Stink bugs are some of the worst pests in the vegetable garden. There are several different species and they attack and damage most vegetable crops by feeding directly on the fruit or developing seed with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. Brown stink bugs are often one of the first species to appear and they tend to be the most common species during the first half of the season. As the growing season progresses, they are joined by green stink bugs and southern green stink bugs, as well as some less common species of Euschistus. Damage is caused by both adults and nymphs, and stink bug populations can increase dramatically during the latter portion of the year due to a combination of in-garden reproduction and adult migration—a result of stink bugs moving out of agricultural crops that have become mature and are no longer attractive.
Brown stink bugs can be especially problematic on tomatoes and green beans during the earlier part of the season, and it may be necessary to treat these crops to prevent excessive damage. As the growing season progresses and stink bug populations increase, they can cause heavy damage to peas, beans and okra, as well as tomatoes, and it is often difficult to produce these crops without spraying for stink bugs. Fortunately, the insecticides used to control stink bugs on tomatoes are also effective against hornworms and tomato fruitworms.
Control: Pyrethroid insecticides such as zeta-cypermethrin (GardenTech Sevin Insect Killer) and permethrin (Hi-Yield Lawn, Garden, Pet & Livestock Insect Control and Bonide Eight Insect Control Concentrate are two examples) are the most effective treatments for stink bugs in home gardens. Pyrethroids are somewhat less effective against brown stink bugs than against the green stink bug species, but are still reasonably effective. Acetamiprid (Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer) is a non-pyrethroid option, but it has a 7 day pre-harvest interval. Pre-harvest intervals vary depending on the product you use and the crop being sprayed, so check labels carefully before treating.
Other than hand-picking and foot-stomping, there are no good organic treatments for stink bugs. However, handpicking can help delay heavy population buildup in small-scale gardens, especially if gardeners are diligent to find and destroy as many adults as possible before they have a chance to lay eggs. See Extension Publication 2347, Insect Pests of the Home Vegetable Garden, for more information.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service. The information given here is for educational purposes only. Always read and follow current label directions. Specific commercial products are mentioned as examples only and reference to specific products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended to other products that may also be suitable and appropriately labeled.
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