For many of us on the East Coast (particularly MD, DC and VA), this time of year not only marks the first warm weeks which hint of the coming spring season; it means to prepare for the invasion. It’s not a terrorist or nuclear threat we’re talking about…it’s something far smellier: stinkbugs. In 2010 our region suffered a swarm of these foul little pests and as we begin seeing warmer weather in this (hopefully) early spring, they are beginning to settle in like unwanted house guests.
Though they don’t bite or sting, they do emit a pretty putrid odor when crushed, smooshed, vacuumed up, or squished, and though they are more of an annoyance for homeowners, local farmers are beginning to fret. Stinkbugs prey on crops like raspberries, tomatoes, peaches and other fruits, sucking the juices out of them and leaving them undesirable. Especially in the organic farming community, who strive not to use harmful pesticides, concern is on the rise. So, what is your best line of garden defense against these pungent perpetrators? The all natural answer is herbs!
Strongly scented herbs such as Mint, Lavender, Catnip, and Patchouli have been proven to thwart the little stinkers from overwhelming you favorite fruits and veggies. (It’s hard to believe that they are picky about smells…I guess everyone likes their own brand!) You can also try planting other natural insect deterrents around your home or garden like Tansy, ‘Citronella’ Scented Geraniums, Pyrethrums and Rue to keep the bugs at bay. For the insidious insects that have already made it indoors, try making sachets with some of these herbs or use their essential oils to coat your window sills and thresholds. This will hopefully keep the rest of the stinkbugs from sneaking in and joining their friends inside your nice warm home. You can also fill jars with soapy water to catch the critters that have already begun to show up indoors, as the soap will dissolve their exoskeleton, killing them in a non-toxic way.
In conjunction with February being National Bird Feeding Month, try attracting birds to your garden with feeders, houses and baths, to keep your bug problem to a minimum. We’ve heard that blue jays are fond of these stinky little snacks, so encourage them and other seed-eating friends to nest around your yard to prevent the problem from getting out of hand. Bats also find stink bugs to be a delicacy, so place bat boxes throughout your yard and near the garden to help battle the bugs.