What Are Stink Bugs?

What is a stink bug?  Stink bugs are insects that are characterized by their recognizable hardened, shell-like thorax.  They are also called shield bugs or stink beetles, and are found all over the world.  Furthermore, these insects are notorious for producing and excreting a foul smelling liquid in order to defend against potential predators. As far as stink bug information is concerned, the etymological classification of these brown stink bugbugs belong to the order of Hemiptera, which are insects that have proboscis that are capable of piercing plant tissues and sucking out fluid, under the suborder of Heteroptera, which are characterized of having forewings with membranous and hardened portions.  The infra-order of stink bugs is Pentatomomorpha, which are called “true bugs” and specifically belonging to the super-family of Pentatomoidea.  The term Pentatomoidea comes from the Greek word “pente,” meaning five and “tomos,” meaning section.  This either refers to the 5-segmented antennae or the five-sided shape of the bug’s body. If you scrutinize a stink bug, you will notice that the thorax of the insect has a hard extension on the posterior (back) of the insect that has typically two shapes: semi-elliptical or triangular.  Another distinct feature of a stink bug is that they have antennae with five segments, as previously described, which is very different from other insects.  Stink bugs also have very small heads and small eyes called ocelli.  In case you are wondering where these bugs produce a bad smelling liquid, these insects have glands in their thorax, between the first and second pair of legs.  This liquid is released if the insect is threatened.  The odor is usually so strong that it deters any predator that may attempt to capture a stink bug.  Furthermore, this scent is also released during the breeding season, in order to attract mates.  These insects have different colors, which are used as identification of the various species.  An example is the green stink bug (scientific name Acrosternum hilare); beautiful to look at, but very destructive to plants, especially vegetable crops such as tomato. The life cycle of a stink bug is composed of three life stages, which are the egg stage, the nymph stage, and the adult stage.  All stink bugs have different egg-laying seasons.  The eggs are laid in rows of clusters on the underside of leaves.  Hatching may take five days or a few weeks depending on the season, and most eggs will hatch at approximately the same period.  A stink bug hatchling is called a nymph, and will molt about four times before reaching adulthood.  Nymphs usually have black spots that will disappear and looks very different to an adult one.  However, nymphs change into their distinguishable adult color as it matures.  During adulthood, stink bugs mate for about four times a year, after which, female bugs lay their eggs at the underside of leaves. Female stink beetleRegarding stink bug information about their distribution, they are found throughout the world, in forests, meadows, and even in gardens.  There are over 4,700 species of these bugs distributed worldwide, with 250 species found in North America alone.  In temperate countries such as the United States, the stink bug hibernates underground and comes out during springtime, which is its egg-laying season.  There are five subfamilies of stink bugs:  The Asopinae, with 13 species; the Discocephalinae, with one species; the Edessinae, with two species; the Pentatominae, with 14 tribes composed of 42 species; and lastly, the Podopinae subfamily with one tribe composed of 6 species. The following are additional stink bug facts.  These insects are all plant-eaters (herbivorous), with the exception of the subfamily of Asopinae, which prey on other insects.  These bugs are considered pests due to the fact that they feed on plant juices or fluids by sucking them, using their proboscis.  Furthermore, by piercing the plant tissues, they allow pathogens such as bacteria and fungi to enter the plant via their damaged leaves or stems.  They usually colonize during the spring and summer seasons in temperate countries, leading to infestation and crop damage.  The most destructive species in the United States, which is the brown marmorated stink bug (scientific name Halyomorpha halys), is actually a native to Asian countries particularly Japan, China, and Korea.  They were accidentally introduced into the US as recently as 1998, and it started a stink bug invasion in the country.  By the way, many people are asking if these insects will bite. Do stink bugs bite?  Yes, they bite when you grab them with your hands.  They use their proboscis to bite your skin. Stink bugs are considered pests.  There are various ways in doing stink bug control.  These are by sealing any cracks in your home, using pesticides or traps, or sucking them by vacuum cleaners.