Q. Mike: What's up with all of these Box Elder Bugs? They took over my backyard, and now they're trying to get into the house. I have never seen so many Box Elder Bugs in my life. Where are they coming from and what can I do?
- ---Al in Oklahoma City
A. Yes, I realize this article is supposed to be about intercepting home-invading stinkbugs (and it will be; keep your garden gloves on!), but I'm leading off with Al's box elder bug problem to show that this phenomena—insects trying to move in with us over the winter—isn't limited to stinkers alone.
In fact, the stinkbugs that wreak garden havoc in the Northeast and then try to move indoors with us when the weather cools down are a relatively recent example of this problem. Multi-colored Asian ladybugs, conifer seed bugs and box elder bugs were invading homes long before the current freeloader—the marmorated Asian stinkbug—even landed on our shores.
All of these insects seek out safe places to hibernate the winter away in their adult form, typically a cave in their native land. Here on our shores, the most convenient 'cave' is your home, and so huge numbers of them begin clustering on the (generally South facing) side of houses (especially light-colored houses), beginning in September.
Where are they coming from? 'Our' Northeast-invading stinkbugs are coming indoors directly from our gardens. Al's box elder roommates are coming from local box elder trees, making them tough-to-impossible to eradicate; you'd need to cut down every box elder tree within a mile to make a dent in their numbers.
Ah, but they can be trapped as they try to get into a home; and the ones that make it through can be trapped inside. So whatever bug your rent-free tenant may be, the plans that follow should be equally effective at evicting your unwelcome insects.
Q. Mike: You previously had a gentleman on your show who had devised a trap that would prevent stink bugs from coming into homes for the winter. It was made of cardboard and the bugs crawled into it. The stinkers are just starting to enter our house. Can you repeat the instructions for making this trap?
- ---Polly in West Chester, PA
A. You're in luck, Polly. That gentleman made it ridiculously easy to grant your request by sending me this email the day after yours: "Mike: Wanted to let you know that my neighborhood stink bugs have begun their quest of seeking winter hideouts. I've been catching quite a few in my traps already, with the real mother lode yet to come. Please remind your listeners to build traps and reduce the numbers that get into the house.
- ---Jody Williams; Lambertville, New Jersey; www.trapbug.com
As we detailed previously, Jody's trap is simplicity itself. He uses two thick pieces of cardboard (each about the size of an extra-large pizza box) and three long strips of wood, each about 5/16 of an inch thick. ("To create the size space that stinkbugs seem to prefer crawling into", he notes.) He staples the three strips of wood lengthwise to the inside of one piece of cardboard—one strip down the center and the other two several inches from each edge. Then he staples the other piece of cardboard overtop and hangs it on the outside of his house, where the stinkers are gathering.
The stinkers crawl inside in huge numbers. Then once a day, he heartily shakes the contents out into a big plastic trash bag, closes the bag quickly, puts it out in the sun to kill the stinkers and hangs the trap back up. He reports capturing thousands of pests that would otherwise have come inside to watch TV with him all winter. You'll find step by step photos and a great how-to video at Jody's website, "Trap Bug dot com".
And the ones that do get indoors? Late this summer, the Rescue brand Stink Bug Trap appeared for sale in supermarkets and home stores. It's a typical insect trap that you fit with pheromone lures, so the bugs will enter the trap instead of your tomatoes. And it was designed to be retrofitted with a light instead of those sex lures for indoor use (that light assembly should now be available at the same stores). It's a fixture containing six cute little LEDs that can be powered by a wall socket or batteries. The bugs—presumably all kinds of bugs—are attracted to the light, enter the trap and then can't get out. Place it in the attic, basement, or whatever room of your home seems to be their entry point, and make sure it's the only light source in the area.
There are probably other, similar traps out there already. It occurs to me, for instance, that the flea traps I always recommend (a small light suspended above a sheet of sticky paper positioned in an otherwise dark room) should also work well.
You can also try a few 'do it yourself' versions. There are several You Tube videos showing how to make a trap similar to the Rescue device using a battery powered LED fixture (apparently sold at home stores for use in unlighted closets and such) and an empty soda bottle. Or get an old, working table lamp, wrap cardboard around the body of the lamp and then spray the cardboard with sticky stuff or cover it with double stick tape. Bugs attracted to the light on top of the lamp will get stuck on the 'tar baby' body. When your cardboard is covered with bugs, cut it off and replace with fresh.
Although any kind of light will probably do—provided it's the only light source in the room—researchers trapping stinkbugs in the field report that a blacklight seems to be the most effective. And I recently noticed several styles of blacklights—including one in the shape of a standard compact fluorescent swirly bulb—in a local home store's 'party light' section. You can have a 60's flashback party and lure stinkbugs to their doom, all in one night!