confusion. Assassin bugs, which are predatory toward other insects, are often misidentified as stink bugs. This is problematic because some species of assassin bugs, like the wheel bug, will bite humans if they are picked up or handled. Their bite can be extremely painful and the area around it may swell slightly, but does not typically require medical attention. However, if you experience any of the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, which include severe swelling, hives or difficulty breathing, you should call a medical professional immediately.

Some species of stink bugs and assassin bugs are considered beneficial because they eat other garden pests. Proper identification is key to knowing whether you should exercise caution, or call in a pest management professional. Stink bugs – dangerous or not – can be a nuisance when they enter your home to overwinter. If you are seeing stink bugs in your home, call Terminix® for a free pest estimate.