How to Identify and Prevent Stink Bugs

November 3, 2022

The name stink bug is very appropriate. These are the bugs that make everyone scrunch their noses up as they have a particularly unpleasant smell. However, it’s not just their smell that makes these bugs undesirable, they can also cause severe damage to crops and plants too. There are, however, some species that are beneficial, as they eat other bugs.


With more than 200 species of stink bugs making North America their home, our guide will help you to identify and distinguish between the enemies and allies. This will help you to determine whether you need to get rid of these bugs, or to let them do their job.


General Identification


Stink bugs are quite common in New Jersey and there are about 20 different species in the Garden State. 


Also known as shield bugs because of the shape of their thorax, some stink bugs have a more rounded shield, while others sport a triangular shape. Adult stink bugs measure between 1/3 inch and ¾ inches in length. They are recognizable by not only their shield shape but also their segmented antennae (feelers). Their wings overlap, and like most insects they have 3 pairs of legs. 


These critters are a true pest to farmers as they can cause extensive damage to crops. They use their mouth parts to pierce and suck out nutrients and fluids from whatever vegetation they fancy. However, the beneficial species of stink bugs eat other insects that damage crops, so these are the bugs that farmers want.


All stink bugs emit their unpleasant smell from glands situated in the thorax when they are disturbed, agitated, or squashed. Although the odor is unpleasant, it is not harmful to humans.


Destructive Stink Bugs


We’ve outlined the general characteristics of stink bugs, now let’s take a closer look at the harmful ones. 


  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

This is the most common stink bug in New Jersey and one of the newest. It was identified around the mid-1990s in Pennsylvania, having stowed away on a container that came from Asia. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug originates in China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea.


Adults measure about roughly 5/8 inch in length. They are blackish brown in color with white or cream undersides and distinctive white bands around the fourth segment of their antennae. Their legs are lightly banded and they have black heads with reddish-orange markings on their abdomens. These markings darken to brown with maturity. They also will develop sharp projections along the edges of their “shield”.


The peak season of activity for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug are the fall months.

  • Forest Bug

This species favors forested and woodland areas. The larvae are small and dark in color, but they turn lighter as they mature. Their bodies are triangular, and their shoulders have a distinctive rounded square shape to them.

Adults are brown in color with distinctive orange legs and orange-reddish markings on the body. Forest bugs feed on oak tree sap and on fruit, and at times, other insects.

Their peak period of activity is from July to November.

  • Harlequin Bug

These bugs do not venture north of Pennsylvania in the east, so they shouldn’t be a problem in New Jersey. They prefer the warmer southern states of the US.

The nymphs are tiny and pale orange in color but as they mature, they get darker. Adults are usually black in color. As the name implies, this is a colorful species with very striking white, red, yellow, and black markings.

Harlequin Bug adults are around a 1/3 of an inch in length and adults can be identified by the distinct X mark when they are at rest and their wings overlap. They are the curse of vegetable growers as they favor feeding on collard greens, cauliflower, turnips, and cabbages.

Harlequin Bugs are most active in high summer, starting in March or April.

  • Rice Stink Bug

These stink bugs are quite common in the US and are often found in New Jersey. The nymphs are red and black when they hatch but they get lighter as they mature, developing intricate black and red markings.

Other identifying aspects include a length of around 3/8 and ½ inch, forward-facing spines on their shoulders and a golden color. Their favored food is rice plants and other crops such as sorghum. They are most active from about April to May but stay active through summer until around October.

  • Southern Green Stink Bug

These stink bugs are found across the southern states. They start out as yellowish nymphs with red eyes but as they mature, they get darker, developing red and black antennae and a reddish abdomen.

By the time they reach maturity, the Southern Green Stink bug is a greenish yellow color with characteristic yellow spots on either side of the thorax. There are also red spots down the center of their backs.

This species is a little larger by stink bug standards at about 12 and 13 mm in length and they become active and mate from spring onwards when the warmer months arrive. Their offspring are highly active in high summer from about May to August. 

Beneficial Stink Bugs

There are two main species of beneficial stink bugs in the US. These are:

  • Spined Soldier Bug

Found across the US, the Spined Soldier bug starts life as a red and black nymph and develops orange and red abdominal markings as it matures. They also have noticeable wing pads and black, red, and white marks on their abdomens.

With pointy shoulders, the Spined Soldier bug is a brown, yellow or beige color as a full adult and they eat caterpillars which damage crops.

Their peak season is April to October.

  • Two-spotted Stink Bug

Commonly found on the north-west side of the US, the Twin-spotted Stink bug has two black spots on the thorax and y-shaped black markings at their shoulders. Adults reach about 10-12 mm in length, and they have round shoulders.

Other distinctive markings on the adults include two black spots, a keyhole shape, and bell-shaped markings. They eat the Colorado potato weevil and reach peak activity during late May to October.

Preventing Stink Bugs In The Home

There are several ways that you can prevent stink bugs from invading your home. These tips offer great advice for anyone with a potential problem: 


Seal Gaps

Stink bugs are small and can fit through tiny gaps, so it’s vital that you seal all cracks, gaps, and small spaces where stink bugs can get in. This includes sealing gaps around windows and doors, chimneys, appliance vents, and areas where utility lines enter your home.

Additionally, always check for worn weather stripping, the screens on windows and doors and cracks in your foundations, drains and sinks.

Wiping down screens with a dryer sheet is also a very effective way of deterring stink bugs.

Limit Light

Switch off or limit the amount of outdoor lighting during the night as all insects are attracted to illumination. Close your curtains or blinds as soon as you start switching on lights.

Trim Back Pathways

Insects use tree and shrubbery branches as pathways to your home. Keep tree branches and shrubbery pruned back from your home and move firewood piles, weeds, and vegetation away from foundations. This will eliminate the pathways bugs can use to gain entry to your home.

Any item being brought into your home from outside areas, such as furniture, potted plants, and grocery bags should be examined thoroughly.

Minimize Moisture

Most insects and pests look for and need moisture to survive. If you find areas with a moisture build-up, then clean them up and find out where the moisture is coming from.

All leaking pipes and clogged drains should be repaired, and you should always air and ventilate damp areas. Dehumidifiers and fans are very effective for drying out moist areas.

Clean Up The Yard

If you have insects or stink bugs in your yard, chances are that as the cooler weather approaches, stink bugs will be looking for a warmer place to set up home.

Keeping your yard and garden well maintained is also a good pest preventative measure. If you collect piles of vegetation to compost or turn into mulch, keep garden refuse in areas away from the home’s outer walls. If you have a tiny yard, then use space-saving items such as compost bins and maintain them properly.

Clean Up

Sanitizing and housekeeping can also play an important role in keeping pests at bay by eliminating potential food sources. Wiping down counters regularly and disposing of trash safely goes a long way in preventing pests.

It’s a good idea to sweep, mop, and keep kitchens and bathrooms clean at all times.

Minimizing clutter helps too, as it gets rid of potential hiding places for small pests.


If you do find an invasion of stink bugs in large numbers, you can hoover them up. By hoovering up a lot of stink bugs you can avoid the bad odor but do remember to change the vacuum bag or empty the inner drum out immediately. If you leave the bugs inside your hoover, they will stink up your home.

Plagued By Stink Bugs? 

If you have a persistent stink bug problem in your home or you want to call in the professionals to deal with an infestation, chat to Twin-Boro. We can not only eradicate an immediate infestation, but also offer scheduled maintenance treatments to ensure that these pests don’t reappear any time soon.