Stinkbugs are one of the most irritating pests faced by gardeners. Right about the time your tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables start to ripen… stinkbugs go on the attack, piercing, sucking and causing damage, rotten spots and fruit drop.
A couple of weeks ago, a regular reader – the Ancient City Gardener – e-mailed me the following:
“Hi David, I would like to pick your ex-master gardener brain. In the past I’ve had problems with stinkbugs ruining my tomatoes. Do you know of any organic way to control them? I was thinking of maybe a hoop house covered with screen….but I’m just not sure. Maybe a blog post from the master?….. but ‘I’m not worthy.’ Any advice would be appreciated.”
“The master.” As much as I might like to claim that title, I’m just a redeemed mortal. If you ever saw me outside, holding my head in my hands and weeping over fire-ant destroyed potatoes… well… let’s just say that no matter how good you get at gardening, there’s always a lot more to learn.
But I digress.
Stinkbugs need killing, or at the very least, discouraging. I’ve done some research and worked out some control methods, plus I have brilliant friends who have come up with their own novel ways to defeat this malodorous scourge.
Let’s take a look at the top five methods I’ve come across.
Dealing With Stinkbugs, Method 1: The Pick and Drown
Picking and drowning sounds like a great album title for a Mississippi folk trio, but as much as I like some rootsy guitar, that’s not today’s focus.
Stinkbugs aren’t the fastest insects in the garden, meaning that if you’re dealing with a small infestation, hand control works well.
Insects breathe through their carapaces via breathing holes known as “spiracles.” Say it. It’s fun. If you drop an insect in a cup of water, it often takes a really long time to drown… unless you break the surface tension. This can be done by putting a drop of dish soap into a container of water. Knock the stinkbugs into the container and they won’t be bothering any more tomatoes. You can then throw the cup of dead stinkbugs to your chickens or add them to your compost pile. Stinkbugs are rich in nitrogen – why not use it?
Dealing With Stinkbugs, Method 2: Complete Exclusion
I have a friend with an IQ somewhere north of me, up in the lofty fractal peaks of hard science. He’s always coming up with labor-saving ways of gardening, raising fish, homesteading, saving water, etc. Recently he keyed me into his stinkbug control method via an e-mail:
‘This is the best I have found so far, a $5.00 mosquito net, stops squash bugs and leaf miners and worms in one shot ( you have to pollinate the plants yourself unless you get the self pollinating plants they use in greenhouses ) ->
Cheap and effective, though probably not practical for larger spaces. As long as tomatoes get shaken a bit by the wind, they’ll self-pollinate, though the same isn’t true for squashes and many other garden plants. When I asked if I could share his method, my friend agreed and shared another link for those of you interested in plants that don’t need pollinating insects:
Dealing With Stinkbugs, Method 3: Make a Trap
Don’t feel like using nets or picking stinkbugs by hand? Trap them!
Another friend recently sent me this video of an ingenious trap devised by a man with a stinkbug-infested house:
Never underestimate the power of problem-solving men. If you live in an area with regular rainfall, you might have trouble with these traps getting ruined outside, but I’ll bet it would be easy enough to shelter them somehow. You’ll also likely catch a lot of other insects, including good guys, but it’s still definitely worth trying.
Dealing With Stinkbugs, Method 4: Dust ‘Em
Diatomaceous earth is a good way to knock back pests, including stink bugs. It’s a natural non-toxic substance (unlike many other insect dusts) since it’s just the tiny shells of ancient diatoms. These sharp shells are too tiny to hurt you… but they cause major damage to insects. Basically, they cause bugs to die from dehydration thanks to a million cuts.
Though it doesn’t kill insects right away, they will die after getting dusted. So dust around your plants and savor your victory.
Dealing With Stinkbugs, Method 5: Eat Them
WHAT? EAT THEM?
Okay, I know this is silly, but we ARE preppers, right? You never know…
And really, why not? They ate your plants – why not get some of the food back? Justice!
The trick with making stinkbugs palatable is to get them to spray out all their stink first. You do this by dropping the bugs into water and shaking them around, literally scaring the stuff right out of them. Then pour off the water, rinse the bugs again, then pop them into the freezer until you have a date to impress.
I recommend sautéing them in butter, then adding them to a salad. They don’t taste great (though they’re better than you might think), but they’re high in protein.
A caveat: don’t eat brightly colored insects, including stinkbugs. That’s usually a sign that they’re toxic. I’ve eaten the brown stinkbugs that get on my amaranth and suffered no ill effects. Your mileage may vary, so don’t sue us if you discover you have an obscure stinkbug allergy.
One other thing: if you leave bees and wasps alone on your property, some species will eat stinkbugs, even if you don’t want to.
So – how about you? Any great methods that we missed? Share ’em! All our tomatoes will thank you.