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It's freezing out. Why are there bugs in my house?

Brown shield-shaped insect on a leaf.

As we barrel through another Minnesota winter, people are reporting an unwelcome houseguest: brown marmorated stink bug. These shield-shaped, brown bugs are about a half-inch long and have a series of black and white bands on their rear end and antennae.

Why are they in my house?

You probably last saw these stink bugs hanging out on your house last fall. At some point, they found some way into your house — maybe through the eaves, maybe through a gap in a door or window, or maybe through some unsealed point in your attic.

They need somewhere sheltered to survive the winter, and stink bugs find our homes quite suitable. Once inside, they are protected from the elements and can ride out the Minnesota winter.

Why am I seeing them now?

As the weather cools down, these insects shut down. The same way we think of bears hunkering down and hibernating in a den stink bugs slow down all their body processes and wait for spring. Most of the time this happens in places in our house we can’t see, but sometimes these bugs wake up a little and move around.

When we get warm on sunny winter days or when we’re really cranking the thermostat, the stink bugs wake up a bit and move around in a half-awake stupor. They are slow-moving, clumsy, and heat-seeking, which explains why people most often see them slowly crawling around in their bathrooms (attracted to the heat of the shower) or in the kitchen (attracted to the heat of the stove).

What are they up to?

Honestly, not much. They are just biding their time until there is warm weather outside. This means they are not laying eggs, not making more stink bugs, not damaging our homes, and not biting.

At worst, they will release a bad smell when you crush them.

How do I get rid of them?

Not dealing with bugs can be one of the bright spots of a Minnesota winter, so seeing stink bugs now is frustrating. The best thing to do is squish them and throw them in the trash.

If you prefer a zero contact solution, you can suck them up with a small vacuum and deposit them outside. If you’re feeling vindictive, you can flush them down the toilet or offer them to your pet as a toy.

Buying something to spray or concocting something from your pantry isn’t worth the time or effort.

If you want to avoid these unwelcome visitors altogether, spend some time in the warmer months sealing up your house. This can cut down on heating bills and keep unwanted bugs out.

Author: Marissa Schuh, Integrated Pest Management Extension educator

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