Stink bugs in the garden

Published 5:09 pm Friday, June 9, 2017

By: Ty  Torrance

Stink bugs and leaffooted bugs are problem insects in many gardens every year. These brown, black and green insects give off an awful odor when mashed. They attack a large number of plant species and can do a significant amount of damage as they feed. Stink bugs feed on over 52 plants, including native and ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, weeds and many cultivated crops.

Email newsletter signup

Stink bugs build up their numbers on these hosts and move to cultivated hosts as their preferred food  becomes overly mature. 

Among vegetable crops, stink bugs attack bean and cowpea seeds, okra pods, ripening tomato fruit, and stems of melons, asparagus, potato and strawberries.

The damage on tomatoes can be identified by observing the fruit. Damaged fruit will have white to  yellow spots on the outside of the skin. As the fruit is peeled, hard areas can be found just underneath  the skin.

These hard areas are caused when the stink bug or leaffooted bug injects saliva into the tomato  fruit.

The fruit responds by sealing off the area as a defense mechanism.  These areas can be peeled  away and most of the fruit saved.

All adult stink bugs are shield-shaped. Green stink bugs (Acrosternum hilare) are about 9/16 to ¾ inch in length. They are bright green with a narrow orange-yellow line bordering the major body regions. Brown stink bugs (Euschistus servus) are dull grayish yellow and ½ to 5/8 inch long. Leaffooted bugs (Leptoglossus phyllopus) are about 13/16 inch long. They have dark brown bodies, a narrow cream colored stripe across the back and flattened leaf-like hind legs.

Nymphs (immature stage) of all three bugs are similar in shape to the adults but smaller. Green stink bug nymphs are mainly black when small, but as they mature, they become green with orange and black markings. Nymphs of the brown stink bug are light green.

Leaffooted bug nymphs are bright red.

Nymphs and adults of both kinds of bugs pierce plants with their needlelike mouthparts and suck sap from pods, buds, blossoms and seeds. The degree of damage depends, to some extent, on the developmental stage of the plant when the stink bug pierces it. Immature fruits and pods punctured by bugs become deformed as they develop. Seeds are often flattened and shriveled, and germination is reduced.

Damage caused by stink bugs and leaffooted bugs can be reduced by timely insecticide applications. Homeowners have a wide variety of insecticides to choose from.

Because each garden center, farm supply dealer, home improvement store, discount store, hardware and feed and seed dealer sells different brands of insecticides, I am only listing the insecticide’s active ingredient.

Look for insecticides that contain one of the following active ingredients. Bifenthrin 0.3%, cyfluthrin 0.75%, esfenvalerate 0.425%, gamma-cyhalothrin 0.25%, lambda-cyhalothrin 0.5% and carbaryl. When choosing one of these insecticides, make sure that the insecticide can be applied to vegetables, fruit, and/or tomatoes. READ the label and follow all label directions and precautions. The product you choose may not be labeled for use on vegetables, fruit or tomatoes.

Also, pay attention to the post-harvest interval. This is the time you must wait between spraying and harvesting the tomatoes. It can be one or more days, so read and follow the label instructions.

If you have any question, please call the Decatur County Extension Office (229) 248-3033.

(Article modified from original Mark Crosby Emanuel County Agent Article)