Debbie Arrington

Brown marmorated stink bugs plaguing midtown Sacramento

Sara Rounds has been on the lookout for brown marmorated stink bugs as they attempt to get into her midtown home. “They’re hiding everywhere,” she said. “They’re just gross.”
Sara Rounds has been on the lookout for brown marmorated stink bugs as they attempt to get into her midtown home. “They’re hiding everywhere,” she said. “They’re just gross.”

Looking for warm winter beds, they’ve made a nightmare in midtown.

Worthy of a Halloween creature feature, these silent attackers creep into doorways and onto window sills. With their metallic color and shieldlike shape, they look like they were dropped off an alien spacecraft. At the smallest opening, they spring into action, spreading their stink into our homes and businesses.

It’s the Invasion of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs. And to those dealing with these persistent critters, it’s plenty scary.

“There have been 20 on every one of my windows every single day,” said Sara Rounds, who lives in midtown Sacramento. “Last year was the first year I ever saw them. Now, they’re hiding everywhere. They like to get behind the vertical blinds. They’re just gross.”

Rounds is not alone.

“Wow, I’m being overwhelmed with calls about brown marmorated stink bugs getting into people’s homes, as well as restaurants and businesses,” reported Chuck Ingels, the UC Cooperative Extension horticulture adviser for Sacramento County. “It’s that time of year again!”

Ingels has tried to stay on top of the spread of the dreaded BMSB since they first surfaced in Sacramento’s midtown last year in and around the Fremont Community Garden at 14th and Q streets. Common to the East Coast, these persistent bugs can devour many crops. They threaten the Central Valley’s agricultural industry as well as dishearten home gardeners.

“I’m keeping track whenever anyone calls or emails me or fills out our online BMSB survey,” Ingels said. “I have to separate out the leaffooted, consperse and rough stink bugs from BMSB, but nearly all the shots that people send or samples that they bring in lately have been BMSB.”

Ingels has seen firsthand “fairly large populations” in Citrus Heights near Auburn Boulevard and River Park north and west of California State University, Sacramento.

“Most of the others are single finds,” he said of the reports. “Of course, many people downtown and midtown (Sacramento) are reporting several a day getting into their homes and businesses. I’ve had calls from apartment managers saying that some tenants are threatening to move out unless the BMSB are controlled, and restaurant managers are concerned about the stink bugs being visible to customers on walls and tables.”

The good news? “They’re harmless (to people) other than being a nuisance,” Ingels said.

Part of the BMSB dilemma is that other pests such as the leaffooted bug and the consperse stink bug look and smell a lot like the invasive BMSB. To help sort the stinkers, Ingels put together a webpage called Bugs Resembling BMSB. He’s also compiled a lot of other information about how to stop stink bugs (or at least slow them down) at the UC Davis’ integrated pest management website.

Residents should be on the lookout for these crafty critters.

“From late September through early November, the stink bugs are looking for shelter for overwintering, then they emerge in about March,” Ingels explained. “We don’t recommend using insecticides on or in homes or other buildings because they don’t work well or for very long, and rain or sprinklers may carry the insecticides into local waterways.

“The best strategy is to seal any entry points into buildings and avoid leaving lights on by doors since they’re attracted to lights,” he added.

To help keep the stink bugs out, Rounds uses “rope caulking,” thick and pliable putty that comes in long strips.

“I put it all around my window screens,” she said. “It stretches and it’s easy to press into place.”

When a bug gets through those lines of defense, she shows no mercy.

“They’re actually pretty slow and clumsy,” Rounds said. “You can catch them and squish them (or drop them in soapy water).”

Linda Dekker, who lives in the Fremont Mews adjacent the community garden, taped her windows shut in an effort to thwart the invaders. She eventually resorted to pesticide and found Terro’s Ant Spray also killed stink bugs.

“I sprayed one on my window screen and watched it die,” she said. “I can’t use ant killer in the garden, but I can on my windows and around my door frames.”

The Fremont Garden was hard hit again by BMSB, noted Dekker, who serves on the garden’s board of directors along with Rounds. The stink bugs literally suck the juice out of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers, apples, pears, apricots and other fruit and vegetables.

“They were so bad, I had to rip out my tomatoes in August, which is usually great tomato time,” Rounds said. “But there were just too many bugs.”

“They’re here; what are we going to do about them?” added Jill Withrow, who is also on the Fremont Garden board. “They decimated my fava beans but left my peas alone. We’re still trying to figure them out.”

In an effort to cut down on more infestations, gardeners are encouraged to pull out their summer plants such as tomatoes, squash and sunflowers and dispose of them, Dekker said. The BMSB may have laid eggs on the underside of leaves.

Meanwhile, watch out for these stinkers. They’re notorious hitchhikers; that’s how they get around.

“I always check my clothes and my bag after I’ve been in the garden or outside my home,” Dekker said. “They can grab onto your car, too.”

Said Withrow, “In East Sacramento, people have never seen them before. In Carmichael and Tahoe Park, they’ve never seen them. But in midtown, they’re all over the place. You feel pretty much helpless, but we’re trying to do something to stop them.”

That includes keeping them outdoors.

Call The Bee’s Debbie

Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

SHARE HALLOWEEN SPIRIT

▪ It’s that time of year again when the neighborhood turns a little spooky. To get in the Halloween mood, we’re compiling an online gallery of spirited decorations and decorated homes. Send us a snapshot of your favorite, whether your own or someone else’s creative work, via email to h&g@sacbee.com. Include your name and the town where the decorations are displayed. Please put “Halloween homes” in the subject line. Check www.sacbee.com later this week for a link to the gallery.

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