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RVers Report: The Great Stink Bug Invasion of 2021

Have you witnessed the stink bug invasion yet? Across the country, RVers are reporting heavy infestations of these annoying and smelly insects.

Stink bugs. They’re scaling the screens, stuck on shades, ambling across the awning, and if you give them a chance, crawling on your counters and befouling your bed.

Why is this stink bug invasion happening? Should you be concerned? Where did they come from and perhaps most importantly …. How can we make them leave?

Stick with us and you’ll see that the stink bug invasion is just a temporary annoyance, not a calamity. And best news yet, you can control their presence in your RV.

What are stink bugs?

stink bug
In our RV.

Stink bugs are harmless insects no larger than the size of a dime. They do not bite or spread disease. And they are not known to eat wood or cause structural damage. 

Stink bugs have flat, shield-like bodies helping them sneak into tight spaces. They are good flyers and are known as nuisance bugs.

But by far, the worst thing about these pests is they stink – especially when they are smashed or scared. 

And once that odor gets into your rig, that stink bug invasion takes on a whole new level of concern.

Where do stink bugs come from?

Most of the stink bugs swarming the campgrounds right now are brown, invasive pests that originated in Asia. Called halyomorpha halys, the “Brown Marmorated Stink Bug” was first identified in the US in the 1990s, likely entering with agricultural imports.

Today this stink bug is in at least 47 states and the District of Columbia. 

And the stink bug invasion is spreading to more locations each year.

While the brown stink bug may not damage houses or RVs – they sure do damage crops. They gorge on vegetables and fruits, especially crops in the mid-Atlantic region. 

Managing the stink bug invasion has become problematic. It is hard to tell visually which crops of soybeans or corn, for instance, are infested, causing unique problems for farmers. And experts say there are few pesticides that are effective against them.

Each female stink bug lays 20-30 eggs under the leaves of crops between May and August. And most females do this two times each summer, but some can reproduce five times in warmer climates.

With that kind of reproduction, it is easy to see why there is s stink bug invasion!

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When is the stink bug invasion occurring the most?

The reason stink bugs seem to be everywhere right now is they are looking for a place to winter. So they are looking for places to stay snug come winter… snug – if you’ll excuse the accurate pun – as a bug in a rug.

Their flat bodies allow them to easily slip through a tear in a screen or gap in the caulking.

Stink bugs are attracted to bright colors and lights. That’s why sometimes people find them dead around a porchlight or light fixture.

Like snowbirding RVers, their goal is to get somewhere where it's well above freezing. Once inside, they will keep coming, sometimes by the hundreds or even thousands. 

They can congregate anywhere. Sometimes they go under a bed or sofa. Other times it is in the back of a closet or crack behind a baseboard.

Once there they will peacefully hibernate for winter. So that means the bugs that sneak in during the fall, will be the ones that emerge when it is warm.

Sometimes, if a home or RV is full of them, people with severe allergies may have a reaction. 

And if they succeed in entering your rig, every time you move from cold to warm weather, they will emerge, causing you to battle the stink bug invasion all over again.

How can you remove stink bugs?

RVers Report: The Great Stink Bug Invasion of 2021 2
Use the soapy water technique for stink bug invaders.

Whatever you do, don’t whack them with a fly swatter!

When creepy bugs make it into our homes, the temptation is to smash them just like a fly. But when it comes to stink bugs, this is the WORST thing you can do because the stinky smell is strongest when squished.

Remember, stink bugs can even release their noxious odor when scared. So the key is to keep calm – and avoid smashing them – at all costs.

Shirley from our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group recommends placing them in a Ziplock bag filled with soap and water. Others recommend using a jar with soap and water and a tight-fitting lid, gently brushing them inside, and then closing the lid tight.

Stephanie told the RV Lifestyle community she puts a bucket of water with Dawn soap in the back of her rig. The bugs are drawn to it and drown. She called it amazing – and gross.

This soapy water technique is one way researchers recommend removing them. Placing a bright light at night by a bucket of soapy water works particularly well.

Other techniques include vacuums, but vacuum with caution because when the bugs are sucked up, their stinky smell can get inside your vacuum, taking a while to go away.

If you are going to handle them, be sure to wear disposable gloves so the odor doesn’t accidentally leak onto your hands. 

Remember the number one goal when eliminating this pest is to keep them from letting off their smell.

Can I keep stink bugs from getting in my house or RV?

stink bug
Check your windows.

Absolutely! Prevention is key when it comes to protecting your RV from a stink bug invasion. 

Experts recommend repairing any tears in your screens.

Be sure your windows are caulked inside and out.

Check weatherstrips by your doorways. If you can see light emerging when the screen door is closed, that means it is not secure.

If you are staying in a campsite where lots of leaves and debris are right up to your camper, rake the piles away. (A favorite place for the bugs to hide in fall is leaf piles).

Check under your rig. Are there any places where the bugs may slip in?

Some from our Facebook community have other techniques that work. Renee takes Lemon Pledge and wipes it around her window and door casings because the bugs do not like the smell.

Others use cloves and peppermint oil to keep the pests away.

But whatever you do, take heart. This stink bug invasion will not last long. Once winter arrives or you move your rig to somewhere warm they will be gone – until next year.

Helpful advice about other problem insects

The stink bug invasion isn’t the only problem you may encounter with various critters.

Here are some other stories you may want to check out:

How to keep ticks off your dog and out of your RV

Keeping the Windows Open and the Bugs Out

Pet Dangers: Ticks and Snakes

How to keep mosquitoes away from your camp

Removing Bug Splatter from your RV

Best Screen Tents for Camping

All about Cicadas

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-10-18

Mike Wendland is an Emmy award-winning journalist, traveler, and producer of RV Podcast, the RV Lifestyle travel blog, and the RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube. Mike, traveling with his wife Jennifer and their Norwegian Elkhound, Bo, has vast experience and a great passion for exploring North America, previously working as a long-time NBC-TV News Channel Technology Correspondent and now sharing his love for the RV lifestyle with millions. Mike is not only an adept RV life enthusiast but also a skillful storyteller, bringing to his channels stories from the road that perfectly capture the magic and hardships of this lifestyle.

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