Seeds: Invasion of stink bugs

If the recent midtown Sacramento garden invasion of brown marmorated stink bugs wasn’t bad enough, now they want to come inside our homes to spend the winter.

That’s what stink bugs do as the weather chills. And they can wreak havoc as well as just reek.

We’re not alone. Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSBs) have been reported from the mid-Atlantic states to the Pacific Northwest. Once established, they can be a pain year-round.

Mother Earth News magazine, a longtime advocate of organic gardening and sustainable living, recently launched an online survey to track the BMSBs spread nationwide and better understand stink bug behavior.

The survey’s creators also hope to collect information on how people have dealt with the pests – and what worked in stopping the stinkers.

BMSBs do a lot more than ruin tomatoes and fruit. They can damage your home.

“Millions of gardeners and homeowners face aggravation from brown marmorated stink bugs, and thousands of those folks have tried innovative techniques for dealing with them,” said Cheryl Long, editor-in-chief of Mother Earth News. “We wanted to set up a way for people to compare the results of their efforts.”

To take the 10-minute Mother Earth News Stink Bug Survey and view the ongoing results, go to www.surveymonkey . com/s/StinkBug.

According to the editors, the survey will remain open so participants can see what other gardeners and homeowners have said about control methods and their experiences.

The survey covers factors such as house size and color and asks questions about surrounding land. Do you live in a city, near a park or farmland? Do you grow vegetables or fruit? All that may influence how BMSBs spread.

The Sacramento stink bugs were the first confirmed in California outside Los Angeles County.

After the initial capture of BMSBs in midtown Sacramento, they’ve spread to Citrus Heights as well as Old Sacramento, downtown and south Sacramento.

Local master gardeners developed an online tracking map detailing where the stinkers have been spotted. Find it at: sacmg/Insect_problems

Gardeners are encouraged to add their own sightings to the map. BMSB also have been confirmed in Sutter, Butte and Siskiyou counties as the bugs migrate to the north end of the valley. The master gardeners also offer a detailed online guide to BMSBs with photos and tips.

Understanding this garden enemy is essential to its control.

Mother Earth News noted that, in heavily infested areas such as Maryland and northern Virginia, the bugs threaten a long list of vegetables, including beans, tomatoes and cabbage family crops. Ripening blackberries and peaches can be invaded overnight.

But what was surprising was the amount of other property damage caused by brown marmorated stink bugs.

“We’ve heard reports of damaged office equipment and vehicles with air filters clogged by stink bugs,” Long said. “The survey will help reveal where to look for problems before the bugs cause costly repairs.”

These stink bugs are excellent fliers and opportunistic hitchhikers. They can come inside via firewood or exterior cracks or just flying in an open window. They crawl into furniture or boxes. They’re seeking warmth, but keep them out. Living up to their name, they leave a foul odor wherever they go, and that smell really lingers.

Don’t touch them directly; your hands will stink, too. But these bugs are slow and relatively easy to catch. Pest experts Bayer Advanced offered this advice for stink bug containment: Rub window and door screens with dryer sheets – the more pungent, the better. According to Bayer, this can reduce stink bugs entering a home by up to 80 percent.

Hang a damp towel over a lawn chair or deck railing overnight. In the morning, stink bugs will blanket the towel. Dispatch the bugs in a bucket of soapy water; they can’t swim.

If they get indoors, the bugs can be vacuumed up, but don’t use a bagless vacuum – it will stink forever. Or grab the bugs lightly in a plastic bag, empty the bag into the toilet and flush them away.

Then, remember to take the survey.

Green City number

A Southern California car dealership learned just how much Sacramentans want to save water and energy. The phone number publicized for Niagara Green City’s water-saving program directed callers to a Bentley dealer in Hollywood; they apparently got quite a few calls.

The correct number, (888) 733-0197, is on, with details on this innovative program. Sacramento homeowners can finance energy- and water-saving upgrades through low-interest loans tied to their property tax.